In my first speech in Parliament, I told my Parliamentary colleagues,
“we can choose to squander our time here and aim for power above all else, or we can use it to get things done”.
This week – together with communities across Victoria – we got something done.
After a five-year campaign, the Victorian government announced a permanent ban on fracking and other forms of unconventional gas, as well as a four-year moratorium on all onshore gas. This is a huge win for the Greens and the community campaigners who have worked so hard.
And what a campaign it was! It started in 2011, when Friends of the Earth pushed for a moratorium on onshore gas, and won. But then, it was about to expire, and the new Labor Government started talking up the virtues of gas (eek!). So, we upped the ante.
Friends of the Earth started spreading the word, then supporting communities in Gippsland and Western Victoria to build local campaigns. Local councils started standing up against onshore gas, starting with Colac Otway Shire in 2011.
Victorian towns started surveying residents to gauge community support, then upon finding support for a complete ban on onshore gas, declared themselves gasfield free. Poowong became the first town in 2013, and 74 Victorian towns have since followed, supported by Lock the Gate.
Gas became seen as all parties as a hot issue. Over 1600 submissions were made to the Parliamentary Inquiry into onshore gas, largely facilitated by the Greens. This was the largest number of submissions in Victoria’s history, and lead to a split in the Labor Party on gas.
For three by-election campaigns, the Greens placed advertisements in local papers about gas, and volunteers handed out gas how-to-vote cards. This led to the Nationals splitting from the Liberals and taking a stronger position.
Meanwhile, my parliamentary colleagues and I kept up the pressure. Greg Barber’s work in Parliament in 2013 led to the Nationals taking a stronger position on gas and rolled a Liberal Energy Ministser. Collectively, Victorian Greens MPs gave 18 speeches about gas in the chambers. I hosted two regional tours and did a whole lot of online campaigning. We also held events in the inner-city to put pressure on marginal Labor seats and commissioned a poll showing around half of voters in those inner-city marginal seats – and marginal seats in Western Victoria – would change their vote on the issue.
Thousands of people attended rallies, got media attention, and even made a giant “ban gas” sign out of sheep!
But it was all worth it.
While it is disappointing that the Labor Government has left the door open to the conventional gas industry, the permanent ban on fracking provides some sense of safety and security for regional families.
Congratulations to everyone on a fantastic campaign. The next step will be securing a permanent ban on all onshore gas in Victoria, and a permanent ban on onshore gas nation-wide. Let’s make it happen.