Saffin denies claim Kevin Rudd will make CSG a priority

FEDERAL Member for Page Janelle Saffin has denied reports claiming Prime Minister Kevin Rudd will make the expansion of coal-seam gas a priority in a wider push to tackle high electricity prices.

In an agenda-setting National Press Club speech last Thursday, Mr Rudd outlined a seven-point "productivity plan" which included targeting of high domestic electricity prices, with the "future availability of competitively priced domestic gas supplies... high on the agenda."

"Reforms are needed for the supply of competitively priced gas for Australian businesses and households," Mr Rudd declared.

While there was no mention of CSG in the speech, an Australian Financial Review story by veteran political journalist Philip Coorey quoted unnamed sources saying the policy would involve CSG expansion, specifically the fast-tracking of two major NSW CSG projects and "leaning on the Victorian Government to lift an exploration moratorium".

The Australian Petroleum Production and Exploration Association welcomed Mr Rudd's apparent new stance, with spokesman Michael Bradley reported as saying that winding back the recent changes to the EPBC Act would be "a good start".

Nationals candidate for Page Kevin Hogan immediately challenged his opponent on the claims, saying Ms Saffin must "come clean" on CSG expansion.

"Ms Saffin needs to be honest with the electorate about the Labor Party's agenda," Mr Hogan said in a statement.

But Ms Saffin pushed the matter back to Mr Hogan, claiming Nationals claims on CSG were "misleading".

"The Prime Minister made absolutely no mention of CSG mining in his speech or elsewhere," Ms Saffin said.

"My position is clear on Coal Seam Gas mining."

"I fought hard for the Federal changes to the EP&BC Act to protect our water; the water trigger legislation went through and is now law. This offers some protection for our area from CSG," she said.

A spokesman for Richmond MP Justine Elliott labelled the AFR story "mischief-making", claiming it was easy to "stir the pot" with "unnamed sources".

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