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Thursday, 12 December 2002
Page: 8142


Senator BARTLETT (Leader of the Australian Democrats) (7:03 AM) —I seek leave to incorporate the speech I would have made in the adjournment debate.

Leave granted.

The speech read as follows—

The Democrats share the view of many people in the Darwin community that building an LNG plant at Wickham Point on Darwin Harbour would be unnecessary and irresponsible.

The refinery is designed to handle the natural gas from the Bayu-Undan fields, requiring a 3 million tonne per annum capacity.

After the approval had been given, the plan for the proposed refinery was upgraded to a ten million tonne per annum facility in order to process the gas from future fields, specifically those covered by the faltering Timor Sea Treaty.

Despite considerable public opposition to this development, including—

· 6,500 signatures on a 2001 petition,

· 5000 letters of protest to the Chief Minister,

and over 1600 negative submissions to the (Northern Territory's) Development Consent Authority, and only one in favour.

This plant will increase the Northern Territory's Greenhouse Gas emissions by more than 60%, and Australia's overall emissions will rise by 1.3%.

What are the residents of Darwin going to get for the 2 tonnes per day of Sulphur Dioxide that will come from this plant?

A cleaner fuel source?

No, at the moment, all the gas from this development has been slated for sale to Japan. None is to be used in Australia.

How many jobs does the Northern Territory stand to gain for the 5 tonnes of Carbon Monoxide coming from this plant each day?

One hundred and twenty.

Sure there will be more during the construction phase, but this plant will only provide 120 permanent jobs on site. The initial boom in the construction phase is by far outweighed by the ongoing costs and risks of this plant.

For the 1.5 tonnes per day of Particulate Matter to be released into the air, residents will get a floodlit refinery blighting their near-pristine harbour, and a 13 metre chimney flaring gas, spoiling the Darwin nightscape, the least light-polluted of Australia's capital cities, with a plume of flame that will operate for a minimum of 624 hours per year.

This plant will be producing an estimated 17 ½ tonnes per day of Nitrous Oxides. Although, upon deciding that their estimates needed verification, the Northern Territory Government's Assessment Report (AR 39) recommended that Phillips should monitor their own nitrous oxides emissions (and determine whether they exceeded the National Environmental Protection Measures for Ambient Air Quality)

And what will the residents of the NT stand to gain for their eighteen thousand tonnes per day of Carbon Dioxide? Tourism is the Northern Territory's largest industry (employing 14,000 people), and Darwin Harbour is an icon for that industry. I've just recently returned from Darwin and I can tell you that the Harbour is a scene of incredible natural beauty. And it should not be degraded by this wholly avoidable development.

Both the dredging of the channel and the disruption caused by the noise from the engines of these largest tankers in the World will cause permanent damage to dugong breeding grounds. On The 7.30 Report in August, one of the world's leading experts on dugongs, Helene Marsh stated that she believes the increased shipping will drive the dugongs from the area.

Large amounts of treated process water would be released into the delicate ecology of the monsoonal vine forest around the plant, and into the mangroves beyond them. The Assessment Report requires that Phillips warn nearby aquaculture industries to take precautionary measures to protect their livestock. The local, established industries rather than the owners of the new plant will have to safeguard themselves from the risks posed by this development.

There is still no definite plan for the large amounts of heavy metals produced by the refinery, other than that they are to be buried in landfill. Somewhere.

In the case of a cyclone (up to 300kph winds, with as little as a few hours warning), tankers with a draft of 11 ½ metres will be unable to leave the harbour until the tide is right.

These super-tankers will be carrying 145,000 cubic metres of gas, compressed to over 600 times it's natural volume. The real danger from these vessels is not so much an explosion, but a cloud of colourless, odourless, tasteless asphyxiating gas being released in the vicinity of the city of Darwin, the local port and our defence force sites: the tankers will pass within a kilometre of NORCOM Command, the Larrakeyah naval base and the Stokes Hill Wharf on their way to the plant.

Plans for a similar plant in Carteret County in the USA were terminated, after much public outcry, general safety concerns about terrorist attacks, and objections by the US Defence Forces were made over plans to build such a hazardous industry so close to its strategic assets in the port.

There are fears of a USS Cole-type incident of bombing a ship in port. These fears cannot be totally dismissed, given that Darwin falls within Jemaah Islamiah's operational zone Mantiqi 4.

There will be 50 metre high storage towers. Only two other buildings in Darwin are of this height or higher. In conjunction with the floodlighting required for this industrial site, this would seriously alter the aesthetically pleasing nature of the harbour.

If this project must go forward, then Glyde Point, a more respectable 45km from Darwin, is a site specifically set aside for industrial development in oil and gas (by the NT Development Corp).

Jobs will remain the same, the revenue will remain the same, but the health and safety (security) concerns will be greatly diminished.