House debates

Monday, 13 February 2023


Offshore Petroleum and Greenhouse Gas Storage Amendment (Stop PEP11 and Protect Our Coast) Bill 2023; Second Reading

10:29 am

Photo of Zali SteggallZali Steggall (Warringah, Independent) Share this | | Hansard source

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?

The 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.

Climate change

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.

Environmental impacts

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.

Community objections

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.

Photo of Mike FreelanderMike Freelander (Macarthur, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Is the motion seconded?

10:35 am

Photo of Sophie ScampsSophie Scamps (Mackellar, Independent) Share this | | Hansard source

I second the motion. I rise in support of the member for Warringah's Offshore Petroleum and Greenhouse Gas Storage Amendment (Stop PEP11 and Protect Our Coast) Bill 2023 and thank her for her tireless efforts to protect our environment and our climate. The licence to perform exploratory drilling and seismic blasting for oil and gas off our incredible coastline, from Manly to Newcastle, must be cancelled permanently, without any possibility of resurrection or further consideration.

After being repeatedly assured just last year by both major parties that PEP-11 was dead in the water, here we are again having the same debate about the same pristine stretch of water that hugs the coastline of our most iconic city. Here we are again, standing on this crossbench, imploring the government to take climate change and our environment seriously.

I can't say it more clearly: the people of the Northern Beaches will never accept drilling for oil and gas off our beaches. Protecting our local environment is one of the most important issues for the Northern Beaches population, and this stretch of coastline and waterways is amongst the most stunning and special in the world. As locals we delight in swimming with the dolphins in the waves, and every year we marvel at the whale migrations. These waters are home to seals, sea turtles and penguins and many, many other sea creatures. The risk to our marine wildlife, environment and coastline from oil leaks and spills, from methane leaks and from seismic blasting is not something we will ever accept. And this is not mere NIMBYism. Repeated surveys have shown that strong action on climate change is the most important issue for the people of the Northern Beaches.

The UN Secretary-General has told us in no uncertain terms that the world's addiction to fossil fuels amounts to mutually assured destruction. They and the highly regarded international energy agency the IPCC have both stated emphatically that, if we are to achieve net zero by 2050, there must be no new fossil fuel supply projects. However, within three months of taking office in May last year, this government announced the 2020 offshore petroleum exploration acreage release, making over 46,700 square kilometres of new acreage off the coast of the Northern Territory, Western Australia and Victoria available for exploration for gas. Forty-six thousand seven hundred square kilometres is an area larger than Belgium. And, let's be clear, there is no gas shortage in this country; it's just that the majority of our gas is shipped overseas, while Australians are left paying exorbitant rises for our own gas. Even worse than that is the fact that many of these multinational fossil fuel companies use every possible loophole and accounting trick to avoid paying corporate tax in our country, and they end up paying trivial amounts, if any. The people of the Northern Beaches do not accept new exploration for oil or gas anywhere in Australian waters.

The Albanese government claims to be different from the last one. It claims to be committed to emissions reductions, to slowing global warming and to ensuring that we leave this planet in a livable condition for future generations. However, this government is not walking the talk. I urge the Albanese government to start walking the talk on climate change and on the environment, and vote in favour of this bill. (Time expired)

Photo of Mike FreelanderMike Freelander (Macarthur, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

The time allotted for this debate has expired. The debate is adjourned and the resumption of the debate will be an order of the day for the next sitting.