Senate debates

Thursday, 15 September 2016


Great Australian Bight Environment Protection Bill 2016; Second Reading

12:34 pm

Photo of Sarah Hanson-YoungSarah Hanson-Young (SA, Australian Greens) Share this | Hansard source

I move:

That this bill be now read a second time.

I table the explanatory memorandum and seek leave to have my second reading speech incorporated in Hansard.

Leave granted.

The speech read as follows—

This Bill is designed to protect the Great Australian Bight from proposed drilling for oil that BP and other mining companies are proposing to undertake.

Regional South Australian primary industry groups, eco-tourism operators, traditional owners and environmental conservationists have all said that the Great Australian Bight is a national treasure that is too precious to put at risk.

The Parliament has to step in and make sure that this this crucial ecosystem is protected for generations to come and that's why I am introducing a Bill to Parliament.

BP will put this spectacular marine park at risk and, if they're given approval, there are several other companies lining up behind them. Between BP, Chevron, Santos and others it's clear the plan is to turn the Great Australian Bight into an oil mining highway.

What is the point of having marine parks if they're not actually protected? Are no Australian areas safe from oil and gas exploration? Allowing the company responsible for the Gulf of Mexico spill to drill in the Great Australian Bight is a disaster waiting to happen.

The Greens are calling for the decision of National Offshore Petroleum Safety and Environmental Management Authority (NOPSEMA), the regulating body responsible for drilling approvals, to be delayed so that greater scrutiny of the proposal can be undertaken.

This precious marine ecosystem and numerous local industries, including fisheries and eco-tourism operators, deserve to be protected.

The Bight is an essential calving sanctuary for southern right whales and a feeding ground for threatened sea lions, sharks, tuna and migratory sperm whales.

We can't afford to put all of that at risk.

Astounding results from a Curtin University study recently showed that 172 southern right whales used the Great Australian Bight calving sanctuary in just one July day this year. That is an incredible number of whales and shows why the area must be protected from BP's plans to drill for oil there.

The extremely vulnerable southern right whale population is only just starting to rebound and for BP to be given clearance to drill for oil in the Bight would be an absolute disaster.

I'm worried that the State and Federal Governments' addiction to fossil fuels is putting South Australian interests at risk.

It's clear that an oil spill would devastate local tourism and fishing industries along with this precious whale calving sanctuary.

Our State should not be exposed to a Gulf of Mexico style disaster and the Greens will join with environmental groups, local communities and industry groups to stand up against BP drilling for oil in the Bight.

It's these hard working families, who are hoping to make a little extra income from sustainable and eco-tourism, that will have their livelihoods put at risk if a massive Gulf of Mexico style oil spill is allowed to take place.

It's the fisheries and oyster growers, who rely on clean and pristine sea waters to grow the most delicious produce in the country that will have their businesses put at risk.

It's the traditional owners who have such a deep and enduring connection to the land, who are being side-lined in this debate, that may see their waters and coastline spoiled beyond repair.

And it's the marine life, like the southern right whales and endangered sea lions, who will have their globally significant calving sanctuaries and feeding zones put at risk.

The Australian Greens will stand with the fight for the Bight Alliance, an amazing collection of passionate people and organisations that want to see reason prevail and this precious area protected.

I seek leave to continue my remarks later.

Leave granted; debate adjourned.


Mark Duffett
Posted on 21 Sep 2016 11:30 am

Never mind the fact that offshore oil and gas drilling has proceeded without major incident in Bass Strait for nigh on half a century, and that it too is a well known haunt of whales and other, less photogenic marine species.