Australia’s coal seam gas debate: snapshots from history, justice, legal geography and selected professions

Coal seam gas (CSG) is a hotly disputed land use in Australia. Despite this controversial status and regular appearances in the media, the debate around this unconventional energy source often fails to reach beyond stakeholder polarisation, rarely acknowledging the sector’s historical presence in Australia, and the manner in which this resource has engaged different types of professional expertise: from planners to lawyers, judges and others. I present a selection of findings from research conducted over the last four years, showcasing the interaction between law, space and CSG and the value of history in tempering heated CSG discussions. In particular, I draw on insights from the legal and planning professions, stakeholders with experience in responding to a variety of contested landscapes, in order to highlight the sector’s broader societal impacts and to situate this industry alongside other land use challenges faced by Australia.

About the speaker

David Turton’s research combines aspects of history, justice and legal geography to examine Australia’s coal seam gas debate, with an emphasis on the contributions of judges, lawyers and planners. He is a PhD scholar at the Fenner School, with a background in history and law. Previously employed in frontline service delivery roles with the Department of Veterans’ Affairs, prior to his PhD studies David’s research focused on the history of public administration, environmental history and socio-legal studies.