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ABSTAINED – Matters of Urgency — Environment

Andrew McLachlan

Senator McKim has submitted a proposal under standing order 75 today:

Pursuant to standing order 75, I give notice that today the Australian Greens propose to move "That, in the opinion of the Senate, the following is a matter of urgency:

The Government is breaking an election promise to strengthen our environment laws and is attempting to prevent First Nations people having a voice by pushing through the Parliament a bill to fast track offshore gas projects."

Is the proposal supported?

More than the number of senators required by the standing orders having risen in their places—

Dorinda Cox

At the request of Senator McKim, I move:

That, in the opinion of the Senate, the following is a matter of urgency:

The Government is breaking an election promise to strengthen our environment laws and is attempting to prevent First Nations people having a voice by pushing through the Parliament a bill to fast track offshore gas projects."

This government said back on election night in May 2022 that they were committed to implementing the Uluru Statement from the Heart in full and listening to First Nations voices. Now, this government has also committed to strengthening the environment laws and it's said it is committed to strong action on climate change. Schedule 2, part 2 of the offshore petroleum greenhouse gas and storage amendment bill currently before the parliament flies in the face of all of these commitments.

To add insult to injury, this change has been hidden in an otherwise exceptionally important bill that makes much-needed improvements to offshore worker safety—offshore worker safety, which has been campaigned on for many years. Not only is this government breaking an election promise; it's doing so under the guise of worker safety. It is shameless and it is spineless that this government wants us to think it's taking action on climate change seriously and that they are actually listening to First Nations voices when in reality this is a sneaky act. What will the Minister for Resources, in fact, obtain through these wide-reaching powers? We have no indication of what they are, just that we're going to carve it off and give it to the resources minister. We're going to hide it in a section of the bill away from the crossbench, other environment groups and other people from the crossbench, environment groups and other people that attended the hearing last Thursday here in this place. They didn't even bother to tell us here in the Greens about the bill at all, and I meet with the Minister for Resources on a quarterly basis. They clearly tried to sneak this one through and hoped that no-one would actually notice. They're embarrassed that this plan did not work.

This gives the resources minister a blank cheque to weaken consultation requirements and fast-track all those gas projects to open up any new fossil fuel projects against the wishes of First Nations people and against the climate science. Guess whose voices they're listening to. They're listening to Santos, Woodside, Inpex, Jera and others that they're so eager to please. This comes off that FOI letter from the CEO of Santos about traditional owners winning cases left, right and centre. This government is doing the bidding of the gas cartel. (Time expired)

Susan McDonald

This motion today confirms that the Greens don't support a prosperous Australia. They don't support Australian workers or understand the importance of supporting investment. They either don't understand the importance of the resources sector or are so arrogant that they don't care about the benefits that it brings. The Greens are simply empowered by one motive: playing politics. They would rather generate hot air in this chamber and fearmonger than come to the table like adults and work on delivering real policy that helps Australians. Whilst they all benefit from the resources sector, they refused to support it. The hypocrisy is rife because they're happy to drive on roads built by taxes resource companies pay, drink from glasses manufactured with gas and use their phones and laptops built with Australian minerals, yet they continue to appear in this chamber and try to drag the whole sector through the mud and shame the more than one million Australians who work in the sector.

We know that the resources sector is responsible for and is to thank for propping up the budget and is to thank for the schools and hospitals that we enjoy and the roads we drive on. Yet you won't hear the Greens acknowledge this. They just ask for more and more, until there is nothing left.

What you'll hear from the Greens is that they don't actually speak on behalf of all Indigenous Australians. They only like to talk about those that fit their ideological crusade. I'm sure you won't hear about the Indigenous voices who do support the resources sector. I've had the pleasure of meeting with members of the Top End Aboriginal Coastal Alliance, who gave evidence at this hearing last week. A group of Indigenous Australians—

How appalling to have those people undermined in this very place, when we are supposed to be here to represent them. I'd ask you not to do that. It is a group of Aboriginal Australians from northern Australia who support the resources sector because they know the value that projects like the Barossa project bring to their communities. The Greens never talk about communities like these.

The Greens would much rather parrot the talking points of the Environmental Defenders Office, an organisation that receives taxpayer funds to try and sabotage our nation's wealth-generating industries. What an outstanding, upstanding organisation they are, with allegations of witness coaching and confected evidence. Yet the Greens are happy to be strongly associated with that organisation. I'm sure that those on the government benches are proud to be spending millions of dollars on funding that organisation.

What about the government—the alleged party of the workers? Thanks to their terrible energy policies we are seeing manufacturing jobs leave this country. The mess this government has created is costing Australian workers and costing the country. We see senators on the other side talk about how proud they are of their union backgrounds and their support for Australian workers, so let's see what the unions have said. Brad Gandy, secretary of the AWU's Western Australian branch, called out the exploitation risk that is occurring in the offshore oil and gas regulations, saying:

The vulnerabilities in the regime that are being exploited must be closed, whilst retaining the integrity that the process needs.

AWU national secretary Paul Farrow expressed concern that workers were becoming 'collateral damage' in the campaign to destroy the oil and gas industry—a campaign the government is helping to fund through the payments to the EDO.

I raise this question: how can Australian workers have faith that Labor supports them? The answer is that Labor does not, and it's become apparent that the coalition is the real party of working Australians because Labor's only solution is to talk about how they support Australian jobs, while their policies lead to the closures and jobs fleeing offshore. As investment and capital flees, thanks to their energy policies and industrial relations disaster, more jobs will leave.

The coalition remains an ardent supporter of Australia's resources sector. We remain committed to ensuring that this crucial industry, which generates and delivers so much wealth, is able to keep investing in our nation. It's worth recognising just how important this contribution is. Australia's gas industry generated $92 billion in export earnings in the last financial year, which provided direct economic support to federal, state and territory budgets. It powers energy and manufacturing across the entire country and provides secure energy to many of our international partners.

Karen Grogan

We stand here with one party over there that's all about resources and absolutely nothing about the environment, we stand over here with the other party in this chamber that's all environment and no resources—with neither looking at a sensible punt down the middle that gives us the resources we need and protects the environment that we so desperately need to protect.

What we're dealing with in this chamber today is another case of misrepresentation of reality by our colleagues in the Greens. There is either a significant lack of understanding about what is in front of us here or wilful misleading for political gain. We are talking about a review of Australia's offshore environmental management framework to ensure that it's fit for purpose. We know, because we've heard from First Nations people and environmental groups, that it isn't working effectively at this point in time, so we are reviewing it to make sure it does. We've heard that consultation for offshore resource projects isn't targeted or culturally appropriate. That's not okay. The Albanese Labor government is working to fix that.

The plan is to actually make this consultation appropriate so that we are listening to First Nations people and so that it is targeted and culturally appropriate. There will not be any watering down of environmental standards. There will not be any rushed offshore projects, as has already been declared in this chamber. Those things are not happening. It is not true. I'd also like to point out that this review isn't a secret. It's not something that's just arrived in this chamber. It is something that was announced in the 2023 budget. It was quite some time ago, so those who are struggling to get their heads around it have had plenty of time to get briefings, to ask further questions or to investigate this. There is no need to just use this as some crazy ongoing political football, which we've seen for so many years.

The central premise of this motion is that the Labor government is breaking its election commitments. That is just a farce. It's not true. After a decade of environmental negligence and wasted time by the coalition, coupled with some less than helpful contributions from the Greens, the government is getting on with the job of delivering better outcomes for the environment and driving down our emissions. We've committed to net zero by 2050. We've committed to 43 per cent emissions reduction by 2030. We have significant investments in renewables and significant projects. We also now have stronger fuel efficiency standards and a $2 billion investment in green hydrogen. Our climate safeguard laws also mean that any project has some pretty strict guidelines and caps. Any coal or gas project must comply with that and must work towards our net zero commitment.

We understand that action to address climate change has to go hand in hand with protecting our environment and our biodiversity. We've invested significantly in projects across our environment. We've worked very hard to offset some of the significant decline that we have seen through a decade of inaction by those opposite when they were in government. They have neglected the environment. They have reduced the protections. They ignored the Samuel review. They held $40 million aside for Indigenous projects on the Murray and didn't spend a single cent. We have promised to provide stronger environmental protection, and that is what we are working on. That is what we are going to deliver. It is a huge task on the back of the neglect and the inaction that we've seen, which resulted in significant decline. Just to be clear: there will be no environmental standards watered down, there will be no fast-tracking of projects and there will be no weakening of consultation requirements. (Time expired)

Long debate text truncated.


Date and time: 6:04 PM on 2024-03-18
Senator Pocock's vote: Abstained
Total number of "aye" votes: 11
Total number of "no" votes: 22
Total number of abstentions: 43

Adapted from information made available by