Unconventional gas development in Australia: a critical review of its social license

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Luke, H, Brueckner, M & Emmanouil, N in press, 'Unconventional gas development in Australia: a critical review of its social license', The Extractive Industries and Society.

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This paper provides an overview of unconventional gas developments in Australia and attendant public reactions to them through the lens of the ‘social license’ concept. An analysis of some of the relevant academic literature offers insights into how social license is understood, conceptualised and operationalised across Australian states and territories, surveying a variety of approaches to understand social and health impacts of developments; perceptions of developments, including their perceived legitimacy; and regulatory influences. Case examples from across Australia highlight the importance of procedural justice in industry-community conflict situations and the heterogeneity of social license outcomes. These insights suggest that social infrastructure can play an important role in social license negotiations. Further research priorities into the social dimensions of unconventional gas development are identified in the areas of cumulative health and social impacts; governance (and social license) implications in relation to resources; place and people; and better understanding social license in the context of other States and local contexts, specifically Australia’s First Nations. Both the ways in which a social license evolves over space and time, and how community concerns are responded to by industry and decision makers in different contexts, raises questions for further inquiry, specifically in relation to power asymmetries between industry, government and communities.

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