Bid to ban fossil fuel projects in Otway Basin on ice
A PUSH by the Greens to ban gas and fuel projects from the Otway Basin is unlikely to gain traction before the federal election despite a bill on the issue sitting before the parliament.
The Offshore Petroleum and Greenhouse Gas Storage Amendment (Fight for Australia’s Coastline) Bill 2021 was introduced to the Senate in December last year by Tasmanian Greens Senator
Peter Whish-Wilson and had been tabled for debate, but that’s unlikely to occur with only three sitting days scheduled before an expected May election.
“The government gave us no opportunity to debate this bill, with two very truncated parliament sitting weeks before the election,” Senator Whish-Wilson said.
“Our bill will sit on the Senate notice and will be debated in the next parliament… this legislation would provide the mechanism necessary to permanently stop misguided and destructive offshore gas projects like what’s planned for the Otway Basin in their tracks.
“Every year I travel north for winter and surf along the Great Ocean Road coastline, it’s near and dear to my heart and should be protected.”
In June last year, the federal government announced the Otway Basin as one of 21 release areas around Australia available for offshore oil and gas exploration. Bidding rights for these areas closed today (March 3).
It has the potential to open up the ocean within several kilometres of the Twelve Apostles to oil and gas discovery and is seen as politically sensitive for the Coalition in the lead-up to the election, with the project falling within Liberal MP Dan Tehan’s seat of Wannon.
Fossil fuel projects along Victoria’s south-west coast have a history of causing angst in the lead-up to federal elections. Former Corangamite MP and now Victorian Senator Sarah Henderson defied her government colleagues when she attended a 2019 protest in Torquay, where surfers amassed in opposition to oil exploration plans in the Great Australian Bight.
The Greens bill before the Senate would amend existing oil and gas legislation to exclude future exploration and extraction from three offshore licence areas including the Otway Basin, an area off King Island and the Sydney Basin.
Opposition to new oil and gas projects are shaping as one of the Surfrider Foundation’s biggest campaign issues in 2022, and the group is fully supportive of the Greens-led amendments to the bill.
“This bill is a positive step towards Surfrider Foundation’s mission to end all new oil and gas exploitation in Australian waters,” national campaign director Damien Cole said.
“We understand the important role that fossil fuels still play in our society today, we need to be transitioning away from our reliance on fossil fuels and our nation should be heavily focused on investing in the future of renewable energy, rather than investing in an outdated, toxic and destructive industry.
“The climate crisis is an existential threat and the biggest issue to ever face humanity and therefore Surfrider Foundation is concerned that this bill is not being given the attention it deserves and will not make it through Parliament before the election.”
The Victorian government is concurrently investigating the potential for extraction in the Otways Basin via its Victorian Gas Program.
In December last year, technical reports prepared for government were released to stakeholders in order to assess the risks, benefits and impacts of potential onshore conventional gas exploration and production.
The program is also investigating the potential for further discoveries of onshore conventional and offshore gas in the Otway and Gippsland geological basins, and assessing the feasibility of additional onshore underground gas storage in depleted reservoirs around the Port Campbell area.
Beach Energy is already extracting gas from the Otway Basin and piping it to a facility near Port Campbell where it’s processed and sold to the East Coast gas market.