GREENS BILL: Libs vote down legislation for 10 year moratorium on fracking

Today Mark brought his Greens Bill for a 10 year moratorium on fracking in the South East of South Australia to a vote. The Bill was opposed by both the Marshall Liberal Government and the Labor Opposition and so was defeated.

Below is a transcript of the debate and vote.

Petroleum and Geothermal Energy (Moratorium on Hydraulic Fracturing) Amendment Bill 2018

The Hon. T.A. FRANKS: I rise to speak in support of this bill. Naturally, the Greens support this bill, having introduced it into this chamber. It is an issue on which we have been active at both state and federal levels for a very long time. Before I continue, I would like to acknowledge the years of hard work by my colleague, the Hon. Mark Parnell, and the effort, time and expertise he and his staff have put into this issue and this campaign, as well as the fact that this is definitely not the first time that he has brought such legislation before the parliament.

We know that communities, both in regional South Australia and elsewhere, do not buy that past governments had the balance right between the protection of valuable farmland and the aspirations of gas and mining companies. We also know that the world is moving on from old, polluting coal and gas industries, and that the social licence for the continued use of fossil fuels is eroding, if it still exists at all. We are seeing fracking bans and moratoriums more and more, both interstate and internationally. This legislation simply makes sense.

There is no logical case for fracking our farmland. These practices harm our environment and our communities. While I know that commitments have been made by the Marshall Liberal government as part of their election promises to not allow fracking in the South-East for at least 10 years, by putting it into legislation in this council and in this parliament we give those communities some certainty that that promise will be honoured.

As has already been pointed out, this bill is essentially putting into law a campaign promise that the Marshall government made ahead of the state election. With this in mind, we are certainly hoping that this bill will pass swiftly through the council tonight so that we can provide certainty and protection for those communities in the South-East who have been calling long and hard and loud for this measure. Indeed, it has no social licence, and I would note that the Marshall government will have no social licence if it does not support this legislation.

The Hon. T.T. NGO: This bill, introduced by the Hon. Mark Parnell, seeks to legislate on the moratorium that the state Liberal government promised for hydraulic fracturing. Hydraulic fracturing is used to increase the flow of oil or natural gas from a well. It has been used safely since 1949 in millions of wells around the world. In Australia, Santos, one of South Australia's biggest employers, has used hydraulic fracturing to produce oil and gas in South Australia and Queensland for almost 50 years. While the Marshall Liberal government committed to a 10-year moratorium on fracture stimulation in the South-East of South Australia, they have not taken any legislative action to implement this.

In response to the government's broken promise on this issue, both Greens MLC Mark Parnell and Independent MP Troy Bell have had to introduce legislation to the parliament to implement a 10-year moratorium. Labor's position on this issue remains unchanged. In any consideration of the future of gas production in South Australia we will look to the science and independent regulators to guide our decision-making. Labor believes it is vital for this state's continued prosperity that gas production is environmentally sustainable and collaborative.

Gas production provides a vital resource for our community and a significant number of jobs and economic prospects. South Australia has a long and successful track record of producing gas from the Cooper Basin in the Far North and the Otway Basin in the South-East. While there are currently no proposals to undertake fracture stimulation in the South-East, the regulatory framework in place ensures any exploration and production cannot go ahead unless projects meet the highest environmental standards.

With that, I complete my remarks and indicate that the opposition will not be supporting this bill.

The Hon. D.W. RIDGWAY (Minister for Trade, Tourism and Investment): I rise today to speak on this bill, brought to the chamber by the Hon. Mark Parnell MLC. The South Australian Liberal Party commitment prior to the election was to implement a 10-year moratorium on fracture stimulation in the Limestone Coast region. On 29 March 2018, following the first cabinet meeting of the Marshall Liberal government, we made good on that promise.

This moratorium was immediately implemented by way of a policy decision, and a ministerial direction was handed down to the regulator preventing the Department for Energy and Mining, Energy Resources Division, from approving any application for resource development involving fracture stimulation in the Limestone Coast region. The government's policy of a 10-year moratorium over the Limestone Coast region is functioning as intended, with the regulator, industry, stakeholders and wider community all aware that the Department for Energy and Mining cannot approve any environmental impact report (EIR) or a draft statement of environmental objectives (SOE) that relate to fracture simulation in the region for the next 10 years.

We have already acted to implement the moratorium on fracking in the South-East in the Limestone Coast area. This bill tries to play politics by bringing into question that moratorium. We made a commitment for a 10-year moratorium, and that is what the people of the Limestone Coast and the South-East have. The moratorium is working. This is just an attempt to raise concerns in the South-East, where there are no concerns because we have made good on our promise: it is a 10-year moratorium.

In principle, we do not support using mining legislation to legislate against specific activities and technologies. The former government had a decision policy to approve fracture stimulation. The Liberal Party said we would have a 10-year moratorium, and that is what we have implemented. If it is a matter for government policy, it should be dealt with as we dealt with it: through a policy decision, which is working.

The Mining Act should not be used to advance political agendas that could or will hurt the confidence of investors. The situation in South-East is unique, and the social licence for fracking in that region was not established by the proponents. That is why we took action to implement our moratorium. Legislating this ban could be seen as the beginning of a series of legislative interventions on resource projects across the state. We have a measured approach to resource issues. We want to avoid the issues caused by legislative changes in other jurisdictions such as New South Wales and Victoria.

This government supports a coexistence framework, where diverse land uses can exist for the benefit of the community, region and state. With those few words, I can see members would be aware that the Liberal Party and the government will not be supporting the member's legislation.

The Hon. F. PANGALLO: While I will not be speaking on this bill, I just wish to put on the record that I and my colleague Connie Bonaros will be supporting the bill. Thank you.

There being a disturbance in the strangers' gallery:

The PRESIDENT: Order! There is no clapping in the chamber. Hon. Mr Darley.

The Hon. J.A. DARLEY: For the record, I indicate that I agree with the position of the government on this matter and I will not be supporting the bill.

The PRESIDENT: Hon. Mr Parnell, would you please sum up the debate.

The Hon. M.C. PARNELL: I will begin by thanking my colleague the Hon. Tammy Franks, and also the Hon. Tung Ngo, the Hon. David Ridgway, the Hon. Frank Pangallo and the Hon. John Darley. As you did, Mr President, I also acknowledge the presence in the gallery of members of the Limestone Coast Protection Alliance. They have spent half a day on a bus to get here. I thank my colleagues for allowing this item of business to be given some precedence because they have homes to go to and a long drive back.

I will just reflect briefly on the contributions that we have heard. Starting with the Labor Party position, there is no surprise there. They have been fond of the gas industry in all parts of South Australia, including the South-East. They have given vast quantities of taxpayers' money under the PACE grant scheme and other schemes to the gas industry. They are nothing if not consistent. They are just wrong. They are consistent, but they are wrong. They do not have at heart the interests of the people in the South-East. They do not hold seats down there—maybe that is why. Certainly if they were listening to the people in the South-East they would know that the community is dead against this activity. The Labor Party, I think, would do well to listen.

In terms of the Hon. David Ridgway's response, that is just so disappointing. The public already have trouble with promises made by politicians in the lead-up to elections that turn out to be nothing but hot air after the election. The Hon. David Ridgway says that the party has fulfilled their promise. They say that they have made good on a 10-year ban by virtue of a policy decision and a ministerial direction. But the truth of the matter is that, now they have been elected, what the government have now done is they have attached a rider. They have attached a qualification to what was previously an unqualified policy.

What their policy now appears to be is that the 10-year moratorium only exists whilst they remain in office. That was not what they said before the election. They promised a 10-year moratorium. People will say, 'You can't promise in a four-year electoral cycle anything for 10 years.' Well, the Liberals did. If they were true to their word, they would give this moratorium the best possible chance of surviving 10 years. The best way for it to survive 10 years is to put it in legislation, because that means that, even if they were to lose the next election in four years' time, it would be a subsequent parliament that would have to come back and undo the moratorium.

I do not need to remind the Hon. David Ridgway or any other member in this place that the government of the day, Liberal or Labor, has not controlled the numbers in the upper house of parliament since the 1970s. Even if there was a change of government, even if there was a change of heart, chances are the moratorium could still survive that change because of the strong crossbench presence in the upper house.

I think it is incredibly disappointing that the Liberals have let down their constituents. There are certainly going to be some difficult questions for local members to answer. I know that we all represent the entire state. There are some members here who express a strong connection with the South-East. They have questions to answer as well.

I know that our colleague in another place, the Independent member, Mr Troy Bell, has an identical bill that he will bring forward. That is coming to a vote in September. I will not discuss the merits of the bill, which I expect would be unparliamentary. I said it is identical, but let's not discuss the merits of Mr Bell's bill other than to say that by introducing these bills into both houses of parliament every one of the 69 members in this place gets to vote on whether or not the Liberal Party should be held to their pre-election promise.

I am terribly disappointed in the outcome. I thank the Hon. Frank Pangallo for the indication of support from the SA-Best party. My colleague the Hon. Tammy Franks put on the record again some of the reasons why the South-East wants to be protected from this activity. They see themselves as a clean, green, food bowl. The last thing they want is to be growing grapes or grazing cattle in amongst gas rigs. So I am disappointed with the outcome. Depending how the vote goes, if I am unsuccessful I will be calling 'Divide'.

The council divided on the second reading:

Ayes 4

Noes 17

Majority 13

Bonaros, C. Franks, T.A. Pangallo, F.
Parnell, M.C. (teller)    
Bourke, E.S. Darley, J.A. Dawkins, J.S.L.
Hanson, J.E. Hood, D.G.E. Hunter, I.K.
Lee, J.S. Lensink, J.M.A. Lucas, R.I.
Maher, K.J. Ngo, T.T. Pnevmatikos, I.
Ridgway, D.W. (teller) Scriven, C.M. Stephens, T.J.
Wade, S.G. Wortley, R.P.  

Second reading thus negatived.

There being a disturbance in the gallery:

The PRESIDENT: Order! Order in the gallery! Order in the gallery, or you will be excluded from the chamber. Black Rod, could you make sure they are escorted out.