Monday, 11 November 2019
I seek leave to amend general business notice of motion No. 214 standing in my name for today, concerning fracking in the Beetaloo Basin, before asking that it be taken as formal. It is just to update the currency, because it was a carryover from last time.
I also inform the chamber that Senator Steele-John will be co-sponsoring the motion. I, and also on behalf of Senator Steele-John, move:
That the Senate—
(a) notes that:
(i) Origin Energy has commenced drilling as part of its Beetaloo Exploration Program in the Beetaloo Basin,
(ii) the final report of the Independent Scientific Inquiry into Hydraulic Fracturing of Onshore Unconventional Reservoirs in the Northern Territory concluded that gas extraction projects in the McArthur region, including the Beetaloo Basin, could contribute more than 6% of Australia's emissions,
(iii) the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has stated that reductions in gas production in the near term will be required to meet international reduction targets committed to in the Paris Agreement,
(iv) approximately 90% of regional water demand in the Northern Territory is supplied by groundwater – communities and traditional owners throughout the Northern Territory continue to express concern regarding the impact of hydraulic fracturing on these critical groundwater resources,
(v) the majority of submissions to the Northern Territory inquiry opposed fracking, and the final report noted the 'strong antipathy surrounding hydraulic fracturing for onshore shale gas',
(vi) traditional owners have called on Origin Energy to immediately halt fracking operations in the Beetaloo Basin,
(vii) the impact of the Beetaloo Basin project on water resources has not been assessed under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999, and
(viii) the Environment and Communications Legislation Committee inquiry into the Landholders' Right to Refuse (Gas and Coal) Bill 2015 received more than 370 submissions, the vast majority of which supported landholders and traditional owners being given the right to refuse to allow mining and fracking on their land; and
(b) calls on the Federal Government to:
(i) support calls by traditional owners for Origin Energy to immediately halt operations within the Beetaloo Basin,
(ii) support the Landholders' Right to Refuse (Gas and Coal) Bill 2015 to ban fracking and ensure that traditional owners and landholders are empowered to refuse damaging mining and fracking activities occurring on their land, and
(iii) expand the application of the water trigger provisions of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 to the impacts of shale gas projects on water resources.
Australia needs to develop more gas to help bring down energy prices for Australian families and to support jobs. The Beetaloo Basin has the potential to be a world-class gas province. Some estimates say that around 6,500 full-time jobs could be created, including jobs for Indigenous Australians. The Australian government expects all gas producers to engage with the traditional owners, and they must achieve consent where required under native title laws. By rigidly opposing the Beetaloo Basin development, the Greens are denying Indigenous people their right to choose and are consigning Australian families to higher living costs and fewer jobs.
Labor won't be supporting this motion. We believe that proper process must be followed when it comes to mining and gas exploration. We acknowledge calls from traditional owners and believe that they should be heard and respected, but motion after motion from the Greens in the Senate is not how projects are, or should be, determined. Labor believes science, consultation and proper process should be at the heart of decision-making.
In lieu of dividing, I seek leave to make a one-minute statement.
I thank the chamber. A month ago, fracking for gas began in the Beetaloo Basin in the Northern Territory against the wishes of local traditional owners, local farmers and pastoralists. This motion calls on the government to listen to traditional owners and landowners in the Beetaloo, who are terrified about the impact of fracking on their water resources. Uncle Ray Dixon, who is a Mudburra elder, has pleaded with Origin Energy to stop fracking and protect water. Northern Territory pastoralists are so concerned about access and environmental impacts that the owner of Amunjee Munjee Station has commenced legal action challenging the fracking plans. Fracking the Beetaloo threatens water resources and would unleash a carbon bomb that would undermine any prospect of Australia's meeting its international climate responsibilities, yet neither the climate impacts nor the water impacts of this fracking are even considered by our national environmental laws. This motion calls on the government to respect traditional owners, to listen to them; to support my bill to ban fracking; and to fix our environmental laws.