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Speech on Labor's dodgy deals with the gas industry

On Wednesday 26 June 2024, I made a speech in Federal Parliament about Labor's decision to approve new gas projects at the behest of the gas industry. You can watch the full speech here or read the transcript below.


I move:

That so much of the standing and sessional orders be suspended as would prevent the Member for Ryan moving the following motion:

That the House:

(1) notes the Minister for the Environment yesterday approved Gina Reinhart's Atlas gas project until 2080, which will destroy koala habitat, exacerbate the climate crisis and ignores the IEA's warning that no new coal, oil and gas projects can be built in order to reach net zero by 2050;

(2) condemns the fact that since the Government came to office, 9 gas projects and 5 coal projects have been approved while ten oil and gas fields covering 46,758 square kilometres of ocean have been released by the Resources Minister; and

(3) insists that the Atlas approval decision be overturned.

Just this morning here in Parliament House, I attended an important forum held by ACOSS introducing their blueprint framework for fair, fast and inclusive climate change action. Climate change is threatening our communities, the natural environment and the economy. In short, runaway climate change is threatening everyone and everything everywhere. This is an urgent crisis that needs to be dealt with now, and yet this government is actively exacerbating it. As Cassandra Goldie said this morning, climate change disproportionately impacts people and communities experiencing disadvantage, particularly when the transition to a clean economy is slow, inequitable and non-inclusive, which it is. That's notwithstanding the superficially concerned and fine words at the ACOSS forum this morning from the Assistant Minister for Climate Change and Energy.

Stage 3 of Senex's Atlas project was yesterday approved by the environment minister. This Gina Rinehart-backed project will construct 151 coal seam gas wells in Central Queensland. It'll clear at least 360 hectares of koala habitat. This project will reportedly drain 6½ million litres of groundwater every day. That's catastrophic in this area, which has some of the most productive farmland in this nation. Farmland is literally sinking already because of these coal seam gas wells, as we know, and we know this well. Up to 700 water bores in Queensland are also affected by CSG drilling.

It's time for some truths in this narrative, and I want to put them on record here. This gas is not being used to shore up the energy grid. That's a blatant lie. The biggest domestic use of gas in Australia is by the gas industry themselves, who use it for their own operations. The vast majority of Australian gas—around 80 per cent—is being exported overseas to countries like Japan and Korea. Australians see next to no royalties or tax from it. And then—get this—Japan gets such a good deal on Australian gas that they're onselling it to other countries. They can do that because Japanese domestic LNG demand is actually falling. They're exporting more than they're importing. Then you've got this absurd situation where Japan is now a competitor with Australia in the overseas gas market, except it's with our gas. It's absolutely ridiculous.

Australians are getting taken for a ride by the gas industry. Indeed, they are being gaslit, and there are backers in both major parties. The government just loves this project so much they even gave it an exemption from their energy price caps. The urgency of this motion is clear: we're in a climate crisis, and this government is addicted to approving new coal and gas. The gas industry in particular has a stranglehold over the government. We saw this with the release of their gas strategy a few weeks ago, which locks in new gas past 2050. This government has just released a budget containing tens of billions in fossil fuel subsidies, including $1.5 billion in funding for the Middle Arm project, which is a gas export hub. That's $1.5 billion in taxpayer dollars to assist gas companies—who, again, pay almost no tax or royalties—to assist them to export Australian gas, which other countries are then onselling for a profit. Taxpayer money is going to benefit gas companies and is making the climate crisis worse.

Gas, of course, produces fugitive methane emissions that are 80 times more potent than CO2 as a greenhouse gas. It's not a safe fuel. Fugitive emissions are also, of course, very hard to keep track of, because they're gas. We really have no way to predict the effect, and we're expected to believe that gas is somehow a cleaner energy source. That's another untruth that this government is actively peddling. The climate crisis is as urgent as ever. The government knows it. The government know that every fossil fuel project they approve makes climate change worse, and yet they go ahead with it. They know it means more natural disasters, including floods and bushfires. Globally, the number of extreme wildfires has doubled since 2003.

We in Queensland know that floods are happening more frequently, but underreported are also the effects of climate induced heatwaves. Places like Western Sydney will swelter through twice as many days above 35 degrees by 2050. That is just unsustainable. It's uninhabitable. The government's own data predicts over a thousand deaths each year in Australia's major cities—Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Perth—by 2050. That's not a thousand deaths cumulatively; that's each year.

Disadvantaged people and elderly people are most vulnerable to the effects of heatwaves, and that's according to the government's own data. This goes to what ACOSS is begging for, and was begging for this morning, in this urgent emergency. ACOSS is at the front line of trying to help those who are worst affected by climate change. ACOSS says—these are their seven principles—please reduce emissions quickly; please promote good health and wellbeing; please promote human rights, fairness and equity; please promote inclusion and representation; please uphold First Nations rights to sovereignty and self-determination; please, we beg of you, government, ensure a fair employment transition; and please, we beg of you, promote ecological sustainability and nature repair.

The government knows that this is a problem. They know all of this and yet they still approve more coal and gas. Make it make sense.

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