WESTERN Australian business representatives and the oil and gas industry have spoken out strongly about a proposed fracking ban in the south of the State by the opposition Labor party.

WA Labor Leader, Mark McGowan, announced in early October that his party would look to ban fracking in the South West, the Peel region and Perth metropolitan area in WA if elected at the next election.

The announcement drew a quick reaction from the WA Chamber of Mines and Energy (CME) and the Australian Petroleum Production and Exploration Association (APPEA).

Describing the proposal as short sighted, CME CEO Reg Howard-Smith said a ban on fracking in the South West would threaten jobs and economic prosperity in the region.

He said the call for a fracking ban in the South West of the State was pointless as “onshore gas companies with leases in the South West have no plans to utilise the hydraulic fracturing process in the region.”

He also pointed out that the resource industry was a major part of the WA South West region economy.

“Concerns around hydraulic fracturing are unjustified and should not blight the resources sector’s long and illustrious history operating in the region,” Mr Howard-Smith said.

“A parliamentary inquiry into the practice last year found the current regulatory framework provides sufficient safeguards to the environment.

“It also found many of the community concerns around hydraulic fracturing can be addressed through robust regulation and ongoing monitoring.

“The Labor Party knows this and is purely playing a game of political point scoring,” he added.

APPEA condemned the announcement as a political stunt.

“Policy announcements before an election are often more about short-term politics than good policy in the public interest.

Today’s announcement is a case in point,” said APPEA chief executive Dr Malcolm Roberts.

“There is no environmental or public health and safety justification to ban hydraulic fracking. That is not just the opinion of the industry which has been safely using the technique in WA since 1958 – it is the considered view of every reputable, independent scientific inquiry into fracking.

“Australia’s Chief Scientist, the NSW Chief Scientist and the CSIRO have all confirmed that, with proper regulation, the practice is safe. In Western Australia, a two-year parliamentary inquiry reached the same conclusion just 11 months ago.

“Contrary to dishonest fear campaigns by activists, fracking does not threaten water supplies. There has been no proven case of an aquifer being contaminated by fracking and the WA Health Department says the process can be undertaken without compromising drinking water supplies.

“At a time when the Western Australian economy is struggling and unemployment is rising, it is disappointing to see WA Labor choose short term politics over regional jobs and investment.

“Western Australia is a resource state, depending on its good reputation to attract investment to develop its natural resources.

Gas is absolutely vital to its economy – as a high value export and as the major source of energy for local homes and businesses.

Labor aspires to govern the State but, in this case, it has chosen to ignore sound science and good policy,” Mr Roberts said.