Esso accused of push polling

COAL Seam Gas Wellington Awareness Group has accused ExxonMobil of using push polling techniques to sway public opinion in favour of gas exploration in Gippsland.

However Esso has said the phone surveys are simply to determine the community’s understanding of the issue of gas exploration and to measure community concerns.

Awareness group volunteer Jo McCubbin said several Gippslanders had approached its members concerned about a telephone poll conducted by Newfocus, a market research company, on behalf of ExxonMobil, which they felt uneasy about.

“It is apparent, that the polling on behalf of the oil and gas industry, gives options which limit the respondents’ choices,” Dr McCubbin said.

“If you can only choose the least worst answer, you can immediately imagine the apparent approval for the mining companies, which will be forced out of you.”

In polling of their own, awareness group members doorknocked Stratford households to discuss their attitudes to coal and gas exploration and mining.

Eight volunteers walked the streets seeking residents’ responses.

“Of those who were home, more than 83 per cent did not want mining anywhere near them,” Dr McCubbin said.

“We asked householders one, simple yes/no question, and the community emphatically said ‘no thanks’.”

Of those who were ambivalent, several mentioned economic concerns such as family members employed at Esso, Longford , or holding shares in oil and gas companies.

An Esso spokesperson confirmed to the Gippsland Times that a survey was being conducted on its behalf.

“To better understand the community’s understanding of Victoria’s energy industry and its future, ExxonMobil is undertaking a community attitudes survey,” he said.

” This survey also seeks to understand the community’s questions or concerns about coal seam gas and the processes and technology involved.”

The spokesman said ExxonMobil and its joint venturer partner Ignite Energy Resources were exploring for natural gas in the deeper coal seams of the Gippsland Basin. The joint venture partners have a licence to explore an area from Foster to north of Stratford.

“This project, while in its very early stages of exploration, is aimed at ensuring Victoria continues to have a long-term secure source of natural gas.”

Coal seam gas awareness group member Morgan Knoesen said the fact polling was being conducted on behalf of exploration companies showed they were concerned by the lack of community support.

“They’d hardly be going to all this expense if they were not deeply worried about the level of public distrust,” he said.

“Gippslanders do not want to see prime agricultural land turned into a network of gas wells, such as we have seen in Queensland and New South Wales, or worse still, new open cut mines for the export of brown coal,” Mr Knoesen said.

The group suggests those being polled have been asked questions such as “what would you say if some samples were taken in the area?

“How would you feel if exploration led to employment?

“How would you feel if farmers were compensated?”

“No amount of compensation can replace prime agricultural land, food production, clean water and the lovely lifestyle we have in this region,” Mr Knoesen said.

The awareness group would like to speak to anyone who has been polled. Phone 1300 852 081 or email csgwags@gmail.com