Time for the National Party to clarify its position on fracking
The time has come for the National Party to outline how it will protect regional water resources and farming land from the scourge of fracking.
In recent weeks, the state Member for Moore, Shane Love MLA - a Nationals MP - declared he supported veto rights that would give WA farmers the ability to stop fracking companies drilling on their land. At present, state laws enable fracking companies to frack wherever they want.
Despite this encouraging development, Mr Love remains a lone voice of opposition to fracking among Nationals MPs, with the rest of his Parliamentary colleagues silent on the issue.
While not taking a public position, National Party Ministers recently passed a state budget that included an additional $30 million in Royalties for Regions (RFR) funding to assist onshore petroleum and mineral exploration through the Exploration Incentive Scheme.
This is funding that could be used by fracking companies to go on to productive agricultural and pastoral land, and explore for frackable gas.
National Party Ministers Terry Redman, Mia Davies and Colin Holt should understand how alarming the use of RFR funding for this purpose could be to their regional constituency. Royalties for Regions is a signature policy of the Nationals and has underpinned their political success since 2008.
Making matters worse, at the Federal level, the Turnbull Government’s pre-election budget included a commitment of $100 million for the new Exploring for the Future program, which is designed to boost onshore oil, gas and mineral exploration in northern Australia, with WA listed as a priority area.
As partners in both the current state and federal governments, the National Party is complicit in any funding that flows from government to assist fracking companies in Western Australia.
Instead of maintaining their silence, it is time National Party members of state parliament joined with their colleague Shane Love MLA, in outlining how they believe agricultural and pastoral lands should be protected from fracking. The current federal election also provides an opportunity for National Party candidates to outline their views.
Without leadership of this type, regional WA is sleepwalking into a fracking catastrophe, which will have huge implications for WA farms, the jobs they create and the water resources that give them life.