Green Paper gas debate is likely

THE roll-out of smart-meters, power sector privatisation and state government initiatives to unlock gas reserves have been highlighted in the Federal government’s Energy Green Paper, released Tuesday.

The Green Paper, released by Federal Industry Minister Ian Macfarlane, is an interim document ahead of the finalisation of a White Paper on energy after a round of public discussion.

However its call for freeing up gas resources is likely to anger opponents of coal seam gas and tight gas exploration in Gippsland.

Resistance to gas exploration has continued to grow in the local area, with the latest area to declare itself gas free the farming communities of Meerlieu and Perry Bridge.

Meerlieu district residents plan to mark their declaration of the area being ‘gasfield free’ on Sunday, October 5 at the Meerlieu Hall.

Co-ordinator Anita Hallett said the event would recognise a significant achievement for the community.

“On February 11 this year an information night was held at the Meerlieu Hall with guest speakers and a screening of a video called Gippsland is Precious,” she said.

“Attendees heard about the risks associated with coal seam gas and other unconventional gas mining.

“Over 400 residents from the Goon Nure, Bengworden, Meerlieu and Perry Bridge districts were surveyed and an overwhelming 98 per cent responded to the survey question by saying ‘no’ to gasfields in our community,” Mrs Hallett said.

Yellow ‘Lock the Gate’ signs are already on farm gates throughout the district, which Mrs Hallet said were a warning to mining companies not to trespass.

However the Green Paper has been welcomed by the Australian Petroleum Production and Exploration Association.

APPEA chief executive David Byers said the association commended the focus in the Green Paper on addressing the issues that detract from Australia’s investment attractiveness.

“It is critical that the Government’s final White Paper ensures Australia’s oil and gas companies are not disadvantaged against international competitors or against producers of other energy sources in Australia,” he said.

“Australia has more than enough natural gas to service both domestic and export markets for decades and this puts Australia in an enviable position to maintain long-term energy security.

“Therefore, the Green Paper’s message that Australia must be seen to be open for business — with a stable and predictable policy environment and appropriate taxes and regulation — is a positive one.”

Australian Industry Group chief executive Innes Willox said the vital reforms needed in the gas market would only happen if the states were on board and called for negotiations with the states to begin “immediately”.

“Blanket bans and moratoriums that are stifling unconventional gas production in New South Wales and Victoria should be replaced by credible science-based regulation,” Mr Willox said.