Billions of dollars in investment and thousands of jobs are at stake unless governments can find the right balance between meeting community expectations and allowing industry to progress unconventional gas developments, CEDA's latest policy perspective has found.
CEDA, Chief Executive, Professor the Hon Stephen Martin said in releasing CEDA's Australia's Unconventional Energy Options today that successful development of this resource could provide a lower emission energy source than traditional supplies such as coal and deliver tens of thousands of jobs.
"Currently we are seeing superficial arguments that pit farmers or environmentalists against miners. This is holding back the discussions that need to take place to progress this issue, which is why CEDA has undertaken this work," he said.
"With the exception of Queensland, development of unconventional energy in Australia is still in its infancy. However, the main unconventional gas source in Australia, coal seam gas, represents about one quarter of Australia's economically demonstrated resources of gas from all sources.
"In Queensland we are already seeing significant developments progressed. However, the full potential of unconventional energy resources across Australia can only be realised if it continues to have a social licence to operate.
"In recent weeks we have seen further protests in NSW and a moratorium being discussed in Victoria for coal seam gas extraction, which shows that the social licence to operate is in serious jeopardy.
"You can't expect zero risk with any industry, but a balance can be struck between communities, protecting the environment and miners, provided the right checks and balances are put in place by government and are implemented quickly.
"However, further delays may see this industry's social licence to operate irrevocably damaged."
Professor Martin said CEDA's policy perspective draws together five experts to explore key issues identified by CEDA around unconventional energy development in Australia including:
"CEDA is consequently calling for improvements in community consultation and land access negotiation processes, and for industry to adopt OECD community consultation best practice standards," he said.
In addition, Professor Martin said specifically around water management, CEDA is calling for:
"While many of these issues fall to state and territory governments to manage, the potential economic significance of this industry for Australia means the Federal Government should also be working with the states and territories to ensure consistency across jurisdictions," Professor Martin said.