NEWS: Zali Steggall MP opposes PEP 11 and says no to a gas-led recovery

19 October, 2020


I thank the member for Mackellar for tabling this motion. Earlier this year I tabled a petition with 60,000 signatures to this parliament opposing Petroleum Exploration Permit 11, PEP 11. PEP 11 covers 4,500 square kilometres of ocean, from Newcastle through the Central Coast to Manly. The permit area exists adjacent to the coastal boundaries of Warringah, and many constituents have written to me with their concerns. Offshore oil and gas exploration and production through PEP 11 could have dire consequences for our ecosystems, tourism businesses, coastal communities and climate. Under no circumstances should it proceed. The Central Coast and Newcastle both have a gross regional product worth an estimated $14.33 billion and $35 billion respectively. It's beyond ludicrous that this coalition government could put those economies at risk with their obsession with fossil fuels. We must protect these coastal economies.

PEP 11 is due to expire next February, so the projects proponents, Advent Energy Ltd and Bounty Oil & Gas NL, are seeking a renewal of the permit and a variation of the conditions to allow for exploratory drilling. I wrote to Minister Pitt asking him to reject the renewal and variation in June and was advised that it was with New South Wales Minister Barilaro and himself. I wrote to Minister Barilaro, and he advised the decision was with Minister Pitt. So Minister Pitt was not forthcoming about any decision he had made. And, unfortunately for all the communities, we don't know what recommendations NOPTA has made to the ministers for their decision. So I say to Minister Pitt, and to the government, once again: coastal communities do not want gas platforms off their coasts through PEP 11.

But do we really expect the minister to not back a gas project when all the government's rhetoric to date has been about a gas-led recovery? The government, throughout the Independent Planning Commission's planning process for Narrabri, lent on the commissioners in public statements, put Narrabri on a list of 15 major projects to be fast-tracked and has dedicated $50 million to accelerate the development of the basin, alongside four other projects. We can only hope that good sense will prevail and that investors, insurers and financiers will see the risks inherent in supporting Santos and projects like this.

In August, Minister Pitt, seemingly completely deaf to community concerns for climate and oceans, released approximately 100,000 square kilometres of additional gas exploration acreage, spanning coastal waters from Western Australia across to Victoria and Northern Territory. An Australia Institute report found the existing pipeline of 22 gas projects alongside the new prospective gas resources could emit up to three times annual world emissions, so Australia's gas resources alone would chew up 28 per cent of the global carbon budget at a time when we need to reduce it. When releasing the acreage, Minister Pitt said it was a key component of the government's strategy to promote and encourage investment in petroleum exploration for the benefit of the Australian community. So, it seems we are on a continual march to become the world's largest gas producer, despite the science stating that we must leave it in the ground.

So, I welcome the member for Mackellar's motion against a deeply unpopular development in his backyard, and I thank the members for Wentworth and North Sydney for speaking up against PEP 11. But will those same members nevertheless support government extension into other people's backyards, gas extraction and exploration in other electorates? It's time to pull back the curtain on how MPs vote. It's time for MPs to be held accountable, for their electorates to know that it's not good enough to say one thing to your community, but then vote in this place in support of expanding fossil fuels and, in fact, voting the same way as climate deniers.

The Clean Energy Finance Corporation Amendment (Grid Reliability Fund) Bill 2020 will come to the House in due course. I expect it shortly. If this is enacted, it will pollute Australia's clean bank by allowing it to invest in gas and loss-making projects. So my question to the MPs who don't want PEP 11 in their backyard is this: will these MPs, if they're genuine in opposing this kind of project, withhold their vote or vote against the legislation? For our oceans, businesses, climate and wellbeing, PEP 11 must not go ahead, not in our backyard, in anyone's backyard. No gas off the coast.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER ( Mr Wallace ): Order! Props are not allowed in the chamber. I warn the member against using props in that circumstance, as the last page of a speech. It shouldn't be done. There being no further speakers, the debate is adjourned and the resumption of the debate will be made an order of the day for the next sitting.