South Australian Premier Steven Marshall has revealed he is still considering whether to enshrine in law a moratorium on fracking for natural gas in the state’s south-east.
On a visit to Mount Gambier, Mr Marshall told ABC Radio his cabinet had already implemented the 10-year moratorium by issuing a direction to the public service.
“We made it on Monday and I wanted to come straight down here and assure the people of South Australia that we’ve been true to our word,” he said.
“We didn’t want to wait until Parliament resumed. We’ve already issued an instruction.”
But Mr Marshall indicated the 10-year ban may not be enshrined in law, in a bid to prevent future governments from overturning it.
“We’ll consider that. But my advice from the department is that the moratorium is already in place after we made that cabinet decision,” he said.
Mr Marshall’s visit came as the federal Energy Minister Josh Frydenberg lashed state governments for imposing bans on gas extractions, warning they would drive up the price of electricity.
“I am on the record saying it is my preference that all governments adopt an evidence [and] scientific-based approach to conventional and unconventional gas extraction, regardless of their political hue — Liberal, Labor, National,” Mr Frydenberg said.
“In the case of South Australia, Steven Marshall does allow unconventional gas extraction in both the Cooper and Eromanga basins.”
Labor reconsidering pro-fracking position
State Labor attacked Mr Marshall’s moratorium promise prior to the March election, pointing out the Liberal Party supported fracking for natural gas elsewhere in the state.
But the new Opposition Leader Peter Malinauskas stopped short of committing a future Labor government from overturning the ban.
“This is one of those areas where we’re going to go out and listen to people,” Mr Malinauskas said.
“We’re open minded about everything, but our position on this was based on science, it was based on what’s good for the economy.”
On his visit to Mount Gambier, Mr Marshall met with the local MP Troy Bell, who was forced to quit the Liberal Party last year after he was charged with corruption offences.
Mr Bell maintains his innocence.
The conservative south-east seat will be a crucial region for the new Liberal Government to tend.
Mount Gambier voters have elected several independent MPs including Mr Bell, and the Liberal Party will be hoping to win it back should the now independent MP be forced to relinquish his parliamentary role.