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Questions without notice: Onshore conventional gas

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Sam Hibbins MP
Member for Prahran
18 March 2020

Mr HIBBINS (Prahran): My question is to the Premier. Premier, onshore gas drilling will make climate change worse through the burning of methane gas for energy and the release of methane into the atmosphere, as well as putting our farmland and our natural environment at risk. How on earth can the government at this time, and also in a time of climate crisis, justify lifting the moratorium on conventional onshore gas drilling?

Mr ANDREWS (Mulgrave—Premier): I thank the member for Prahran for his question. As the member for Prahran knows only too well, a science-based review of these arrangements has been conducted in recent years. That has been ably led by Dr Amanda Caples, and on behalf of the government, if not the Greens, I will thank Dr Caples for her leadership and the many other people—literally thousands of Victorians—who were part of I think something like 800 different events and gatherings where there was detailed consultation with the farming community.

And I might suggest to the member for Prahran that I will not be taking advice on farming from him if it is okay by him. The people who actually farm our community, the people who actually know a thing or two about land management in those communities, were central to this process.

What is more, local communities, local government, the energy sector across the board—it is a comprehensive process and one that has been led by the scientists and has been led by science. It is because of that process that we were able to make sensible and well-balanced announcements yesterday to coincide with the full delivery of our election commitment. This may have escaped the Greens, although no doubt they will try and take credit for it, but the constitutional ban—

Mr HIBBINS: On a point of order, Speaker, on relevance, the question was specifically in regard to onshore gas. I know it suits the Premier’s political needs to try and conflate onshore gas and fracking, but it is specifically in relation to onshore gas.

Members interjecting.

The SPEAKER: Order! I warn members about expanding on points of order. The Premier is being relevant to the question that was asked.

Mr ANDREWS: As I was saying, I was asked about announcements yesterday—there were two. A bill was introduced in relation to banning fracking and putting that ban in the constitution. We think that is the appropriate thing to do based on the science, based on community sentiment and based on the fact that we made that commitment at the election back in 2018. Beyond that we also committed to the fact that we would have a science-based process in relation to onshore conventional gas exploration and gas extraction. The estimate is that there may be up to 800-plus petajoules of gas that can be safely, to the highest of environmental standards, extracted, putting additional supply into the marketplace. There is also a domestic reserve so Victorian gas from out of our ground goes to our businesses and to our households first.

Where we are really at here is the central point where the Greens would like us to simply flick a switch and have no more fossil fuels used ever again in the hope that somehow when we flick that switch the lights will come on the following day. That is not the nature, that is not the real world, that is not the real economy that the rest of us live in—and sadly some people do not. I would point out to the member for Prahran that gas can be a very important transitional fuel, emitting but a fraction of the emissions that we are all trying to reduce by other forms of fossil fuels. The fact that that point is lost on the member for Prahran speaks to the fact that he is about absolutes—he is about protection and nothing else. That is not realistic in many circumstances, this being one of them.

Mr HIBBINS (Prahran): I advise in my supplementary question to the Premier that it is Greens policy to actually reach 100 per cent renewable energy by 2030. He might want to familiarise himself with that policy. But the science says—

Members interjecting.

The SPEAKER: Order! I am going to warn members. I have already warned members about shouting across the chamber. Does the member have a question?

Mr HIBBINS: He does. I was just referring to the Premier’s answer. The science says to prevent the catastrophic effects of climate change we need to keep fossil fuels in the ground. Can the Premier advise just how long the government intends for Victoria to keep burning fossil fuels, including gas, for energy?

Mr ANDREWS (Mulgrave—Premier): I thank the member for Prahran. I would make a couple of points. I hear the policy pronouncement, 100 per cent renewables—was it 100 per cent?

Members interjecting.

Mr ANDREWS: By 2030. Why wait till 2030? I thought it was 100 per cent yesterday. If we are all going to be on fantasy island, well, we can do better than that. We can surely do better than that, member for Prahran. We can surely do better than that. Can I just say that I will take advice from the lead scientists. I will take advice from those who are absolutely expert in this. I shall not be taking advice from people who think that a pandemic is a fundraising opportunity—not today, not any day. Be clear on that.

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Sam Hibbins MP
Member for Prahran
18 March 2020




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