“WA’s moratorium on fracking has been overturned without consideration of economic impacts,” it said.
“Economic logic, and the lived experience of Queensland and the USA, shows the industry has an incentive to expand as much and as fast as possible.
“This has a negative impact on communities, provides few jobs, little revenue and could increase domestic gas prices.”
Research director Rod Campbell said it was “surprising” the government would cancel the briefing, particularly at such late notice.
“The WA government made no consideration of the social and economic impacts of fracking, even though it has been very disruptive in the eastern states,” he said.
“Our research shows that fracking does not bring jobs. The gas industry employs less people per dollar of output than any other industry. If employment growth is the policy goal, then investment in virtually any other industry is will deliver better results.”
Mr Campbell pointed to Queensland, where he said there was a loss of 1.8 agricultural jobs for every new gas job created in rural areas: “gas jobs come at the cost of displacement of jobs in other industries.”
Indigenous opportunities from fracking were also likely to be “minimal”, Mr Campbell said, and there was an estimated increase of between three and 19 jobs for Indigenous people.
“Fracking is likely to generate little revenue for the state,” he said.
“Even a relatively large shale gas industry would be likely to generate revenue worth just 0.6 percent of WA state government revenue, roughly the value of traffic fines to the WA budget.
“Relative to conventional gas, shale gas is high cost to extract. Gas companies on the East Coast have mastered exporting cheap gas and selling expensive gas to locals who have no other choice.”
Mr Campbell said a government MP — who he declined to name — had organised the meeting for caucus for Thursday at 10am.
“When we arrived late (Wednesday) we were told that a decision had been made higher up that the briefing could not go ahead,” he said.
A spokesman for Premier Mark McGowan said the government did not request the briefing by the Australia Institute, but did not explain why the meeting was cancelled.
When asked about whether the government had jobs or economic modelling to demonstrate the benefits of fracking to the WA economy, the spokesman said the scientific inquiry — on which the decision to allow fracking of existing leases in the Kimberley, Mid West and Pilbara was based — had not been tasked with economic modelling but with investigating potential environmental impacts.
“However, it did find that there will be job opportunities for local communities,” he said.
“The state’s onshore gas industry currently employs around 1200 people. Western Australians recognise the importance of the oil and gas industry in generating jobs for Western Australians.
“It’s also important to note that some traditional owners have come out in support for the Government’s policy, because they see it as an economic opportunity for their people.
“Under our policy traditional owners are given the right to decide whether or not fracking takes place on their land.”
The Conservation Council of WA has also raised concerns about how the government inquiry estimated the greenhouse gases that would result from gas fracking and its potential to stop Australia meeting emissions reduction targets under the Paris Agreement.
The inquiry’s chairman Tom Hatton on Wednesday said the report presented “estimated volumes of greenhouse gas for plausible development scenarios over their full life cycle”.
But the Conservation Council claims this fails to account for 90 per cent of the greenhouse gases that will be generated by not counting the emissions from when gas is burned to create energy.
The state government spokesman told WAtoday the inquiry looked “extensively” into the issue of greenhouse gases and found fracking gas would produce “marginally” more greenhouse gas than conventional gas.
“Gas is part of the transition to a clean energy future, with emissions from gas significantly lower than other baseload power production such as coal and diesel, which it usually replaces,” he said.
But the government agreed with the inquiry’s recommendations to reduce emissions through increased monitoring and requiring ‘green completions’, and pledged to develop an offset policy for unconventional gas consistent with the national approach.
WA’s gas market is different to that on the east coast, the spokesman said, highlighting the mandate that 15 per cent of all gas be made available for domestic use.
“This means around 40 per cent of our energy is from gas,” he said. “Gas keeps our energy prices down and supports valuable industries that generate thousands of jobs across the state.”
Emma Young is a Fairfax Media journalist based in Western Australia, breaking news with a focus on science and environment, health and social justice.
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