Wednesday, 14 November 2018
Environment and Communications References Committee; Reference
The government will not be supporting this motion. It won't be supporting this motion, because, as was clearly outlined in Senator Whish-Wilson's contribution, this is not an inquiry that is being established to get to the bottom of the best science on these very important matters. It is not an inquiry to do a consultation in good faith. It is an inquiry that is intending to try and shut down a very important Australian industry. That's the objective of the Australian Greens.
For the Australian Greens to come into this place and try to present themselves as somehow a defender and supporter of the proud Australian fishing industry is taking the hypocrisy of the Greens to a whole new level. We've seen their hypocrisy time and time again in this place, but today they have taken it to a new level. This is the party that has tried time and time again to shut down Australian fishing. They try and shut down Australian fishing. They've moved motions this year to try to lock out more Australian family fishermen from their grounds to try and provide for their families. That is their agenda.
We in the government support all Australian industries. We want to see Australian businesses flourish. We want to see Australian families be able to provide for themselves in our fishing industry, in our resources industry, in our agricultural industries and in our small businesses right across the length and breadth of this country. We have a very proud history of oil and gas production, including in the areas that Senator Whish-Wilson outlined. I note, and I'll make some comments on, the proposals for seismic testing off the Victorian coast that Senator Whish-Wilson referred to.
What Senator Whish-Wilson failed to refer to in his lengthy contribution on this debate—this goes to his agenda to shut down the industry; he's not approached this particular issue in good faith and he has decided to ignore clear facts that are inconvenient to his particular arguments. What Senator Whish-Wilson has completely glossed over is that just north of the state where he lives, near the seismic testing Senator Whish-Wilson has referred to, is the Bass Strait, where we have produced oil and gas in this country for more than 50 years, including through the use of seismic testing to explore areas. That has supplied Australia with hydrocarbons for half a century. It was of great assistance to this nation, particularly in response to the OPEC oil crisis. We were very, very fortunate that that particular field started to be developed just before the OPEC oil crisis in the 1970s. That was more luck than planning, but we were very lucky that it came online in the 1970s. It meant that during that period we were not affected as severely as countries like the United States were, because we were self-sufficient or almost self-sufficient in oil and gas thanks to the Bass Strait. And of course we benefited from the higher oil prices as a large oil and gas producer. So our economy was insulated in the 1970s thanks to the production in the Bass Strait. Since then, we've continued to produce a significant amount of, largely, gas these days—not oil—from the Bass Strait, and we've done so in an incredibly safe way.
If Senator Whish-Wilson had real evidence, he would be able to point to areas where our regulations and our oversight of the industry in the Bass Strait have been inadequate, and that evidence is simply not there. It is not there, because we have in this country a very robust regulatory process that we take extremely seriously, and it has served our nation well. We've been able to protect our environment as well as provide the essential inputs for a modern economy, which include oil and gas.
I would take a bet that at least one of the Greens senators here in the chamber right now, probably all three of them, got here today not on a horse and probably not on their own legs—
Senator Steele-John interjecting—
but in a car powered by oil and gas.
Honourable senators interjecting—
They hopped into a car powered by oil and gas.