Liberal Party proposal for a moratorium on fracking

Is there, or is there not, a state government moratorium on fracking? Despite the Liberal state government’s clear and emphatic election policy to institute a moratorium on fracking, four months after the election there is no evidence a moratorium has been instituted.

Two days after the election the Minister for Primary Industries and Water, Jeremy Rockliff, made the statement transcribed below, to ABC Local Radio’s Country Hour. While encouraging, this statement raised more questions than it answered.

Minister Rockliff’s statement:

What the Liberals believe is that we need a 12-month moratorium on fracking and so we can understand the complex issues far better, get the science right and ensure that all the complex issues …can all be well thought through, scientific-based so the community, especially farmers, can have all the information available to them.

This will not stop what is currently being undertaken although the actual practice of fracking will not be able to take place over the course of the next 12 months until we can truly understand the complexities around fracking, the effects on agricultural land, issues around farmers access and access to compensation and also the effects on the water table – there are many issues – and the environment.

There are many issues that have not been well thought through as to the effects of the practice of hydrolic fracturing, known as fracking, on the community and so it is important, we believe, to have this 12-month moratorium… No one is fully informed around the complexities of fracking in Tasmania. There is a lot of community concern particularly in agricultural communities, farmers. …It is a complex issue. We need to get the science right.

…And when you have these issues which the government can’t answer then it’s important that scientific research and that full community consultation is taken place.

Since this announcement there has been no public statement clarifying the status of the promised fracking moratorium or what it might involve. The TCT wrote to Minister Rockliff on 30 April 2014 (with a copy forwarded to the Minister for Resources, who is responsible for the mining portfolio) but has not received a reply.

In our letter to Minister Rockliff we quoted the transcription of the ABC interview and requested clarification on a range of issues.

We told the minister that, while his statement is encouraging and we support a moratorium and further investigation of fracking, we are keen for the new government to confirm its support for a moratorium and provide further details of the proposed studies and its intended policy response. We note that there is no mention of fracking in the Tasmanian Liberal Party election policies on agriculture and mining.

In particular we asked the minister:

-          When will the moratorium commence?

-          Will the moratorium apply to all of Tasmania?

-          What forms of mining will the moratorium apply to?

-          What scientific studies into the impacts of fracking are intended and is a 12-month time frame sufficient for these?

-          How will the Tasmanian community be involved in the proposed studies?

-          How will the community be consulted in the development of a policy response to fracking?

-          What is the cost of the proposed studies and community consultation?

We await the minister’s reply.

Peter McGlone