Could the Victorian Liberals be considering a policy of ending the State’s fracking ban — the same one they supported in 2017?

In an interview with the Ballarat Courier, Liberal candidate for Buninyong Andrew Kilmartin said they’d “allow gas fracking, which is going to be good”, in response to a question on how to bring power prices down.

Mr Kilmartin, 31, then immediately corrected himself to say: “Oh sorry… no fracking sorry”.

The party then quickly put out a statement ending with the slogan “the Liberal Nationals’ policy is cheaper gas, no fracking”.

Stockhead has contacted the Victorian Liberals for comment.

Fracking or hydraulic fracturing is a method where water mixed with lubricants is sent down a well to force open cracks and fissures holding oil or gas.

Backing the ban

The Victorian Liberals supported a ban on fracking and onshore conventional gas exploration and production in the State Parliament’s Lower House, but flipped their position on conventional gas once the legislation reached the Upper House.

Andrew Kilmartin … “Oh sorry… no fracking sorry”

The law passed in March last year.

They are now committed to re-introducing onshore conventional gas exploration and production in Victoria on a case-by-case basis.

They want to set up a new royalty sharing scheme giving landowners a 10 per cent share of royalties paid to government of the net post-wellhead sales value of recovered gas, as well as a right of veto.

Bring back the gas

All of which is music the ears of Gina Rinehart-backed Lakes Oil, which is currently fighting the Victorian government in the courts.

Last year Victoria suspended conventional onshore gas exploration until 2020 and permanently banned unconventional exploration including hydraulic fracturing (or fracking) and coal seam gas.

Lakes Oil had been undertaking gas exploration in Victoria prior to the ban, spending more than $100 million in the state.

Chairman Chris Tonkin hadn’t yet heard about the Victorian Liberals policy slip — or gaffe — but said a change in policy from the Opposition would surprise him.

“I’m surprised the Liberals have done it because of the resistance to fracking that is around,” he told Stockhead.

“While the Victorian government will have made their decisions for political purposes, I’m surprised that the same political motivations haven’t affected the Liberals.”

Lakes Oil is still waiting on a decision from the Supreme Court after making their case in mid-March.

Mr Tonkin says if the decision goes against them — which he doesn’t think it will — they have other projects they can rebuild the business on in Queensland.

But their preference is to work in Victoria, given they have already sunk considerable funds and many years of work into their tenements in the state.