Call for freeze on Gloucester Gas Project as auditors investigate AGL’s political donations

Published: August 14, 2014

13th August 2014
Groundswell Gloucester and the Lock The Gate Alliance are calling for all work on AGL’s Gloucester gas project to cease immediately pending a full inquiry into the payment by the company of more than $100,000 in political donations while the project was being approved, while only half that amount was declared to the planning department.

Groundswell Gloucester spokesperson Julie Lyford said the moral and legal issues surrounding AGL’s donations to the Liberal and Labor parties needed to be fully explored before another sod was turned on the controversial coal seam gas project.

“All work on the project should come to a halt until we have full and open disclosure of who was paid what and why,” Ms Lyford said.

Her comments follow the latest twist in the New South Wales political donations saga with an admission from AGL that it had called in auditors to investigate whether it had made any “errors” in its political donations disclosures.

“Residents of Gloucester are facing the uncertain and frightening future of living in a gasfield with wells and infrastructure just metres from their homes, and now we learn that AGL has been forced to bring in auditors to sort out a spider web of political donations associated with the project," Ms Lyford said.

“Until we can be assured that everything is legal and above board no further work should take place on this project. We should not have to live with the damaging consequences of decisions made concurrently with undisclosed political donations.”

Lock the Gate’s Hunter regional coordinator Steve Phillips backed Groundswell Gloucester’s calls to freeze all work on the project pending an inquiry, saying the questions over political donations were too big to ignore.

“There is an urgent need to restore public confidence in the approvals process for CSG projects and into decision-making around major resource projects more broadly,” Mr Phillps said.

“We need to know why AGL was given approval to build a full-scale gasfield at Gloucester in 2011, years before they would be ready to act on that approval, and prior to crucial exclusion zones for homes being brought into force. We need to know why the company was given approval last week to frack so close to people's homes, without even conducting a full environment study.

“Public faith in the fairness of coal and gas approvals is at its nadir, as the corruption crisis in our state parliament continues to unfold. The public will never see coal and gas approvals as fair while companies are allowed to hand bags of cash to political parties. The Government must move to ensure that mining companies companies, including gas giants like AGL, are barred from handing cash over to political parties, just as property developers and tobacco companies are.

“In the mean time, save this community the angst of having to defend their Valley from the invasion of coal seam gas fracking, and suspend approval for this project.”

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