Senate debates

Monday, 29 November 2021

Regulations and Determinations

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

12:29 pm

Photo of Dorinda CoxDorinda Cox (WA, Australian Greens) Share this | Hansard source

I rise to speak to this motion on disallowance of the Industry Research and Development (Beetaloo Cooperative Drilling Program) Instrument 2021, in order to stop the Morrison government from providing $50 million to frack in the Beetaloo basin in the Northern Territory. In this country projects are being approved left, right and centre without consent and without proper approvals that assess the damage being caused to our environment. This is unacceptable and it is something we have the opportunity to change here today. It is clear there are some gaping holes in our legislative frameworks that allow big corporations to get away with destroying our country. Last week I went out onto the lawns of Parliament House with my colleagues Senator Thorpe and Senator Waters and met with First Nations people and members of the community who are saying no to fracking in the Beetaloo basin. What is it about the word 'no' that this government do not understand? From a Western worldview, you can play with geography and the environment on a topographical map and you can reprint a new version of that the next day. But to the traditional owners of these lands, if you disrupt the geography and the environment, the songlines of that country are lost forever.

The ecosystem in the outback is fragile and precious, and there is no doubt that drilling will have consequences to flora, fauna and farmers. I am worried about the impact it will have on endangered species and savannah ecosystems. Fracking poses serious risks to our precious groundwater, and groundwater is especially critical in the Northern Territory because 90 per cent of water for human purposes, including the drinking water, comes from those aquifers.

Origin Energy's own environmental report for 10,000 square kilometres of the Beetaloo basin warned that drilling will pose a risk of causing the aquifers under some properties to leak into each other, deteriorating the quality of existing and future groundwater supplies. Even the independent review of fracking in the Territory, the Pepper inquiry, noted significant environmental, social and economic risks from fracking in the Territory. These include risks to the water quality due to contamination, due to quantity and due to the extraction and drawdown. These risks are absolutely unacceptable.

From the Pepper inquiry there were 135 recommendations, and it said only the full implementation of all those recommendations could provide any assurances that these risks could be managed. One of the core recommendations from the Pepper inquiry was for the Commonwealth to extend the water trigger to onshore shale gas developments. This key recommendation remains unimplemented. It is clear that the EPBC Act is failing to protect our water from serious risks of fracking and we need stronger environmental protections, including through the addition of shale gas fracking into the act's water trigger. We need approvals that actually assess what the impacts of fracking will be on our water resources. Despite these significant risks against the wishes of traditional owners, Empire Energy was granted approval from the Northern Territory government. Its environmental management plan in October includes the approval to construct wells, drill wells and frack—in other words, the Northern Territory government has given the green light for the destruction of country.

What is even more unbelievable is that the NT environment minister suggested that the greenhouse gas emissions from the exploration phase were manageable. Who would think? Has the minister even read the Pepper inquiry report? That inquiry identified the life cycle of greenhouse gas emissions from a new onshore gas field across a range of production scenarios would contribute 4.5 to 6.6 per cent of Australia's total greenhouse gas emissions. This risk was deemed unacceptable, so I don't know how the minister could actually say that. Granting public money to party donors for climate-wrecking projects that no-one wants is unethical, wasteful and a danger to our children's future. Here we go again, it's the Greens standing up, trying to protect our environment and our country, while Liberal and Labor parties hand out public money to oil and gas corporations to frack in the Beetaloo. I know which side of the chamber I would rather be on when this disallowance motion comes up for a vote.


No comments