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Coal Seam Gas

Lies, damned lies, statistics and AGL
By Mark Anning, MBA

A recent survey conducted for AGL was presented to Gloucester Council and published in Sydney's Sunday Telegraph with an impressive amount of spin.

The survey is heavily biased to provide a bankable outcome for their client, AGL. AGL's survey shows:

1)  The number of people who oppose Coal Seam Gas outnumber the people who support it by nearly four times

44% of people oppose CSG! Only 13% support CSG!

2) Unprompted, 1 in 8 people across the state specifically mentioned CSG or mining as being an important issue to them, even though 40% live outside fracking regions

3) Half the population are closely following the specific issue of CSG

4) * only 10 people out of 1000 saw a benefit of CSG
"Improved infrastructure"

* only 39 out of 1000 people said "Jobs" were a benefit

* "Cheaper/cleaner energy" was a benefit to 25 out of 1000 in the survey

* 18 people out of 1000 said "More money in the community" was a benefit

5) The survey results clearly show that the massive PR campaign by AGL is not working to convince the people of NSW that fracking farmland for CSG is a good idea.

The same survey appeared in the Sunday Telegraph on 20th January 2014, see picture.

In a slideshow for Gloucester Shire Councillors, AGL claim they did a telephone survey of 1000 NSW residents in September 2013. These included 200 Gloucester/Manning Valley residents from Taree and west; 200 Hunter region; 200 Macarthur region and 400 "Rest of NSW" (200 urban/200 regional).

Polling was conducted by Jetty Research paid by AGL. Their website claims:
As a supplier of both commercial and social research, our mission is “to provide information which helps businesses grow and communities flourish“. (1)


"What is important to our community?"

In slide 11, the respondents were asked, unprompted "What is important to your community?"

No mention was made about the reason for this survey (to promote CSG) before asking this question.

3% specifically mentioned CSG (which were included in the 10% overall who responded 'environment' or 'climate change'), another 3% mentioned mining & resources, whilst the vast majority mentioned more general issues such as cost of living, health, education, employment and the economy.

The slide claims "In total, only 3% of respondents specifically mentioned CSG" yet the slide does not add the others who mentioned mining and the environment, 13% in total.

40% of people responding to this survey (respondents in survey lingo) were from areas not affected by CSG, including fully one fifth who lived in the city.

There is little reason for people not feeling the impact of CSG on their lives to warrant them mentioning it above cost of living, health, education, employment and the economy.

Clearly this question is designed and weighted (biased) to give a low number of responses against CSG.

Given that the survey respondents were answering a very general question, the 13% who specifically mentioned the environment and mining in the full gamut of issues shows very real concern to regional Australia.


"What are the community's attitudes?"

"How closely have you been following the discussion about CSG in NSW?"

Slide 12 shows the responses to the question; between 2012 and 2013 "Closely" following CSG has risen from 28% to 48% whilst those answering "Not Closely" fell from 72% to 52% - obviously the twenty percent increase in one comes from the other.

With 48% of people "closely" following the specific issue of CSG, obviously now that it was mentioned by the surveyor, these results really show how important the issue is to the community.


"How supportive are you of CSG exploration in NSW?"

Slide 13: The number of people who are "Opposed" rose from 43% in 2012 to 44% in 2013.

44% of people oppose CSG!

People who are neutral or unsure fell from 45% (2012) to 43% in 2013.

People who support CSG rose from 12% to 13%

Only 13% support CSG!

The number of people who oppose CSG outnumber the people who support it by nearly four times, according to AGL's own research company.

"But levels of support appear virtually unchanged" ... despite massive spending on public relations and advertising, community information sessions and huge changes to legislation. Clearly, the industry PR is failing, badly.


"Why are they undecided about coal seam gas?"

This question only targets those 45% of people who answered "unsure" to the previous question. Slide 14 shows the answers:

69% of people need more information or research (an overwhelming majority); 12% have "no opinion";
5% declare that "CSG damages the environment";
5% answer "as long as it's done properly", and;
4% say that "an alternative energy supply is needed".

Embedded in the answers of those who are "unsure" about CSG are 9% who are concerned about the environmental damage and want alternative energy sources.

With the exception of the 5% "as long as it's done properly" (which means the gas industry has a lot of work to do to avoid the tragedies occurring in Queensland and the USA), there are no answers here which should give the CSG industry any optimism at all.


"Are there ANY benefits to having AGL work in your region?"

Let's see the answers to this loaded question, in Slide 15:
Gloucester/Manning: 59% say "Yes", 29% "No", 12%"Unsure"
Hunter: 41% say "Yes", 47% "No", 12% "Unsure"
Macarthur: 37% "Yes", 50% "No", 13% "Unsure"


"What benefits does CSG bring?"

The research company makes a note "only asked of those in affected areas" - so we eliminate the 40% who live in the "Rest of NSW".

We have to assume that they only ask this question to the 37% of Macarthur people who saw a benefit in the previous question (74 people); 59% of Gloucester/Manning people (118 people) and 82 people in the Hunter (41% who saw a benefit).

We have to make this assumption because it would be pointless asking people who saw no benefit, what benefits they saw!

Now this survey question is put to a total of 274 people, down from 1,000 at the beginning of the survey, so we can effectively divide these figures by 1/4 to get a true indication of the number of people who see these benefits:

15% saw "Improved infrastructure" (41 people) or 10 out of 1000 weighted
57% said "Jobs" (156 people) or 39/1000 weighted
36% said "Cheaper/cleaner energy" (99 people) or 25/1000 weighted
37% replied "More money in the community" (74 people) or 18 weighted

Given that those percentages add up to 145, it is surprising (or not) that no mention was made that people were allowed to give more than one answer - which severely weights (adding bias to) the answers, especially when so few people are asked the question and especially when they had already stated they saw a benefit.

The AGL PR campaign dollars spent promoting the notion of rising gas prices seems to be lost on the 99 people who said "cheaper/cleaner energy" - perhaps those people were emphasising cleaner, rather than cheaper.

The AGL website on their Gloucester project states they will only employ 11 people.

No allowances were made in either questions or answers as to the negative effects on the environment, health, community, effects on other industries and jobs.

Given that this question was only put to those to people who saw a benefit, it is extremely weighted ... that is, biased.

If the full weight of the 44% of people who oppose CSG were included, these "benefits" answers would be miniscule.

Statistics are like bikinis ... they hide more than they show.

 Some questions were common to all surveys, others specific to affected or non-affected areas. No mention was made about the reason of the research call by AGL's consultants. The results were 'weighted' to the ABS Census data for each region.

The AGL survey slides:


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