WA Labor pledges South West, Peel, Perth fracking ban

WA Labor has pledged to ban fracking in the South West, Peel and Perth Metropolitan regions if elected to government in March.

Opposition leader Mark McGowan visited Furnissdale, near Mandurah, Thursday morning to discuss the policy and the work South West MP Mick Murray had done in gauging community support for the plan.

Mr McGowan said because of the unique natural environment, high population density, land use patterns and deep aquifers in the regions, fracking presented an unacceptable risk to farming, tourism and the unique biodiversity available.

These measures will put to bed the fracking issue in the South West. Under a McGowan Labor Government, fracking will be banned in the South West, the Peel region and the Perth metropolitan area.

“The ban will finally offer the community the protections they’ve been demanding,” Mr McGowan said.

“The community has been vocal on this issue and WA Labor has listened.

“They’ve overwhelmingly backed Mick Murray’s campaign for a frack free South West and I’m delighted we’ve been able to give them an assurance that fracking will not occur in these regions under a government I lead.”

The State member for Collie-Preston, Mr Murray had been working with South West member Sally Talbot to establish the plan, and said it was the result of years of public consultation.

“The South West community has rejected fracking. They understand that the unique natural environment of the South West is not suitable for fracking to occur,” he said.

“WA Labor will protect the South West. It’s WA’s biggest tourism destination and the unique natural environment is a major drawcard for international visitors.

“We want people from all over the world to visit the South West and make the most of everything it has to offer – from food and wine, to forests and waterways. It’s vital that this unique environment is protected at all costs.”

Environmental organisations and community-run anti-fracking groups welcomed Labor’s position, but were wary the announcement could simply be an election pledge.

Frack Free Future campaign coordinator Jules Kirby welcomed the announcement but warned Labor against too narrow an interpretation of their proposed fracking ban. 

“Voters across the State are waking up to the risks this unwanted industry poses to WA’s water, wealth and wellbeing - will the conservative parties wake up too, or sleepwalk into a beating at the ballot box?” Mr Kirby said.

“Let’s see Labor being clear though - the unconventional gas industry harms health, pollutes water and ruins farmland, whether or not ‘fracking’ or hydraulic fracturing is involved.

“That’s why people across WA want to see bans and moratoriums on all unconventional gas activity, like Victorian Labor recently enacted.”

The decision has been met with condemnation from mining interests, with Chamber of Minerals and Energy chief Reg Howard-Smith warning jobs would be sacrificed in the South West.

“Today’s shortsighted ban on fracking in the South West threatens jobs and economic prosperity in the region,” Mr Howard-Smith said.

“Mark McGowan’s announcement today that Labor will not permit hydraulic fracturing in the South West, Peel and Perth metropolitan region is a quick way of silencing the activists at the expense of future growth.

“Onshore gas companies with leases in the South West have no plans to utilise the hydraulic fracturing process in the region.

“The South West is rich in resources including mineral sands, alumina, coal and lithium and it should not be forgotten the sector is a major contributor to the local economy.”

Australian Petroluem Production and Exploration Association chief Malcolm Roberts accused Labor of appealing to community interest with a short-term policy before an election.

“There is no environmental or public health and safety justification to ban hydraulic fracking,” he said 

“That is not just the opinion of the industry which has been safely using the technique in WA since 1958 - it is the considered view of every reputable, independent scientific inquiry into fracking.

“Contrary to dishonest fear campaigns by activists, fracking does not threaten water supplies.  There has been no proven case of an aquifer being contaminated by fracking and the WA Health Department says the process can be undertaken without compromising drinking water supplies.”

Mr McGowan said he was not fazed by admonitions from the mining industry.

“I’ve talked to the department and mining companies about this before. They know my position,” he said.

“The fact of the matter is, we’ve been talking to representatives from the agricultural sector and tourism sector – the thriving tourism sector – and any policy that will protect those important industries in the South West is our priority.”