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FOR – Bills — Offshore Petroleum and Greenhouse Gas Storage Legislation Amendment (Safety and Other Measures) Bill 2024; Second Reading

Gavin Pearce

On behalf of the federal coalition I rise today to speak on the Offshore Petroleum and Greenhouse Gas Storage Legislation Amendment (Safety and Other Measures) Bill 2024. In doing so, I'm proud to affirm to the House that on this side of the chamber the coalition continues to be a strong, dependable and ardent supporter of Australia's resources sector. On this side 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 that contribution is. In 2022 and 2023 Australia's gas industry generated approximately $92 billion in export earnings, which provided direct economic support to federal, state and territory budgets. Australian gas also powers energy and manufacturing across our country and provides affordable energy security to our international partners. Therefore, if these sorts of projects continue to be threatened, we jeopardise billions and billions of dollars worth of investment and run the risk of not being able to supply the international market with the vital energy supplies it needs. Further to this, Australia is set to hit a gas supply cliff by 2026, and with continued attacks on the gas sector we run the risk of not being able to encourage, to facilitate and to secure the substantial investment our country requires to avert this crisis. Therefore sensible government policy which supports the resources industry, which incentivises investment and which will help develop greater prosperity of this sector and the whole nation is so desperately needed at this time.

But this is not what we're seeing from this government. The circulation of an amendment attempting to restrict sensible reforms to offshore regulations is an attempt to appease the Greens. These amendments add a new EPBC trigger into the decision-making process, which would completely remove the EPBC exemption for offshore products if the minister for the environment decides they don't like a particular offshore gas regulation. And by adding the sunset clause into these amendments the government has assured that when they inevitably bungle the regulation reform there'll be no chance to fix it. We're going through this entire process right now because of provisions to fix regulations that simply don't exist. Why would the government then move an amendment to remove those exact provisions, which we are voting on right now?

We will be opposing this amendment to this bill. And it is telling that, despite the government having bipartisan support from the coalition for this bill in its original form, when Mr Bandt said 'jump', Labor couldn't help itself from watering down those parts of the bill—important reforms—whilst running scared of the radicals who want to shut the industry down.

Because we want to continue to see a government that puts good policy before politics, especially if it means cooperating with the coalition, this bill has bipartisan support. Labor had no need to crumble to the Greens pressure—yet they did. It begs the question: why do they always slap away the hand of bipartisanship in favour of bowing to the Greens' agenda? This is indicative of the type of government the Prime Minister leads. Labor will go to the media and plead the bipartisanship thing, or attack the coalition for not blindly supporting them in their legislative agenda. But when the opportunity for real bipartisanship presents itself, Labor cannot help themselves. Instead of continuing to work with the coalition, whose support Labor had already secured, they folded to the Greens. Yet again, it's the Greens' tail wagging the Labor dog. When will Labor end the charade and just offer Mr Bandt a position in their cabinet, because he's obviously already there writing their policies. Despite all of the posturing by Labor and all that they do to support the resources sector—

Mike Freelander

Order. The member for Melbourne has a point of order.

Adam Bandt

Mr Deputy Speaker, my point of order is that you should enforce the rule that members should be referred to by their titles.

Mike Freelander

That's true. Members should be referred to by their titles. So I would ask the member for Braddon to do that, please.

Gavin Pearce

I take the point, Deputy Speaker. Despite all the posturing that Labor does about supporting the resources sector and understanding the need for gas in our energy mix, they still cannot bring themselves to deliver the proper reform. Instead, as usual, they bow to the Greens and to the radical Labor Environmental Action Network. It's disappointing to see the resources minister's authority being stripped by the environment minister. But it does not come as any surprise to the coalition, because we all know that it is ideology that drives this government, not good policy. To continue to attack this sector, which is still under immense pressure thanks to Labor's policies, is simply layering bad policy on top of more bad policy.

There are elements of this bill that are important, and it is important that we discuss those. It's important to note that the workplace health and safety reforms contained within this bill are based on a review that the coalition conducted during our term of government. In fact, many of the measures are already in place, with the oil and gas industry holding themselves to very high standards when it comes to matters of health and safety in the workplace. Ultimately, Australians who are employed in the resources sector are fortunate enough to operate in one of the best environments in the world. They earn great wages. They operate in safe and secure conditions, and they support those vital projects which provide such tremendous contributions to our domestic energy security and to the energy security of our partners. The coalition remain ardent supporters of those workers in our resources sector. We support the necessary reforms to workplace health and safety measures that ensure all Australians can go to work and can return home safely. That's why we initiated this review.

The bill before the House today also enables the government to deliver urgent reforms for offshore regulations. Although, unfortunately, it must be pointed out that the Albanese Labor government has put Australia's natural gas market under extreme pressure, with heavy-handed interventions and policies that are harming investment, not increasing supply. Over the past 18 months, at every single opportunity, the coalition has repeatedly warned the government of long-term impacts that their policies will have on this vital sector. We have called on the Labor government to cease and desist with their constant interventions and to instead proactively engage with the industry to urgently address the looming natural gas shortfalls. And today we repeat this message loud and clear.

The coalition notes that a significant component of this bill strengthens the potential for the Minister for Resources to genuinely and constructively engage with industry and to ensure that these sorts of projects are able to progress without delay. Despite Labor watering down their own reforms by letting the environment minister empire-build and seize control of the resources minister's decision, it is still vital that urgent reforms to these regulations and processes exist. These are reforms that the coalition have been demanding for more than 18 months.

The coalition will not block this bill. Despite the government trying to undermine the bipartisan work that has occurred within the second amendments. We acknowledge that modelling released late last year confirmed that more natural gas is needed, with the demand for Australian gas rising by up to 30 per cent from current levels by 2050. And so, faced with looming shortfalls on the east coast and Western Australia, it is now critical that new gas developments are supported and brought online. Otherwise, we run the risk of blackout and shortfalls dramatically increasing as time goes on.

In terms of the immense contributions of royalties and taxes from our gas sector and the taxes that they provide to state and federal budgets, in 2022 and 2023 this amounted to a staggering $16 billion. These taxation receipts could fund the construction of around 11 new public hospitals or 160 new schools or cover annual public health care to the tune of 1.67 million Australians.

However, despite all that wealth, despite all the revenue and despite all the investment that the gas industry gives to our nation, we continue to witness the shameful spectacle of the ideological crusaders and extreme activists who are hellbent on waging war against this great sector.

When it comes to legislation such as this, it's absolutely paramount that the government does everything it can, everything in its power, to ensure that proper reforms are made to support the Australian gas industry, for both the continued strength of the sector and the continued protection of workers, their rights and their safety. Every Australian worker should be able to come home safe at the end of a day's work. This bill strengthens health and safety standards for this industry. Our offshore workers play an important role for both our domestic energy supply and supporting our international community.

As I mentioned in my opening remarks, not only does our gas industry power Australian homes and businesses, but it's also crucial to keeping the lights on for our strategic partners—countries like South Korea and Japan, who already rely on Australian gas in order to power their populations—and it is essential that we continue to provide a stable and secure gas supply to these countries.

It's as simple as this: if Australia's offshore oil and gas sector continues to face the combination of sustained and relentless attacks from activists, as well as the damaging and misguided government policies, then all of the supply is put at tremendous risk, which in turn puts many international relationships at risk.

To conclude, while the federal coalition will not block this bill from progressing through the House, it's imperative that the government takes the decisive action to implement real and urgent changes to support the gas industry and sector as well as the broader resource sector throughout the country. Right now, the layering of industrial relations policies, the safeguard mechanism, the ongoing attacks from legal activists and general anti-business environment will have a long-term impact on investment prospects going into the future.

We cannot afford to lose the tremendous prosperity that this sector has brought our nation. So, despite Labor's unnecessary yet unsurprising capitulation to the Greens political party, the coalition will support the passage of the bill because we know the importance of delivering certainty and security for our resources sector.

Long debate text truncated.


Date and time: 1:18 PM on 2024-03-25
Allegra Spender's vote: Aye
Total number of "aye" votes: 12
Total number of "no" votes: 41
Total number of abstentions: 97
Related bill: Offshore Petroleum and Greenhouse Gas Storage Legislation Amendment (Safety and Other Measures) Bill 2024

Adapted from information made available by

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