Resources Legislation Amendment (Fracking Ban) Bill 2016

Mr LEANE (Eastern Metropolitan) — I am very pleased to be speaking on this bill today. I just want to reflect on recent weeks and months. I know the coalition have claimed that the policy in this bill is their policy. That is a bit strange now. A week ago that was being claimed, but this week that position has completely changed. I am not sure if they are still claiming that this bill and this legislation is a result of their policy. I know other people are pretty keen to claim this policy in this bill. As a government MP I am not keen to do that at all.

I am saying this policy is the Victorian people’s policy, particularly the people of regional Victoria. I am saying this bill is a bill that belongs to the Victorian people, and it is especially a bill that belongs to Victoria’s regional people.

I am also saying that this legislation, when it gets passed unamended — and let us hope that it gets passed unamended — is a bill that belongs to regional Victorians. This bill belongs completely to regional Victorians. This bill and this legislation, when it is passed unamended at the end of today, will belong to regional communities. It will belong to farmers. It will belong to the Victorian Farmers Federation, the farmers’ representatives. This bill will belong to people that have run tourism companies in regional Victoria for years and years. This bill does not belong to any politicians. This bill does not belong to any political party. This bill does not belong to this government. This bill does not belong to the opposition. This bill belongs to regional Victorians.

I want to start off by congratulating them. As a member of the upper house committee — and I have to say it is one of the best things I have been involved in this term — that was charged with looking at a reference regarding fracking and unconventional gas and whether it should proceed in Victoria in any form, as a metropolitan member, a member for Eastern Metropolitan Region, I was overwhelmed by an issue that had not been completely on my radar until becoming a member of the committee. I was overwhelmed by the passion of regional communities. When I say regional communities, I am not talking about 50 per cent of them and I am not talking about 70 per cent of the communities; I am talking about near on 100 per cent of the communities that were saying to our committee, ‘We refuse to accept unconventional exploration and mining in our communities. We refuse to put in peril industries that have been successful in regions for decades and decades in agriculture, in tourism and in so many other successful industries’. These communities have based their success and they want to base their future success on these industries.

I can only congratulate them on the way they went about pushing this particular position. I can only congratulate them on the way they stood up to politicians and stood up to political parties — whether that be my party, the party opposite or any party — and gave no doubt to the members of the committee, as a minimum, that they will not accept unconventional gas mining and exploration in their particular areas. I was struck — —

Mr Ramsay interjected.

Mr LEANE — You can carry on, Mr Ramsay. You have ownership of nothing. You have — —

Mr Ramsay interjected.

Mr LEANE — I have actually touched on that. If you were here at the start, you would have heard that. I know — —

Mr Ramsay interjected.

The ACTING PRESIDENT (Mr Elasmar) — Order! Mr Ramsay, enough is enough. Mr Leane to continue.

Mr LEANE — I attended every regional hearing and every metropolitan hearing that we had, and one time I was really struck at Hamilton when five farmers sat in a row and gave their evidence. One farmer actually broke down the time he was putting into meetings around this particular issue — the time that was taking him away from his family and his farm, and the stress that — —

Mr Ramsay interjected.

Mr LEANE — Do you want to deride this particular farmer, Mr Ramsay? You want to be careful. You are a fool. You are just a goose. You will get a go. Are you saying the farmer in Hamilton was a Green? Are you saying that he was not a farmer? You are just a goose. And another farmer — they seem to know a lot about farming, Mr Ramsay — —

Mr Ramsay — On a point of order, Acting President, I have been called many things, but a goose is stretching the imagination even for Mr Leane. Apart from it being unparliamentary language, I ask you to have him withdraw that quite derisive word ‘goose’.

Mr LEANE — I withdraw the remark because I want to actually talk on this bill and not listen to an idiot, so I will just keep going.

The ACTING PRESIDENT (Mr Elasmar) — Order! Mr Leane!

Mr LEANE — I will withdraw the ‘idiot’ remark too.

The ACTING PRESIDENT (Mr Elasmar) — Order! Mr Ramsay, Mr Leane has withdrawn, but I am asking you to make no further interjections. Mr Leane, through the Chair, please.

Mr LEANE — I am happy to. In Hamilton the other thing that struck me was that a farmer who knew a lot about farming, I have to say, spoke about the certification process that he goes through to sell his product overseas. It is a certification process where he has to state if there is any unconventional gas or prospecting near his farm to be able to keep the clean, green product that he sells going overseas and bringing into the Victorian economy what he does bring in and support.

I think the amendments from the Liberal Party were really led by the Shooters, Fishers and Farmers Party. A week ago the Liberal-Nationals MPs were standing up saying, ‘We 100 per cent support the moratorium’, and then the Shooters, Fishers and Farmers Party say that they are going to put an amendment to say they do not support the moratorium on unconventional gas, and then all of a sudden during the week the coalition go, ‘Oh, yeah. Thanks, Shooters and Fishers. Actually we agree with that now’. After making big speeches in the chamber last week about how they support the moratorium, all of a sudden the smallest part of the right-wing coalition is the tail that is wagging the dog. I find that amazing.

I think that when it comes to any form of onshore gas exploration and mining, the problem is that regional Victorians have no faith and no trust in the proponents.

They have no faith and no trust in the oil companies, and that came through clearly in the conversations and the verbal reports that we were getting through the committee. Trust had completely broken down. I have got to say that I struggled with trust. I was sitting there listening to some of the witnesses who were there talking on behalf of the oil companies saying, ‘Fracking can be contained. You put proper regulations in, you put proper laws in and you’ll never have a problem’.

I am sure Mr Ramsay will pull me up for using a prop, but I remember hearing that evidence, so I got on this thing, I looked up Google and I found there is a jurisdiction in New South Wales where they have stopped the process because it was believed that fracking had polluted the community’s drinking water.

This gets back to the oil companies saying, ‘There’s no problem with fracking; there’s no problem with fracking at all’, when it is not true. Why should the public have any confidence in the oil companies doing any onshore exploration and mining — —

Mr Ramsay interjected.

Mr LEANE — When it is your go, Mr Ramsay, you get up and tell them why they should have faith in these companies. Why should they have any faith whatsoever in the way that these companies engaged them and actually tried to convince them of something that is completely untrue? This is a matter of the public having no trust and no faith. That will have to be built up if there is ever going to be conventional onshore gas exploration. I do not know — in five years time it might not be necessary. I have got to say, though, that no-one could tell the committee if there are any possible commercially viable pockets of any type of onshore gas in Victoria. No-one could say it. Now we get the likes of Lakes Oil and Gina Reinhardt saying they are going to sue the Victorian taxpayers for $1 billion. No-one even knows if there is anything there! Maybe we are doing them a favour; maybe they should give the taxpayers a dividend for saving them the cost of prospecting and finding out there is nothing there. The minister has taken a position that we will need to scientifically find out if this is a fact.

I have got to say that there is this absolutely crazy notion that renewable energy is somehow evil. This is particularly believed by the extreme right members of the coalition. These are the same members who say this weird stuff about how they want to control what women do with their bodies and all that sort of stuff. I do not understand. We have got these modern day Don Quixotes on their invisible donkeys, with lances, charging at windmills because they think they are the tools of the devil. Well, they are not the tools of the devil; they are actually generators of electricity. That is the same as those opposite talking about generating electricity from onshore gas and saying, ‘If we don’t exploit it, it’s going to drive up power prices’, when there is a heap of gas being pumped from Bass Strait. It is Victorian gas. It gets pumped up to the top of the country, it gets turned into LPG and it gets sold to overseas clients at a cheaper price than we pay for gas here. So, Mr Ramsay, get up and rage against that; get up and say, ‘That’s what’s driving up power prices’. But you will not, because you are a slave to donations. That is what it is all about. It is all about getting donations. You are a slave to donations. Your party would be horrified if you got up and said that. Your party would go, ‘You’re going to cost us a lot of money’.

I cannot understand this notion that wind and solar power is an evil thing. It is a fantastic thing. It is the way we are going to have to go. As Ms Shing and I said in our minority report, if we are going to be spending money on exploration for fracking or anything like that, why do we not just put the money towards regional renewable energy projects, like what is actually happening now?

I have not had long enough. I wanted to talk for longer than this. It is a shame Mr Ramsay is so stupid and has carried on, and I might look for leave to extend. But I just want to finish where I started; I want to reiterate something I said when I started. When it gets passed tonight this bill will not belong to Mr Ramsay, that is for sure. It will not belong to any MP in here. It will not belong to the government, it will not belong to any previous government, it will not belong to any future government. This bill when it passes will belong to the regional people of Victoria, and I cannot congratulate them enough. I cannot thank them enough for educating us as a government. I have got to say that this has been one of the best things I have ever been involved in as an MP, and I have been doing that for a while, so I thank them.