Wednesday, 16 June 2021
Questions without Notice
My question is to Minister Ruston, representing the minister for resources. The G7 said earlier this week that genuine climate action requires countries to stop giving public subsidies to fossil fuels by 2025, and the International Energy Agency has said there should be no new coal, oil or gas projects, to prevent climate disaster. Given this clear message from our international trading partners and experts, why is this government intent on opening up a climate bomb by handing a quarter of a million dollars in public money to allow the Northern Territory Labor government to frack the Beetaloo Basin and opening up acreage that would allow new offshore oil and gas wells near the Twelve Apostles?
Thank you, Senator Waters, for your question. First and foremost, the government, the Morrison-McCormack government, is absolutely committed to working with the Australian public to make sure we have an energy mix in this country that is reliable and affordable, but, at the same time, that we meet our international obligations as well as protecting our environment. We actually believe that we can do all of those things at the same time.
You refer to a number of projects. As an example, the project offshore in Victoria that you are referring to—clearly we already have independent regulators that have processes in place in which to assess, to make sure, that any project that is undertaken in our amazing Australian environment is protected in the process, but we also have resources that are owned by the Australian people. These resources are for the benefit of all Australians. As long as they are extracted in a mechanism and a manner in which the environment is protected then every Australian deserves to be able to benefit from the benefits of being able to get access to those resources.
In the case of the Victorian offshore program that you are referring to, of course NOPSEMA is the independent regulator and they will make sure they go through their robust and independent processes to make sure that any exploration, which is what you are referring to, that is undertaken is undertaken in a manner that is consistent with the protection of Australia's environment. We have been very clear as a government that we believe that we have multiple obligations. We have an obligation to the Australian public for cheap, reliable and accessible power, but we also have an obligation to our international requirement on carbon emissions. And we have an obligation to make sure that we protect our environment, our very precious environment, but we will do so in a manner in which we can extract the resources that are the proprietary property of all Australians, and all Australians deserve to benefit from them.
The Northern Territory inquiry into fracking said there should be full, informed consent from traditional owners before any exploration or fracking takes place, given the impacts on cultural heritage, water resources and access to land. Traditional owners from lands covered by the Empire Energy licence area in the Beetaloo are in the building today saying that they have not been properly consulted or given their consent. How can the minister justify handing out public money for projects that do not have the consent of traditional owners?
Thank you, Senator Waters, for your next question. First and foremost there is an absolutely required process, which the government and its instrumentalities have to go through, to make sure appropriate consultation has taken place, to make sure that everybody who has an interest in a particular project has the opportunity to be heard. We are not in any way suggesting that any of those processes are going to be circumnavigated. They will be thoroughly adhered to and gone through. That includes consultation with all of the people who are impacted by any of these developments, including the Beetaloo Basin development that you are referring to in the Northern Territory. The Beetaloo Basin is a very important resource for Australia. I also understand that it is a very important issue for many Australians, and that's why we have robust processes in place to make sure that they are protected, that people's interests are able to be heard and broad consultation will be undertaken to ensure everybody's interests are heard.
(—) (): Thanks, President. One of the biggest investors in the Beetaloo Basin is Empire Energy run by Paul Espie, chair of the Liberal Party's Menzies centre, who has donated nearly $250,000 to the Liberal Party in recent years. Other significant players include Origin, Santos, Jemena and billionaire Gina Rinehart—all donors and friends of the Liberal Party. Why is the government handing out public money to its donor mates against the advice— (Time expired)
First and foremost, I reject the underlying premise of the accusations that are being made by Senator Waters. The decisions in relation to the exploration and the extraction of valuable resources that belong to the Australian public are undertaken by independent and thorough means.
The importance of this sector to Australia cannot be understated. The importance to our rural and regional communities—because of the economic development, because of the jobs that are created—and the broader impact that it has on the Australian economy cannot be understated. To suggest that there is anything but a robust, transparent, defensible process that is undertaken to ensure that the extraction of these particular resources on behalf of every Australian is completely and utterly false. I would suggest the importance of making sure that we continue to meet all of our obligations, we continue to consult and we continue to have a transparent process is absolutely there for every Australian to see, and I don't know why you can't see it either.