Senate debates

Tuesday, 25 February 2020



8:06 pm

Photo of Peter Whish-WilsonPeter Whish-Wilson (Tasmania, Australian Greens) Share this | | Hansard source

I've been campaigning to protect our oceans, environment and community for nearly 15 years now, in and out of parliament. I must say that the fight to protect the Great Australian Bight from oil and gas drilling is one of the most grassroots, positive, energetic and successful people-power campaigns I've had the honour to fight in. The news today that Norwegian oil giant Equinor has pulled out of its three-year plan to drill this part of the pristine Southern Ocean is stunning, and so welcome to coastal communities right around this nation. I can't thank and congratulate enough all those thousands of people right around Australia who protested, paddled out at their local beaches, agitated, advocated and were ultimately successful in their goal to kick out big oil and gas, to not put at risk an area so precious that it must be protected.

Wins are hard to come by in this constant fight to protect, preserve and prosper on our Mother Earth, but when they do happen we all need to give each other a pat on the back. There are way too many people to thank in the Australian Senate tonight but I would like to acknowledge a few fantastic people and organisations and some leaders, many of whom I have worked directly with on this campaign. I do sincerely apologise, as I've left so many good people out. Starting in Tasmania, I'd like to acknowledge Danny Carney and Alex Wylie, who organised the two big Hobart paddle-outs; Marti Paradisis; Mikey Brennan; the Holmer Cross Bros and the rest of the Shippies Crew, who lent their support to this campaign; the hundreds in the Clifton Beach surf community who turned out to paddle-out; Nick Headlum, Tasmania's own techno-Viking; and the other legends in Bicheno: Michael Brune, Sea Shepherd and Wilderness Society Tasmania.

On the main island, I'd like to acknowledge Damien Cole—he ran as an independent in Corangamite and went way beyond the call of duty to fight for the oceans, and did a sterling job—and his crew, especially Darren Noyes Brown, who is also with the Surfrider Foundation. I'd like to acknowledge the crew at Patagonia, Heath Jozza, who travelled to Norway to lobby Equinor directly, and the other Patagonia crew, such as Daniel Hann, Belinda Baggs and, of course, Sean Doherty, who did an amazing job, day in, day out, advocating for surfers and environmentalists around this country. I'd especially like to thank Jeff Hansen from Sea Shepherd, who has been a leader from the beginning, nearly eight years ago. The same applies to Peter Owen of Wilderness Society South Australia, who never, never gave up. Thanks to my colleague Sarah Hanson-Young and to Tammy Jo, TJ, in her office, who has also been there since the beginning. I'd like to acknowledge Nathaniel Pell of Greenpeace, the Surfrider Foundation, Suzi Crick and Branko. I'd also like to put on record my thanks to the Australia Institute for the amazing work they have done over this campaign. I also acknowledge the Bob Brown Foundation, who were there right at the beginning. I also acknowledge the World Surf League, WSL, and in particular Reece Pancho, who runs WSL Pure, who covered this many times. I'd also like to throw in the names of a few pro surfers, who also threw in their lot with the protestors: Ace Buchan, John John Florence, Mick Fanning, Layne Beachley, Occy, Tom Carroll, Sally Fitzgibbons and many others. As an ex-Surfrider Foundation board member, it really heartens me to see so many surfers standing up and showing leadership on environmental issues and fighting for healthy oceans.

The fight isn't over yet until the bight is permanently protected and given the World Heritage status it deserves. Senator Hanson-Young has a Greens bill to do this. I hope that is the next chapter in this fight. Unfortunately the battle is a long way from being over for our oceans. They are rapidly warming and dying, while fossil fuel interests are chasing profits, continuing to blast our oceans with seismic guns in an attempt to open up more areas for offshore oil and gas exploration and production.

I'd like to finish by saying that for every one person who turned up around this nation, on beaches in Western Australia, South Australia, Tasmania, Victoria, New South Wales, Queensland, Northern Territory—indeed, everywhere—for every one of you who turned up, I'm hopeful that four of your friends will turn up next time to join you because they're feeling empowered and they want to press home the fight for healthy oceans and the need to stand up for our marine life.