Senate debates

Wednesday, 23 November 2022


Offshore Electricity Infrastructure Legislation Amendment Bill 2022; Second Reading

10:13 am

Photo of Jonathon DuniamJonathon Duniam (Tasmania, Liberal Party, Shadow Minister for Environment, Fisheries and Forestry) Share this | Hansard source

I'm looking forward to it! The coalition is deeply concerned. The government is supercharging its renewable vision with little to no regard for Australia's regional towns and communities.

On the issue of community consultation, offshore energy technology, such as wind, could provide Australia with new investment and jobs growth, particularly in coastal regional communities. It is, however, important to ensure that this does not come at a cost for, or negatively impact on, those regional communities that have been identified and declared as suitable for offshore renewable energy infrastructure.

A key part of our legislation was community consultation and, by association, gaining a social licence before an area could be declared as suitable. Careful and ongoing consultation in regulating offshore electricity infrastructure is critical given the deep connection Australians have with the ocean and existing offshore industries. It's critically important to manage the marine environment in a way that recognises all users. This includes local communities and recreational users. Our government included a minimum 60-day public consultation period on a declared zone to ensure people could have their say on any proposed area.

In terms of location, another inclusion was locating turbines and other assets beyond three nautical miles from the coast in Commonwealth waters to help address the amenity concerns associated with some onshore renewable projects.

On the issue of the declaration of zones, the minister has renounced the former coalition government's prioritisation of the Bass Strait for Australia's first offshore wind development. The former coalition government approved Australia's first wind exploration licence in the Bass Strait in 2019, and in 2021 it legislated a framework to unlock investment while ensuring coastal communities and sea users' rights were respected. It's essential that any development has strong community support, and I encourage all potential project developers to put in the groundwork needed to secure that support.

While consultation is welcome, Mr Bowen still has no plan to support investment in the reliable generation needed to keep the lights on and, importantly, to get prices down. That's why this government has already abandoned its election promise to cut household power bills by that magic number of $275 by the end of its first term.

The bill makes a number of minor amendments to the act. While the amendments are mostly noncontroversial, and the coalition supports the ongoing development of Australia's offshore wind industry, a notable amendment is that the minister, rather than the regulator, will be given the power to decide what forms and amounts of financial security licence holders must provide and when these obligations must cease under regulations. The coalition believes the proposed amendment that allows the minister, rather than the regulator, to make decisions in relation to matters relating to the financial security of licence holders risks emboldening the government's plan to accelerate the rollout of renewable projects without sufficient community consultation or, importantly, without a social licence and therefore will mean easier terms for licence holders than otherwise would be granted under an independent authority. This is a matter that the coalition will be paying close attention to.


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