Growing furore over energy policy - particularly the role of onshore gas - reached fever pitch this week, with state and federal governments pointing fingers in all directions.
The gas debate heated up following the extension of the Victorian Government's coal seam gas moratorium, and a decision by the South Australian Government to incentivise onshore gas with a policy to return 10% of royalties to landholders.
Deputy Prime Minister and Leader of The Nationals, Barnaby Joyce, praised the South Australian initiative to pay landholders a 10 per-cent royalty for new gas production on their land.
“I listened to Premier Weatherill’s announcement and there is one issue I strongly agree with: a fair return has to go back to the farmer. I commend his recognition of this in the discussion of a royalty return back to farmers of coal seam gas extraction”, Mr. Joyce said.
The Deputy Prime Minister’s comments follow calls by the Commonwealth for state and territory governments to lift any gas moratoriums and revisit restrictions on gas exploration and development.
Mr. Joyce said landholders with gas reserves should be viewed by the industry as potential business partners and not as obstacles who could be ridden roughshod over.
“We need to have a national discussion on how to give landholders a greater say and greater share in the hydrocarbon resources on their land”.
The National Farmers' Federation President, Fiona Simson, also welcomed the decision to provide a fairer return to farmers, but noted that moratoriums could not just be lifted without proper science and scrutiny.
"Moratoriums, while a blunt instrument, are in place because of the lack of confidence the community, including the farming community, have in the way governments have regulated the gas industry in the past," Ms Simson said.
"We welcome South Australia’s plan to provide royalties to landholders in return for gas extraction as a step in the right direction. Adequately compensating farmers’ for the use of their land is essential but its never been just about the money.
"The NFF’s job is to represent and advocate for farmers and the two things we can’t and won’t compromise on is the secure access to water and land.
"It’s up to the industry and government to make sure that the concerns of the community are addressed with science and evidence that clearly and categorically proves there is not going to be a negative impact on the huge growth opportunities for the farm sector.
"Our view is that given the states have regulatory control over this issue the role for the Commonwealth is to focus its investments on providing the quality science that’s needed to underpin the robust state-based regulation," Ms Simson concluded.
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