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FOR – Motions — Environment

Elizabeth Watson-Brown

I move:

That so much of the standing and sessional orders be suspended as would prevent the Member for Ryan moving the following motion:

That the House:

(1) notes the Minister for the Environment yesterday approved Gina Reinhart's Atlas gas project until 2080, which will destroy koala habitat, exacerbate the climate crisis and ignores the IEA's warning that no new coal, oil and gas projects can be built in order to reach net zero by 2050;

(2) condemns the fact that since the Government came to office, 9 gas projects and 5 coal projects have been approved while ten oil and gas fields covering 46,758 square kilometres of ocean have been released by the Resources Minister; and

(3) insists that the Atlas approval decision be overturned.

Just this morning here in Parliament House, I attended an important forum held by ACOSS introducing their blueprint framework for fair, fast and inclusive climate change action. Climate change is threatening our communities, the natural environment and the economy. In short, runaway climate change is threatening everyone and everything everywhere. This is an urgent crisis that needs to be dealt with now, and yet this government is actively exacerbating it. As Cassandra Goldie said this morning, climate change disproportionately impacts people and communities experiencing disadvantage, particularly when the transition to a clean economy is slow, inequitable and non-inclusive, which it is. That's notwithstanding the superficially concerned and fine words at the ACOSS forum this morning from the Assistant Minister for Climate Change and Energy.

Stage 3 of Senex's Atlas project was yesterday approved by the environment minister. This Gina Rinehart-backed project will construct 151 coal seam gas wells in Central Queensland. It'll clear at least 360 hectares of koala habitat. This project will reportedly drain 6½ million litres of groundwater every day. That's catastrophic in this area, which has some of the most productive farmland in this nation. Farmland is literally sinking already because of these coal seam gas wells, as we know, and we know this well. Up to 700 water bores in Queensland are also affected by CSG drilling.

It's time for some truths in this narrative, and I want to put them on record here. This gas is not being used to shore up the energy grid. That's a blatant lie. The biggest domestic use of gas in Australia is by the gas industry themselves, who use it for their own operations. The vast majority of Australian gas—around 80 per cent—is being exported overseas to countries like Japan and Korea. Australians see next to no royalties or tax from it. And then—get this—Japan gets such a good deal on Australian gas that they're onselling it to other countries. They can do that because Japanese domestic LNG demand is actually falling. They're exporting more than they're importing. Then you've got this absurd situation where Japan is now a competitor with Australia in the overseas gas market, except it's with our gas. It's absolutely ridiculous.

Australians are getting taken for a ride by the gas industry. Indeed, they are being gaslit, and there are backers in both major parties. The government just loves this project so much they even gave it an exemption from their energy price caps. The urgency of this motion is clear: we're in a climate crisis, and this government is addicted to approving new coal and gas. The gas industry in particular has a stranglehold over the government. We saw this with the release of their gas strategy a few weeks ago, which locks in new gas past 2050. This government has just released a budget containing tens of billions in fossil fuel subsidies, including $1.5 billion in funding for the Middle Arm project, which is a gas export hub. That's $1.5 billion in taxpayer dollars to assist gas companies—who, again, pay almost no tax or royalties—to assist them to export Australian gas, which other countries are then onselling for a profit. Taxpayer money is going to benefit gas companies and is making the climate crisis worse.

Gas, of course, produces fugitive methane emissions that are 80 times more potent than CO2 as a greenhouse gas. It's not a safe fuel. Fugitive emissions are also, of course, very hard to keep track of, because they're gas. We really have no way to predict the effect, and we're expected to believe that gas is somehow a cleaner energy source. That's another untruth that this government is actively peddling. The climate crisis is as urgent as ever. The government knows it. The government know that every fossil fuel project they approve makes climate change worse, and yet they go ahead with it. They know it means more natural disasters, including floods and bushfires. Globally, the number of extreme wildfires has doubled since 2003.

We in Queensland know that floods are happening more frequently, but underreported are also the effects of climate induced heatwaves. Places like Western Sydney will swelter through twice as many days above 35 degrees by 2050. That is just unsustainable. It's uninhabitable. The government's own data predicts over a thousand deaths each year in Australia's major cities—Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Perth—by 2050. That's not a thousand deaths cumulatively; that's each year.

Disadvantaged people and elderly people are most vulnerable to the effects of heatwaves, and that's according to the government's own data. This goes to what ACOSS is begging for, and was begging for this morning, in this urgent emergency. ACOSS is at the front line of trying to help those who are worst affected by climate change. ACOSS says—these are their seven principles—please reduce emissions quickly; please promote good health and wellbeing; please promote human rights, fairness and equity; please promote inclusion and representation; please uphold First Nations rights to sovereignty and self-determination; please, we beg of you, government, ensure a fair employment transition; and please, we beg of you, promote ecological sustainability and nature repair.

The government knows that this is a problem. They know all of this and yet they still approve more coal and gas. Make it make sense.

Ian Goodenough

Is there a seconder?

Stephen Bates

There is a seconder. I second the motion. Our federal environment minister has just approved a Gina Rinehart backed, huge coal-seam-gas project in my home state. This project, the Senex Atlas stage 3 project, will clear 360 hectares of endangered koala habitat in inland Queensland for fracking. This project is expected to require the drainage of a whopping 6½ million litres of groundwater as the coal seams are depressurised every day. Let's not forget that the depressurisation of coal seams across Queensland's Western Downs is causing some of Australia's best farmland to sink. Lock the Gate said it best:

"Minister Plibersek is happy to pose for photos with cute and cuddly koalas one day and then approve the clearing of hundreds of hectares of koala habitat for new Gina Rinehart-backed coal seam gas developments the next … "

Queensland communities are already incredibly vulnerable to the impacts of climate change, yet we have the Labor government approving yet another polluting fossil fuel gas project, further exacerbating the climate crisis.

The overwhelming majority of Queensland's gas extraction is exported overseas, and the biggest domestic user of gas in Queensland is the gas industry itself. There would be no need for this project if the federal and state governments were managing existing gas fields in the national interest. This project is going to result in 151 coal seam gas wells and a 300 million litre CSG brine storage requirement. This is only going to make the boom-and-bust cycle of short-sighted gas development worse in the Queensland town of Miles. So here we go again: yet another fossil fuel approval from this Labor government. It's not the first, and it's abundantly clear it's not going to be the last.

How long can the Labor and Liberal parties continue to ignore the most basic of scientific facts. Approving new fossil fuel projects is bad for the environment, the climate and the future of our planet. April was the warmest month on record—the 11th month in a row of record global temperatures—and sea surface temperatures have been at a record high for over a year. The world's top scientists now believe that we're going to blow past the 1.5 degree target set by the Paris climate agreement, and here we have the Labor government willingly approving new fossil fuel projects, despite those warnings.

You don't have to look too far to see to why this is happening, though. We all know it, so we're going to say the quiet part out loud. Over the last decade, the fossil fuel industry has donated $13.7 million to the Labor and Liberal parties. You might be asking: why both? It's because it guarantees that this dirty industry has influence and power regardless of whether Labor or the Liberals win the election—and what a return on investment they get. This last budget continued to hand over billions of dollars in subsidies to fossil fuels at the expense of communities right across the country. Coal and gas say, 'Jump', and this government simply responds with, 'How high?' It is abundantly clear that you cannot trust either the LNP or Labor when it comes to protecting our environment. The LNP still don't really believe that climate change is even real; and then we have the Labor Party, which has the gall to tell us that they think it's real while they continue to approve new coal and gas wells. It's actually insulting!

This latest approval of 151 coal seam gas wells is the latest in a long, long line of this government ignoring science and ignoring every single person in this country asking for climate action, and it must be overturned.

Adam Bandt

This is astounding! Usually, when we have a motion condemning the government, someone from the government comes and speaks in defence of what they've done. But, no, the government can't even come in here and bring itself to justify why it has just approved 151 new gas wells in the middle of a climate crisis. There's a reason that the government cannot bring themselves to come in here: they are utterly ashamed. Labor are utterly ashamed, and they should be. The environment minister has just approved a climate-destroying gas project to run until 2080. They told us we were meant to be at zero emissions at 2050, and Labor are approving coal and gas mines to run out to 2080.

When is the environment minister coming in here as this parliament moves to condemn her? The environment minister cannot even bring herself to come into the chamber and justify this climate-wrecking decision. I thought we had got rid of Scott Morrison and his gas led recovery, but what's becoming crystal clear by the day is that it's becoming increasingly difficult to tell Labor and Liberal apart on coal and gas. Labor pretends to care about the climate crisis and then they come into this place, with the power they've got, and approve new coal and gas mines running out to 2080. And they can't even bring themselves to come into the chamber to justify it. They should be ashamed, and they cannot hide from the Australian people their climate-destroying approval of coal and gas mines to run out to 2080.

This must be overturned—this must be overturned! If we're to give our kids any chance of a safer climate, we must stop approving new coal and gas mines. You cannot put the fire out while you're putting petrol on it. The first step to tackling a problem should be to stop making the problem worse. At a bare minimum, Labor should stop approving new coal and gas mines. This is a contemptible decision that the government can't even bring itself to defend. This motion should be passed and this terrible decision should be overturned.

Long debate text truncated.


Date and time: 10:28 AM on 2024-06-26
Allegra Spender's vote: Aye
Total number of "aye" votes: 13
Total number of "no" votes: 78
Total number of abstentions: 60

Adapted from information made available by

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