Lobbyists and public commentary: Reith in the spotlight – Mark Anning @1EarthMedia reports

peter reith 01

By Mark Anning

It was interesting to see the opinion piece written by Peter Reith for The Drum – Fracking scare campaigns threaten our prosperity – especially considering Reith is a paid political lobbyist and chairman of the Victorian Government’s task force on the eastern gas market.

“The public debate is soon mired in myriad false claims, partly because government has not ensured the public is fairly informed and because some activists have other political agendas,” writes Reith.

To ensure that the public is fairly informed, and agendas and vested interests are properly tabled, it should be noted that Peter Reith is a lobbyist for First State Advisors and Consultants Pty Ltd.

Who does First State Advisers lobby for?

A full list of Reith’s clients is published on the government website.

Two major players in the coal seam gas industry are Reith’s clients: Thiess and the NSW Aboriginal Land Council.

Thiess has won a $1.8 billion contract from CSG producer QGC for the construction of gas compression facilities in Queensland’s Surat Basin.

Another of Reith’s lobbying clients, the NSW Aboriginal Land Council has applied to explore for coal seam gas beneath 40 per cent of the state, sparking outrage from indigenous and non-indigenous people alike.

There has been considerable debate on the exposure by ICAC this week of the alleged vested interests of Messrs. Mooney and Grayson in their manipulation of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority and their financial ties to the coal industry.

Peter Reith is paid to lobby government by a major fracking contractor and a major mining lease explorer. Reith is also paid by the Victorian Government to advise them on fracking. It would seem that potential conflicts of interest are not limited to the coal industry.

Reith goes on: “There is virtually no country in the world that bans fracking because there is no reason to do so.”

A global list of bans on fracking is updated here.

“The most immediate issue is that in the early years from 2014, the Queensland LNG export plants may not be able to acquire sufficient natural gas from their new gas fields and, in that case, they will source gas from sources otherwise slated for domestic use, thereby pushing up the price,” writes Reith.

However, Sydney Morning Herald economics editor Ross Gittins succinctly torpedoed Reith’s flawed logic, in his article published Industry’s coal seam gas campaign is a con

he gas industry is working a scam on the people of NSW, in collusion with other business lobby groups and federal and state politicians. It’s trying to frighten us into agreeing to remove restrictions on the exploitation of coal seam gas deposits. Failing that, the various parties want to be able to lay the blame for an inevitable jump in the price of natural gas on the greenies and farmers.”

If anything, Reith’s argument demonstrates the very real need for Australia, and for each state, to develop a Gas Reservation Policy to ensure domestic supply.

Major gas users, such as the plastics, chemicals and steel industries have all called for a Gas Reservation Policy to keep prices stable and ensure supply.

Not surprisingly, the gas industry opposes such a policy because they want to control the market, set the price, decide who they sell to and, most importantly, set the quota for gas extraction.

Reith claims ‘fracking was invented in the late 1940s’.

This too is a con, as the statement is usually accompanied by the assertion that fracking has occurred for decades without incident.

The truth is that in 1997 the acknowledged ‘father of fracking’, George Mitchell, developed the hydraulic fracturing technique known as ‘slickwater fracturing’, which involves adding chemicals to water to increase fluid flow, thus making shale gas extraction economical. That is the fracking technique now used – it is only 15 years old and has not been tested on the scale currently being rolled out worldwide.

Even the Father of Fracking expressed major concerns about his process later in his life: “As a concerned businessman and philanthropist, I have come to understand that the natural gas industry can no longer simply focus on the benefits of shale gas while failing to address its challenges. We know that there are significant impacts on air quality, water consumption, water contamination, and local communities.”

Reith ends his opinion piece with this observation: “Queensland has worked through the same issues as Victoria and New South Wales. Rather than turning a blind eye to the possibilities of natural gas, the southern states would do well to learn from Queensland’s mistakes and look carefully at the success they are now enjoying.”

Farmers who allow coal seam gas onto their land are forced to sign a confidentiality clause forbidding them from speaking out against the horror stories in Queensland. It is unfortunate that government and the coal seam gas industry is turning a ‘blind eye’ to those people who are living with the problems caused by coal seam gas.

Considering that Peter Reith’s company, First State Advisors and Consultants Pty Ltd, benefits financially from major coal seam gas company Thiess and the CSG lease holder NSW Aboriginal Land Council, it is difficult to know when his professional lobbying ends and his public role begins.

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  1. Reith is up there with the most evil people in this country, he’s always been hell bent on destroying peoples lives.

  2. Thanks for this piece, Mark. I did find it strange, if not offensive, that The Drum (our ABC, apparently) gave Reith the opportunity to publish his piece of spin when he clearly has vested interests (one hopes he paid the ABC and not vice versa). I did not realise he is a paid lobbyist for the industry in addition to advising government, and I had forgotten that it was Gittins who wrote of the “gas crisis” scam – thanks for doing the research. We can only hope that the more articles like this are published, the more Governments and MSM will be careful about who they listen to. Although Newman’s attempts to interfere with the judicial process don’t fill me with confidence.

    • Reith, just like special friend of the ABC: the IPA, has been guest of choice on #thedrum, #lateline, #730. THeir is something very rotten inside the ABC these days. I guess it goes to the Howard Appointed Board, Managing Director Mark Scott (businessman) who is an ex-Fairfax ex-NSW Liberal Party staffer. He spent up big on ABC24 which is providing more content than ever as the quality of the abc content is watered down to no much better than commercial fare. Business gets the inside track which the environment/conservation areas have been banished from the station entirely (and thanks to Geraldine Douge for axing the one RN environment show, I guess she needed room for another show about Catholicism in Australia)

  3. You would be in deep strife if you believe the words of Reith or the IPA. You don’t get facts ever. You get what his backers want to be said .Same with Costello. Find out who FUNDS them and who they represent.

  4. Well I’ll be fracked, and by Reith of all people.

  5. I am getting rather sick of fools claiming there is no evidence of water or air contamination with unconventional gas. Apart from documented water contamination and water competition, Australia’s own National Pollutant Inventory indicates the extent of air pollution in QUEENSLAND’s gasfields….

    It is totally unacceptable and unprecedented for families to be located WITHIN major petrochemical complexes.

  6. Give Reith a dollar and he’ll say anything

  7. Connor Jolley says

    Can the author please submit this piece to The Drum?

    • Mark Anning says

      done! Today’s article about fracking in the Melbourne Age also used the info:

      “Mr Reith has also faced claims that he has worked as a lobbyist for mining company Thiess, which has a $1.8 billion contract from coal seam gas producer QGC in Queensland. While Mr Reith has not personally undertaken lobbying work for the company, his employer, First State Advisors and Consultants, lists Thiess as a client.”

  8. No media organisation that gives a regular platform to activist partisans of this nature can truthfully claim to be unbiased.

  9. Surely Peter Reith has disqualified himself from being the deliverer of ‘independent advice’ to the Victorian government. Does anyone else feel we deserve better than this?

  10. I can’t get to watch The Drum on ABC 24 as often as I’d like because of its time slot, but when I do get the chance I’m surprised by how often Reith is a panelist on the show.

  11. So the lobbyists gets frequent air time while CSG protestors have to scramble for any bit of media attention. It really is a 1% world. Surely media should do the right thing and preamble any interview with a lobbyist (on a conflict of interest issue) with a declaration of their affiliations.

    • Exactly foicentric.

      The abc journos if you asked them about IPAs multiple appearances each month (and attack dog Reith) would say “oh we have to balance”. But balance what exactly? When do I see a Greenpeace senior staffer on The Drum let alone Lateline. Forget about a regular gig! Where are the other conservation groups, the socialists, the anarchists, the occupy movement… absolutely never on your ABC. So what we have is neo-con extremists determined to destroy the planet balancing the Lib/Lab paid off MPs soft pedalling exactly the same shit. Oh and add the NSW Aboriginal Land Council to that list now.

  12. Mark Harrison says

    Well spoken Peter-we all know that the new preferred method of fracking is with the use of ceramics and not chemicals-causes better flow and not toxic-catch on you lot

  13. Russell Edwards says

    I got the basics of this into The Age letters today. Sorry they didn’t pass on the credit to this website. Also they edited out my disbelief that this staggering conflict of interest was not front-page news.

  14. Correct me if i’m wrong but on the lobbyist register there is a Peter Keaston Reith who represents Bechtel Management Company Ltd.
    Bechtel builds LNG (Liquefied natural gas) plants among other things.
    Lobbyist register link – http://lobbyists.pmc.gov.au/register/view_agency.cfm?id=563
    Bechtel – http://www.bechtel.com/australia-projects.html
    Is that the same Peter Reith that is proactively encouraging CSG exploration and mining by way of interview and public comment ( http://www.abc.net.au/news/2013-10-29/reith-fracking-scare-campaigns-threaten-our-prosperity/5051576 )
    shortly thereafter completing a report into CSG mining in Victoria that has even yet to be published ?

    • sunkensheep says

      Note that PR is also an employee of First State Government and Corporate Relations

      Interestingly, most of the clients appear to be privately held companies with zero web presence. I wonder what these companies actually do? Some others include property developers connected with Eddie Obeid, and/or named in other ICAC proceedings.
      All yet more evidence of the government corruption rampant in the eastern-states.
      A little more digging reveals hints that the important politicians and power-brokers of the major parties – state and federal – are in the back pocket of mining firms, property developers, parts of the construction/civil engineering industry (roads in particular), and the financial services sector.

      Little wonder that house prices are through the roof, bank profits are at record highs, the mining tax fell flat while that industry faces almost no political opposition to expansion, and all the while ever more billions are spent on Major Projects like toll roads.

      Like it or not, policy is decided by the billionaires club, who will back whichever side serves their interest most at the time.

  15. Yes that would be one and the same

  16. sunkensheep says

    The ABC should change that headline to Fracking scare campaigns threatens my prosperity by Peter Reith.

  17. @APPEALtd Gas lobbyist Peter “Children Overboard” Reith writes about scare campaigns?
    That’s rich!
    #CSG #NSWpol

  18. google “Peter Reith” @NoFibs article still comes up on 2nd page
    #CSG lobbyist
    @Punisher666aoz @margokingston1

  19. Roger Colclough says

    Whilst the ABC is under the control of a Howard muppet there will be no such thing as an unbiased coverage. There will also be a lot of fear for jobs with the sustained attacks by the LNP. Journalists should be more concerned about the power of social media and by the fact that this ultra right wing government will not survive. To quote Malcolm Fraser, “Abbott is the most dangerous politician in Australia’s history”.