DEPUTY Premier and Member for Gippsland South Peter Ryan has come out swinging against Labor’s Matt Viney and his suggestion that the Nationals are not acting in the best interests of Gippslanders in relation to the coal seam gas industry.
“It was the former Labor Government, which included Mr Viney, that granted more than 75% of the exploration licences that now apply across Gippsland,” said Mr Ryan.
He made his comment after Mr Viney, Upper House Member for Victorian Eastern Region, made public statements accusing the Nationals of denying locals “the chance to have their say on Coal Seam Gas (CSG) exploration and fracking in Gippsland for the second time”.
Mr Viney said that in parliament the Nationals voted against a Victorian Labor Opposition motion to establish a public inquiry into CSG and the impacts of fracking, for the second time in as many months.
He condemned the government, saying it demonstrated that local National Party MPs were not representing Gippsland in parliament.
“The priority of local National Party MPs now they are in government is clearly not Gippsland. It appears they have little regard for the sentiment of the community,” Mr Viney said.
He claimed that the Labor Opposition had first called for a 12-month moratorium on unconventional gas exploration and hydraulic fracturing – ‘fracking’ – in Victoria in April after concerns were raised about its effect on water tables in particular.
“In doing so, Labor sought to set up a parliamentary inquiry to investigate the impacts on the environment, human health, and the economy during the moratorium period. This would have given the community a chance to have their say on the public record and where the politicians have to take notice.
“The government has voted against a parliamentary inquiry for the second time but back flipped on earlier comments that a moratorium was ‘hypocritical, unnecessary and would cost jobs’, placing an open-ended ban on fracking in August.
“All the government has done is allow community concerns to go unanswered, while hurting local industry and investment, possibly costing jobs,” Mr Viney said.
He called on National Party MPs Russell Northe, Peter Hall, Peter Ryan and Tim Bull to listen to the community and support Labor’s call to set up a public inquiry.
Responding to Mr Viney, Mr Ryan said: “The investigation he says he now wants, was not needed then and it is not needed now. Typical of Labor, Mr Viney ignores the fact that things have well and truly moved on since his government granted the licences about which he now complains.
“The Liberal National Coalition Government has taken a number of steps to secure the interests of landowners and Gippslanders generally, in relation to this issue. Fracking is banned pending the outcome of a meeting between all relevant Ministers, including the Commonwealth, to be held in December. It is there proposed that a national code be developed to cover fracking and the Victorian Government will consider that proposition as and when it is produced.
“We have banned the use of BTEX chemicals which have caused concerns in other jurisdictions. That ban stands and will be applied comprehensively.
“Labor and Mr Viney in particular, need to keep up with the debate. The measures that the Coalition Government has now installed far exceed anything which Labor ever put in place when it was in power.”