Gas imports rising as major poll issue

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CANDIDATES for the federal seat of Flinders will again have their chance to explain their views on power company AGL’s plans to import natural gas through a floating terminal at Crib Point at a public meeting on 1 May.

They were grilled on their views about importing the gas and the building of a pipeline to Pakenham at a public meeting in Dromana last Wednesday (17 April), although the May meeting is being held by Save Westernport, which was formed specifically to fight the AGL proposal.

Save Westernport spokesperson Julia Stockigt said most of the candidates for Flinders had accepted an invite to attend the meeting.

Known candidates before this week’s close of nominations were sitting MP Greg Hunt (Liberal), Joshua Sinclair (Labor), Julia Banks (independent), Susie Beveridge (independent), Nathan Lesslie (Greens) and Christine McShane (United Australia).

“The meeting, dubbed ‘Mayday!, SOS for Westernport’, refers to the threat the controversial project presents to local residents and the protected marine ecosystems of Western Port,” Ms Stockigt said.

“The purpose of the meeting is to update the community about AGL’s plans to import and process gas at Crib Point.”

Ms Stockigt said the 56 kilometre long pipeline to Pakenham would disrupt “critically endangered wetlands and productive farming properties”.

“Save Westernport is not aligned with any political party or candidate, but the group’s continuing work opposing AGL’s controversial plans was recently endorsed by independent candidate Julia Banks when she introduced a petition in federal parliament,” she said.

The petition called on the government to honour its international obligations as a signatory of the Ramsar convention to protect Western Port’s threatened wetlands.    

“People are understandably concerned about AGL’s plans,” Save Westernport president Louise Page said.

“Our meeting will give them the opportunity to hear from our federal representatives what action they will take if elected to stop this dangerous and ill-conceived plan.

“All aspects of the project are currently under review in a state government-ordered environmental effects statement, which has already significantly set back AGL’s plans.

“Irrespective of its findings, and of AGL’s controversial attempts to win local support with gifts of money to select community groups, members of Save Westernport believe that AGL does not have the social licence needed to operate in this community.

“The project would put Western Port at risk to import Victoria’s own gas back into the state at enormous profit to the AGL corporation.”

Ms page said the Mayday meeting was endorsed by Environment Victoria and “will be a chance for residents and visitors to the area to stay informed about the project and this community’s continuing efforts to encourage AGL to seek more appropriate alternative ventures”.

The 7pm Wednesday 1 May meeting will be held at Balnarring Hall. Booking is not essential, but RSVPs can be lodged at: eventbrite.com.au/e/mayday-sos-public-meeting-to-stop-agl-gas-terminal-tickets

First published in the Southern Peninsula News – 23 April 2019

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