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Wednesday, 8 February 2017
Page: 237

Senator XENOPHON (South Australia) (10:18): Thank you, Minister, for your response. I reject absolutely and vehemently that I am trying to have my cake and eat it too in relation to that. There is a world of difference between the reserves. With the Great Australian Bight prospective oil reserves there is the depth of the drilling that will have to take place, what the seas are like there—how rough they can be—and some of the environmental studies. I know that NOPSEMA has leaked—I know that the regulator has looked at this—the potential environmental impact and the economic effect of that impact on aquiculture and on tourism. The environmental clean-up costs would be quite significant. There is a world of difference between those reserves and the Bass Strait reserves, which are gas. The drilling issues are very different and the depths are quite different. There is a world of difference between those.

The point I was making with the second reading amendment was that a company can say, 'It is not commercially viable for us to develop the Bass Strait reserve,' and they do so because it may not fit in with their global plans, but there could be some other companies, including local Australian companies that I and my office have spoken to, that say, 'We actually want to give this a go but we need access to the seismic surveys.' There is a problem with the current system, and I know that the minister will work on this in good faith and assiduously. If there were an alternative plan and they could have access to the seismic surveys—and there were a mechanism, a formula, for them to pay for those seismic surveys—and they ended up making a successful bid then that would be a game changer in relation to having those other companies having access to those reserves.

I do not want to take it any further than that but there is a distinction between the two reserves and there are risks to the environment. There are the proven and/or probable gas reserves in the Bass Strait and there are risks involved with drilling for oil in the Great Australian Bight. I hope we can access that gas in the Bass Strait sooner rather than later because of the impact that will have on industry security, our nation's economy and the manufacturing sector.