Be careful walking down any street in Victoria these days. It’s not just the rising rates of assault and other crimes - destined to be a key issue in next year’s state election - you should worry about. Zealous bureaucrats with a keen eye for entrepreneurship are also a threat, says Menzies Research Centre executive director Nick Cater.
Discussing the absurdities of the mining and energy debate with Peter Van Onselen on Sky News on Wednesday, Cater said there were laws in Victoria that prevented what prospectors have done for centuries. “It is illegal in this state not just to drill for gas but to explore for it,” he said. “So if I went outside here now and I looked like I was looking for gas they could probably arrest me.
“This is absurd. There are huge reserves of natural gas right under where I’m sitting here and there are a number of companies who say they could extract it using conventional means for much of it, they don’t even have to frack for it. And yet the Andrews Labor government says it’s illegal. That’s why gas is so expensive up and down the east coast.”
Cater was also asked about the same-sex marriage debate, which he predicted is unlikely to be resolved by anything less than a landslide outcome in the forthcoming postal plebiscite.
“This is not going to be a decision that will just be checked off by the electorate,” he said. “It is increasingly apparent from the people I speak to, especially people from the yes campaign, is they are going to have to listen a lot harder to people’s worries and fears and not dismiss them as propaganda or homophobic.”
The fear from some Australians was that sex education in schools had gone beyond the birds and bees, and that same-sex marriage would legitimise this social trend. the yes vote had started with a disadvantage - no votes traditional win plebiscites and referendums - which meant it still had a lot of work to do.
“People in the Coalition, where this issue is deeply dividing the party, would desperately like to put an end to it before Christmas with that vote. But if it’s not 100-nil, I don’t think there’s any chance of putting an end to it. Labor and others feel so passionately about this, they’re going to pursue this right up to the next election whatever happens.”