Labor ‘back-pedalling’ on fracking ban

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Pierra WillixBusselton Dunsborough Times
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Anti-fracking campaigners are concerned about damage to the region's aquifers and farming land.
Camera IconAnti-fracking campaigners are concerned about damage to the region's aquifers and farming land.

The State Government says its pre-election promise to ban fracking in the South West never involved a legislative ban, with protesters recently lining highways throughout the State to speak out on what they deemed a lack of action.

Protesters have called for water resources across the State to be protected from contamination by hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, and other forms of unconventional gas extraction, and have taken aim at the Government over the lack of legislation for its promised bans.

On the campaign trail in October, then-Opposition Leader Mark McGowan pledged to ban fracking in the South West, Peel and metropolitan areas if elected.

Mines and Petroleum Minister Bill Johnston said Labor had already implemented its fracking ban in the South West, Peel and Perth metropolitan areas.

“We did this immediately on coming to Government because we don’t want to wait for Parliament to act, ” he said.

“The Government is considering how to follow up on this, but we don’t need legislation to ban fracking.”

However, environment groups are concerned that without legislation a ban could easily be overturned. Conservation Council WA director Piers Verstegen said many who voted Labor were “deeply disappointed” legislation to ban fracking may not eventuate and exploration for unconventional gas could continue in the region.

“Without legislative backing, any ban can be removed at the stroke of a pen and such an approach fails to give certainty to landholders and communities,” he said.

Lock the Gate WA spokeswoman Simone van Hattem said Labor was elected on a platform of water protection through the promise of fracking bans and a “thorough inquiry” into the unconventional gas industry, but there had been “nothing but back-pedalling” since.

A spokeswoman for Mr Johnston told the Herald there had never been any pre-election commitment to legislation banning fracking, and Labor had stuck to its promise by implementing its ban.

Mr Johnston said the Government’s policy was a ban and moratorium on fracking, not on unconventional gas.

“WA is the most gas-dependent State in Australia – having gas supply is critical to jobs, industry and our electricity system, ” he said.

Opposition spokesman for mines and petroleum Sean L’Estrange said the Liberals supported the continued successful regulation of hydraulic fracturing activities without compromising public health or the environment.

“I am advised the geology in the South West does not suit hydraulic fracture stimulation,” he said.

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