Senate debates

Friday, 10 November 2023


Environment Protection (Sea Dumping) Amendment (Using New Technologies to Fight Climate Change) Bill 2023; In Committee

9:59 am

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

I've got two series of questions in relation to these amendments that I'd like to pursue with the minister. And I see that Minister McAllister is now here—not that I have a problem with Minister Watt, of course! I know he cares deeply about our oceans and their health, being the fisheries minister.

Minister, one of the reasons for the Greens amendments to get assurances around potential liabilities from these projects is the very serious risk that carbon capture and storage are largely commercially unproven technologies in new geological formations that have never been used for carbon capture and storage in the oceans. Let's be clear again: there really is only one long-term carbon capture and storage facility in the ocean that's been going for decades, and that's off Norway. We've talked about that. It's had a lot of problems, and I'd like to ask some questions about that today. But these do relate to our amendments to provide security.

The first area we're seeking assurances through our amendments on is in relation to the potential decommissioning costs of carbon capture and storage projects, because the nature of them appears to be they're using depleted oil and gas fields. The logic of that is depleted oil and gas fields have already been used and studied over many years, so companies have a history of understanding those geological formations. So my first question, Minister, is: you mentioned two days ago—and I have a copy of the Hansard transcript here—that there were a number of domestic projects looking to import CO2. You said the words, 'They're currently exploring the possibilities'. They include CStore1 in Western Australia, CarbonNet in Victoria, SEA CCS hub in Victoria and the Darwin LNG hub in the Northern Territory. In relation to CStore1 in Western Australia and CarbonNet in Victoria and the SEA CCS hub in Victoria, could you tell me: what geological basins are those projects in? This is very important. If you could seek that information for me, I would be very grateful.

10:02 am

Photo of Jenny McAllisterJenny McAllister (NSW, Australian Labor Party, Assistant Minister for Climate Change and Energy) Share this | | Hansard source

Thank you for the question, Senator Whish-Wilson. I don't have that information at hand. I will see if it may be made available.

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

If you could get that for me this morning if possible—specifically whether those areas are utilising depleted oil and gas fields. Are you aware of that information, Minister? Rather than the specific geological structures or the names of the fields—I know there are, obviously, two in Victoria and one in Western Australia. There are a number of basins; the way these are described under acreage titles, there are a number of basins. Could you tell me whether these companies are going to be using depleted oil and gas fields for potential storage of imported carbon dioxide from overseas?

10:03 am

Photo of Jenny McAllisterJenny McAllister (NSW, Australian Labor Party, Assistant Minister for Climate Change and Energy) Share this | | Hansard source

I note your question, Senator Whish-Wilson. As I've said in response to the previous question, I don't have that information with me. I'll see what could be made available.

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

We obviously know the Bayu-Undan field is a depleted field, and that's why the Barossa project wants to access it and that's why the Timor government is potentially saying they're open for business, if that gets up and running. And we know that Woodside is interested in that, because the Sunrise project is partly in the Timor Sea and very close to our national boundary with the Timor Sea, so it borders both Australian and the East Timorese territories. I'm particularly interested in whether these depleted fields are going to be used. My guess and my assumption this morning is that they will be depleted oil and gas fields.

The reason for this, and why these amendments are really important, is, right around the country, our offshore oil and gas regulator under the OPGGS Act, NOPSEMA, is currently overseeing a decommissioning strategy for oil and gas fields around this country. Minister, are you aware of NOPSEMA's decommissioning strategy for existing depleted or close-to-depleted oil and gas fields in Australia's oceans?

Photo of Helen PolleyHelen Polley (Tasmania, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source


Photo of Jenny McAllisterJenny McAllister (NSW, Australian Labor Party, Assistant Minister for Climate Change and Energy) Share this | | Hansard source

I'm not seeking the call, thanks. I'm just assessing the information I have.

The TEMPORARY CHAIR: Is anyone else seeking the call? Senator Whish-Wilson?

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

I think the minister said she was just looking for some information. I'm happy to wait.

The TEMPORARY CHAIR: No, she's not seeking the call.

I didn't hear her say that.

Photo of Jenny McAllisterJenny McAllister (NSW, Australian Labor Party, Assistant Minister for Climate Change and Energy) Share this | | Hansard source

I'm not seeking the call.

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

That's alright; you don't know the answer. If you could get it for me, I would be grateful. You're in here steering through the Senate and this parliament legislation that's going to facilitate new oil and gas fields by using previously depleted oil and gas fields to potentially store carbon dioxide to pump these emissions back into the ground, even though there's no evidence this works anywhere around the world on a commercial scale.

What's really triggered my interest in this bill is not just that this is very likely to be greenwashing for the oil and gas industry to help them get up new projects; right around this nation, companies that have been operating in the ocean, oil and gas fields have significant liabilities under the NOPSEMA decommissioning strategy and compliance plan. The Wilderness Society estimates up to $60 billion in liabilities. Through questioning from the Greens in Senate estimates over recent years and, may I say, working with amazing stakeholders like The Wilderness Society and others who care about our oceans—Greenpeace have been very prominent in this campaign as well—we have managed to get Woodside Petroleum and some other companies to remove some infrastructure from the ocean that's been sitting there rusting. The teaser turret is a good example; that was only removed in recent months, and NOPSEMA confirmed that. We are talking about tens of billions of dollars of liabilities out there for oil and gas companies sitting on their balance sheet, I would expect. These are not insignificant amounts of money, even for wealthy, highly profitable oil and gas companies that pay very little tax in this country. They are some of the most profitable companies on the planet, especially in times of higher oil prices following the war in Ukraine and the conflict in the Middle East. But here we have these liabilities.

Minister, can I ask you to take this on notice because I'm not sure if you'll have the information today. If you go to NOPSEMA's website, where they talk about their decommissioning strategy plan and performance, they have a decommissioning research strategy. Basically, they supply a flowchart that's pretty simple to follow and they have targets for decommissioning. By 2021 they were hoping that all oil and gas companies with depleted fields in Australia, the titleholders of those fields, would have appropriate plans for decommissioning and be completing these in a timely manner. Titleholders are aware of their decommissioning requirements—so NOPSEMA has been working with oil and gas companies to make sure they are aware of these requirements, and that's why they should be on their balance sheets. But by the end of this year—we're nearly there—coincidentally they need to have supplied plans for the abandonment of their wells and these oilfields. Decommissioning plans are supposed to be in place for non-operating structures, equipment and property which are associated with depleted oil and gas fields. Moored or tethered buoyant infrastructure needs to be removed within 12 months of ceasing operations. So, once these plans are given to NOPSEMA this year, they have 12 months to go out there and spend the money to remove this technology and this infrastructure.

Then by 2025 wells that were plugged and closed within three years of permanently ceasing production need all structural equipment and property to be removed.

For the domestic act offshore oil and gas carbon capture and storage, which is not dealt with in this bill, unless those same structures are going to be used to also apply for licences to import carbon dioxide, we have a situation here where companies can avoid their liability by applying for a licence to use these subsidies to use these subsea structures to sequester carbon. Even if they apply for a licence and they don't manage to get some dirty CO2 from Japan, Korea, the Philippines, the Timor Sea or wherever it happens, we have a situation where—and I'm very concerned about this for the domestic legislation as well—this is actually a de facto strategy to avoid their liabilities. How convenient that we are dealing with this legislation just a few months out from when they are supposed to be providing the final details to NOPSEMA. Minister, can you answer this question today, and if you can't please take it on notice: how many of these project that are applying to import carbon dioxide—and if you know domestically how many of the seven areas that have now been awarded to oil and gas companies to pursue carbon capture and storage—are using depleted oilfields that had liabilities under these decommissioning plans?

10:11 am

Photo of Jenny McAllisterJenny McAllister (NSW, Australian Labor Party, Assistant Minister for Climate Change and Energy) Share this | | Hansard source

Senator Whish-Wilson, as I've indicated in response to your last two questions, I don't have that information at hand. It is quite detailed, and I will say, of course, that because there is presently no arrangement for the importation of CO2, subject to the passage of this bill, the four projects that I referred to are not formally before the government because that pre-empts the decision that we are presently contemplating here in the chamber.

More generally, the government is aware that there need to be robust protocols in place for carbon capture, use and storage, and in the last budget provided $12 million to review the environmental management regime for offshore petroleum and greenhouse gas storage activities. The review has commenced, and it seeks to ensure that the regime for offshore CCS appropriately manages risks both in the marine environment and the inherent risks around workplace health and safety. The review will identify opportunities to more effectively plan for and regulate the decommissioning of offshore CCS projects. I know that is a different question to the one you asked me earlier, but it is relevant more generally to the line of questioning you are pursuing. The review will also look at regulatory requirements relating to long-term liability and monitoring of sequestered carbon dioxide. There will also be an examination of opportunities for greater regulatory and administrative certainty and efficiency for projects of this kind in Commonwealth waters, and that review is presently underway and is being led by the Department of Industry, Science and Resources. I let you know this because you are asking, in the general, questions about the interaction between the proposed permitting arrangement here and other arrangements that are in place for existing offshore oil and gas projects and, amongst other things, those are questions that could be considered as part of this broader process of ensuring we've got appropriate regulatory arrangements for offshore activity.

10:14 am

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

You are correct, I am masking about the broader framework, Minister, but we are here to legislate a significant step. I'm not having a go; I'm just pointing out the obvious. We are here to legislate a significant step forward for current domestic operations, companies that have depleted oilfields in the ocean. There are a lot of them around my state of Tasmania, in Bass Strait, off the coast of Victoria and off Western Australian as well as in other parts of the country such as the Northern Territory.

We're going to legislate to allow them to potentially import carbon dioxide from overseas or, at least, say they're going to or they want to. I am very concerned that we are going to let these oil and gas companies off the hook. I don't think it's been talked about, and it needs to be. I think this whole CCS thing is a scam and a sham anyway—and I've been on the record about that, and so have my colleagues and a lot of other people—in terms of whether it can help reduce emissions or help facilitate oil and gas companies. But I think this is a double scam and potentially a multibillion-dollar scam, because this is going to let oil and gas companies off the hook for their decommissioning requirements.

This does not just apply to this legislation; it also applies to the seven acreage areas that have now been awarded by NOPSEMA to companies. By the way, companies can apply for these. NOPSEMA doesn't go around and say, 'We think these are suitable areas for carbon capture and storage.' The process is that if you're an oil or gas company you can apply for where you want to do this. And, of course, all the companies have these depleted fields, and they're liabilities on their balance sheets, and they're going to NOPSEMA and saying, 'I'm interested in having one of these, thank you very much.' This is a significant concern. I don't want to vote for a piece of legislation that's going to facilitate that.

Australians are sick and tired of the big majority of these companies not paying tax, particularly the PRRT, the 'petroleum rort rent tax', which has now got hundreds of billions of dollars in tax credits. I heard Senator Scarr arcing up the other day, talking about how we don't understand finance, but what Senator Scarr doesn't understand is that seven years ago I initiated an inquiry into this which found that companies were able to compound their exploration and operating expenditure by 10 per cent per annum against tax, just to get them to invest here. This legislation, which was 30 years old, was to try to attract investment, and it has allowed hundreds of billions of dollars to float out of Australian schools and hospitals, exactly where we need money. Anyway, I digress.

Minister, another reason we've moved these amendments is, once again, to cover the liabilities of these projects. It's been mentioned in the second reading debate and in questioning already—even Senator Hanson raised this point—that these are risky projects because of the potential leakage of CO2. We've seen that at Gorgon, and we have seen leakage of CO2 in the established fields in Norway—perhaps not through the anticline but certainly out of the established fields—and it's been a significant source of concern.

Minister, are you aware of the significant body of research that talks about the potential for earthquakes being triggered because of large-scale geological storage of carbon dioxide? There are number of reports, and this is something we love about the scientific process: scientists and researchers go out and publish their information and, if other scientists disagree, they can publish a peer review. We need more of that in our day and age of disinformation. Scientists are great in the way they work. It's all impersonal. There is a significant body of work. For example, there is one report, which has been peer reviewed—and you can read all the detail in the report, and I'm happy to provide the names of the authors to you—that says:

We argue here that there is a high probability that earthquakes will be triggered by injection of large volumes of CO2 into the brittle rocks commonly found in continental interiors. Because even small- to moderate-size earthquakes threaten the seal integrity of CO2 repositories, in this context, large-scale CCS—

carbon capture and storage—

is a risky, and likely unsuccessful, strategy for … reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

Anyway, there is a lot of technical detail there and there are a lot of concerns that have been raised around the potential for leakage, structural damage and, of course, the impacts on the marine environment—not to mention that it's going to supercharge climate change if these things don't work.

Minister, are you aware of the risks posed by, in particular, the seismic testing that is required for these fields and the correlation between seismic testing and potential earthquakes?

10:19 am

Photo of Jenny McAllisterJenny McAllister (NSW, Australian Labor Party, Assistant Minister for Climate Change and Energy) Share this | | Hansard source

Thanks for the question, Senator Whish-Wilson. I don't pretend to be an expert in the scientific literature around geotech. However, I can tell you that questions around risk are actively addressed by the framework that's put in place by the London protocol, and that, of course, is the purpose of this bill—to ensure that, should a project of this kind be brought forward, there would be a regulatory standard against which these risks could be assessed. Under the protocol, the assessment framework requires an environmental impact analysis, and that, in turn, must include but is not limited to a long-term management plan, a geological assessment and marine characterisation of the disposal site, an impact and risk assessment, a mitigation and remediation plan, a description of potential impacts on any matters of national environmental significance, a waste prevention audit, waste management options, chemical and physical properties of the CO2, assessment of potential effects, and monitoring and risk management.

10:20 am

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

It's not just the risk of earthquakes that I'm worried about, Minister. I do think this is a serious risk, and it's been raised through the scientific process for decades now. I mentioned—although it may have been in an interjection, and I apologise if it was and it's not in Hansardthat the Sleipner and Snohvit structures operating in Norway, which are always referred to when this debate about carbon capture and storage in the ocean comes up, are the most studied geological structures on this planet. They have had over 30 years of countless seismic acquisition or seismic blasting operations just to study and monitor those two carbon capture and storage fields. They're already in depleted oilfields—the company already had a pretty good understanding of them—but they have had the absolute shit blasted out of them for 30 years.

Photo of Helen PolleyHelen Polley (Tasmania, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Senator, this week, we've had conversations in this chamber about appropriate language. I ask you to withdraw that comment.

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

I withdraw that, sorry, Chair. You just need to go onto the websites of seismic companies that are trying to sell their services to potential carbon capture and storage developers or oil and gas developers, and they'll tell you this. I'll read you some information from one service provider called SeisWare. They have a convenient summary at the end of their pitch. It says:

Overall, seismic data—

which comes from seismic surveying, which comes from seismic blasting—

is vital for site selection, reservoir characterization, monitoring, leakage detection, risk assessment, and regulatory compliance in CCS projects. It enables informed decision-making and future CCS policy, enhances operational safety, and helps ensure the long-term effectiveness of carbon capture and sequestration efforts.

They go into a lot of detail on why constant seismic testing will be required if a carbon capture and storage field is established in the ocean.

We know we have four projects from the minister that are looking to import CO2, which falls under this bill, and we know that, all around the country, oil and gas companies with offshore fields are scrambling to get NOPSEMA to give them one for domestic operations as well. You said you're not an expert, Minister, and I totally respect that. I don't think any of us are. But I will say that the Greens did initiate the world's first Senate inquiry into seismic testing in our oceans. It took three attempts to get it through the Senate, because the oil and gas companies were so ferocious in here trying to stop it happening. I know that because commercial fishing interests, who normally have pretty good sway in this place, were also lobbying to get the inquiry, and I got feedback from those interests that there was basically a clash of interests as to whether this inquiry would get up. Pardon the pun, but I did say to them, 'There's a bigger fish in the ocean than you, and that is the oil and gas industry.' In fact, they are the biggest fish in this building, arguably.

What we learnt from that inquiry, which took significant evidence right around the country, was that seismic blasting is one of the loudest noises produced by human beings. We're talking about something louder than a jet engine and equivalent to the detonation of nuclear bombs. In terms of its detection rate by the human ear, if you were to be directly underneath a seismic blast from a boat, it would kill you.

Now, in water noise travels faster and is much more amplified than in the air. The seismic blasting that's currently going on for new oil and gas fields happens 24 hours a day, every 10 seconds, potentially for months on end. Our ocean is being subjected to a relentless assault by oil and gas companies searching for the exact product that, if we find and burn it, is killing our oceans. It's the definition of insanity.

Nevertheless, Minister, why would we support legislation today that is just going to lead, if this is ridgy-didge and legit and companies actually are going to try to establish carbon capture and storage fields under this legislation or under domestic legislation—and I think that's a very big 'if'. If they do, why would we support something that's just going to lead to so much more seismic testing in our ocean? Seismic testing only happens now for new oil and gas fields. Thankfully, that has been slowing down in terms of greenfields exploration, but there are some very concerning new projects around the country, like TGS's project off King Island and the west coast of Western Australia—by the way, the biggest seismic testing program not just in Australia's history but in international history is about to happen off the coastline of my state. The companies are staying they believe there's an oil and gas bonanza there that's bigger than the North West Shelf off WA.

There are people right around this country—I want to shout out to Annie Ford, an activist who's riding her bike from Tasmania to Noosa, doing film nights in small town halls, in pubs and in churches to highlight the risks of seismic blasting. With this in mind, why would we support legislation that will facilitate risking our oceans even more than we currently are?

One thing that did come out of the Senate report was the FRDC working with the fishing industry because they don't want seismic testing in the ocean either. They hate oil and gas companies exploring anywhere near their commercial fishing grounds, because the research we've done so far suggests serious potential for harm to rock lobsters and scallops. We know from the few studies that have been funded by oil and gas companies that commercial fish stocks will completely leave an area during seismic testing, as you and I would if we were subjected to that relentless assault of noise. We know it's catastrophic and kills plankton, the basis of our ocean's food chain. That's established. And we know it's extremely dangerous for whales. We know it impacts on cultural heritage and songlines for our First Nations people.

People are waking up to this. They don't want this stuff anymore, because we don't need it. But here we are, about to pass legislation that's going to take a significant step towards giving companies the green light to establish carbon capture and storage fields in the ocean and go out there and blast them a lot—blast the guts out of them, as Senator Waters has said. Given all the concerns we have about seismic testing, why would we want to see any more of that?

Minister, are you aware and is the environment minister aware of the risks from seismic testing? Are you aware of the big groundswell of opposition building round the country to ban this activity, which was one of the recommendations of the Senate report? One recommendation they said did get picked up was FRDC doing research into other techniques to try to protect commercial fishing stocks, but I would be very surprised if that ever comes to anything. Nevertheless, I support the attempts and the science to do so. But are you aware of the risks from seismic testing to whales, to First Nations cultural heritage and to commercial fishing stocks?

10:29 am

Photo of Jenny McAllisterJenny McAllister (NSW, Australian Labor Party, Assistant Minister for Climate Change and Energy) Share this | | Hansard source

The risks to our natural environment associated with any activity need to be managed. There is an existing framework that governs activities associated with carbon capture and storage in Australia's domestic waters. As I've explained in an answer to a previous question, the adequacy of those arrangements is presently under review because the government considers a robust regulatory framework to be essential. We consider the same tests to be relevant if we are thinking about projects that may involve transport and movement of carbon dioxide. It is for that reason, as I have explained on many occasions since Monday, when we commenced debating this legislation, that the government seeks to ratify the amendments to the London protocol that deal with exactly that issue. And those amendments seek to put in place a regulatory framework that allows a range of things to occur, including the assessment of environmental risk.

We are now straying well beyond the parameters of the legislation. There is an amendment before the chair, and yesterday I explained why the government considers the provisions provided for in the amendment circulated by you, Senator Whish-Wilson, are not necessary. To reiterate, they are not necessary because these matters are already covered in the bill that is before the Senate. I think it is time for the Senate to start actively engaging with the matters that you've raised. It's appropriate that you've raised them; this is exactly the right place to do so. But we are now on day 5 of the legislation, and I move:

That the question be put.

Photo of Andrew McLachlanAndrew McLachlan (SA, Deputy-President) Share this | | Hansard source

The question before the committee is that the question be put.

10:37 am

Photo of Andrew McLachlanAndrew McLachlan (SA, Deputy-President) Share this | | Hansard source

(In division) Could I have a little order, please. The tellers need to concentrate.

Photo of Tim AyresTim Ayres (NSW, Australian Labor Party, Assistant Minister for Trade) Share this | | Hansard source

I'm not going to let you bunch of loons carry on.

Photo of Andrew McLachlanAndrew McLachlan (SA, Deputy-President) Share this | | Hansard source

Senator Ruston, I am in the middle of a division, if you hadn't noticed. The result of the division is 17 ayes and 36 noes. It's passed in the negative. We will continue with committee. I just have a point of order with Senator Ruston.

Photo of Anne RustonAnne Ruston (SA, Liberal Party, Shadow Minister for Health and Aged Care) Share this | | Hansard source

Mr Chair, I would ask Senator Ayres to withdraw.

Photo of Tim AyresTim Ayres (NSW, Australian Labor Party, Assistant Minister for Trade) Share this | | Hansard source

Senator Ruston has asked me to withdraw and I cheerfully do so in the spirit of [inaudible].

Photo of Andrew McLachlanAndrew McLachlan (SA, Deputy-President) Share this | | Hansard source

Thank you.

10:39 am

Photo of Jenny McAllisterJenny McAllister (NSW, Australian Labor Party, Assistant Minister for Climate Change and Energy) Share this | | Hansard source

Once again, the opposition has been provided with an opportunity to allow this debate to progress. I draw the attention of the Senate to the approach that the opposition took on Monday when this bill was in its second reading debate. Senator Duniam, who is here with us now, talked about the importance of the bill. He said that the coalition welcomed the introduction of the bill. The reason the coalition welcomed it was, they said, that there were necessary and well-intentioned changes to the London protocol that needed to be reflected in our legislation. Senator Duniam said at the time:

… we recognise the fact we live in a reality where we do need to balance the imperatives of the economy and the environment.

Photo of Anthony ChisholmAnthony Chisholm (Queensland, Australian Labor Party, Assistant Minister for Education) Share this | | Hansard source

'Imperatives'! Lofty words!

Photo of Jenny McAllisterJenny McAllister (NSW, Australian Labor Party, Assistant Minister for Climate Change and Energy) Share this | | Hansard source

They were lofty words on Monday, weren't they? But here we are, it's Friday, and it's back to business as usual for that lot. It is horsetrading instead of principle, because the leadership here is entirely operating at the behest of the tinfoil hat brigade that sits up the back there—the climate deniers, the flat-earthers—who will do everything they can to stand in the way of the energy projects that are so necessary for us to manage the energy transition in this country.

People like Senator Birmingham, who I think probably accepts the science of climate change and may yet accept what I believe is still coalition policy, which is to transition to net zero by 2050, are now in the thrall of this group of renegades up the back in their tinfoil hats, who want nothing more than an opportunity to stop energy projects in this country. The horsetrading that's going on to try and secure an outcome for this group of renegades is standing in the way of the highly principled ideas that were expressed on Monday, and none of this is in the national interest. This is essentially about managing problems in the coalition, managing their internals. It's a shame, isn't it? There are a range of businesses that would agree with the proposition that regulatory certainty in this area would be preferable. They're businesses that I think a number of coalition senators would be, and should be, familiar with.

If people think that it's a good idea to vote with the Greens again and again to impede the progress of this bill, then it's something they need to reflect on, because it's not in the national interest and it's certainly not consistent with any of the commitments that were made on Monday of this week.

10:42 am

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

I feel suitably chastised for defending democracy and allowing the Senate to interrogate and scrutinise legislation. It is interesting that the minister on duty, Senator McAllister, who is presiding over this mess at the moment, has reflected on things I said earlier in the week. I'd like to reflect on a few other things I said earlier in the week as well.

Yes, you're right, we do welcome this legislation. It's good legislation that we will support. But, as I said before, we'll protect the right of the senators in this place to interrogate legislation, ask questions and perhaps, sometimes, get answers. We will protect their right to do so. What we will not do is run a protection racket for the government, who cannot get their house in order. What we've seen today is another opportunity for the government to do the right thing, to work with the coalition on a range of matters and perhaps progress this bill. But, no, instead of doing that they point to a range of colleagues they want to reflect negatively on because they have a difference of opinion. This is what you have to expect from the Australian Labor Party. If you have a difference of opinion, they're going to call you a flat-earther or part of the tinfoil hat brigade. We just heard that from a government minister. It's not really befitting of a government minister, but that's what we hear in Australia; that's the tone of the debate when they don't get their way.

All we're asking for is a bit of cooperation on a range of matters, and then perhaps this bill will progress. It is unheard of that a government that has the majority in this place can't get a bill to progress. I've never seen it before. It's unbelievable. There are a small number of people down at the end of the chamber who don't support it, yet this government can't progress it. One week on and the debate is where it was on Monday. That is on the government, not on us.

And, on business: Senator McAllister made the point that we'd be familiar with many of the businesses, and we are. We work very closely with the business community because they are the engine room of our economy.

They're the ones that give us the massive surplus that this government has now got—the thing that they take credit for. They don't thank the resources sector. They don't thank the hardworking men and women of Australia that generated that surplus. We will support those businesses, and we will do everything we can for them here. But those businesses, interestingly, have been placing calls to ask us what's going on in here. And, interestingly—would you believe—some of those people that have called have let the cat out of the bag: there are a couple of government ministers who are asking them to call us.

Opposition Senators:

Opposition senators interjecting

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

Yes! 'Please, can you ask the opposition to pass our bill?' Instead of actually asking the government to do their job properly, they want to try and put pressure on us through businesses that want a government to get the job done, to do their job properly. We're not asking much except for a bit of cooperation. The government know exactly what we're talking about. We can be here as long as you want, or you can work with us cooperatively.

10:45 am

Photo of David PocockDavid Pocock (ACT, Independent) Share this | | Hansard source

We've heard the minister talk about the national interest. I've got a question from yesterday, when we were cut off by the hard marker, that goes to national interest, national security and the potential implications of this legislation. We've heard from Senator Duniam that we have, I assume, gas companies calling Labor ministers and asking them to ask the opposition to pass this legislation. Yet we have the minister telling us that this legislation isn't really about that—this is about everything else; this is about setting up the regulatory framework. 'Look over here; don't look at what everyone else seems to acknowledge fairly openly!' We've heard Senator Whish-Wilson outline numerous references and speeches that Minister Bowen has made about legislation that sound a lot like this. But Senator McAllister can't even bring herself to say: 'Yes, this is the legislation we're dealing with. We'll come clean.' Minister Bowen has talked about legislation that would potentially work for the gas industry. And here it is in front of the Senate. It has bipartisan support. You have Labor and the coalition committed to passing this for the fossil fuel industry.

We know that climate change is a national security risk. The Defence strategic review highlighted that. The Labor government committed to a look at the implications of climate change on national security, and the Office of National Intelligence did a report, which the government now refuses to release to the Australian people. Prime Minister Albanese says even the date that they received the report is classified. It is quite extraordinary for a Labor government that talks about transparency to be hiding behind secrecy like that. A number of people on the crossbench in this place and in the other place have pushed the government, pressed the government, for details, for a declassified version of the ONI report—nothing. They can't bring themselves to come clean and tell the truth when it comes to climate change.

Back to my question from yesterday, the Prime Minister has been in the Cook Islands meeting with Pacific Island nations. We know that one of their chief calls is for Australia to join the Port Vila Call for a Just Transition to a Fossil Fuel Free Pacific. We know that climate change is the No. 1 issue in the Pacific. Yesterday, I read an opinion piece by the Minister of Climate Change Adaptation, Meteorology and Geo-Hazards, Energy, Environment and Disaster Management of Vanuatu, Mr Ralph Regenvanu. He called Australia out for our hypocrisy. He highlighted the double—it's not really doublespeak; he highlighted Australia's actions for not matching up with our talk, our rhetoric, in the Pacific. We hear all this talk from ministers about being part of the Pacific family and yet are having this sort of legislation go through the Senate in the same week that the Prime Minister is in the Pacific, I'm sure assuring Pacific Island nations that we're on their side.

Minister, what is the government's assessment of the national security risks of not taking Pacific island leaders' concerns about climate change seriously? On the same day that the Prime Minister is in the Cook Islands meeting with Pacific island leaders, here in Australia, in our parliament, in the Senate, we are passing legislation which could further undermine their future.

Photo of Jenny McAllisterJenny McAllister (NSW, Australian Labor Party, Assistant Minister for Climate Change and Energy) Share this | | Hansard source

The Prime Minister is currently in the Cook Islands meeting with Pacific island leaders and that is incredibly important for our national interest. That is how I would characterise the approach that we take to the Pacific overall. We have been very clear since coming to government that the Pacific relationships are immensely important to us for a range of reasons. They go beyond security. They also go to the extensive people-to-people relationships and a sense of connection that Australians feel with the Pacific family generally. The truth is that the previous government's approach left us with a lot to do to restore that relationship with the Pacific and, in particular, taking action on climate change. We know that there is nothing more central to the security and the economies of the Pacific than climate change, and that is why we are working so closely on those questions in particular. We have increased our overseas development aid to the Pacific by nearly $1 billion over four years. We have climate resilience at the centre of our new international development policy and we have indicated our intention to rejoin the Green Climate Fund.

You mentioned earlier contributions from some Pacific leaders, including Minister Regenvanu. I have had the pleasure of meeting the minister on a number of occasions and I have enjoyed our interactions. I found him to be a direct, courteous contributor and that is the case with many Pacific ministers I have had the pleasure to interact with in this role. We are always upfront in our interactions with Pacific counterparts that transitioning our economies to renewables is a significant process. I think Pacific leaders understand that we are focused both on the urgent task here transitioning our economy and also being part of the solution more generally in the global community.

At home, as I've indicated in earlier contributions, we have substantially increased our ambition as a country since taking government. We have ambitious plans to transition our energy supply to renewables and that is an essential part of our path to net zero. We have re-engaged actively with the global community, recognising that this is an international challenge that requires coordinated global action. We are back playing a very active role in multinational climate discussions and, through that, working to ensure a strong Pacific voice and supporting the elevation of Pacific concerns in the forums in which we participate.

We are also seeking to support the transition for partners in the region. The global transition to net zero—through you, Chair, to Senator Pocock—is the most significant shift in the world's economy since the industrial revolution. Our energy exports make a significant contribution to the stability of global markets and they are particularly important for energy security and livelihoods across the Indo-Pacific. We are working in our region to not only effect our transition but to support the transition of other energy trading partners, including through collaborative efforts to develop the green hydrogen supply chain and our own efforts to expand renewable energy. Our reputation as a trusted trading partner is essential to all of that, to securing a place in the Indo-Pacific and to supporting the transition in the Indo-Pacific.

So, Senator Pocock, you're right to point to those broad questions of national interest in terms of our international relationships. These are things that are front of mind in our international diplomacy, our trade discussions and our own decision-making here at home. I think, in the conversations that the government has with other Pacific leaders, they appreciate the steps that we are taking here and internationally to support that transition more generally.

10:55 am

Photo of David PocockDavid Pocock (ACT, Independent) Share this | | Hansard source

Minister, I'm very concerned that what you've just highlighted and gone over essentially reinforces the concerns of someone like Minister Regenvanu. You talked again about being part of the Pacific family, the challenges of the transition and all of those sorts of things, but you don't acknowledge that expanding the fossil fuel industry essentially means not only that the futures of these Pacific island nations are not looking good but that they very likely face an existential threat in the decades and centuries ahead.

You've highlighted one of the glaring inconsistencies and, I would argue, ways that the Labor Party has just swallowed the talking points of the gas industry. You've talked about the need for stability as a trading partner. I don't understand how ruling out new gas projects under this legislation somehow undermines trade stability, because surely trading partners aren't banking on unapproved projects. It takes a long time to get a gas project up and running, sure. We export almost three-quarters of our gas. The amount of gas used just to compress and liquefy that gas for export is more than every Australian household uses, and yet Labor and the coalition are very happy to go around saying, 'We need more gas. We might run out! What about Australian households?' despite this situation being a total failure of this parliament to reserve some of our gas for domestic consumption. So not only are we exporting 75 per cent of our gas and being told that we need more gas for export, to make these record profits for gas companies, but we are also being told that we can't possibly transition away from gas.

I genuinely think it's this sort of legislation that is not only undermining the future of our Pacific island neighbours, given we're hearing that there are gas companies flooding the phones and saying that this legislation needs to pass the Senate, but undermining our relationship with the Pacific. As we've seen, that has real security implications for us, because if Australia is not a trusted partner, the partner of choice that Pacific island nations know will do what we say we're going do, they'll look elsewhere. What's the benefit for them?

I'd like to go back to Minister Regenvanu's words:

Our ability to adapt will be made impossible by Australia's hypocritical gas expansion plans. Vanuatu has been at the forefront of climate action—we led a coalition of countries to secure an advisory opinion on climate change from the United Nations International Court of Justice, and we are working towards a fossil fuel free Pacific.

At great cost, we are decarbonising our shipping register. We understand that climate action may require short term adjustments and we are willing to do that. I'm not confident that all countries share our resolve.

The Pacific Island nations are in desperate need of genuine allies who will stand with us in our fight for survival. Australia, with its financial resources and international influence, should be such an ally. However, for Australia to be seen as a credible leader of climate talks, it must first resolve glaring inconsistencies in its climate policies.

The fact is that Australia remains the world's third-largest fossil fuel exporter, with 116 new coal and gas projects in the pipeline, some of which are slated to operate until at least 2070. This persistence in fossil fuel expansion is fundamentally at odds with the spirit of the Paris Agreement and poses a direct threat to the climate goals set by the international community.

Australia's bid to lead Cop31 is a momentous opportunity for the nation to prove its dedication to addressing the global climate crisis. The world is watching, and the Pacific Island nations are looking for unwavering support, not empty promises.

Minister, I have two questions. Firstly, does this legislation risk undermining our relationships with Pacific island nations, given that we have heard gas companies are calling senators asking for this to pass? Secondly, has the minister received representation from Pacific island nations about this legislation?

11:01 am

Photo of Jenny McAllisterJenny McAllister (NSW, Australian Labor Party, Assistant Minister for Climate Change and Energy) Share this | | Hansard source

Senator Pocock, I have given you, I think, a relatively expansive answer about the overall posture that the government has taken in relation to discussions we have with Pacific colleagues about decarbonisation here, in the Pacific and across the Indo-Pacific, and I don't intend to add to that. In terms of your second question, I am not in receipt of any representations from Pacific nations in relation to this legislation. You'd appreciates that there are quite a number of ministers in the government who interact with Pacific colleagues—and a very wide range of Pacific colleagues. I'm not in a position to provide a comprehensive answer about every discussion that may have ever taken place in this regard.

Can I also indicates that in your longer contribution prior to getting to the questions, you went to effectively canvassing your amendments on sheet 2151, which you have circulated and I understand intend to move when the chamber decides to deal with the amendment that we are presently considering. Your amendment narrows the scope of the bill so that the London protocol would only apply to some projects, not all project. I want to indicate that the government doesn't support the approach you suggest. Aside from anything else, it would prevent us from meeting our obligations under the London protocol, which is a treaty that is established to protect the environment and ensure that any project that is undertaken is assessed consistent with the robust environmental tests that are established under that internationally agreed protocol.

It's also the case, of course, that our government has already legislated for reducing Australia's emissions under the safeguard mechanism. That is a piece of legislation that was supported by Senator Pocock and by the Greens political party. We also have legislation that deals with the assessment and approval of any new project through the EPBC Act. As you will be aware, Senator Pocock, government is working to improve this legislation and protections through our environmental laws for the projects, including any elements of any project that might be outside the scope of a sea dumping permit. The London protocol recognises the benefits in supporting our regional partners in their decarbonisation to transition to net zero.

As I've indicated on many occasions in the course of the debate, before us is a sensible bunch of reforms to regulate a set of activities that do require regulation. I'm surprised that senators interested in environmental protection aren't so interested in this important regulatory project.

11:04 am

Photo of Dorinda CoxDorinda Cox (WA, Australian Greens) Share this | | Hansard source

Thank you, Minister. As I said in my speech in the second reading debate, the linking of this this bill to the Barossa Gas Project has been made pretty clear by my colleagues Senator Whish-Wilson and Senator Hanson-Young through the questions they've asked over the past few days. But the government is still unwilling to admit the connection of this bill to the Barossa gas field. This bill is going to be facilitated through what happens in Middle Arm and the inquiry that we have.

Opposition senators took the opportunity to ask that very valid question, 'What's happening now with the Middle Arm inquiry?' That's a very valid question to the government. But how do we, how does the Australian public, some of whom are here in the gallery today or watching online, believe anything that this government says they're doing when they can't even be transparent about what they're doing with this piece of legislation? We heard my colleague Senator Whish-Wilson, and also Senator David Pocock, talk very articulately about the science, about the reputation of Australia and about the capture of states and corporates by the gas cartels in this country and what they continue to do. Senator Whish-Wilson outlined what this bill could possibly do about facilitating the import and export of carbon waste for carbon capture and storage in waters that fall outside the Commonwealth jurisdiction.

It's like we're going to take our rubbish and just throw it over the fence into Timor-Leste's waters—one of the poorest countries in the world. We are a very fortunate country here in Australia, but just think we can dump it over there, where it's out of sight and out of mind—not our problem. We let companies, like the Santos mates of those over there, do the bidding on behalf of the government—because that's what they're doing. And that's what this company's plan is: to justify a carbon bomb. It's a cultural-heritage-destroying project—that's what the Barossa gas project is. The Tiwi people have been in court twice and there is currently a live injunction around the lack of respect and the lack of consultation with the Tiwi people.

In this project, as we know, Santos claims that they'll be able to capture their scope 1 emissions and transfer them to the depleted gas field, Bayu-Undan in the Timor Sea, 500 kilometres north-west of Darwin. As a proud Western Australian senator—and Senator Whish-Wilson mentioned this—I know that CCS has not been proven. Wheatstone is operating at a third of its capacity; CCS is a flawed, flawed system. We know that it isn't going to be at the scale that needs to be the option for this project—we know that! It only covers scope 1 emissions, and we know that the vast majority of emissions from the Barossa project are actually going to be scope 2 and scope 3. But we had that argument during the safeguard legislation. This government can try to spin this bill all they like—that it isn't giving a free kick to Santos, but it actually is. It's what we're all sitting here debating. We're very happy that the coalition have allowed us on the crossbench to continue to ask the questions that are so important.

Bayu-Undan is not that far from Darwin and it's not that far from my home state of Western Australia, which earlier this year was in fact flooded. People have spent millions of dollars going in there and cleaning up the mess that's linked to the science which is linked to the whole planet cooking because we continue this gaslit fascination and relationship with the coal and gas sector in this country.

Not only should we be moving away from fossil fuels—exactly as Senator David Pocock outlined—but our Pacific neighbours are urging us to do this. They're pleading with Australia in every UN forum. I was at COP27 in Egypt only last year and the Australian government didn't turn up on the first day to hear the UN Secretary-General give his address and talk about the planet boiling—didn't even have the decency to show up on day 1. Representatives flew in part way through COP and decided, 'We're here for the negotiations'. To negotiate what? Climate action? Really? You're not even listening to what's happening. We're completely in a bubble and ignorant of the fact that the climate science is very clear. The global community are urging us to listen, and we're just ignoring them. They're telling us, 'No more new coal and gas projects,' but we've got 116 in the pipeline. We're continuing to extend and open up new coal and gas projects in this country, and this bill will continue that legacy. It will continue to create climate bombs. Do we just think we're going to dump it in the seabed floor? It's ridiculous.

It's not just going to ensure that we go backwards on our climate action; it's also going to facilitate destroying the ancient burial sites that I spoke about during my speech in the second reading debate. These are the first point of contact in this country for First Nations people in the Tiwi Islands, in that strait, where their songlines run through. We've got evidence that this pipeline will run right over the top of that and destroy the point of contact for this nation. It's shameful that this government would talk about their respect for First Nations people in this country during the referendum and then come in here and ignore the fact that this bill is linked to the Barossa project. The Tiwi people, who are the traditional owners of the Tiwi Islands, are in the Federal Court debating and fighting against big gas companies like Santos to stop the destruction of these culturally significant sites. These sites are part of the history of this nation. But Santos couldn't even be bothered to find that out; they didn't think it was important.

I don't know about anyone else, but I don't think we're running a pipeline through the Australian War Memorial down the road, or through the Shrine of Remembrance in Melbourne—or through any graveyard in this country. How do people think that it's okay when somebody tells them they're doing that to an ancient burial site? 'Never mind, we'll just run a pipeline right through there.' They'll destroy that, all in the name of the Barossa gas field, which is directly linked to this bill.

Minister, has the government conducted any due diligence about the cultural heritage that could be impacted by CCS at Bayu-Undan in the Timor Sea?

11:13 am

Photo of Jenny McAllisterJenny McAllister (NSW, Australian Labor Party, Assistant Minister for Climate Change and Energy) Share this | | Hansard source

Thanks for the question. I have a couple of points that go to your broader contribution, Senator Cox. The amendments that were made to the London protocol that are the subject of this bill were made in 2009 and then in 2013. They were then considered by the Joint Standing Committee on Treaties in 2020. The legislation that's before us commenced development under the previous government. What's before us today is a longstanding commitment, across successive governments, to meet our obligations under the London protocol, to which we are a signatory.

The effect of these changes potentially provides a pathway for any number of project proponents to make application in relation to the transport or movement of carbon dioxide. You're incorrect to say that we've sought to hide its connection to gas projects, which I think was your assertion. Under the safeguard legislation, if they are covered projects, gas projects are required to reduce their emissions, and of course the government recognises that carbon capture and storage may be one of the mechanisms that they use. Under those arrangements, proponents are responsible for the emissions that remain, and so of course it is in the interests of proponents to develop projects that actually are effective in sequestering emissions.

That's, for the most part, not the subject of this bill. This bill is relatively narrow in seeking to establish a framework for the transborder movement of carbon dioxide. As I've explained on many occasions, it is the government's view that it's important to have a framework for assessments of projects of this kind in place before we receive advice that projects of this kind want to proceed. There's quite a lot of work that would need to be done before any permit could be issued, including establishing a bilateral agreement with an importing or a receiving country. There is a significant set of steps that would need to be taken before we got to the point of issuing any kind of permit.

In any case, any project that was undertaken in Australian waters would be subject to all of the existing regulatory arrangements that would apply to any project, and nothing about this bill changes that. That includes that nothing about this bill alters any of the existing arrangements that apply in relation to cultural heritage.

11:17 am

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

Minister, based on what you have just said—correct me if I'm wrong—you want to get this protocol in place now to make it more efficient for companies when they're ready to go and develop projects that require the export or import of carbon dioxide, like the Barossa gas project. Is that what you're saying?

Photo of Jenny McAllisterJenny McAllister (NSW, Australian Labor Party, Assistant Minister for Climate Change and Energy) Share this | | Hansard source

That incorrectly summarises my evidence over the course of, I think, four days now. What I have said is that the government recognises that any project of this kind should be appropriately regulated. It's prudent to have a regulatory framework in place before we receive any concrete project application so that the regulatory arrangements are known to all of the stakeholders who might have an interest in the project. That of course includes project proponents, but it would also include community who have an interest in understanding what kinds of obligations might be in place and what kinds of regulatory tests might apply if a project were to be considered by government.

11:18 am

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

Considering the decades the oil and gas industry has been out there drilling our ocean and blasting it with seismic guns, isn't it interesting that now we have this move to have this regulation put in place just in case someone wants to export their carbon dioxide pollution across boundaries or import carbon dioxide and stick it in a geological reservoir under the ocean, potentially where they have a depleted oil and gas well that they have to spend billions of dollars on decommissioning? Isn't it interesting that the minister's implying that it's better to get this done now, before the applications come in or just in case we have application, when we know, based on Minister Bowen's comments in the media, very clearly that Japanese investors and Santos are seeking this legislation to facilitate the Barossa oil and gas project?

Minister, you've also said repeatedly in your responses to questions in recent days that it's better to have a regulatory structure than not to have one and we might see activities in our oceans that aren't regulated. Could you explain how it would be possible for the Barossa project to proceed and build 100 kilometres of pipeline across Commonwealth waters to access the Bayu-Undan field in Timor-Leste without this legislation?

Are you saying they could just do that and that is why we need this? I am a bit confused.

11:19 am

Photo of Jenny McAllisterJenny McAllister (NSW, Australian Labor Party, Assistant Minister for Climate Change and Energy) Share this | | Hansard source

I'm not going to speculate about particular projects. We do not have a project proposal in front of us, and the purpose of this legislation is to generate an orderly and knowable process by which any project application could be received and assessed.

11:20 am

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

I would argue that a project as big as the Barossa project does come directly to why we have this legislation before the Senate. I would argue that those proponents have raised their concerns around following the safeguard mechanism, which the Greens negotiated in good faith with the government, and we did significantly improve that legislation. We know it is a matter of public record that the commitments for Barossa on their scope 1 emissions is around $1 billion, maybe slightly less, that they need to offset up-front. The Japanese investors in that project and Santos, Woodside—you name it—have all raised significant concerns about this. That is when the genesis of the CCS idea for this legislation was born. Yes, you can talk about London protocol, JSCOT committees and others in previous years, but it is now crystallised into this bill before the Senate following the safeguard mechanism. None of us in here are going to be conned into thinking that this is just a coincidence, that we are doing good governance to get this ready just in case someone should be applying. There have clearly been discussions at the highest levels with our government and the Japanese government. They want investor certainty. They want a framework that will give them confidence to participate and develop this project. That is what we're doing here today.

I just wanted to take to task comments you made in previous contributions when Senator Pocock had just spoken. You said we are playing politics with this and, if we really cared about the environment, we would somehow support this legislation, or that you would expect us to support a framework that better protects the environment. Minister, we're not playing politics with this. Everyone understands what the Greens are and what we stand for. We will do everything we can in this place to stop new fossil fuel projects, to do what the International Energy Agency tells us what we need to do, to do what the United Nations yesterday told us in its latest report we need to do. We want to stop new fossil fuel projects. We were not able to do that through the safeguard mechanism. You would know that we made a strong campaign on no new oil and gas, so please respect the fact that we are in here doing what millions of people voted for us to do—that is, to hold the government of the day to account and get climate action.

We heard from Senator Green yesterday when she moved that the Senate take note of the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage committee report. She spoke about the great work the government is doing on climate. I want Australians to understand, when they hear Mr Albanese and senior Labor ministers go out there and say they are taking action on climate, it gives you away; it shows who you are as a government. The fact you are trying to sneak through this legislation—the timing of it—is to design a regulatory structure to facilitate the Barossa gas project, the dirtiest gas project in our nation's history. On top of that, I have significant concerns that the legislation, if we vote for it today, is taking the first step towards giving a number of companies an out on their decommissioning liabilities, if they decide that they have a depleted field that they can import carbon dioxide on. We are enabling that today. There is no way around it; that is the case.

Secondly, we are going to be conducting a massive increase in seismic testing around our nation. It is like a coming thunderstorm for our oceans, at a time when we are just learning about the risks and dangers that this activity poses to marine life, not to mention to geological structures, instability and earthquakes, which could potentially undermine these technologies, if indeed they even work.

And who would know?

I also did a little bit of reading, since we last chatted, about the Sleipner project in Norway, and even the most recent scholarly articles show it is actually impossible to determine if that carbon capture and storage project is leaking CO2. It was a significant source of concern that CO2 leaked out of the area that was identified as a storage geological structure. It's gone elsewhere in the anticline, but no-one's quite sure whether it's leaking. But they said it just can't be done. When you're talking about geological structures that are 20, 30 or 50 kilometres in size and on an ocean bed that is so complex and full of reefs and all sorts of geological structures—underwater canyons, mountains—how can you detect whether it's actually leaking? It's impossible.

So we need to be very realistic, and that is why the amendment before the chair and this chamber is to put assurances in place so that, if there is any damage or any liabilities around decommissioning or other things, that is dealt with today. And I don't think that is an unreasonable ask, Minister. So I would ask you again: why can't we legislate today to have these safeguards and assurances put in place? If you want the Senate to accept that we're going to take a significant step towards enabling carbon capture and storage in our oceans, why can't we have these safeguards put in place?

11:26 am

Photo of Jenny McAllisterJenny McAllister (NSW, Australian Labor Party, Assistant Minister for Climate Change and Energy) Share this | | Hansard source

Thanks, Senator Whish-Wilson. Of course the government understands the need to have financial assurance when it comes to the activities covered under this bill. However, under the Offshore Petroleum and Greenhouse Storage Act there are already provisions to include conditions for titleholders to maintain insurance and to impose discretionary securities. We've talked a bit already about the regulatory review that is underway to ensure that the regime that governs offshore activities, including CCS, is fit for purpose. It will examine the existing regime to ensure that appropriate policy and regulatory settings are in place through the whole life cycle of CCs activities, from exploration through to decommissioning of CCS project assets, to ensure that risks are appropriately managed.

11:27 am

Photo of Dorinda CoxDorinda Cox (WA, Australian Greens) Share this | | Hansard source

Minister, you've outlined to us, several times over the course of this debate, around the London protocol. If it was signed in 2009, why now? On the back of Senator Whish-Wilson's question, what is the sense of urgency to ram this legislation through today, to try and gag our debate on this and the valid questions that the Greens, alongside Senator Pocock, have in order to get the answers for the Australian public to know, as Senator Whish-Wilson has already said, that this is a safe venture to increase carbon capture and storage? Why now? Why does this government seek to do this, when we've got Woodside's CEO, Meg O'Neill, out, after the annual investors gathering, talking about the uncertainty in the gas market and how we need to make sure that we get to the final investment decision to shore up our gas for 2025? Is this the reason that this government, who is beholden to their donors and their fossil fuel mates, is ramming this legislation through, Minister?

11:28 am

Photo of Jenny McAllisterJenny McAllister (NSW, Australian Labor Party, Assistant Minister for Climate Change and Energy) Share this | | Hansard source

Thank you, Senator Cox. Senator Cox, I simply can't accept that a debate that has commenced on Monday and is continuing on Friday could in any way be characterised as ramming something through. I can't explain the actions of previous governments in relation to the London protocol. But I can say, as I have previously, that this legislation has been coming towards the parliament in a reasonably steady way since at least 2020, when it was first considered by the Joint Standing Committee on Treaties and these amendments were considered minor treaty actions and recommended for ratification.

I've been quite clear from the outset, too, that the government is interested in regularising all of the arrangements around carbon capture and storage. We were upfront. We've been very upfront about this, and we provided money in the budget to ensure that all of the settings around carbon capture and storage were appropriate and adequate. This is one part of that. We want to make sure that, if there is a transport or a movement of carbon dioxide, there is a regulatory regime that can capture those circumstances and manage it. We think that is the right thing to do for our own policy settings, but we also think it's the right thing to do in terms of our obligations to the international community.

11:30 am

Photo of Dorinda CoxDorinda Cox (WA, Australian Greens) Share this | | Hansard source

Minister, I would like to read from a submission regarding the Darwin Pipeline Duplication Project from our friends across the Timor Sea:

Greetings from your neighbours across the Timor Sea.

As an independent civil society organization, La'o Hamutuk, the Timor-Leste Institute for Development Monitoring and Analysis, closely follows issues in Australia and Timor-Leste, including many aspects of the oil and gas industry which straddle our two nations. Although this is our first submission to NTEPA, La'o Hamutuk has made nearly a dozen submissions to government agencies in Australia. We hope that our information and analysis will help you make wise decisions which protect the environment and the people of both the Northern Territory and Timor-Leste.

Since 2000, La'o Hamutuk has analysed and monitored the activities of the Timorese Government, its development partners, and multilateral agencies, advocating for policies which promote sustainable and equitable economic and social development. Through this work, we try to ensure that our country's sovereignty is recognized and that all of Timor-Leste's people – both women and men, as well as current and future generations – can participate in sustainable, just, inclusive and transparent development which respects human rights and people's cultures.

In this submission, Minister, our friends in the Timor Sea talk a lot about their relationship with the sea and with sea country, but they also talk specifically about what the impact will be. As Senator Whish-Wilson said—and your government claim that they have no conversations currently live with people who are applying for this—we know that the Barossa project and the wells that are owned at Bayu-Undan will be the place. We won't be surprised when this happens. But, in this submission, these friends of ours from Timor-Leste want us to understand how this will impact them, so they write to us and say:

Our submission is written from a Timor-Leste perspective, and we don't presume to speak for the people of the Northern Territory. We encourage you to carefully consider issues raised by people there, including by Aboriginal and environmental organizations.

The NTEPA should not look at the part of this project that falls within the Northern Territory in isolation, as it affects your neighbours and the global climate. Environmental risks don't stop at the three-mile limit; they are not constrained by the 200-mile EEZ. Gas extraction from Barossa and carbon storage at Bayu-Undan may be outside your territorial jurisdiction, but they are intrinsic elements of the proposed DPD project …

A piecemeal approach to a project which straddles multiple jurisdictions may not adequately protect our common welfare. Overarching issues might fall outside of each authority's localized mandate and be overlooked – there is more to this project than the pipelines currently before you.

We know that the Bayu-Undan pipeline has been in place since 2004, but, as Senator Whish-Wilson said, there has not been much work done to look at whether it's leaking or whether it's intact or what those things look like, yet we're going to pass legislation in this place to look at those things.

The conclusion of the submission, which is dated February 2022, said:

People on both sides of the Timor Sea are currently commemorating the 80th anniversary of the Japanese-Australian conflict in Timor-Leste during World War II, which killed tens of thousands of our people in order to avert an expected invasion of the Northern Territory by Japanese soldiers. Although the people of Timor-Leste continue to be respectful neighbours to our Australian friends, we do not appreciate being told once again that we must endure disproportionate suffering to enable you to continue your comfortable lives.

I don't know how much more frank the people of Timor-Leste need to be with the Australian government or the Australian public than they are in that statement. That alone says a lot about how they feel when we are on this side of the Timor Sea continue to make laws which will impact others and continue to be involved in social and economic ventures that have an impact on others. We have heard from Senator David Pocock about the Pacific.

It continues by saying:

We trust that the good people of the Northern Territory will put a stop to this effort at "carbon colonialism" before it gets too far.

'Carbon colonialism' is the language that they use. This concludes their submission, and they have made this submission with the intention of bringing this to the attention of the Australian government. Minister, I would really like to hear what consultation your government, in the lead-up to this bill, has engaged in, particularly with the first peoples of Timor-Leste, about the impact of carbon capture and storage. You say that you don't have any project details available, but I think all of us sitting here know that CCS at Bayu-Undan needs to be facilitated through a bill like this and in order for the Barossa gas field to go ahead and so that Darwin's LNG plant at Middle Arm can continue.

Minister, this government is responsible to its international neighbours, including to its Pacific neighbours, and your government has facilitated lots of country visit. But we are not good global leaders. We are not even good leaders within our region because we are doing things that we know will have an impact on low-lying island nations not just in the Pacific. Have a look at the Torres Strait and have a look at the Tiwi Islands because they are impacted, but we continue to do things that we know will have an impact and we don't consult with people. I'm really keen to hear from this government about what consultation is undertaken. Senator Hanson-Young has asked this question of environment groups, but I want to know who else you have spoken to, Minister. What other groups have you spoken to? What other nations and what other people will be impacted by this piece of legislation? This legislation concerns sea dumping in parts of areas near low-lying island nations, and coastal communities will be affected not just here in Australia but also overseas.

11:38 am

Photo of Jenny McAllisterJenny McAllister (NSW, Australian Labor Party, Assistant Minister for Climate Change and Energy) Share this | | Hansard source

Senator Cox, can I take the opportunity to perhaps provide a point of clarification about a matter that you raised in your contribution. You made a suggestion about my contributions over the course of the last few days, and I think you said the government is not in conversation about projects. That's not correct and that's not the information that I have provided to the Senate. Of course, the government is in conversation about projects. What I have made clear is that there is no application before the government because the legislation that would facilitate any such application is not in place. Secondly, you ask about the interaction with Timor-Leste.

I think the basic point to make here is that Australia respects Timor-Leste's right to make sovereign decisions about inward investment; these are questions for a sovereign government. I understand that in that country, as in ours, it's likely there'll be a range of views about the best path forward for development. But these are matters for sovereign governments to manage.

In terms of the way that we would interact with any government that was seeking an arrangement with us for transport and movement of carbon dioxide, it's necessary—as I've explained on a number of occasions—under the London protocol for a country-to country agreement to be established before any such movement or key meeting could be allowed.

11:40 am

Photo of Glenn SterleGlenn Sterle (WA, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Seriously, what a pathetic stunt this is! Here we have the opposition siding with the Greens to vote against a bill that they agreed with. For the benefit of those sitting in the gallery, or listening online or on the radio, this is a bill that they've said publicly they support—the Liberal-Nationals. That mob. The opposition has said that this bill is important to underwriting investment certainty for carbon capture and storage projects.

And it is, particularly in my home state of WA. And yet, despite their public support for this piece of important legislation, they have chosen to play kiddie politics. I have to ask: what does the opposition believe? Do they support regulatory certainty or don't they? Do they support a bill that has been endorsed by both the House and a Senate committee? What is clear—and bizarre, quite frankly—is that they now don't support a bill which they had themselves acknowledged as important in underwriting investment certainty for carbon capture and storage projects.

There is a range of emerging carbon capture and storage projects around the country that cannot proceed without this legislation. Carbon capture and storage is, potentially, an important stepping stone in maintaining energy security while also reducing the carbon footprint of our energy sources. It's estimated that if the current, or currently planned, WA projects go ahead they will have the capacity to store more than eight million tonnes of CO2 annually. That would represent over 11 per cent of WA's annual current emissions. If those opposite are serious about achieving both of these important goals then they need to stop with the kiddie political games and stunts and provide the regulatory—and, therefore, investment—certainty that the energy sector needs. If they care about jobs in the WA resources sector—and I know that those in the corner there don't—then they will get out of the way. The opposition is holding these up from progressing. We, the grown-ups in the Labor Party, on this side, believe in providing regulatory certainty for industry and community. Those opposite, with that mob in the corner, choose to oppose it. The actions of those opposite are putting Australian projects at risk, and this means they're putting Australian jobs at risk.

The minister has outlined a range of projects that will be formally regulated under this legislation, and I'll tell you about some of the projects in your state, Senator Cox, of Western Australia. I just wanted to mention that so that every Western Australia knows that you're the one holding this up! And there are projects in Victoria and the Northern Territory. The WA projects are being driven by industry, with support from government. There has been extensive industry and community consultation. It seems that the main obstacle in providing the certainty industry needs to progress this is coming from the Liberals and the Nationals. I wish them luck in explaining their latest political stunt to the people of Western Australia! These are projects which are backed by some of our closest trading partners, who want to invest in Australian carbon capture and storage projects.

The coalition—the Liberals and the Nationals—talk about supporting investment and jobs. But, presented with an opportunity to do just that, they fail the test. The bill gives effect to Australia's international obligations arising out of the 2009 and 2013 amendments to the London protocol.

Specifically, the bill gives effect to our international commitments in relation to the safe and effective regulation of the export of carbon dioxide streams from carbon dioxide capture processes for the purposes of sequestration into a sub-seabed geological formation. The bill is important to provide regulatory certainty for carbon capture and storage projects that rely on transboundary movement of carbon. There are at least five projects the government is aware of that cannot progress without this legislation, as I've said. I've said that these projects are in Western Australia, where I proudly come from, Victoria and the Northern Territory. As I said earlier, the bill would enable these projects to be safely and properly regulated, which is important to protect the marine environment.

CCS technology is a mature technology. There hasn't been a particular need or drive to do large CO2 storage until recent times, when we've had to think about carbon abatement. The UN IPCC, the Climate Change Authority, the CSIRO and the International Energy Agency all recognise the need for CCS as a key tool to drive decarbonisation outcomes across the resources sector. Unlike those opposite—forget about them in the corner!—I commend the bill to the Senate, and I encourage the opposition to stop playing politics and get behind it too.

11:46 am

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

I just wonder whether Senator Sterle missed the memo from his leadership. We're still here—to the people in the gallery—not for any reason other than that the Australian government, who have the numbers to pass this bill, are not doing what they need to do to pass the bill. I've already explained to the chamber a couple of times now that the Australian government have the majority of votes in this place to progress this bill but refuse to do so because they refuse to cooperate on a range of matters. This is typical of the Australian Labor government. Here we are, five days on from when this bill came in for its second reading debate. We're now in the committee stage, and nothing has happened. Nothing has progressed.

If you listened to Senator Sterle's contribution, you'd know he's passionate about the resources sector. He's passionate about what it does for the hardworking men and women of his home state. If that is absolutely the case then I would say to Senator Sterle that he should go and have a word with his Senate leadership about what they need to do to get this bill moving, because right now all they're doing is sticking their fingers in their ears and saying: 'No, it's our way or the highway. We want everything our way, and we're not going to work with anyone else to get anything else happening. Just vote with us. It's what your job is. Rubberstamp our stuff.'

As we know, the coalition support this legislation, but equally we support and defend the right of our crossbench colleagues to interrogate this legislation to their heart's content, and we will back that in. We will back that in until, of course, we have some cooperation from this intransigent government that doesn't care about things like the cost of living, for example. Here we are in a Senate-only sitting week, and we all thought at the beginning of this week: 'It's a bit weird that we're allowing this debate to just go on. Oh, well, we'll go along with it for a bit.' I think we all knew why. Deep down, in the pit of our stomachs, we understood that the government, because they had nothing to do this week but they'd recalled us all to Canberra and wanted to save face, they just had to pad it out. So this is convenient for them. They make a big song and dance about it, but they are quite happy and relieved that we're at the end of this week and are still sitting here debating the first piece of legislation that was on their agenda for the week.

None of it has anything to do with the cost-of-living crisis created by the Labor government, the Labor cost-of-living crisis. Let's not forget that promise to bring down power prices. We're talking about energy in relation to this piece of legislation. Well, what about honouring the promise that was made to Australian households to bring power bills down by $275, or any of the other cost-of-living horrors being faced by Australian households and businesses at the moment? There's not a peep out of the Australian government. They just want to slag us off, call us names, demand things be their way and then send in poor old Senator Sterle to read out some speech notes written, I dare say, by the minister's office, when he seems to have missed the memo that they're the ones in charge. The ball is in their court.

We could move on right now if they happened to be in a cooperative mood. Instead, in true Labor fashion, it is their way or the highway. Australia: this is why the bill's bogged down—because the Australian Labor Party are so arrogant that they won't do anything to assist with other issues that face this chamber.

11:50 am

Photo of Penny Allman-PaynePenny Allman-Payne (Queensland, Australian Greens) Share this | | Hansard source

Senator Sterle, in his remarks just previously, said that the government is acting like the grown-up. I don't think that's the badge of honour that Senator Sterle thinks it is. According to scientists quoted in a report by CNN, humanity has just lived through the hottest 12 months in at least 125,000 years. The article says:

Month after month since June, the world has been abnormally hot. Scientists have compared this year's climate-change fallout to "a disaster movie"—soaring temperatures, fierce wildfires, powerful storms and devastating floods—and new data is now revealing just how exceptional the global heat has been.

In the last couple of weeks, Gladstone in Central Queensland, where I live, has been surrounded by fires and its air has been thick with smoke. In southern Queensland we've had fires that have already—before the end of October—taken people's lives. We are in a climate emergency. It is the era of global boiling. Far from the 'grown-ups' in the government taking serious action to end coal, oil and gas and stopping the opening of new coal, oil and gas projects, they are still actively facilitating their expansion and ongoing production. It's not the adults in the government who are taking action; it's young people out on the streets. It's School Strike 4 Climate and young people taking governments to court for not protecting their future. I don't actually mind, to be honest, not being called the adult, because, as a teacher who has taught young people for 30 years, I actually think young people are pretty great. Right now, they know where the climate's at.

Senator Sterle also said this bill is about regulatory certainty. Well, what is certain is that, as the Environment Centre NT have observed, this bill represents the Albanese government's collusion with and active pursuit of this gas industry strategy, including the 'greenwashing of significant fossil fuel expansion plans in Australia.' In their submission to the inquiry by the Environment and Communications Legislation Committee into the provisions of the bill, they said it 'prolongs dependence on fossil fuels and delays their replacement with renewable alternatives'. They said it 'creates environmental, health and safety risks for communities with CCS infrastructure'.

The Wilderness Society, in their submission, urged the government to deliver overdue reforms to the EPBC Act ahead of fossil fuel industry demands. They said:

It is disappointing that the Albanese government has created space within its environmental legislative agenda for this before effective, future focused environment laws that would actually help the environment are brought forward. Urgent environmental matters lay dormant while the needs of the fossil fuel industry leap ahead of the queue.

The Environmental Defenders Office said it is of the view:

… policies such as CCS and geoengineering carry the risk of justifying ongoing use and extraction of fossil fuels, and strongly recommends they should not be promoted or encouraged in order to sustain the life of the fossil fuel industry. CCS in particular also carries significant risk of additional and unintentional emissions pollution in its operation, while the environmental and social risks of large scale geoengineering remain unknown.

Given all of that—given that we know CCS as a technology is not proven at scale and that this bill will actively facilitate those companies like Santos who are donating massive amounts of money to the big political parties and haven't paid any tax—I draw your attention, Minister, to the Production gap report 2023, which said in relation to Australia:

There is no national policy framework aiming to restrict fossil fuel exploration, production, or infrastructure development.

Considering this bill seems to be expanding fossil fuel exploration, production and infrastructure development, how is this current bill consistent with the government's stated net-zero commitments?

11:55 am

Photo of Jenny McAllisterJenny McAllister (NSW, Australian Labor Party, Assistant Minister for Climate Change and Energy) Share this | | Hansard source

Thanks, Senator Allman-Payne. I have on very many occasions in the course of this debate set out the approach the government is taking on our trajectory to net zero and, in particular, the obligations that are placed on safeguard facilities to reduce their emissions consistent with our obligations under the Paris Agreement and the approach taken under the UNFCCC accounting framework for greenhouse gas emissions. I don't have anything to add to the information I've already provided to the chamber in this regard.

11:56 am

Photo of Penny Allman-PaynePenny Allman-Payne (Queensland, Australian Greens) Share this | | Hansard source

The Production gap report 2023, released this week, models nine variable global pathways under subsets of or individual 1.5-degree-consistent scenarios. Of these nine pathways, the cessation of coal, oil and gas production indicates a clear pathway towards this goal. Of interest, for the benefit of the current bill before us, is the plateauing or negligible role of carbon capture and storage. Considering this bill and the government's agenda at large seem to involve the continuing expansion of coal, oil and gas production and the usage of failed CCS technologies, how is the current bill before us consistent with modelling that shows it to be a failed pathway?

11:57 am

Photo of Jenny McAllisterJenny McAllister (NSW, Australian Labor Party, Assistant Minister for Climate Change and Energy) Share this | | Hansard source

Senator Allman-Payne, I have in my previous answer indicated that the government's approach to getting to net zero has been well established. There is a safeguard mechanism that puts in place obligations for covered facilities. The government is also in the process of developing six sector plans which will set out our pathway to 2050 for a range of sectors, including industry. It is one of the six. Those sector pathways will be developed in consultation with stakeholders, including industry stakeholder. Also, as I think you know, the parliament has sought advice from the Climate Change Authority to provide input into those documents. The pathway, of course, requires a decline in emissions, and Australia is in the process of rapidly transitioning our energy sector, in the first instance, away from fossil fuels and towards an increasing reliance on renewables. We are conscious also of the opportunities that exist in the transport sector, and they are in turn dependent on the decarbonisation of our electricity grid. These are some of the many technology and transition questions that will be contemplated in the sector plans and more generally by the government on our path to net zero.

11:59 am

Photo of Janet RiceJanet Rice (Victoria, Australian Greens) Share this | | Hansard source

Thank you, Minister, for the long time that you've been in here this week answering questions in this committee stage. I acknowledge that I haven't been in here for a lot of the time, so there is a lot of ground that's probably been covered that I'm also going to be covering now.

But I just want to start by setting the scene. From some of the debate that I've heard, there have been assertions by the government, I understand, that this bit of legislation actually isn't connected with facilitating new gas projects.

Obviously, the huge concern of the Greens and why we are willing to stay here for as long as possible is that it seems pretty clear to us that the point of this legislation is to facilitate new gas projects—and a massive new gas project in particular: the Barossa gas field, which is a carbon bomb which, if it went ahead, would result in the emission of about 13 million tonnes of carbon dioxide every year, about three per cent of Australia's current emissions.

Minister, can you clarify for me this assertion that, from what I understand from having been in here on and off during the last four days, this particular bit of legislation is disconnected from the expansion of gas projects?

12:00 pm

Photo of Jenny McAllisterJenny McAllister (NSW, Australian Labor Party, Assistant Minister for Climate Change and Energy) Share this | | Hansard source

Thank you for your acknowledgement that your question may traverse old ground. I will provide a brief answer. The purpose of this bill is to implement our obligations under the London protocol, to which we are a signatory. There was amendment made to that protocol in 2009 and then another one made in 2013. The first of those, from 2009, seeks to deal with circumstances where there is a transborder movement of carbon dioxide. The reason sit eeks to do that is that, under those circumstances, the international community and the signatories to the protocol judged that it would be important that there be a shared commitment to proper regulation of any such movement. I should indicate that that is movement for the purposes of subsea storage. It applies narrowly to that category of purposes.

The approach taken under the protocol and reflected in this legislation is that, prior to any such movement being contemplated, there would need to be a bilateral agreement between the parties. That would be required irrespective of whether or not the parties were both signatories to the London protocol or only one of them was. The obligation on the signatories is to ensure that this agreement is in place and that it canvasses a range of matters relevant to safely and clearly identifying the arrangement that would be put in place for environmental protection and environmental assessment. Subsequent to that, the bill envisages that, should such an arrangement be put in place between Australia and any other country, there would then be a permitting regime established.

It is not proposed to narrow the application of these arrangements to some projects and not others. Essentially, the regime that's proposed would be available to any project proponent that sought to move carbon dioxide across national borders. The purpose of the regulatory arrangements is to ensure that, if that happens, there is an appropriate environmental impact assessment and a range of other protections in place.

12:03 pm

Photo of Janet RiceJanet Rice (Victoria, Australian Greens) Share this | | Hansard source

Thank you for that, Minister. Can you then tell me what would happen to potential new, massive carbon bomb gas developments if this legislation didn't go ahead?

Photo of Jenny McAllisterJenny McAllister (NSW, Australian Labor Party, Assistant Minister for Climate Change and Energy) Share this | | Hansard source

I'm trying to make sense of your question in the context of the information I've provided to you. Perhaps the best way is to say that I don't accept your characterisation of any of the projects before us. I'm simply reflecting on the regulations and legislation that are discussed here. I think the important thing to understand is that Australia is committed to meeting our obligations under the Paris Agreement. As you know, we've recently updated the targets that we have committed to the UNFCCC.

The chief mechanism that we utilise in relation to large projects, in order to manage our emissions reduction obligations, is the safeguard mechanism. That's not the subject of the bill that's here before us, but I point you to that because I think you're asking me, in essence, 'How does Australia intend to manage its emission reduction obligations?'

12:05 pm

Photo of Janet RiceJanet Rice (Victoria, Australian Greens) Share this | | Hansard source

Thanks for that, Minister, but that didn't answer my question. I'll put it in a, perhaps, less colourful way: what would the implications be for potential new gas projects if this legislation didn't go ahead? In particular—and I understand there are potentially five projects—would the government be able to be forthcoming about the five projects which wouldn't proceed without this legislation?

Photo of Jenny McAllisterJenny McAllister (NSW, Australian Labor Party, Assistant Minister for Climate Change and Energy) Share this | | Hansard source

Essentially, whether or not a project proceeds is a matter for proponents, and that is an assessment that proponents make. In doing so they base their assessment on a range of factors including regulatory certainty but also, of course, finance and their assessment of the business case for the project at hand.

In the course of the debate, I have previously made reference to four projects that the government is aware of where there is a proposal to import carbon dioxide utilising the framework and the mechanisms, if they were available, that would be put in place under this bill. I've listed them previously. They are carbon capture and storage projects.

12:06 pm

Photo of Janet RiceJanet Rice (Victoria, Australian Greens) Share this | | Hansard source

Could you name them for me, and could you please be explicit about what the future prospects of the Barossa project would be if this legislation does not go ahead?

Photo of Jenny McAllisterJenny McAllister (NSW, Australian Labor Party, Assistant Minister for Climate Change and Energy) Share this | | Hansard source

I have named these projects on a number of occasions through the course of the debate. They are CStore1 in Western Australia, CarbonNet in Victoria, SEA CCS hub in Victoria and Darwin LNG hub in the Northern Territory. I'm not in a position to speculate about what proponents may or may not do in relation to these projects or any other projects, including the Barossa, with regard to the passage of this legislation.

12:07 pm

Photo of Janet RiceJanet Rice (Victoria, Australian Greens) Share this | | Hansard source

With regard to those four projects, it's pretty explicit where the Darwin one is. Can you tell me where the other three projects are?

Photo of Jenny McAllisterJenny McAllister (NSW, Australian Labor Party, Assistant Minister for Climate Change and Energy) Share this | | Hansard source

As I've just indicated, the CStore1 project is in Western Australia, the CarbonNet project is in Victoria and the SEA CCS hub is also in Victoria.

Photo of Janet RiceJanet Rice (Victoria, Australian Greens) Share this | | Hansard source

For more clarification—when you say Victoria, that's a pretty big space—whereabouts exactly in Victoria?

12:08 pm

Photo of Jenny McAllisterJenny McAllister (NSW, Australian Labor Party, Assistant Minister for Climate Change and Energy) Share this | | Hansard source

I don't have that information with me.

Photo of David PocockDavid Pocock (ACT, Independent) Share this | | Hansard source

Minister, Dr Kirsty Howey, the executive director of the Environment Centre NT, has called your sea-dumping bill the 'Santos amendment bill'. I'm interested to learn how much the Labor government has taken in political donations from Santos over the last three years.

Photo of Jenny McAllisterJenny McAllister (NSW, Australian Labor Party, Assistant Minister for Climate Change and Energy) Share this | | Hansard source

I don't have that information with me. That's not the subject of this bill. Political donations are clearly handled by another minister in another portfolio and are subject to an entirely different set of legislation.

Photo of David PocockDavid Pocock (ACT, Independent) Share this | | Hansard source

In the absence of a clear explanation from the government as to why we need this—you're pointing to all these other things—everyone else seems to understand that this is for the gas industry to expand. I think it's fair that people make assumptions. When you've got the executive director of the Environment Centre NT calling your bill the 'Santos amendment bill' and we know that you receive tens of thousands of dollars in—

Photo of Louise PrattLouise Pratt (WA, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

They're Western Australian jobs. They're not—

Photo of Catryna BilykCatryna Bilyk (Tasmania, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Senator Pratt! Continue, Senator Pocock.

Photo of David PocockDavid Pocock (ACT, Independent) Share this | | Hansard source

I'll take that interjection from Senator Pratt. It's quite absurd to be pointing to jobs as Western Australian jobs when they haven't been created yet. The thing I've been hearing from employers is they can't find workers. We've got a crisis when it comes to workers, and yet we have a Labor government that came to government saying, 'Climate change is going to be taken seriously. The adults are in charge,' punching down on the coalition's efforts, and a Labor senator from WA saying that this is about jobs, about creating future jobs. It's an absurd argument, given what the job market is like in Australia.

What we're seeing today is just extraordinary. I really thank the coalition for allowing democracy manifest, for allowing this in here for people to be able to ask questions, because the crossbench have serious concerns about this bill. I go back to Minister Regenvanu. Standing here as a crossbencher, I agree with him; your rhetoric is different to your actions. You're talking the talk about climate action, and yet you're putting through this bill. And Australians will continue to ask the question: Why? Why do we have a government that isn't governing for the people? Because Australians are doing it tough. We rightly hear concerns about the cost of living, and we know that one of the drivers of the cost of living is insurance premiums going through the roof. We've got the Assistant Treasurer telling us that he's gone off to meetings and spoken to insurers, and they've essentially warned Australia that climate is going to make insurance premiums go up and up and potentially become unaffordable, or that parts of Australia will be uninsurable.

In the face of that, the government's facilitating a bill that will potentially expand the fossil fuel industry using unproven technology to the scale that's being promised. In the last—it's been a week now, hasn't it?—week in this chamber we've been discussing this stinkiest of bills, and one of the things we've talked about is the gorgon, one of the biggest carbon capture and storage projects in the world. It hasn't delivered anywhere near what they promised. It hasn't delivered on what they said: 'Approve this project because we'll do this.' Approved the project, haven't delivered—oh well, keep trying to put that carbon underground. And so Australians are looking at their government, the people who are tasked with looking after them and looking ahead at the problems that are coming, and saying, 'How can we deal with these and turn them into opportunities?' We're going to get more and more Australians questioning the government, saying: 'How can you continue to take donations from fossil fuel companies and then tell us that it doesn't influence what you're doing, when what we're seeing go through parliament would suggest otherwise?'

These are companies that, at every turn, have sought to minimise how much they contribute, whether it's the petroleum resource rent tax with offshore LNG, where Australians have basically received nothing because of the overly generous compounding offsets and deductions that those companies receive. Yet the government keeps telling us that we take these donations but, really, that's just part of being a political party in 2023: you take political donations from an industry that is contributing to life becoming increasingly harder and, in some parts of the country, to making living there impossible.

It's not me saying that; it's the IPCC. The IPCC is saying that, if Australian governments continue with the expansion of the fossil fuel industry here in Australia and don't step up and push globally for countries to come good on their Paris Agreement commitments, then large swathes of the Northern Territory will become uninhabitable.

Again, we'll probably see the major parties point at the Independents and the minor parties and say, 'You may have that view.' But it's not us; it's the IPCC that is saying these things. So, Minister, to return to my point: what do you say to Australians who are just scratching their heads and saying, 'How are these decisions continuing to be made in 2023, the hottest year on record'? We know that the Labor Party doesn't take donations from big tobacco, because we know the impact that tobacco has on people. Why does the Labor Party continue to take donations from the fossil fuel industry?

12:16 pm

Photo of Jenny McAllisterJenny McAllister (NSW, Australian Labor Party, Assistant Minister for Climate Change and Energy) Share this | | Hansard source

We have canvassed this already. I have indicated to the chamber repeatedly the public interest reasons for the government bringing forward this legislation. The government is engaged in a series of measures to reform our climate change policy and make sure that we are transforming our economy, obtaining all of the benefits that arise from a decarbonising global economy and contributing to the global decision-making about the transition to net zero, which is entirely necessary, given the information that the scientists are providing.

As part of that, the government is working across all industry sectors to define the pathways to net zero by 2050. Notwithstanding the assertions that are sometimes made in this place that this is simple and ought to be able to occur immediately, it's called a 'transition' for a reason. There's no world in which we reduce our emissions immediately from where we are now to net zero, but we do know that that's our destination. We know that that's where we need to land, and significant effort and work has gone into taking steps to get on that pathway, since we came to government, and also to assist us in defining that pathway for the decades to come.

It's clear that fossil fuels will be part of the energy system for some time. There's no world where we can get to that net zero position in a short period of time. I think you know, Senator Pocock, that the government has ambitious plans to move to a much higher penetration of renewables in our electricity grid by 2030. That's actually a very challenging target. The minister describes it as 'ambitious but achievable'. We're really putting our shoulder to the wheel on that question, despite the objections and the campaigning against such a strategy from some of the political parties represented in the Senate.

You assert that we're not acting in the public interest and that we're in some way acting in some narrow private interests. I reject that entirely. I reject it absolutely, and I say to you that, for decades now, the Labor Party's public commitment to climate action has been a feature of our policies. From government or opposition, we have been very clear that we accept the science and the requirements for transition, and we are determined to create a pathway that lets us obtain the economic benefits that will come about from that transition to make sure that those benefits are shared with the regional communities that need to share in them and that deserve a strong future as well. It's why we've established the Net Zero Authority, led, at the moment, by Mr Combet. It's also why there are significant investments in the government budget papers that go to these questions of obtaining economic advantage through the transition, as well as meeting our environmental obligations.

I am not sure there is much I can add to this. Senator Pocock, you have made it clear that you do not agree with aspects of our policy-making, but I can stand here in the Senate and say very clearly that the government is serious about the transition. We are determined to do it in a way that is fair and that ensures prosperity for the full range of Australian communities that have a stake in this. I respect your right to disagree but I'm not sure I can add very much—

Photo of David PocockDavid Pocock (ACT, Independent) Share this | | Hansard source

It's not just me. It's the climate scientists.

The TEMPORARY CHAIR: Senator Pocock, you were heard in silence.

Photo of Jenny McAllisterJenny McAllister (NSW, Australian Labor Party, Assistant Minister for Climate Change and Energy) Share this | | Hansard source

I'm not sure I can add much to the evidence I have provided over the course of five days now. We have been debating this for some time.

12:20 pm

Photo of Janet RiceJanet Rice (Victoria, Australian Greens) Share this | | Hansard source

Minister, you are trying to claim that this bill is somehow disconnected from expansion of fossil fuel production. You are trying to claim that this bill is consistent with serious action to address the climate crisis. No-one is buying it, absolutely no-one, other than your own cohorts, who are stuck in their own little world where, basically, this is economic development. You are being captured by the fossil fuel industry—the mates, the donations, the need for jobs—and saying, even if they were jobs doing the equivalent of destroying the pyramids, 'Oh well, they are jobs, so that's okay.'

Everyone is so clear that this bill is about facilitating the expansion of fossil fuel developments. It is about facilitating the expansion of coal and gas, gas in particular. It is about allowing carbon bombs like the Barossa development to go ahead, developments that are completely inconsistent with serious action to tackle the climate crisis. And this, on the week where it has just been announced that not only was October the hottest October on record, following the hottest June, July, August, September on record, and not only were the last 12 months the hottest 12 months, the hottest year, on record that has ever been recorded, but this last year was the hottest year in the last 125,000 years that the planet has experienced.

We know what needs to happen. We do not need legislation that is facilitating new fossil fuel development. We need to be rapidly getting out of coal and gas and oil and, yes, Minister, we need to be transitioning to renewables both in our domestic use and in our exports. We have the potential to export renewable energy in a variety of ways. That is what any reasonable, sensible government that was really concerned about Australia's future and the future of the world would be doing, not standing here and trying to pretend that this legislation is consistent with serious action on climate.

It is not just us Greens, not just the climate activists, who are saying it; it is the climate scientists around the world who have been calling the alarm on climate change for the last 40 years. They are desperate for governments to take action that is consistent with the reality of climate change. I know, Minister, you know a lot of those climate scientists. I know you respect their work, so all I can ask is that you listen to them. One of our leading climate scientists in Australia is Dr Joelle Gergis, who is an IPCC lead author in the last IPCC report. I do not know if you have read her book. I suggest if you haven't that you should. It is a wonderful summary of both the science and the political action that are needed, and the fact that we need to have hope that our governments will listen to us.

As I've said in my previous contributions, I do not have any hope anymore in the Labor Party and the Liberal Party because of their connections with the fossil fuel industry, because of their willingness to just go ahead with massive carbon-bomb developments.

I actually don't have any hope that you're listening, and I believe that we're just going to have to elect more Greens and more Independents who are committed to climate change work in order to get governments that listen.

But other people still have hope that, maybe, this government might listen. I want to read some of Joelle's book, Humanity's Moment: a climate scientist's case for hope. I was ready to have a lot of considered contributions to this debate, but I actually think that reading and putting on record some of the things that Dr Joelle Gergis, an Australian leading climate scientist is saying, is more valuable:

Young people have every right to feel white-hot fury about the mess we are in. Their future is being sabotaged by the very people who should be protecting them. As the UN Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres, told the World Leaders Summit at COP26 in November 2021:

Our addiction to fossil fuels is pushing humanity to the brink. We face a stark choice: either we stop it or it stops us. It's time to say: enough. Enough of brutalizing biodiversity. Enough of killing ourselves with carbon. Enough of treating nature like a toilet. Enough of burning and drilling and mining our way deeper. We are digging our own graves … Young people know it. Every country sees it. Small Island Developing States - and other vulnerable ones - live it. For them, failure is not an option. Failure is a death sentence … On behalf of this and future generations, I urge you: choose ambition. Choose solidarity. Choose to safeguard our future and save humanity.

She is quoting Antonio Guterres, but she then goes on to say:

We know exactly what we need to do, but we still aren't prepared to do it. Instead, we watch extreme weather increasingly ravage every corner of the world with every passing season. Right now, even following the United Nations' 26th Conference of Parties (COP26) in Glasgow, emission pledges are still not on track to achieve the Paris Agreement target of limiting global warming to 1.5⁰C above pre-industrial levels. Considered by many as humanity's "last chance" to stabilize the climate, instead current net-zero emissions pledges have us hurtling towards global warming of 1.4-2.8⁰C. And that's a best-case scenario, only if all commitments - which are not legally binding, or in the case of developing nations, not yet adequately financed - are honoured completely.

She goes on:

While I desperately hoped that COP26 would be the political tipping point that changed everything, my rational mind knew that some governments – like my own here in Australia – are still in the strangle-hold of the fossil fuel industry. There are corporate interests that are willing to sacrifice our planetary life-support system to keep the fossil fuel industry alive for as long as humanly possible, using unproven technology.

Carbon capture and storage, known as CCS, is based on the idea that you can extract carbon dioxide from the smokestacks of coal plants or steel factories, compress it, transport it and then inject it back underground, where, in theory, it will remain forever. And that's assuming you can find the right geologic conditions that are stable enough over millennia so that carbon doesn't leak out and back into the atmosphere.

She then goes on to talk about the unproven and expensive nature of carbon capture and storage:

Aside from the trillion-dollar price tag, it's critical to realise that CCS projects take around ten years to progress through concept, feasibility, design and construction phases before becoming operational – time we simply don't have.

Relying on technology that is not ready to be deployed on the scale needed to immediately and drastically address the emergency we face is at best reckless, and at worst an inter-generational crime. It also delays facing the reality that we must stop burning fossil fuels – we need to take serious action and not rely on unproven technology to save the day. As people in climate justice circles like to say, "delay is the new denial". We need to turn the tap off new carbon emissions and start mopping up the damage.

Minister, this legislation, that we Greens are doing our best to stop being passed through this place this week, is facilitating new gas development that the world cannot afford to allow to go ahead. It is so clear—the science is so clear—what we need to do to address the climate crisis that the world finds itself in, and that is to stop any new coal, gas or oil developments.

Yes, fossil fuels are going to be around for a while. We need to work out how to rapidly transition away from them. But we do not need new projects. We do not need to be pouring petrol on the fire, because that is what this legislation would be facilitating. It is imperative and essential that Australia plays its part, along with the rest of the world, to get out of coal, gas and oil and to make that rapid transition so that people can be hopeful that the world will actually pay attention and take the action that's needed. At the moment, in this place, people are looking on and despairing. We have a government that they hoped, 18 months ago, would be doing something about the climate crisis, and yet we have legislation like this being put forward that is making people feel totally despairing. We need to give people hope. We need to get out of coal and gas and oil, and this legislation should not be allowed to pass.

12:30 pm

Photo of Marielle SmithMarielle Smith (SA, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

We're now at the 'reading a book into the Hansard' stage of this debate. Hour follows hour, question follows question—how many hours can we sit here as the same question gets paraphrased into another question? I've got to buy a T-shirt for Senator McAllister at this point which says: 'I've covered this already. We've already canvassed this in the debate.' Sorry, Senator McAllister, you've probably said it more nicely than that. Honestly, this is paraphrase hour now. I'm sure there are plenty of other chapters in Senator Rice's book that we can sit here and listen to as they, too, are recorded in the Hansard for their second go at publication outside of the bound volume they already exist in.

I understand what the Greens are doing. They're not keen on this bill, and they're trying to obstruct its passage. But what are the Liberals and the Nationals doing? They said they supported this bill. Publicly, they've come out and said they support this bill. Specifically, they've said that they think it's important for not undermining investment certainty and they think it's important for jobs and for regulatory certainty. If they support this bill, what are they trying to learn in paraphrase hour? Are there other chapters in Senator Rice's book that they're hoping she might get to this afternoon?

I actually think there might be some senators on the other side of the chamber who might like to debate, I don't know, the counterterrorism legislation which is coming up on the Notice Paper, or maybe judicial immunity? That might be something that senators on the other side of the chamber are interested in debating. Or would they like hour No. 10 of Senator Rice's book—hour No. 10 of the same questions paraphrased and the same answers from the minister. Honestly, what are they trying to learn? This has gone through a House committee and it's gone through a Senate committee. They said they support it. Is it chapter 8 in Senator Rice's book? Or are they just trying to see how the same question can be paraphrased for perhaps the 10th or the 11th time—trying to learn some new tricks and titbits on how to phrase their language and how to do this themselves one day? Honestly, this is ridiculous.

We have important business in this chamber to deal with—important pieces of legislation, which have been sitting on that Notice Paper. I would understand that if Senator Duniam were genuinely really interested in the debate here—if he were genuinely hoping to learn something—as question after question gets paraphrased and put to a minister who has answered them over and over for hours and hours in that chair. That's absolutely appropriate when debating legislation and there are genuine things to learn. But can he really sit there with a straight face when he knows he wants to support this bill? They think this bill is important for regulatory certainty and they think this bill is important for jobs. What are we trying to learn here? This chamber has got really important pieces of legislation to deal with and we have spent an entire week on this piece of legislation. I accept that the Greens have a position here and I understand that they want to obstruct the passage of this bill. That's quite clear. There might be some more books under the desk about to come out—some more chapters of verse or prose, or maybe some poems, about why this bill is not lining up with the Greens.

Photo of Paul ScarrPaul Scarr (Queensland, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I've got one I can lend you!

Photo of Marielle SmithMarielle Smith (SA, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Senator Scarr has a poem—great; fantastic! Let's read some more stuff into the Hansard and, in the meantime, leave the counterterrorism legislation and legislation related to judicial immunity on the Notice Paper.

Oh, we've got the time—we've got all the time in the world. Honestly, if you support the passage of the bill and stop obstructing the bill's passage through this chamber, we can get down to the business of dealing with the bill so that we can get on to the other business of government, the other things on the Notice Paper, which we all need to discuss and I would welcome having an opportunity to debate.

12:35 pm

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

For those watching, if you ever wanted to know what it looks like when a government can't manage its affairs, can't control the Senate, can't do what the people elected it to do, this is it in all its glory. We have the second of the Labor backbenchers coming in today to tell us how important this legislation is. Again, this second senator, senator Marielle Smith, a very learned colleague, comes in here, but seems not to have been given the same memo that others have been given, just like Senator Sterle in his earlier contributions seemed to have missed the memo, which is that the ball is in the government's court. This bill could pass unamended today if the government did what we have been asking them to do. If they were seeking to cooperate with the opposition, perhaps Senator McAllister in her next contribution might like to put on record how intransigent this government is being on the requests to the government that have been made by the opposition. That is entirely up to her. They know what we have been asking so that we can progress what is an important piece of legislation.

I want to put a couple of other things on record. Before I do, I'd like to speak about the tone of debate that comes about when we have senators in here that denigrate colleagues and how they conduct themselves in a debate. Senator Rice is entitled to quote from scientists, whether we agree with them or not. I don't think it is a bad move to quote someone that they believe is correct. I don't know who this climate scientist is, but it is a true tactic of the Labor Party in this country to besmirch, belittle and shame colleagues in this place, whatever their views are, if they happen to disagree with them. Rather than take them on at face value or challenge the facts and perhaps debate the point, we have a senator come in here and criticise another senator for having read into Hansard things that Senator Rice thought were important. It is also shows a disregard for a fundamental element of this place, and that is the need for us to be able to debate things.

It is frustrating for the government that they can't do their jobs properly—indeed, it is frustrating for all of us. But there is one small thing they need to do and we would be on our way, these bills would be passed, those jobs would be secure and we would be able move on to these other important pieces of legislation. As Senator Marielle Smith said, those bills have been sitting on the Notice Paper. Just on the issue of sitting on the Notice Paper and this high degree of urgency now attached to this legislation, as I understand this bill was introduced in the other place on 22 June, nearly half year ago now. It was debated there and was passed on 3 August, and we haven't seen it until this week. Three months have passed since it reached the Senate—three months—and here we are today: 'We've got to get it done. We've got to pass this, and we've got to do it our way, no ifs, no buts. We will sit here until we get our way.' Three months, four sitting weeks, and nothing was done by the government, but now they are all frustrated that the Australian Greens, Senator Pocock and others have questions about the bill, questions we are happy for them to ask. Indeed, we would be equally happy for the government to work with us on facilitating passage of this bill, but to date they have refused. The ball is in their court. Everything is on hold until the government decides to do something practical to facilitate passage of this bill.

I might remind those listening that we wouldn't be here dealing with this legislation if it weren't for that disastrous piece of legislation, the safeguard mechanism, the bill that makes it impossible for business to occur here. And now we are trying to find ways to offset the punitive effect of that legislation, the way in which we are offshoring emissions, offshoring jobs, sending economic benefits from our country and to other jurisdictions where they don't care about the environment, they don't care about emissions, they don't care at all. That was the net effect of the safeguards mechanism legislation, and that is proven by the fact that the government now sees merit in supporting this legislation. Anyway, just to clarify for those listening in the wake of Senator Marielle Smith's contribution, which she was clearly asked by others to make, we are willing to move this bill on—be a bit more cooperative, and we might be dealing with counterterror laws.

12:39 pm

Photo of Mehreen FaruqiMehreen Faruqi (NSW, Australian Greens) Share this | | Hansard source

Well, Senator Marielle Smith is right on one count: the Greens definitely are not keen on the Environment Protection (Sea Dumping) Amendment (Using New Technologies to Fight Climate Change) Bill 2023. In fact, we think this is a terrible bill, and there is good reason that we think this is a terrible bill: this bill is a blatant attempt to facilitate more oil and gas development in our oceans. The major parties are bending over backwards to pass this legislation to facilitate the Barossa project and other fossil fuel projects off Australia's northern coastlines. We know that the Barossa project alone is expected to release 13 million tonnes of CO2 every year. That's around three per cent of Australia's annual carbon emissions. This is at a time when the globe is no longer heating; it is cooking. It is boiling, and this is what the Labor government is doing. This release of carbon dioxide will take place even with this greenwashing of the proposed carbon capture and storage.

On 2 November, the Federal Court granted an emergency injunction on the Barossa Gas Project after a legal challenge by Tiwi Islands traditional owners, and I say: hats off to those traditional owners, who have been fighting this fight for a better climate and to stop their islands from getting annihilated by the climate crisis. This action means that Santos must immediately pause installation of its proposed 263-kilometre pipeline until at least 5 pm on 13 November, when that matter will return to court. This is not the first legal challenge Santos has faced in relation to the Barossa and the traditional owners. Last year, Santos lost an appeal against a landmark decision that overturned approval for its $4.7 billion Barossa offshore gas projects. And still the Labor government is not learning from that. We should not be supporting a gas project that is emitting such huge amounts of carbon and threatening the lives, the livelihoods and the homes of people in Pacific nations. The Prime Minister is there at the moment, and no amount of dancing by the Prime Minister is going to stop the climate crisis unless Australia stops opening up new coal and gas.

Labor might want to make light of what the Greens on this side are saying or what Senator Rice just put on record, but for us this is a very grave matter. The climate crisis is an existential crisis, and no other bill will matter on a dead planet, to be really frank. We have said this before, and we will keep saying it until you listen. We are in a climate crisis and we are approaching a climate catastrophe. As I've said before, the climate isn't just warming anymore; the planet is cooking. We are in the era of global boiling, and people all around us are fearful. Young people in particular are so stressed about the future that they are looking into. We have extreme heat, fires, droughts, and floods. Today the temperature in Adelaide is predicted to be 40 degrees centigrade. We've missing chunks of sea ice bigger than Western Australia, and oceans continue to heat up. People are fearful and people are angry, and they have a right to be angry. They are angry at this government's arrogance and refusal to take urgent action in this climate urgency and emergency. We should be fighting the climate crisis with everything we've got, yet here we are with the Labor government fuelling the climate crisis.

Not only that—their proposed solution of carbon capture and storage, which doesn't work and hasn't worked, is just trying to dupe people into believing that they are doing something. We know pumping carbon under the sea from gas rigs or storing it underground just doesn't stack up. Importing and exporting carbon dioxide for sub-seabed sequestration risks turning Australia's oceans and those of our near neighbours into the dumping grounds for the world's pollution. That's what this bill will do.

We know that the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis examined 13 of the world's major carbon capture and storage—and carbon capture, utilisation and storage—projects, and what did they find? They found that more than half of them underperformed, including two that had completely failed. Supporters of carbon capture and storage often cite Chevron's Gorgon as an exemplar of a functioning facility, yet, in the 12 months to June 2022, the project injected only 1.6 million tonnes of carbon dioxide into the underground reservoir and vented 3.4 million tonnes to the atmosphere. How is this working?

It is absolute greenwashing, and it is ridiculous that the government is pushing for more carbon capture and storage even though everyone knows that it doesn't work. We know that the Barossa and other projects will make the climate crisis worse, yet we keep pushing for them. We know why the major parties keep pushing for that. It is because they are completely beholden to the donations of the fossil fuel companies. At the end of the day, when people ask me what is this about, why the Labor government isn't looking at the signs and taking urgent and real action to deal with the climate crisis, that's the only response they can come up with: the government's pockets are being filled by money from these fossil fuel companies.

We know that all of this is going to make the climate crisis worse. Coal and gas are fuelling the extreme climate crisis, and Australia is one of the biggest exporters of fossil fuels and a major contributor to this crisis. While the climate boils, what do we do? We bring in these greenwashing bills that do absolutely nothing but make the climate crisis worse. So both Labor and the coalition are wilfully ignoring all the signs. All of what Senator Rice read from that book chapter is actually true, so, rather than making fun of it, rather than making light of it, maybe it's worth your while actually listening to the science for once and acting on what the science is telling you.

The government should be taking tangible, meaningful steps to fight climate change by ending the expansion of new fossil fuel projects. You should withdraw this bill and actually take the real action that the community is demanding, that the scientists are demanding and that will actually make a difference to make this world safer.

12:47 pm

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

I might just recap the risks that we have determined on this legislation that we're essentially going be asking the Australian people to support by default here in the federal parliament. For a start, as I went through yesterday with the new UN report released yesterday, more than 80 per cent of carbon capture and storage projects around the world have failed. We risk greenlighting—gaslighting, perhaps—a new so-called solution to reducing emissions that we know just hasn't worked or hasn't been proven effective anywhere around the world. This, of course, is going to make a difference when companies are applying for new fossil fuel development. We know this legislation we are debating here today has already been nicknamed the 'Santos amendment'. I have heard it called the 'Barossa amendment' as well, but let's be honest: it's all about facilitating the Santos project.

So the first risk is that this is a massive greenwashing opportunity for the fossil fuel industry. The second risk is the risk that we put on our oceans: the risk from reservoirs that leak, the risk from seismic activity causing earthquakes and consequent damage to marine ecosystems, and, of course, the risk from seismic testing. Based on what I've determined—and any senator can find this out for themselves—carbon capture and storage in the ocean is going to lead to a storm of seismic blasting in the decades to come. That is a highly dangerous and destructive activity that will risk our precious marine life and our commercial fisheries.

As we discussed this morning, these relate directly to the Greens amendments, to the risk of this just being a giant scam for the fossil fuel industry in this country, who want to avoid their billions of dollars in liability to decommission their oil and gas fields. On that basis the government are looking to get support for a bill, and they expect the Greens to support this bill for an industry that is going to risk our planet by developing new massive fossil fuel carbon bombs which will continue to heat the planet. Senator McAllister has throughout her contributions talked in detail about the government's commitments to net zero by 2050. I highlight what I highlighted yesterday and the day before in the Code Blue report released by the Climate Council about our oceans and the impacts of climate change. I urge all senators to read this report and the detail in it. The last point in the report says:

Urgent action is needed to protect our oceans and limit warming, starting with rapidly phasing out coal, oil and gas.

      Here is the crunch:

      Australia must aim to reduce emissions by 75 percent below 2005 levels by 2030, and reach net zero by 2035.

      So let's acknowledge that the climate targets this government has legislated are not going to do the job. Forty-three per cent emissions reduction is not good enough. It needs to be nearly double that amount, and net zero by 2050 is not even close to what is required. This is what the science is telling us. I note that the government have said in response to UNESCO's World Heritage committee on the Great Barrier Reef's monitoring report that they are going to do more. They accept that a 43 per cent target equates to two degrees of warming but they will do better than that. Well, how are we doing better than that when we are introducing legislation deliberately designed to facilitate a massive fossil fuel project? For those who may be listening to the debate, how do I know that that is the case? I have read several times this week the direct quotes of Mr Chris Bowen, our climate change minister, to the media specifically saying this is special legislation designed to facilitate the Barossa gas project. So we know that. It is beyond doubt. The Greens are standing in here to make sure that we do everything we can to support the millions of people who voted for climate action and to make sure the government understand they are not going to get away with sweeping this under the carpet.

      In her contribution earlier Senator Smith said Senator McAllister should get a T-shirt that says, 'I have answered that 15 times already.' I might suggest a slightly different T-shirt. That says, 'I did not answer the question 15 times.' I do accept that it is an art in this place. I can do better and my colleagues can do better at trying to ask the same question in 15 different ways to get an answer. We have had a bit of experience, Senator Hanson-Young and I, but we still sometimes struggle with getting an answer, and we have not got an answer on the specific point as to whether the comments made by Mr Bowen relate to this bill. We know they do, but it would be good to get the government to acknowledge that. While Mr Bowen negotiated in good faith with the Greens and we secured important amendments for the safeguard mechanism, this is clearly another negotiation he has undertaken to help companies get around their commitments and around paying that money upfront.

      I just want to finish where I started in this contribution—by saying that this is a risky bill. Why would we support it? I want to highlight who will benefit from this bill. Of course it's going to be oil and gas companies. Who else benefits from this except oil and gas companies? Let me give you a list of a couple of companies that will benefit from it and how they benefit the Australian people in the tax they pay. This has been compiled by the Australia Institute, and it's the fossil fuel companies that paid no tax in financial year 2021-22. ExxonMobil Australia, on a total income of $15.5 billion, paid zero tax. This is corporate tax I'm referring to, by the way, not petroleum resource rent tax. AGL Energy, on income of $15.461 billion, paid zero tax. Australia Pacific LNG Pty Ltd, on $9.3 billion in income, paid zero tax. Shell Energy Holdings Australia, on $8.9 billion of income, paid zero tax. Ichthys LNG Pty Ltd, on $7.2 billion of income, paid zero tax. Yancoal Australia Pty Ltd, on income of $5.7 billion, paid zero tax. EnergyAustralia Holdings Ltd, on $5.5 billion of income, paid zero tax. Santos—and remember that this is the 'Santos amendment' we are about to pass through the Senate—on $4.746 billion of income paid zero tax to the Australian people. INPEX Holdings Australia Pty Ltd, on income of $4.4 billion, paid zero tax. They are one of the partners in the Darwin LNG complex and one of the companies that's been complaining to our government about this regulatory framework that they want to see changed so they can facilitate the Barossa project.

      I ask senators to consider. We don't have time for a debate here today about multinational tax cooperation. I know we've all worked on that over many years. But I ask you consider: why would we pass a bill that is risking climate action, our oceans and the communities and cultural values of our First Nations people—that is risking letting big oil and gas companies get out of even more liabilities that they need to pay to decommission their wells—for companies that pay no tax to the Australian people? I think it's a very fair question, and I really wonder what Australian people would think. Would they say, 'Why are you prioritising this bill when there are so many other things you should be doing?' I think it's a fair question.

      12:57 pm

      Photo of Jenny McAllisterJenny McAllister (NSW, Australian Labor Party, Assistant Minister for Climate Change and Energy) Share this | | Hansard source

      Senator Whish-Wilson, thanks for this question, which you've asked on a number of occasions. I note too that the previous contributions from Senator Rice and Senator Faruqi did not conclude with questions. They just reiterated a range of matters that were canvassed in their second reading speeches. While I'm grateful for colleagues' perspectives on the broad suite of climate policies that the Australian government has in place, I am not certain that the contributions that are being made are any longer directly relevant to the bill before us. Senator Whish-Wilson, you've asked why this legislation requires the attention of the Senate at this time. I can only reiterate the position I put to you previously. I don't wish to comment negatively on this, but I will stop referring to the senator, because he's left the chamber.

      For the benefit of the chamber, I can indicate again the reasons that the government is bringing forward this bill. This is a bill that arises from amendments that were made to an international protocol to which we are a signatory. That protocol, in its general terms, seeks to protect the marine environment by establishing shared norms for how we treat that shared ocean resource. In 2009, an amendment was made to that protocol to make it clear how parties would handle the circumstances where a proponent sought to move carbon dioxide from one jurisdiction to another. In 2020, under the previous government, the Joint Standing Committee on Treaties recommended that those amendments be ratified by Australia. The legislation to respond to that recommendation was initiated under the previous government and is being progressed now.

      A number of contributions have falsely asserted that the government's position is that this is unconnected to our climate change policies overall or that we seek to obscure the connection. Actually, the opposite is true. We have put in place a safeguard mechanism that puts in place binding obligations in relation to the emissions from large projects—those projects which exceed an annual threshold for emissions. We recognise that, amongst the many pathways that those businesses and projects may have to reduce their emissions, carbon capture and storage is potentially one. If that's the case, it makes sense that there ought to be the most robust set of arrangements possible to ensure that any such project meets stringent environmental standards. Those standards are in place for projects that take place in Australian waters, but, because of Australia's failure to date to ratify these amendments to the London protocol, they're not in place for any project that involves the transport and movement of carbon dioxide. It's for that reason that the bill is being brought forward. It is part of a broader suite of measures to ensure that we have appropriate regulatory arrangements in place for carbon capture and storage.

      Senator Whish-Wilson, at different times throughout the debate, has pointed to uncertainties about the success, or the potential success, of these projects in sequestering carbon dioxide in geological formations. I think the point to make is that proponents are responsible for ensuring they are successful and, if these projects don't work, the liabilities associated with the carbon remain with those projects. The government is asserting not that this is the best way forward for proponents to reduce their emissions but simply that, if this is a choice made by proponents, there should be a regulatory arrangement in place that facilitates it.

      This debate, as I've pointed out previously, has been going for some time. There are amendments before the chair. The contributions over the last hour, for the most part, have not gone to those amendments, and I think it's appropriate now the Senate have the opportunity to make its view known about the amendments. I move:

      That the question be now put.

      Photo of Andrew McLachlanAndrew McLachlan (SA, Deputy-President) Share this | | Hansard source

      The question is that the question be put.

      1:10 pm

      Photo of Simon BirminghamSimon Birmingham (SA, Liberal Party, Shadow Minister for Foreign Affairs) Share this | | Hansard source

      I struggle to think of a bill that has been mismanaged to the extent that this one has. In 16½ years in the Senate, I struggle to think of another occasion when the government has mismanaged its legislative program and, in particular, mismanaged a bill to the extent that this government has mismanaged this bill and its legislative program this week.

      It has been a disastrous week for the government. To date, there have been two government bills passed in non-controversial legislation yesterday. Negotiated in advance, all parties agreed, no issue—they passed yesterday. Otherwise, not a single government bill has passed. Four bills from the crossbench have passed. Twice as many bills have passed the Senate thanks to the work of Senators Lambie and Pocock, crossbench senators working cooperatively—and let me underscore the word 'cooperatively'—with the coalition and other senators to get something done. The crossbench has shown it can get something done. The crossbench has shown it can work cooperatively. But the government has not, and that is the mess the government has put itself in.

      The coalition has been very clear. We support this bill. We've been clear on that for a long time. Senator Duniam, in particular, has articulated the good policy reasons why we support this bill, and I want to make that transparent to all. But this place operates on reasonableness and on give and take for the ability to get things done. It is for the government to manage the time in the Senate chamber appropriately. It is for the government, in managing that time, to engage cooperatively with other parties to get its agenda through, and the government has failed manifestly in engaging cooperatively with other parties because, right now, it's not engaging at all.

      I want to be very clear. There has been no approach from the government to have constructive discussions with the opposition about time management for this bill—not today nor yesterday. It is simply a 'take it or leave it' approach from the government: 'We want to guillotine the bill, and, because you agree with the bill, you should agree with our guillotine.' That's not how this place works, and it's not how this place has ever worked. I listened to Senator McAllister earlier say, 'Well, we shouldn't be engaged in horse trading.' Frankly, Senator McAllister, I'm surprised that you could manage to say that with a straight face or that any of your colleagues could.

      Photo of Deborah O'NeillDeborah O'Neill (NSW, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

      Order, Senator Birmingham! I ask that you make your remarks through the chair.

      Photo of Simon BirminghamSimon Birmingham (SA, Liberal Party, Shadow Minister for Foreign Affairs) Share this | | Hansard source

      I am surprised any government senator could say that with a straight face. I wouldn't say that because I know horse trading has long been an integral part of how things get done in this place. I know that, when you wanted to get the Greens to vote against Senator McKenzie 's Qatar inquiry, you agreed to vote for their Middle Arm inquiry, which you had voted against multiple times. That's horse trading. That's what you did to try to cooperate with the Greens. I know that, when you wanted to get Senator Pocock—

      The TEMPORARY CHAIR: Senator Birmingham, order! I draw your attention to the use of the word 'you'.

      I'm using 'you' to refer to the government generally, Chair.

      The TEMPORARY CHAIR: You might refer to them as 'the government', to make that clear, thank you, Senator Birmingham.

      I know that when the government wanted to get Senator Pocock's vote to defeat the extension of Senator McKenzie's Qatar inquiry, the government agreed to the reinstatement of the ACCC monitoring of domestic airlines in Australia. Guess what that is? That's horse trading.

      I know that, back when I sat in that chair and Senator Wong sat in this chair and I wanted the then opposition's support for passage of legislation that the Labor Party agreed with, Senator Wong would put proposals to me—for example, proposals such as the Senate select committee into wage theft, which Senator Sheldon chaired as an opposition senator. We agreed at the time because we were willing to work cooperatively. You might call it horse trading, but we agreed to work cooperatively to get things done in this place, because that is the type of give-and-take required to get things done in this chamber.

      The coalition is clear: we support this bill. Our requests in terms of working cooperatively with the government are modest—very modest. We've asked for support in relation to a solitary committee inquiry—only a references committee, not establishing a new committee. We are not actually seeking to do anything other than have a references committee inquiry supported by the government, not opposed by the government. The committee process in this place is set up such that non-government parties chair references committees so that they can look into matters that perhaps are sometimes uncomfortable for the government. But that doesn't mean they shouldn't be explored or examined. It also doesn't mean that the government shouldn't go into those inquiries fully confident in its convictions and its capacity to be able to defend its position through such inquiries. The government should be willing and able to do that as well in relation to any inquiry into any government policies.

      So I wanted, this time, to make very clear that the coalition continues to stand ready to work cooperatively with the government. There is time for this bill to pass today, and we will engage cooperatively with the government if they show just an iota of give-and-take to the coalition and the opposition. This is not the only bill that could be passed today. The stalled Counter-Terrorism and Other Legislation Amendment Bill, which has been the subject of consideration and debate already in this chamber, could equally be passed today. In fact, with a little bit of cooperation from the government, who knows what could possibly be done? But you've got to talk to us. You've got to cooperate with us. You've got to show a little give-and-take. Otherwise, it's going to be a long three sitting weeks ahead.

      1:17 pm

      Photo of Jenny McAllisterJenny McAllister (NSW, Australian Labor Party, Assistant Minister for Climate Change and Energy) Share this | | Hansard source

      Thanks, Senator Birmingham, for setting out your test, which actually doesn't sound particularly flexible to me.

      Photo of Simon BirminghamSimon Birmingham (SA, Liberal Party, Shadow Minister for Foreign Affairs) Share this | | Hansard source

      Tell us what you've got then, Jenny!

      Opposition senators interjecting

      Photo of Jenny McAllisterJenny McAllister (NSW, Australian Labor Party, Assistant Minister for Climate Change and Energy) Share this | | Hansard source

      Senator Birmingham, you've come into the chamber and risen to your feet and suggested that what's required is engagement and flexibility. I'm not sure that coming to a negotiation with a single option—'take it or leave it'—does in fact represent flexibility. But I do know that the government, of course, is always available to work with senators on arrangements. But it remains the case—and I made the point earlier this morning—that this is a bill for which, on Monday, Senator Duniam laid out the support from the opposition and the reasons why the bill deserves support. The question that you need to answer for the people who are watching this debate is: why would you side with the Greens political party repeatedly to vote against the progression of the bill? You've said that you support the bill. You've said that it is important to underwriting investment certainty for carbon capture and storage projects. It's probably time to really act on those beliefs, isn't it? It's difficult to say that you support regulatory certainty when you come into the chamber again and again and again and prevent the passage of the legislation. You actively vote against it. You know, because your stakeholders do talk to you, that there are a range of carbon capture and storage projects around the country that can't proceed without this legislation.

      Honourable senators interjecting

      Photo of Deborah O'NeillDeborah O'Neill (NSW, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

      Order, Senators! Constant interjections are highly disorderly.

      Photo of Jenny McAllisterJenny McAllister (NSW, Australian Labor Party, Assistant Minister for Climate Change and Energy) Share this | | Hansard source

      We on this side believe in providing regulatory certainty for industry but also for the community. That's because we do think that, when projects of this kind are brought forward, they should be tested for their environmental impact, and it's important that industry knows what those tests will be but it's also important that those in the community who have an interest in this—for whom some of the Greens senators have sought to advocate in the course of the debate—have certainty too. That's what this framework provides, and it's the basis on which the government is bringing it forward.

      The actions of the people opposite, who have voted again and again this morning against opportunities to progress this legislation, are putting projects at risk and therefore putting Australian jobs at risk. There are a range of projects that may be formally regulated under this legislation—projects in Western Australia, Victoria and the Northern Territory. Some of these projects are backed by some of our closest trading partners, who want to invest in Australian CCS projects. Your actions over the course of this week have been to prevent the passage of legislation that would enable them. So, for all the talk about support for investment and support for jobs, there's not much actually happening in that regard, is there? You are failing that test—a test that you set for yourselves. Senators, it is my view that this bill should progress today, and, Chair, I'm going to give the opposition another opportunity to have this bill progress. I move:

      That the question be now put.

      Photo of Simon BirminghamSimon Birmingham (SA, Liberal Party, Shadow Minister for Foreign Affairs) Share this | | Hansard source

      Chair, a point of order.

      The TEMPORARY CHAIR: Yes, Senator Birmingham.

      I think this is the third occasion today—

      The TEMPORARY CHAIR: Senator Birmingham, what is your point of order? What is the standing order to which you refer?

      My point of order is that I believe the Senate has made its will on this matter clear already through multiple divisions—

      The TEMPORARY CHAIR: Thank you. Can you resume your seat and I'll take advice, thank you, Senator Birmingham. Following advice from the clerk, it is clear that it is within the standing orders that the question can once again be put. I will follow that advice in accordance with standing orders.

      Photo of Andrew McLachlanAndrew McLachlan (SA, Deputy-President) Share this | | Hansard source

      The question is that the question be put.