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Wednesday, 13 September 2023
Page: 2

Mr LITTLEPROUD (MaranoaLeader of the Nationals) (09:11): I rise to respond to the minister's statement on decommissioning. I'd first like to thank the minister for recognising that the previous coalition government did much of the work in relation to reforming Australia's offshore oil and gas decommissioning industry, and I acknowledge that the government is continuing this work. In 2021, the former coalition government passed strong reforms to ensure stability and responsible management of offshore decommissioning following extensive consultation with industry to ensure that negative impacts were mitigated, and just last year the coalition successfully negotiated a deal that would ensure the long-term management of Northern Endeavour's decommissioning whilst ensuring the Australian taxpayer would not bear the costs of the project. However it is concerning that the government appears to be more focused on the process of shutting projects down rather than getting on the job with new ones.

The minister is right. Australia does have a mature oil and gas industry. It's mature because Australia has been known for its predictable and fair regulatory environment that allowed investors and resource companies to get on with the job of investing in and developing our extensive and high-quality oil and gas reserves, creating jobs and wealth for Australians in the process. However, recently this has become increasingly uncertain thanks to the government's poor and rushed policy decisions. The minister highlights that Australia is a responsible country for sustainable offshore development, but who will continue to invest in our offshore developments when Labor has decided to wage war against the gas industry since coming to office? Market interventions, changing regulatory goalposts, funding green lawfare, damaging industrial relations legislation, and profound indecision and a lack of clarity following important court decisions have made Australia a much riskier place to try to get new oil and gas projects off the ground. Despite calls from industry and foreign partners that these decisions are making Australia an increasingly unreliable investment destination, the government seems completely content to continue undermining this multibillion dollar sector.

On Monday, the Premier of Western Australia, the minister's home state and a resource powerhouse, was forced to come out to bat publicly on behalf of the sector. It's clear that this industry has very few allies in the ranks of federal Labor. In fact the state Labor Premier had to remind this federal Labor government that no-one will thank us if the economy goes backwards. No-one will thank us if you don't have enough gas and love electricity. Yet the Albanese government is doing just that, driving our economy backwards and increasing the risk of gas shortfalls across the country. The WA Premier also said that the resource sector kept New South Wales and Victoria afloat when they were in lockdown. The fact of the matter is that this industry plays and will continue to play a significant role in our economy, but today we are presented with a statement on a significant matter on decommissioning. It is an important topic, no doubt, but, just like the government's future gas strategy, the focus appears to be more on managing a decline in supply rather than boosting supply through new development.

Where is the statement on the importance of commissioning new oil and gas projects? What about a statement that points to a single new project that will go towards solving Labor's energy supply problem, which is of their own making? What about an acknowledgement that union activism at Western Australian gas projects now risks destabilising global LNG markets, activism that will only get worse under Labor's proposed industrial relations changes because, when reports of potential union strikes first emerged, global gas prices soared? Where are the statements on the significance of that from the government? What about the Middle Arm Sustainable Development Precinct, a national infrastructure project that the Northern Territory Labor government deem so critical to the north? Shamefully, Labor decided to make a backroom deal with the Greens to grant them an inquiry in order to attack the future of the precinct and of the gas industry in the Northern Territory—all to try and protect the Prime Minister from the dodgy decisions around Qatar Airways as a favour to Alan Joyce.

It's revealing that—while our shadow minister for resources and for northern Australia, Senator McDonald, is currently at the Northern Territory Resources Week conference, confirming the coalition's commitment to Middle Arm, and supporting infrastructure for carbon capture and storage and blue hydrogen and the north's entire resource sector—the minister is here in the chamber delivering a significant statement on decommissioning. Obviously, the Labor government has formed their own list of priorities for the future of oil and gas in Australia, because this is the stark difference between the Labor government and the coalition. While the coalition is out on the ground, genuinely engaging with industry and the communities that benefit from the resource sector, Labor is playing politics in Canberra, trying to ram through ill-thought legislation to protect their own interests. If left to their own devices, Labor would ensure that, once all the jobs had gone and all the investment had been pulled, the only thing left for the oil and gas industry to do would be to be decommissioned.