13 February 2023
I move: That this bill be now read a second time.
Petroleum Exploration Permit 11, known as PEP-11, is a licence for oil and gas exploration off our coast, covering some 4,575 square kilometres of ocean from Newcastle, through the Central Coast and down to Manly, coming as close as within five kilometres from our coast in some areas. The area covered is home to millions of people and significant biodiversity and is a whale migration path. The community's wellbeing and local economy is tightly intertwined with the health of the ocean in this area. Last week, the Australian government and Asset Energy agreed in legal proceedings to set aside the decision made by Scott Morrison in 2022 when he secretly took on the additional portfolio of resources. This means the application to extend and vary the PEP-11 licence is back before the federal minister for determination. The Warringah community and other communities along the coast are all strongly against the application and outraged at this turn of events. Whilst this was a headache for the previous coalition government, with a love of gas but local MPs threatened by this project, the irony is that now all impacted seats are either held by Independents or Labor MPs. So the Prime Minister has a problem now. He is on the record, at numerous demonstrations and rallies, and made an election promise to oppose this project. So now he needs to make good on his promise!
Prime Minister Albanese stated:
This PEP-11 project should be consigned to the dustbin of history, where it belongs.
And, in support of the vote to debate this bill in this very place, when I should say all of the Labor members voted in supported of debate on this bill, the Prime Minister stated:
We stood at Terrigal and made it very clear that we were opposed to PEP-11. That was a process that went through our processes of shadow cabinet and through our caucus unanimously because this is a bad proposal.
The Prime Minister then stated of the Morrison government:
… the truth is that the people of the northern beaches have been abandoned by this government. The people of the Central Coast have been abandoned by this government. The people of Newcastle and the Hunter have been abandoned by this government. The people of Sydney around the Kingsford Smith and, indeed, Wentworth electorates have been abandoned by this government as well.
So the question now for Prime Minister Albanese is: will he abandon our communities or will he stop PEP-11 once and for all by supporting this bill?
Today, I reintroduce the Offshore Petroleum and Greenhouse Gas Storage Amendment (Stop Pep11 and Protect Our Coast) Bill to parliament. This bill will stop PEP-11 once and for all. It will ensure that no future applications for any reason can be granted by the joint authority or titles administrator for the area covered by PEP-11. Without changes to the legislation, the joint authority's decision could be subject to further review or challenge, and questions around bias of decisions would remain given previous statements made by the Prime Minister and members of the Labor government.
There is a high likelihood that the proponents of the project will pursue litigation against the government regardless of the final decision by the joint authority in light of all the comments that have been made. So it is open to the government, at any time, to make laws enabling or excluding certain activities in certain areas. That is why this bill, today, provides a very clear and fast resolution to this problem. This bill states there can be no granting of any new licence or extension to an existing licence to extract oil and gas in the PEP-11 area. It also prohibits any such licence being granted in the future. So this permanently and clearly settles the issue for our communities. I urge the government to consider the merits of pursuing this route to cancellation rather than the joint authority process. Our communities were promised that this licence would not proceed. The government must deliver on its promise.
We know that oil and gas are fossil fuels which contribute to man-made climate change. We are already seeing the effects of climate change devastating communities on the east coast, with bushfires in 2020 and flooding in 2022. Methane from extraction of oil and gas, flaring and transport of these fossil fuels is driving emissions growth in Australia.
We do not need more gas. It will not lower prices. We have tripled supply, and gas prices have increased by 130 per cent. Gas is not a transition fuel. Batteries outperform gas peakers on cost by around 30 per cent now.
Oil and gas exploration risks polluting our ocean. The ocean is fragile and already under threat from climate change and plastics pollution. We cannot risk an oil spill from a drilling rig wrecking our ocean, which is one of the most unique in the world. It is telling that, far too often, old, decommissioned rigs are left to just rot in the ocean. They are not even being taken away by the very companies that put them there.
This project has huge opposition from our communities—from Newcastle, Shortland, Dobell, Robertson, Mackellar and Warringah. Our communities in the vicinity of PEP-11 know all this and are adamantly opposed to any exploration or drilling for oil and gas. In February 2020, I tabled a petition with 60,000 names calling for the cancellation of PEP-11. I have also received hundreds of emails from concerned constituents. The fact that we are here again discussing PEP-11 is the source of significant frustration and anger in our communities. I'd like to thank Save Our Coast, Surfrider, Surfers for Climate and the many other community organisations that have fought against this project. Once PEP-11 is resolved, we must turn our attention to all other exploration licences around our beautiful country. We must ban seismic testing off our coastline to protect our marine life.
I thank the many members in this place who have stood with me against this terrible project—in particular, the member for Mackellar, to whom I will cede the remainder of my time. But I thank our communities for their vocal opposition to this project.
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