On Wednesday 2 August 2023, I made a speech in Federal Parliament on the Environment Protection (Sea Dumping) Bill 2023. You can watch the full speech here or read the transcript below.
The Environment Protection (Sea Dumping) Amendment (Using New Technologies to Fight Climate Change) Bill 2023 seeks to regulate the carbon capture and storage industry. Once again, I find myself utterly gobsmacked at the priorities of this government. Here we are in a drastic climate crisis, and, instead of ending new fossil fuel projects—as the UN says we must—putting a climate trigger in our environmental laws, ending native forest logging nationwide or properly protecting the Great Barrier Reef and the Murray-Darling Basin—tragically, this list goes on and on—this government is instead enabling the expansion of fossil fuels by legitimising the extremely questionable carbon capture and storage technology.
This legislation appears to have been introduced to enable, to facilitate, the Santos Barossa project and related projects off Australia's northern coast. Santos claims that they require CCS technology in order to meet the targets under the government's safeguard mechanism. In other words, they're using CCS to justify the expansion of fossil fuel projects. It's well known that CCS is not a viable method of reducing emissions at scale.
Australia's largest CCS project is Chevron's Gorgon project, off the coast of Western Australia, which, despite receiving millions in taxpayer dollars and subsidies—our taxpayer dollars—is operating behind schedule and at only a third of its promised emissions reduction. Despite the fact that this promised reduction was part of the WA government's regulatory approval of the project, Chevron has so far not faced any monetary fines for this monumental failure. Even the promised emissions reduction is only a fraction of the total emissions this project is responsible for. CCS can only cover emissions involved in the production of gas before it is exported to its final destination, completely ignoring the majority of emissions that are produced when the energy is generated at the customer's end.
Gorgon is not the only CCS project that is underperforming so significantly. Projects all around the world are failing to meet their targets. There is no doubt, and it is understood widely, that this is an unreliable method of emissions reduction, but it's very popular with the fossil fuel industry as it actually allows their projects to keep being approved. To make things even worse, huge sums of Australians' taxpayer dollars have been going into the development of these projects—money that would have been better spent, obviously, investing in renewable energy, in green manufacturing and other initiatives and projects that will actually mitigate this climate crisis rather than fuel it.
It's clear now, more than ever, that climate change is not some distant threat. We're living it right now. We've all seen the reports from the Northern Hemisphere of devastating fires and heatwaves. Dozens of climate records are being smashed across the world. We've seen the hottest average temperatures ever recorded globally in this past month. Catastrophic climate change is right here, right now. It's here to stay, and it will get far, far worse unless we urgently stop opening new coal and gas projects. Is this really the future that we want? Is this really the choice that we are making?
Let's not downplay Australia's role in climate change either—another lie that the fossil fuel industry likes to propagate. We are still the world's third largest exporter of fossil fuels, behind Russia and Saudi Arabia.
Why? Why is this happening? What could possibly be the reason for this insane, irresponsible and actually economically irrational, head-in-the-sand positioning of our government? Why? Why?
This Labor government is refusing to stop new coal and gas because they are completely in the pocket of coal and gas interests—indeed, acting like the governmental arm of the fossil fuel industry. So you'd be forgiven for thinking that this legislation had simply been drafted by Santos and handed to the environment minister to be passed as soon as possible. Think of it this way: as a pretty good return on investment for Santos, who have donated a collective $1.5 million to the major parties over the last decade. They've donated about the same amount to both Labor and the coalition—hedging their bets, so they have support no matter who is in government.
And it's not just donations to political parties. The resources minister's register of interests is enlightening reading, if you can stand it. The Minerals Council generously gifts her luxury charter flights, along with accommodation and fancy bottles of alcohol. It's a cheap date, really, for what they get in return.
That's not to mention the revolving door of personnel between the major parties and fossil fuel corporations. Take, for instance, Queensland Labor Senator Anthony Chisholm, who worked for Santos until he was elected to the Senate in 2016. His actual job description was—believe it or not—'providing advice on maintaining mainstream political support for gas amid an ongoing campaign against the coal seam gas industry by environmental and landholder groups'. I wonder what Senator Chisholm has to say about this bill.
Perhaps even more concerning, the current head of the Climate Change Authority, upon whose advice the environment minister is relying for this bill, is Grant King, who was the managing director of Origin Energy for 17 years. To me, that's a textbook example of a conflict of interest.
The environment minister and the Labor Party need to stop doing the bidding of their fossil fuel mates and start doing what the Australian people elected them do: to meaningfully act on climate change. So, rather than doing favours for Santos, the vast majority of Australians want more action on climate change and they want an end to new coal and gas projects. If the government fails to deliver, there will be dire consequences for generations to come.