Senate debates

Wednesday, 24 November 2021

Regulations and Determinations

Industry Research and Development (Beetaloo Cooperative Drilling Program) Instrument 2021; Disallowance

6:49 pm

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

On behalf of the Australian Greens, I move:

That the Industry Research and Development (Beetaloo Cooperative Drilling Program) Instrument 2021, made under the Industry Research and Development Act 1986, be disallowed.

This is a very important disallowance motion because it seeks to stop a $50 million slush fund going to mates of the Liberal Party to pollute our planet even more. Mr Morrison, Minister Taylor and resources minister Mr Pitt want to open up the Beetaloo basin in the Northern Territory and build the world's largest gas field when we are in the midst of a climate crisis.

The COP26 climate summit in Glasgow two weeks ago heard very clearly from scientists right around the world and other world leaders that, in order to combat dangerous global warming, we have to stop making climate change worse and we have to start leaving coal and gas in the ground. There's a lot of cleaning up to do right now before making it even worse. The International Energy Agency tells us that, if we are to keep temperatures below the critical threshold of 1.5 degrees and if we are to get to net zero by even 2050, we have to stop opening up new coal and gas fields. In fact, we can't have any new fossil fuels if we are to stop dangerous global warming.

Of course, we know already what this devastating climate crisis is all about. Only two summers ago Australia lived through the worst bushfires we have ever seen. We know that our neighbours in the Pacific islands are already feeling the devastating impacts of sea level rise. We know that famine and drought are hitting some of the most impoverished nations around the world. We know that, in order to stop this, we have to stop polluting and we have to stop making climate change worse.

This current disallowance motion is to stop $50 million of Australian taxpayers' money being handed to private gas companies so that they can continue to drill and explore for more gas. What planet are we on? This world is facing a climate crisis and we are pleading with world leaders and telling our children that we need to stop polluting but we're spending government money, taxpayers' money, propping up the industry that is making our planet sick.

Of course, this is all going on in the Northern Territory in the Beetaloo basin without the consent of the traditional owners. In fact, when I was in Glasgow for the global summit only two weeks ago I met with a young woman who is terrified, frustrated and angry about what the government is proposing to do on her people's land. Rikki Dank, a young, strong First Nations woman from Beetaloo, was at the global summit pleading with world leaders to help stop this devastation. She was pleading not just for the rights of her people but for the rights of every child on this planet. If this gas basin is allowed to be opened up, the Morrison government boasts it will be the biggest in the world—at a time when we have to be getting out of fossil fuels and investing money instead in the transition to clean, green renewable energy and investing in the adaptation strategies that we undoubtably need because already the climate is warming. Rather than doing that, what we see is Mr Morrison putting his hand in the pockets of Australians, taking their hard-earned money and handing it over to his mates in the gas industry.

These mates in the gas industry—let me just put it very clearly—are also donors to the coalition. When I was in Glasgow two weeks ago, talking to leaders, scientists, civil society groups and key business people, when I said I was from Australia, the first question they would ask was: 'What on earth is going on down there? Why is your government so obsessed with propping up coal and gas? We're all here trying to work out a strategy to reduce pollution, to transition, to get money out of subsidising fossil fuels, and all we're hearing from Australia's Prime Minister is, "She'll be right mate; we're doing enough, and, by the way, we're going to keep funnelling money to our mates in the fossil fuel industry."'

When the Prime Minister spoke in Glasgow, he sounded like a stroppy, grumpy, out-of-touch old man. He stood on the stage for three minutes. He travelled all the way to Glasgow for a three-minute speech, and when he stood up he was dismissive of the negotiations taking place. He said Australia didn't have to do anything more; we were doing enough and everything was hunky-dory back home. He directed his Australian negotiators to not sign the agreement to leave coal in the ground and to open no new coal power plants and mines. He refused to sign the methane pledge, because guess where methane comes from—gas. In fact, with the leaking of gas wells at the current rate of three to four per cent, gas is even dirtier than coal. But the Prime Minister doesn't want you to know that. The Prime Minister is doing the bidding of the big fossil fuel companies, pretending that everything is A-OK and that at a minute to midnight, perhaps in 2049, all of a sudden it will all be fixed and we'll get to net zero by 2050.

The rest of the world knows that is bollocks. They know it's not true, and that's what we heard over and over and over again at the global summit. While other world leaders were getting together to discuss how to tackle climate change and how to deal with the influence and undue pressure from the world's multinational coal and gas companies, we had Australia's Prime Minister running PR stunts for Santos. At the Glasgow summit, all of the countries had a pavilion to showcase what their government was doing and what their people were doing to deal with climate change—what they were bringing to the global discussion and putting on the table, what their contribution was. The Australian pavilion, at the direction of the minister, Angus Taylor, had a coffee cart and a Santos logo. So what Australia brought to the global summit, what they wanted broadcast, was: we might make good coffees, but, boy, we do gas well!

The idea that you rock up to a climate change conference to discuss how your country works with others to cut global warming while showcasing one of the filthiest, dirtiest industries in the country is appalling, and it left a bad taste in everybody's mouth. Mr Morrison and his pavilion stand, with the minister, Angus Taylor, were a laughing-stock on the world stage. Business leaders thought it; world leaders thought it; civil society knew it. No wonder that, when I spoke with Rikki Dank, all the way from the Northern Territory, who was there to plead for her country and her people, she was so angry and frustrated, because what was being presented by her government and her country was a fraud. You can't get to net zero by 2050 and you can't get to net zero by 2030 if you keep opening up new coal and gas. What part of that does this government not understand?

But, of course, we're here today debating this disallowance because it's not just the Morrison government that is doing this—as a frolic of their own, for their mates in the coal and gas industry. Sadly, they are doing it in full sight, with the support of the Labor opposition. This is just devastating to Australians across the country who know we need to get serious about climate change and that we are running out of time. This next decade will be crucial, yet the Labor opposition are agreeing with the Morrison government that public money should be spent on carbon capture and storage to keep propping up the coal industry. Here today we will see the Labor Party agreeing to allow $50 million of taxpayers' money to be handed from the government coffers straight over to their mates in the fossil fuel industry.

It just beggars belief that this is what we are facing, when the rest of the world is trying hard to come up with strategies to reduce pollution, to save the planet and to give our children a safe future. It is extremely disappointing to see the Labor Party fold into the lap of the fossil fuel industry like this. It's devastating to see, when they know what a sham Mr Morrison's policies are—when everybody does; it's been broadcast around the world. No-one believes it. Everyone knows that he will not be able to get to net zero without changing a thing. But it's worse than that. Labor want to allow Mr Morrison and Mr Taylor to spend $50 million propping up some private gas companies, to do the wrecking on the land of the traditional owners without even having consent, and to do it in the name of the next generation, who are frustrated and angry that government and political leaders continue to turn a blind eye to the need for a safe climate to secure their future.

Our planet is desperately sick. It needs help. It needs care. It needs restoration. Rather than helping to heal the planet, this program, paid for by taxpayers, is going to make our climate even worse. It's going to make our planet even sicker. That is not a legacy that we should be leaving to our children or the next generation, and I urge crossbenchers and the Labor Party tonight not to let them get away with this. It's climate chaos, it's climate vandalism and it's devastating.


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