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Labor: Baird government ‘misses CSG opportunity’

Geoff Helisma The NSW Legislative Council voted 19 to 16 to stop the Greens’ Petroleum (Onshore) Amendment (Prohibit Coal Seam Gas) Bill 2015 last Thursday August 13. The bill was supported by the Greens, Labor, the Animal Justice Party and the Christian Democratic Party (Fred Nile Group). The Liberal Party, the Nationals and the Shooters and Fishers Party voted against the bill. Labor said in a media release that the bill “which sought an outright prohibition of CSG in NSW [killed] off the opportunity for Labor to put forward a range of sensible amendments”. However, Labor says it is undeterred and that the leader of the opposition in the Legislative Council, Adam Searle, will work towards tabling a “private members bill proposing a state-wide moratorium on coal seam gas until the NSW chief scientist’s recommendations are implemented”. “This is a missed opportunity to put public policy in this area on a sound footing and do it across party lines,” Mr Searle, who is shadow minister for industry, energy and resources, said. “We will be pursuing this policy through a Labor-sponsored private members’ bill. “I look forward to working with all MPs of good will to achieve the outcome the community of NSW needs.” Labor’s private members bill will also propose the introduction of no-go zones for all coal seam gas activity in the Northern Rivers region, core water catchments and other designated areas. Clarence MP and Parliamentary Secretary for the North Coast, Chris Gulaptis, reiterated his call to trust the NSW Gas Plan to make the Northern Rivers gas field-free, as reported in last week’s Clarence Valley Independent. Mr Gulaptis, who met with a delegation of anti gas campaigners from the Northern Rivers during the days leading up to the Legislative Council’s vote, was critical of the bill’s action to cancel existing exploration licences without compensating licence holders. He described the bill as an “unnecessary distraction while the negotiations with current licence holders are taking place”. “The gas plan is working; we need to give it an opportunity to conclude the negotiations,” he said. Mr Gulaptis said the idea of not compensating existing licence holders was a “draconian” measure. “We must respect the rights of investors,” he said, “and treat them with the due consideration they deserve – investment in the state is a two-way street.” Lock the Gate’s NSW coordinator, Georgina Woods, said the “the NSW Gas Plan is dead in the water after its central premise – that CSG was needed to meet a gas supply shortfall – was comprehensively debunked by the Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO)”. The NSW Gas Plan 2014 states that “NSW is facing potential gas supply shortages and higher gas prices over the next five years”, whereas the AEMO’s 2015 Gas Statement of Opportunities 2015 – 2019 says in its short term outlook that “in NSW where a gas supply gap was previously forecast, none is now expected”. AEMO has forecast a 17 per cent decline in NSW’s gas consumption by 2019. “We are grateful to the Christian Democrats, the Greens, the Labor Party, and the Animal Justice Party for building a unique political consensus and taking this bill to the very brink of success,” Ms Woods said. “We know that real change is incredibly close, and we will take this result as a signal to redouble our efforts to defend our land and water resources from this dangerous industry. “The next phase of the community campaign to protect NSW from risky and unwanted CSG developments begins today.”