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Tuesday, 11 October 2016
Page: 1436

Oil Exploration

Senator HANSON-YOUNG (South Australia) (14:15): My question is to the Minister representing the Minister for the Environment and Energy, Senator Birmingham. Senator, BP today announced that they will not pursue their plans to drill for oil in the Great Australian Bight Marine Park. Will you now join with the Greens and others in congratulating the South Australian community for standing up to this big oil company and making it clear that BP are not welcome in our spectacular marine environment?

Senator BIRMINGHAM (South AustraliaMinister for Education and Training) (14:16): I cannot believe that a senator for South Australia would stand in this place and cheer the loss of investment and jobs in South Australia, as Senator Hanson-Young just did. I cannot believe that the invitation has been made for me to join her in congratulating people for deterring this investment and this creation of jobs in South Australia. This is a disappointing decision by BP. It is a disappointing decision that reduces the employment prospects for South Australians in the future. It is particularly disappointing for the communities of the west coast of South Australia who will loose out the most from investment that BP were planning to undertake as part of their continued exploration activities. I have been continually disappointed in this place by the fact that the Greens, in cooperation with other political parties, have sought to politicise BP's activities in relation to exploration and have sought to, indeed, create an environment where it is less attractive for somebody to actually proceed with a good, strong investment into the state of SA.

Of course, all of the usual environmental standards and procedures were being applied and NOPSEMA was doing its job in putting BP through all of the right assessments and conditions before final permits and approvals could be granted. But I cannot believe that we have a circumstance yet again where the Australian Greens seem to think it is appropriate to be a cheer squad for the loss of jobs and the loss of investment rather than actually recognising that this is another disappointing act in relation to investment in South Australia, which I am pleased that our government is working hard to try to rectify through programs like, of course, our record levels of defence industry investment. But also, as we have discussed previously, we need to continue to work— (Time expired)

The PRESIDENT: Senator Hanson-Young, a supplementary question.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG (South Australia) (14:18): Thank you, Mr President. Of course, I will chalk this up as: community 1; big oil 0. I recognise that BP have said that they have pulled out of the bight because of financial reasons—they cannot make this project viable—but of course they were putting at risk the fishing and tourism industries. When will the government stand up for our tourism industry and our fishing industry and protect this area from big oil?

Senator BIRMINGHAM (South AustraliaMinister for Education and Training) (14:19): There is barely a question in that rant, but, nonetheless, in case Senator Hanson-Young missed it, NOPSEMA, the National Offshore Petroleum Safety and Environmental Management. Authority, was going through a very rigorous process in relation to BP—very rigorous. On 16 November 2015 and again on 16 May 2016, when the BP announced environmental plan for the proposed petroleum exploration was declared, it had not yet met the criteria under environmental regulations. It was completely appropriate for NOPSEMA to do so. BP went through the process of submitting a new environmental plan for NOPSEMA's assessment. That was on 12 August 2016. On 28 September 2016, NOPSEMA requested further information from BP, and on 11 October 2016—that is, of course, today—BP took the commercial decision and announced it would not proceed. But NOPSEMA and environmental approvals did exactly their job, and to denigrate them or anybody else in this process is ridiculous from Senator Hanson-Young while she cheers the loss of jobs. (Time expired)

The PRESIDENT: A final supplementary question, Senator Hanson-Young.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG (South Australia) (14:20): Thank you, Mr President. Will the government now move to give permanent protection to the Commonwealth marine park in the Great Australian Bight and remove the threat of exploration, rigs and oil spills for good?

Senator BIRMINGHAM (South AustraliaMinister for Education and Training) (14:20): There remain outstanding licences that the minister for resources, Senator Canavan, would be better to speak of, in terms of exploration licences that exist in the Great Australian Bight. The Commonwealth believes that we can effectively protect our marine parks and marine sanctuaries while also enabling economic activity to occur, that we can get the balance right from the Turnbull government to protect our environment through the high standards applied by agencies such as NOPSEMA while encouraging exploration and investment activity that can, of course, lead to the creation of greater wealth and further job opportunities. We will not be taking a backward step in relation to encouraging firms and others to undertake exploration activities that can lead to job creation, as long as they meet the tough environmental standards that are already in place, that BP was being held to and that any other investor or licence holder in this area will be equally held to in the future.