House debates

Tuesday, 11 February 2020

Bills

Offshore Petroleum and Greenhouse Gas Storage Amendment (Cross-boundary Greenhouse Gas Titles and Other Measures) Bill 2019, Offshore Petroleum and Greenhouse Gas Storage (Regulatory Levies) Amendment (Miscellaneous Measures) Bill 2019; Second Reading

5:26 pm

Photo of Matt KeoghMatt Keogh (Burt, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Minister for Defence Industry) Share this | Hansard source

I stand to speak not only on the Offshore Petroleum and Greenhouse Gas Storage Amendment (Cross-Boundary Greenhouse Gas Titles and Other Measures) Bill 2019 but also on the amendment that was moved by the member for Hunter earlier. This is important legislation because, as the member for Hunter observed earlier, it's one of the few pieces of legislation that actually goes to dealing with some of the issues that we're confronting in this nation and globally in respect of climate change, and it also provides a great opportunity for economic efficiency in the management of these issues.

This legislation follows on from some legislation that we dealt with not that long ago in respect of carbon capture and storage and its regulation through the Offshore Petroleum and Greenhouse Gas Storage legislation. In particular it deals with an important issue that comes up time and time again in respect of the oil and gas industry: titles that cross over that very critical three-kilometre mark that delineates state and Commonwealth waters. This legislation will create a unified title opportunity to be administered through the Commonwealth, through this legislation, so that there is a singular point of regulation for greenhouse gas capture and storage operators in this country. That's very important. It's important that we have regulators that are able to do this job properly. It's important that we have regulators that are empowered with all the powers they need not only to make sure that these projects are done in an environmentally responsible way but also to make sure that the workplace health and safety requirements, which ensure that our Australian workers are protected in the workplace, are correctly and strongly enforced and that we have a regulator that is able to go in and enforce the regulations.

There are obviously powers that will come, under this legislation, with respect to the use of warrants to get access to sites—not just the offshore sites and the head offices but also the suppliers and contractors and the documents. Mandatory-provision-of-document powers are also included in this legislation. It is important to make sure that a regulator is able to get access to all the information they need when things go wrong, to make sure that we protect the environment, to make sure that we protect workers and to make sure that, where things do go wrong, people don't get off scot-free and companies don't get off scot-free. It's also important to make sure that we get these things right in the first place. That's what this legislation is critically about.

We will have a unified regulator and we'll have this Commonwealth title that will apply across state and Commonwealth boundaries. This is particularly important, as I mentioned, to that critical three-kilometre line of state waters and Commonwealth waters. A particularly pertinent example where this will apply is in Bass Strait, off Victoria, where the Victorian CarbonNet and Hydrogen Energy Supply Chain projects will be operating.

This is particularly important because this project is not only about the sequestration of CO2 being emitted from Latrobe Valley power stations but also about the future opportunity for a future hydrogen industry. A zero carbon emission fuel—the export opportunity of that fuel around the world is a great opportunity for Australia and something we need to continue to explore, and this legislation will allow that to be pursued. It is important that we have all options on the table when it comes to looking at ways in which we can reduce our carbon emissions and manage, in an economically responsible way, a movement towards low-carbon and no-carbon energy sources. It's great to see the opportunity of a hydrogen project—joined with the sequestration of carbon—coming from our existing coal-fired power plants.

But it's crucial that we also acknowledge the context within which this legislation sits. It's great that we are spending a minuscule of time debating this legislation here and that we are spending time debating some legislation that will actually help us address issues of climate change in this nation and for the world. But it sits within a vacuum from this government—a government that is completely without policy and bereft of opportunity when it comes to dealing with climate change. Climate change is an issue that is of such great importance, not just here in Australia and not just for a segment of voters but around the globe.

And when we look at the context of a lack of policy—I should point out there were some policies from this government in this area. They tried to abolish ARENA. Then there was the CEFC. There was the cutting of funding of $500 million for ARENA, and, crucially—when we look at the context of this legislation—a removal of $400 million that was to assist with carbon-sequestration projects. The consequence of all of this is Australia—a country that is bathed in sun, with numerous areas of strong wind—has continued to slip back and back and back when it comes to critical investment in renewable-energy opportunities.

There are funds that have been established in Australia by Australians that are wanting to invest capital in renewable-energy opportunities, that have had to go offshore to find those renewable-energy investment options because they haven't been available here in Australia. So when the government talks about wanting to be economically responsible, you would think it might consider how it can capture its own capital—Australian capital—to invest in those projects here. This legislation will actually help with that. But we need to be doing so much more.

As we have now for so long, the Labor Party joins with the government in a bipartisan way to support this legislation, because it is going the right way. It is, at least, a small step in the right direction, but it cannot be ignored at all that the context within which this legislation is being presented today is one of absolute failure—that is, absolute failure by this government when it comes to dealing with carbon abatement, absolute failure when it comes to dealing with the issue of climate change and absolute failure when it comes to properly dealing with a long-term, sustainable, reliable energy future for this country.

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