Opposition Leader John Robertson.
Opposition Leader John Robertson. JoJo Newby

OPINION: Labor CSG promise unlikely to see the light of day

IT seems a bit odd NSW Labor's promise to ban coal seam gas exploration and extraction on the Northern Rivers fails to include all but a small part of the only seat where the sitting member has made a clear statement opposing CSG.

However, it looks less odd when you consider Clarence, held by Chris Gulaptis, is the Northern Rivers seat where the coalition vote is least threatened by coal seam gas and is the only local seat Labor has yet to announce a candidate in.

It makes even more sense when you look at the odds on the next election.

Of the two main betting agencies offering odds on the election, Sportsbet was yesterday offering $4.50 for a Labor win compared to only $1.18 for the Coalition, while Centrebet was offering $5/$1.16, with the short money on the coalition.

They're remarkably poor odds for Labor, particularly given the ongoing furore coming from the Independent Commission Against Corruption which has so far seen out a premier and a couple of ministers. Under normal circumstances that would mean curtains for the government, but clearly the electorate's anger at the former Labor government still has plenty of heat left in it.

And that explains why NSW Labor would go to an election with such an inconsistent policy on coal seam gas, banning CSG activity in some areas but not others.

Will Labor's promised CSG ban on the Northern Rivers sway your vote?

This poll ended on 03 October 2014.

Current Results

Yes, it will make me more likely to vote Labor

39%

Yes, it will make me less likely to vote Labor

8%

No, but it might make me more likely to vote Labor if the ban included the Clarence

11%

No, but it might make me more likely to vote Labor if the ban covered all of NSW

22%

No, CSG is not an election issue for me

17%

This is not a scientific poll. The results reflect only the opinions of those who chose to participate.

Policies like this are liable to give migraines to hard core policy wonks.

Labor pitches it as a win for the community - it has listened to the concerns raised by the people of the Lismore, Ballina, Byron, Kyogle, Richmond Valley, and Tweed local government areas and bowed to their wishes.

However, if this were really about self-determination for communities, it would make more sense to extend the powers of the Local Environment Plans created by local governments to allow or ban CSG activities.

Presumably there would be complications to thrash out but that move, or something similar, would give all communities the ability to reject or accept CSG as they saw fit - and to change their mind if and when they chose to.

Labor's promise doesn't do that, but then it doesn't matter if Labor is going to the election expecting to lose. It's a policy they'll never have to implement and it might win, or at least soften, a seat or two that would otherwise be well out of its reach.

It's a trick tried and tested by both sides - remember the promises to return the train by Federal Labor in 2004 and the NSW Coalition in 2007?

Now as then, it's a promise that should be taken with its requisite grain of salt.



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