Wednesday, 14 November 2018
Environment and Communications References Committee; Reference
I am perturbed sometimes that the Australian Greens seem to often disparage the diligence and professionalism of the Australian Public Service. When they get a decision from the Australian Public Service that they don't like, they come out and cast all sorts of aspersions about motivations and say that it must be because of the oil and gas industry. I think it's an absolute disgrace. Our Australian public servants do a fantastic job and take their role extremely seriously. I don't believe they're influenced by such motivations as those often ascribed to them by the Greens.
We are also continuing extensive consultation with the industry over these issues. My understanding is that Minister Colbeck will be convening a meeting and a roundtable with the oil and gas sector and the seafood industry later this week on these matters. In fact, I have recently caught up with the oil and gas industry to stress how important these matters are. I know they are taking them very, very seriously. In November last year I announced a series of reports to improve the consultation practices and transparency of the offshore oil and gas sector. New measures will include the full publication of draft environmental plans and a mandatory public comment period on plans relating to exploration activities. The department has released draft amendments to the environment regulations to implement these measures, along with an explanatory document to provide further information on the proposed changes. All of that is available on the industry department's website, and we are consulting with the seafood industry as well to make sure those new consultation requirements will meet their needs.
I do note that even before we will formally require these greater consultation practices, Equinor, the Norwegian state oil company that has acreage or leases in the Great Australian Bight, has committed to publishing their environmental plans. They have already been conducting consultation, although they have not submitted an environmental plan for the Great Australian Bight. But the Great Australian Bight is an incredibly prospective oil and gas district. It is often characterised as perhaps the most prospective offshore oil and gas area in the world. Wouldn't it be fantastic if we can develop and open up a new oil and gas basin that can secure oil security and national security for this nation, and, of course, provide enormous economic wealth and prosperity to South Australia and other parts of the country?
I note that this certainly seems to be the view of locals on the ground in South Australia, with a number of mayors being elected over the weekend in regional South Australia who are supportive of development of the Great Australian Bight. The Greens and green activist groups have been running a scare campaign over these issues throughout these areas, and that has clearly fallen flat—fallen absolutely flat. Michael Pengilly has been elected as the mayor of Kangaroo Island. He was asked about the Great Australian Bight this week and said:
I don’t oppose it, my view is very strongly that the environmental lobby have successfully run a great fear campaign against it. Everybody is environmentally conscious these days but you need to have some clarity and common sense. Our economy revolves around the oil industry, we have to have energy.
I think Mr Pengilly, the new mayor of Kangaroo Island, is speaking common sense there—something that there's a distinct lack of from the Australian Greens. Common sense is something you generally do not hear much from the Australian Greens. I'd also mention the new Port Lincoln mayor, Brad Flaherty, who's also agreed that it's not an issue for local government. Mr Flaherty says that he's pro-employment and pro-business—
Senator Whish-Wilson interjecting—
and he would make sure that these sorts of things are a priority for—