Victorian farmers, activists and parliamentarians have all been united by the issue of fracking.
Victoria's farmers, activists and parliamentarians have all been united by the issue of fracking. Image Credit: Simon Fraser University

The Victorian Parliament has passed legislation banning fracking in the state in a rare showing of consensus amongst farmers, activists and parliamentarians.

The ban permanently prevents the exploration and development of onshore, unconventional, gas resources in Victoria, including the use of hydraulic fracturing (known as fracking).

The ban also extends a moratorium on conventional onshore gas exploration and development of conventional gas reserves until mid-2020.

The Resources Legislation Amendment (Fracking Ban) Bill 2016, which implements the ban, passed through the upper house of the Victorian Parliament without opposition, in a rare moment of consensus for any Australian Parliament.

All members of the Legislative Council voted in support for the bill, with support being expressed by Labor, the Liberal National opposition, the Greens, as well as a long list advocacy groups that includes the Victorian Farmers Federation and Friends of the Earth.

“This is a historic day for our state. We promised we would ban fracking – and that is exactly what we have done.” Victorian Minister for Resources Wade Noonan said.

“This is a win for people power and regional communities across Victoria who have campaigned for years to see this ban in place.”

“We will now use the moratorium on conventional gas exploration to better understand its potential risks and benefits and we’ll listen to the experts.”

The sole voice of dissent has come from outside Victoria, and was expressed by the Federal Government. Liberal Energy Minister Josh Frydenberg wrote in The Australian in January, calling on states to lift such bans.

“One of the big challenges we face is the tight gas market and rising prices.” Minister Frydenberg wrote.

“The answer lies in a truly national approach that involves the states and territories unlocking their abundant gas reserves as a means of driving down prices and creating jobs while enhancing energy security.”

In siding against the position of their Federal counterparts, the Victorian Liberal National coalition announced its intention to support the bill, highlighting that the ban on fracking was an initiative that it had put to voters at the last state election.

The Liberal Nationals support the ban on fracking.  Indeed, fracking has never occurred under a Liberal Nationals Government.

“The Liberal Nationals support the ban on fracking.  Indeed, fracking has never occurred under a Liberal Nationals Government.” The coalition parties said in a statement.

“The Liberal Nationals have always said we will never allow anything to happen that puts at risk the quality or quantity of our groundwater because we know how important it is to our state.”

The Victorian Greens chalked up the win as a success, following its engagement with community members and organisations that have campaigned against the spread of fracking practises into Victoria.

After a five-year campaign, the Victorian government announced a permanent ban on fracking and other forms of unconventional gas, as well as a four-year moratorium on all onshore gas.  This is a huge win for the Greens and the community campaigners who have worked so hard.” Victorian Greens MP for Melbourne Ellen Sandell said in a statement.

The legislation’s passage was also welcomed by the Victorian Farmers Federation, which had also petitioned for the ban.

“This decision will give security to our landholders and reinforces a commitment to long term investment in the Victorian agriculture industry,” Victorian Farmers Federation President David Jochinke said.

“It’s fantastic to see both sides of politics swing their support behind our farmers by voting to ensure fracking is permanently banned.”

“Victoria has precious groundwater reserves and because the true environmental impact of onshore gas mining is still unknown, it would be reckless to put those reserves at risk without hard scientific evidence that show the risks of onshore gas development can be properly managed.”

It is the intention of the Victorian Labor Government to use the moratorium to continue research into the geological nature of the State’s gas reserves, and to assess the risk-benefit trade-off of allowing the exploitation the reserves. The assessment will be overseen by the Victorian Chief Scientist, in consultation with interest groups and stakeholders.

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