Senate debates

Wednesday, 26 October 2022


Supply Bill (No. 3) 2022-2023, Supply Bill (No. 4) 2022-2023, Supply (Parliamentary Departments) Bill (No. 2) 2022-2023; Second Reading

10:31 am

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

I rise to speak to the Supply Bill (No. 3) 2022-2023 and related bills. The Greens have circulated an amendment to this bill. The amendment ensures that no public money is spent on the drilling program in the Beetaloo basin. We are in a climate crisis, and that means that no new coal and gas should be funded. Continuing to give fossil fuel companies handouts when people are struggling to pay rent and to buy their groceries and other necessities is absolutely insulting, especially to the many people right across the country who've seen their homes and their communities devastated this year by unprecedented flooding events. This is actually insulting to them. These weather events will only get worse, and the government is directly contributing to this by funding the fossil fuel projects that they've outlined in this budget.

Labor's first budget is introducing a new handout for the gas industry through the $1.9 billion to build a gas terminal and petrochemical hub in Darwin Harbour that would guarantee a customer for the Beetaloo basin. Beetaloo is a climate-wrecking project that cannot continue and that absolutely cannot be funded through public money. The government has already given billions of dollars to this project, and in this budget we saw $1.9 billion more. This is absolutely unacceptable.

Fracking in the Beetaloo basin will destroy our environment, wreck our climate and use up the precious groundwater in the Northern Territory. The sheer amount of water that fracking uses cannot be underestimated. It is estimated that one pad alone uses 11.2 billion litres of water. That is almost a quarter of the entire surface water that is used in the Northern Territory in one year—and there are 27 of these pads proposed at just one of the approximately 20 properties that are impacted by this project in the Beetaloo.

Despite what the gas-funded CSIRO fact sheets might say, methane and fracking definitely contribute to climate change, and we heard about that yesterday during question time when I asked the minister, Minister Wong, about this fact sheet and, in fact, the misleading information that was included in there. Just the gas field in the Beetaloo basin could release up to 117 million tonnes of CO2, and we have been warned that there might not be enough carbon credits to offset the emissions from Beetaloo. In other words, we will blow any chance of Labor achieving their 43 per cent emission reduction target, at least without some dodgy accounting like what we saw from the previous government. In fact, as you would expect, if Beetaloo is allowed to continue it will increase Australia's 2020 emissions level by 13 per cent, and we can't afford this increase. We don't have the time to see an increase in climate emissions. We don't have time for Labor to do the bidding with their mates in the gas industry because, let's be real, this is exactly what is happening. This is an act of a government that is too scared to stand up to these companies that are destroying our planet. The resources minister herself has said that if the projects were not financially able to stand on their own two feet there should not be any government injection of cash into them, yet this is exactly what we are seeing in this budget. This amendment simply asks the government to stick to their word.

Origin has stepped away from this project. They saw the writing on the wall. Whilst this is a win, it has sold its interests in this project to Tamboran Resources. This is a company that refused to appear before a Senate committee and only did so when they were about to be held in contempt of parliament, a company that has no issue taking legal action when decisions don't go their way, a company that only cares about one thing—that is, about making money for its shareholders and its executives. In a recent hearing we heard Tamboran Resources describe the Beetaloo Basin as 'Australia's greatest emissions reduction opportunity'. Believe that. What a joke. Our greatest emissions reduction opportunity is to remove public funding from fossil fuel projects, invest that money into renewables, and commit to no more new coal and gas projects in this country. This project is directly linked to the Middle Arm harbour project, a toxic petrochemical plant that is only three kilometres away from Palmerston in the pristine area of Darwin. This plant poses a health risk due to its pollution. It could increase air pollution in the area by over 500 per cent and increase the Northern Territory's emissions by 75 per cent. Now, this to me does not seem like climate action. What about you?

Tamboran have stated that it intends to use the gas from the Beetaloo in the Middle Arm industry hub, which also happened to get a nice little pile of cash in this budget. Now, the science is clear. It has been clear for quite some time, and we know exactly what we need to do. Unfortunately, we are yet to see a government with the political will to do this, and this inaction will impact on, in fact, all of us.

The last election was very clear. What we heard from the Australian public was they want change, they want climate action and they are growing tired of the major parties and their inaction, and last night's budget is in fact proof of that. This money to prop up a dying industry flies in the face of that clear message.

Traditional owners have also sent a clear message: they do not want fracking on their country. You cannot silence the voices of traditional owners for corporate interests. You cannot ignore the traditional owners' sovereignty over their land and their sacred water to support climate-destroying gas projects in this country. If this project contaminates the groundwater it will destroy those communities surrounding that area—their connection to this country and their cultural heritage, their bush foods, the places they take their children—because that water is sacred to them.

This government has claimed that it is committed to First Nations justice. In fact, they talk about the voice in this parliament. How about listening to the voices of traditional owners when they say they don't want these projects on their country? Our voices and our stories—only when it does not conflict with them making money, do they want to listen. This project has strong opposition from the traditional owners, the farmers, the environmentalists, the scientists, the general public and members of this crossbench, so when will this Labor government listen and catch up?


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