Monday, 25 June 2018
Great Australian Bight: World Heritage Listing
That the Senate—
(a) notes that:
(i) around 85 per cent of marine life within the Great Australian Bight is found nowhere else on Earth, and
(ii) British Petroleum (BP) claimed in an application to the Commonwealth offshore petroleum regulator that an oil spill in the Great Australian Bight would be "socially acceptable", further claiming "in most instances, the increased activity associated with cleanup operations will be a welcome boost to local economies";
(b) recognises that:
(i) Mayo's coastal communities would be among the hardest hit if oil spilled in the Bight, and
(ii) 74 per cent of Mayo residents want World Heritage Listing for the Great Australian Bight; and
(c) calls on the government to respect the wishes of the overwhelming majority of Mayo residents, by beginning the process of listing the Great Australian Bight for World Heritage Status—not only to protect, but to celebrate what's great about the Bight.
Australia has one of the most robust regulatory regimes for offshore oil and gas in the world. The industry's strict safety and environmental standards are overseen by the independent expert regulator, the National Offshore Petroleum Safety and Environmental Management Authority. The government has not received any formal proposal to commence world heritage listing for the Great Australian Bight. Any proposal that is advanced needs to have the support of local communities and relevant state governments. World heritage listing should not be thrust upon communities without appropriate consultation.
Labor has a proud history of protecting the environment. It was Gough Whitlam who passed Australia's first environmental legislation, the Environmental Protection (Impact of Proposals) Act; appointed Australia's first minister for the environment; and put in place the inquiry into the environmental impacts of the Ranger Uranium Mine. These were the foundation that allowed him to prevent Sir Joh Bjelke-Petersen from drilling in the Great Barrier Reef and enabled Bob Hawke to save Kakadu, the Franklin and the Daintree.
It was the Keating government that commenced the process for protecting our oceans, which was concluded when Peter Garrett and Tony Burke held the environment portfolio. Through this process of ocean protection, Australia established the strongest network of marine protected areas in the world. Labor support World Heritage and see it as a critical part of how precious areas are globally recognised and protected. Labor want World Heritage decisions that are based on extensive consultation, science about the values and engagement with traditional owners on all aspects of a listing.
Coastal communities across South Australia depend on the bight's natural resources and environmental value for their quality of life and their livelihoods. The fishing industry and the tourism industry are the backbones of many coastal South Australian towns, and my colleague the candidate for Mayo, Rebekha Sharkie, knows that this is well and truly the case. Yet all of this is at risk if deep-sea oil drilling in the bight goes ahead. BP's own environmental modelling indicates that the consequences of an oil spill are catastrophic, and any oil slick would spread hundreds of kilometres in all directions. The fishing industry, the tourism industry, every fish-and-chip shop and every bed and breakfast would be badly affected, if not wiped out, for years. The environmental damage would be disastrous. We cannot risk deep-sea drilling in the bight. Rebekha Sharkie knows this, and her community of Mayo know this, and this is why Centre Alliance will also call upon the government to seek World Heritage listing for the Great Australian Bight.
I find it extraordinary that neither the Labor Party nor the coalition are prepared to listen to the voices and the opinions of South Australians. South Australians desperately want to see our Great Australian Bight protected. They want to see our fishing industry given longevity. They want to make sure that our tourism industry is protected. We know that oil and gas drilling in the Great Australian Bight would devastate South Australia's economy and the natural wonderland in the Great Australian Bight, and would put thousands and thousands of jobs at risk. If Labor and Liberal want to take responsibility for that, they should own up to it and say that they are standing in the way of South Australians having their Great Australian Bight World Heritage protected.