Zali Steggall MP condemns the Beetaloo Gas Project (Grievance Debate)

27 February 2024

Another issue that I'd like to raise in the grievance debate is the News Limited announcement that Beetaloo is now a proven gas powerhouse. What we should be announcing is that it is a proven emissions and climate bomb. Even before yesterday's announcement, the project has been reported to be causing greenhouse gas emissions that will be the equivalent of 20 per cent of Australia's total emissions inventory. That's right. Twenty per cent of our nation's emissions will be coming from one project. It's monstrous. Yesterday Tamboran announced to the ASX that its preliminary drilling results indicated that there was more gas, that there were faster flow rates and that reserves were higher than expected—even more emissions in the midst of a climate crisis. This announcement came with bullish rhetoric about expansion and how the project is close to the financial closure of the initial wells, with plans for many more.

The claims that the project will meet the projected gas shortfalls for the east coast market were unsurprisingly not met with any challenge in the media or any testing as to their veracity. In fact, when Tamboran said that they were the one and only solution to address shortfall that is projected on the east coast—there's just so much that is misleading and problematic about those claims. Firstly, the latest ACCC gas inquiry states that there will be no expected shortfalls until 2028 and that this may change depending on gas demand and the rapid transition to renewable energy. Even in the event of a shortfall, this project is not the 'one and only solution', as unfortunately we have a list of multiple new gas fields being approved by the government, which, like Beetaloo, are all identifying that they will somehow supply the shortfall.

Tamboran has also not identified a pipeline or a way in which they will deliver such gas to the east coast, because the inference is there that what will in fact happen is yet more gas for export, for sale internationally, and of course record profits and very little revenue back to the Australian people through the government's proposed PRRT legislation. Further, there are grave concerns about this project's expansion—that it should be subject to approvals, including one that is currently pending, before there is commercialisation. It is reliant on the approvals and the building of a pipeline. Also, in relation to yesterday's announcement, the proposal is still pending approval from the Northern Territory government, and yet a Northern Territory minister is continuing to publicly support for the expansion of this project before it has even been approved, giving rise to concerns of bias and undermining any kind of approval process. But, even in this place, yesterday's announcement brings up a more serious issue, which is that this project has still not been referred to the minister for the environment under the EPBC Act, and, despite the gravity of this proposal and its potential environmental impacts, it hasn't yet come under federal scrutiny.

Last year the EPBC Act was amended to include a water trigger—an amendment that was recommended by the scientific Pepper inquiry into the Beetaloo basin. This is incredibly important, because it looked at the impacts of the projects and the risks to the water table. Overwhelmingly the key concern in the community, for farmers, locals, vets and First Nations leaders, was 'the potential impact of any onshore shale gas industry on water resources'. When there is that risk of contamination, a key concern in relation to the Northern Territory and their water from this basin, why has this project not yet come before the minister for the environment for consideration under the EPBC Act?

When we talk about the impact of climate on children and there is this reckless behaviour, there is a strong disconnect.