Parliament Updates

Zali Steggall MP and Sophie Scamps MP reintroduce and second a bill to stop PEP-11

26 Feb 2024



Warringah has made headlines in the last few weeks. We infamously snubbed both Pink and Kim Kardashian, yet last Friday we welcomed Prime Minister Anthony Albanese on his visit to Manly—somewhat ironically, given the nature of the bill I am introducing today. His visit coincided with Tripadvisor announcing Manly Beach ranking the seventh best beach in the world and the best beach in Australia, so it's nearly farcical when I stand here today to have to reintroduce a private member's bill to end PEP11, which is a permit for the drilling of oil and gas from our coast from Newcastle down to Manly.

Multiple politicians have vowed to end this project. It threatens the very beach that is rated one of the best in the world, but here we are, and it is still there. The Prime Minister has unequivocally stated that PEP11 ought to be consigned to the annals history, where it rightfully belongs. It's a permit that is described as at best just a disaster and at worst catastrophic. It's a permit that was staunchly objected to by Labor when in opposition, having gone through the rigorous process of shadow cabinet and caucus. Yet now Labor is in government it is still on the table and still being considered. The Prime Minister, I would argue, now needs to act. He's on the record as saying, 'It will be dead in the water.' It must be so. It is like a cockroach, this project.

In New South Wales the government have acted. There has been a significant change. They have been courageous and they've taken the lead to keep their coast clean and safe, legislating. The bill will be up for a vote within the next sitting week of the New South Wales parliament to ban offshore oil and gas exploration in state waters in an attempt to block such a project. To do so we also must pass this legislation in Commonwealth waters, so that when it comes to these kinds of projects they are stopped in both New South Wales waters and Commonwealth waters. It's historic legislation, setting the benchmark and ambition for other states. The New South Wales government is listening to its communities. It's time the Commonwealth government did the same. There are now calls for Victoria to pass similar legislation, and so it should absolutely be that in this place that the federal government should lead. This bill, the ending of PEP11, prevents any future permits or projects like it within that same region of federal waters off the coast of New South Wales.

For those who are not aware, Petroleum Exploration Permit 11 is a licence for oil and gas exploration off Warringah's coastline, covering some 4,575 square kilometres of ocean from Newcastle through the Central Coast and down to Manly. At points it comes to within five kilometres of the coastline.

Opposing PEP11 is an issue that unites most peoples of the coast and northern beaches. Our communities have protested, they've paddled out and they have been against this project for years. Yet it is still there. We've had petitions and over 60,000 signatures. Our ocean is fragile. We can't risk the environmental impacts associated with this licence. I have to mention the incredible work of organisations like Living Ocean, the Surfrider Foundation, the Surfrider Foundation Northern Beaches, Surfers for Climate and Save Our Coast. We've all been mobilising against this project. I recently received a petition from the Surfrider Foundation and Ben & Jerrys calling for an end to seismic blasting for oil and gas.

We know that seismic blasting harms marine wildlife, like the hearing of whales and dolphin, which they rely on in their sense to communicate, to find food and to navigate. We've seen the Leader of the Opposition and the member for New England go out in great support regarding the risks to whales, so I will expect them to also come out in support of banning seismic blasting and testing, because it is such a risk to marine life—in particular, whales. The area of PEP11 is similar to the Southern Ocean, which is facing over 400 days of continual seismic testing, and it has one of the highest whale migratory activities. Seismic blasting is followed by drilling and then extraction of fossil fuels. We know the risks of these fossil fuel protects are devastating. They just have to be stopped. For example, in 2021, an oil spill off Orange County in California decimated the beach and the wildlife and jeopardised a huge coastal economy. To be clear, PEP11 is a permit for oil and gas. So, along with banning seismic testing, we simply must relegate these projects to the dustbin of history.

I call on the government now to legislate to ban PEP11 and to take seriously the need to stop seismic blasting and testing in our coastal waters. We must ensure these incredible marine life areas are protected. We know they are under threat from warming and from so many other aspects. Now there is an opportunity for the government to walk the talk. Now we have the opportunity to debate this legislation and to ban once and for all the PEP11 licence and to ensure there can be no oil and gas exploration off our coast from Newcastle to Manly. Australians all around the country are very strongly against this use of our Commonwealth waters. We simply must do something about it.

History shows the joint authority process is flawed. It has undermined the role of ministers. It's led to judicial review of proceedings and potentially compensation claims. So the simplest solution is to legislate. I urge the government to do it now.