Labor and Libs put Big Oil before communities
Operation Jeedara Update
Jeff Hansen, Managing Director Sea Shepherd Australia
A long-running Senate inquiry into the plans of companies like BP, Chevron, Santos and Karoon to drill for oil in the Great Australian Bight tabled its 172 page report in parliament last Thursday.
Sea Shepherd was a key witness as part of the enquiry and with the oil and gas industry reps in the room, I found both the Labor and Liberal senators to be very aggressive towards me and Sea Shepherd as I presented, in what can only be understood as showing a clear support for the oil and gas industry in putting one of the last big marine ecosystems on the planet, the Great Australian Bight at risk.
So with the report now out, where do the parties line up?
The Liberal coalition party is standing very firm with the oil and gas industry and happy to put the Great Australian Bight at risk, happy to put over 10,000 jobs at risk and happy through more climate altering fossil fuels, put our planets ability to support life and our kids real future at risk.
The Australian Labor party on one hand (through Senator Alex Gallacher) are standing with the Libs/APPEA (Australian Petroleum Production & Exploration Association), and on the other they are agreeing with the recommendations below.
1.17 To address the issue of consultation, Labor recommends that the Offshore Petroleum and Greenhouse Gas Storage (Environment) Regulations 2009 be amended to include a mandatory period of public comment during the final assessment process for Environment Plans.
1.21 To improve community confidence in NOPSEMA (National Offshore Petroleum Safety Environment Management Authority) processes, Labor recommends that the Offshore Petroleum and Greenhouse Gas (Environment) Regulation 2009 be amended to include a requirement for oil proponents to publically release oil spill modelling and emergency response plans when final assessments are being made and before public consultation is finalised.
While the Australian Greens Party Recommendation is as follows:
1.27 The Australian Greens recommend that no further oil or gas exploration or production be permitted in the Great Australian Bight Marine National Park. Further, the Australian Greens recommend that the Australian Government introduce legislation to prevent future oil and gas activities from occurring in the Great Australian Bight Marine National Park.
Nick Xenophon Party Recommendation:
1.8 Drilling in the Great Australian Bight should not proceed as it fails to meet the burden of proof required by the precautionary principle.
Wilderness Society South Australia director Peter Owen said: "Both the Greens and senator Nick Xenophon have recognised the huge risks involved in drilling for oil and gas in the pristine waters of the Great Australian Bight, have listened to the concerns of their communities and are willing to stand up for them. Both major parties, however, seem more interested in imaginary oil and gas industry jobs than the 10,000 real fishing and tourism jobs in South Australia’s coastal regions that would be threatened by an oil spill. Both the Liberal and Labour parties seem more concerned about the interests of the oil and gas industry rather than the communities they are elected to represent, or the potentially devastating impacts of an oil spill."
Committee chair Greens senator Sarah Hanson-Young said thousands of tourism and fisheries jobs would be at risk if oil drilling was allowed. She used parliamentary privilege to accuse Senator Alex Gallacher of crossing the floor to protect the interests of Chevron. "Isn't it interesting that Chevron, the big multinational company that wants to drill for oil and gas in the Great Australian Bight donated money to the South Australian Labor party within days of the hearing into that particular issue by the Senate committee," she told parliament.
What is clear from this senate report is that even at a government level, drilling for oil in the Bight is highly controversial.
Sea Shepherd applauds NOPSEMA for the way in which they conducted their handling of BP’s application, we also applaud BP for pulling out of drilling for oil in the Bight, they should be acknowledged for making the right decision.
We can have all the conditions and requirements in place for drilling in the Bight, however it still will not change the fact that drilling for oil in the Great Australian Bight is utterly unacceptable and to be honest, its insane to even consider it for the following reasons, using the comparison of BP’s spill in the Gulf of Mexico, which is relevant to any company proposing to drill for oil in the Bight:
- The Gulf of Mexico is heavily industrialised compared to the Bight, which is not at all developed, its pristine wilderness, meaning that even with all the infrastructure of rigs to drill relief wells and support vessels in the Gulf, it still took 87 days to cap the well, resulting in an estimated 4.9 million barrels of oil into the ocean ecosystem, 11 people died and hundreds of thousands of marine life wiped out.
- The Gulf of Mexico is a mill pond compared to the Bight, which can reach seas of up to 15 to 20 metres, oil booms can not be used if there is a spill. Due to the terrain (Bunda cliffs and off shore islands) and seas, an oil spill in the Bight would be impossible to clean up and as a result toxic dispersant would be used.
- An oil spill in the Bight would be the end of 10,000 plus jobs in the fishing and tourism sectors.
- In regards to some of the remote locations that we visited like Fenelon Island as part of the St Francis Isles Archipelago, we had to wait a couple of days before we could come ashore due to the seas, once again highlighting the difficulties in reaching these places and then coming a shore in the event of a spill to treat marine life.
- BP boasted that it would be the deepest they would be drilling in the Gulf, and then with their massive blowout, in a matter of months, the Australian Government granted them leases in the Bight in even deeper seas.
- BP’s spill modelling, which would be very similar to the other companies wanting to drill in the Bight, showed that a spill would take at least 35 days to stop and that the oil could reach as far as Western Australia, all of South Australia, Victoria, Tasmania and even as far as New South Wales. In fact BP’s spill modelling, which was released just prior to them pulling out of the Bight, showed the Wilderness Society’s modelling to be very conservative.
- Last, but not least, if we want a liveable climate into the future for our kids, we can simply not allow the expansion of the fossil fuel industry, its as simply as that.
Its a fact that the ocean acidification caused by climate change is killing the coral reefs of our world like the Great Barrier Reef, our oceans are becoming more acidic and we are missing forty percent of the phytoplankton, the tiny marine plants that give us most of the air that we breath.
The reality is that our planets ability to support life hangs by a thread.
Sea Shepherd applauds the Greens and Xenophon party for standing with their communities and future generations, on the right side of history, for the preservation of the Bight.
Even global offshore industry news are reporting on the senate enquiry with the headline, "
Senator urges Great Australian Bight oil and gas exploration to stop“ http://www.offshore-technology.com/news/newssenator-inquiry-advises-to-stop-oil-and-gas-exploration-in-great-australian-bight-5811983
Its high time that the Labor and Liberal parties represented our kids, and a real future on this planet and not the interests of the oil companies, wanting to put one of the worlds great natural wonders, the Great Australian Bight at risk.
Here is a link to our bight documentary trailer, showcasing why we must all care about the protection of the Bight: https://www.jeedarathefilm.org
Please contact/make a call to the Environment Minister, Hon. Josh Frydenberg and Shadow Environment Minister, Hon. Tony Burke to tell them:
- The Great Australian Bight must be protected from risky fossil fuel drilling through legislation;
- Fossil fuel leases in the Great Australian Bight must be reviewed and no further acreage or leases issued;
- To stop supporting the expansion of the Fossil Fuel industry.
Hon. Josh Frydenberg MP
Electoral Office Phone: 03 9882 3677
Parliament Office Phone: 02 6277 7920
Hon. Tony Burke MP
Electoral Office Phone: (02) 9750 9088
Parliament Office Phone: (02) 6277 4410
site for more information.