Premier Colin Barnett’s claim that his cabinet reshuffle was about boosting industries like tourism and farming is at odds with his government’s relentless push for gas fracking.
In making himself Tourism Minister and promoting Dean Nalder to Agriculture Minister, Mr Barnett said the reshuffle was about diversifying the WA economy.
However, the government’s strong push to develop the fracking industry in Western Australia was a serious threat to both the farming and tourism sectors, according to the Conservation Council of WA (CCWA).
CCWA Director Piers Verstegen said Mr Barnett’s shift to focus on tourism and agriculture was welcome, but must be matched by a moratorium on gas fracking if it is to be taken seriously.
“The State Government has issued licenses to fracking companies to explore in some of our most productive farming and pastoral lands, in the southwest, Gascoyne and Kimberley regions,” he said.
“Exploration licenses have also been granted in some of our most iconic tourism locations, threatening the wine districts of Margaret River, the Pinnacles, Ningaloo, Broome and the Swan Valley, just outside of Perth.
“The fracking industry is counting on drilling tens of thousands of gas wells across the state, meaning some of most important farming and tourism regions could be turned into industrial gasfields, crisscrossed with a web of dangerous and unsightly roads and pipelines.
Mr Verstegen said in his new capacity as Tourism Minister, Mr Barnett should be working to protect the tourism industry from the very real threat presented by gas fracking.
“The last thing visitors will want to see when on holiday in WA is a landscape destroyed by the fracking industry,” he said.
“Protecting the ‘clean, green’ reputation of WA’s agricultural and food produce will be critical to growing export markets, but that market advantage will be lost very quickly if industrial scale gas fracking is approved in WA.”
Mr Verstegen said West Australians deserved a frack free future.
“Western Australia doesn’t need to go down the path of communities in the United States and east coast of Australia,” he said.
“We could have a frack free future, where we invest in the clean and renewable energies of the future, rather than old fossil fuels like gas.
“We could have a future where we moved beyond the boom-bust cycle of the mining industry to provide current and future generations of West Australians with access to long-term, sustainable jobs in a diverse range of industries.
“We know the community is opposed to fracking in WA. In the lead up to the state election, we are looking forward to a debate about what sort of Western Australia we want in the future.”