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National energy debate cooking with gas

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”.

we can’t and won’t compromise on secure access to water and land
Fiona Simson, NFF President

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.

What is your view? Is it time to open up gas reserves, or does science need to come first? Log in and leave us a comment below!

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5 Responses

    It is now apparent that landholders and politicians at all levels of government have no real knowledge of how differences between the extraction of the various types of gas from a variety of landscapes and rural land uses upon landowners realistic expectations regarding income and lifestyle protection. Mr Joyce's praising of the South Australian premier's solution of awarding of 10 percent of royalties on individual gas wells to landholders shows that this has been shown to be so inadequate and unrealistic in Queensland that there is an effective moratorium in NSW and the Victoria has extended its moratorium. We in Queensland would welcome a national discussion on the issue but that would be too late and there would be no guarantee that the Commonwealth would over-ride the relevant Commonwealth/State agreements that give each state the whip hand and make a mockery of the "water trigger" of the EPBC Act which a former coalition government impeded at every opportunity. Fiona Simson, on the other hand, is knowledgeable upon what happened in NSW and why that moratorium was placed upon further expansion and development of an industry that devalues rural land values, impedes rural production, irreversibly diminishes and impairs rural and community groundwater resources and, if not rigidly managed reduces the personal security of rural residents on a 24/7 basis. I therefore fully support Fiona Simson's statement that the NFF's job is to secure access to water and land and "for the Commonwealth to focus its investments on providing the quality science that's needed to underpin the robust state legislation - except that she must be referring to NSW and not Queensland, where the legislation is far from robust, is continually changing and the science would not even pass the Pub Test.

    I agree with Rosemary and in part with Elizabeth but renewables ( wind and solar) at this stage cannot and will not replace generation that needs to be available 24/7. They are just not economically viable in their own right hence massive subsidies ( tax taken from one and given to another). In relative terms if we assign a score of 10 to wood then the latest technology batteries (lithium ion) score around 0.5, gasses around 30, coal 40, oil 50 and uranium 100,000- 1,000,000. The southern hemisphere is averse to nuclear generation so that pretty much leaves us coal or gas as the base load reliable form of large scale generation. as with all rules of thumb the exception is to use wind and solar to pump water uphill for hydro generation as is being done in the Snowy mountains but that is quite limited in magnitude and it's overall efficiency is very low. It is being used at the moment because of the anomalies with the system of energy trading. We should just stick with coal and not concern ourselves with nonsense about CO2 causing global warming and climate change. Only last week an article here elicited responses saying that CO2 is desirable up to 2,000 ppmv. We are a long way from that value. If it rose from the current value of 400 ppmv to a value of 1,000 greenhouse vegetable growers (eg Tomatoes) wouldn't need to be artificially injecting CO2 into their greenhouses and that would lower the cost of production.

    The Queensland experience with gas development concerning ineffectual bargaining powers for land owners and not to mention the pricing and reserve policy not accommodating domestic user sustainability must surely be templates for how not to go about developing this industry. Mr Joyce needs to come out with quality policy guidelines to protect agriculture not short term media grabs to belt states into rushed development just to save the governments ridiculously poor efforts on energy security. Why are we not discussing nuclear power, we have the uranium and we have isolated locations for generation which will not impact on agricultural resources, the hippies have been replaced by the enviros but the world is still turning and besides earth quakes it has proven to be a very safe energy solution.

    Farmers are aware of the political implications here. They are well informed and know that water and viability are much more important than a token buy off. When the gas is gone where will they be? we need to support farmers in taking a firm stand against the manipulative powers of the media and political interests. The answer is renewables. Just as whale oil was replaced, it is now time to replace gas and coal. the answer is to think for the future not for the immediate.

    Due to a lack of detail on this proposal, it is difficult to make a sensible comment. However royalties being paid to farmers will not address the major concerns. It has always been about protecting water resources and property values. Gas wells have notoriously short lives. Successful extraction requires multiple wells. One farmer may benefit initially while others who rely on the same aquifer receive nothing. And finally, why is Joyce promoting this very unsuccessful industry against agriculture which is a solid performer?

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