Senate debates

Tuesday, 15 June 2021

Matters of Urgency

Gas Industry

4:55 pm

Photo of Larissa WatersLarissa Waters (Queensland, Australian Greens) Share this | Hansard source

I move:

That, in the opinion of the Senate, the following is a matter of urgency:

Opening up the Beetaloo Basin will release massive amounts of toxic methane, a dangerous climate heating gas, and in the words of United States Special Presidential Envoy for Climate, John Kerry, building huge gas infrastructure now will leave us 'stuck with stranded assets in 10 or 20 or 30 years'.

I rise to speak on this matter of public urgency, which is about not spending public money to open up the Beetaloo Basin, which would turbocharge the climate crisis our globe is already in. Sadly, we know that there was almost a quarter of a billion dollars of public money committed in the budget to opening up the Beetaloo Basin. Perhaps even more sadly, we know that the opposition also supports opening up this basin.

I want to make a few points about what a bad idea this is. Not only is it a climate bomb, and not only will it be an enormous threat to 90 per cent of the Northern Territory's groundwater systems; there is no consent from the traditional owners for any of this gas mining, this fracking, this extraction from their land. That should be enough to stop this proposal in its tracks, but, as we all know, our laws do not provide any protection for First Nations people to have any sort of determination over what happens on their land. But it should provide pause to this government and the opposition that the First Nations owners of this part of the Territory do not want fracking on their land. They do not want their groundwater jeopardised and they do not want the world's climate stuffed up. That hasn't provided any pause to this government, because they have allocated so much public money: $175 million for roads in and out of the Beetaloo Basin and $1.1 billion of new spending, $16 million of which is for so-called strategic gas basins, including the Beetaloo, and $50 million for drilling in the Beetaloo. Is this government going to get in there and drill gas fracking wells for the company itself? Frankly, it is essentially bankrolling the whole project.

It is very interesting to see who is in fact undertaking the project and who is going to benefit from this largesse of public funds. Two billionaires are set to profit in particular—surprise, surprise!—and many of the big energy companies pushing this are donors to the Liberal Party. Blow me down with a feather! The companies are comprised of those that have been accused of tax dodging, like Jemena and Santos; those that donate to the Liberal Party, like Origin, Santos, Empire Energy and Jacaranda; billionaires Gina Rinehart and Dale Elphinstone; and Liberal Party luminary Paul Espie. What a bunch of folk to get public money to open up a gas basin, against the wishes of the traditional owners, which will turbocharge the climate crisis that we're in and potentially wreck 90 per cent of the groundwater of the Northern Territory.

Fracking the Beetaloo will increase Australia's emissions, if it goes ahead, by at least eight per cent and possibly up to 23 per cent; it is that much of a carbon bomb. We just had the G7 saying yesterday that not only should we not be funding more fossil fuel subsidies or more fossil fuel projects with public money by 2025; we should have strong emissions reduction targets by 2030—at least double what this government is proposing, and the opposition doesn't even have a 2030 target.

Australia is flying in the face of the rest of the world in wanting to sink a quarter of a billion dollars in public money into opening up a climate bomb that would wreck the groundwater of the Northern Territory, against the wishes of the traditional owners of that land. It is hideous. You could not think of a worse proposal. Naturally it's for the benefit of the big corporations that either donate to, or have links to, the Liberal Party. But the Australian people will not let this fly. They want genuine action on climate, they want renewable energy investment and they want the wishes of First Nations owners respected.


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