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Speech - Committee on Environment and Planning

22 November, 2023.

I contribute to debate on the report of the Committee on Environment and Planning on the Minerals Legislation Amendment (Offshore Drilling and Associated Infrastructure Prohibition) Bill 2023. First I thank all the staff who assisted the committee. A few members had never been part of a committee before, so the work that the committee staff put in was really helpful. I thank the individuals and groups who made the incredible effort to provide submissions. I also thank the rest of the committee, including the Chair, who did an amazing job to take on board all of our opinions. I thank them.

I highlight the two recommendations in the report. Going forward, it is clear that the New South Wales Government will work with the Commonwealth to explore opportunities, as recommendation 1 states, to review existing environmental assessment standards that apply to petroleum exploration. I had an issue with recommendation 2, and I stated that I would support the passage of the bill with amendments. My issue is that I do not know what those amendments are. I make three points about my reasoning. First, while the member for Pittwater was cautioned in the report for not making good legislation because "it was driven by politics and that it was intended to tackle one particular petroleum exploration project known as 'PEP 11'", I am sure that we all understood the intent of the bill. Despite the comment, I am not sure that the recommendations may have been different if the Government had put up a similar bill amendment.

Secondly, the complication is the limit of State powers with regard to coastal waters and at what point does a State seeking to make laws that would affect Commonwealth waters cross into a constitutional crisis. Thirdly, there were some extremely good submissions among the evidence given by many of the community groups and individuals. I am a scientist and, if I take the emotions out of those submissions and take out those that may have had a significant conflict, I agree with the bill's intention. For me, going forward, the biggest issue is that I do not know what the amendments are. I hope that this House will eventually come around to working with the Commonwealth and sorting out a way forward, because I think that, in our hearts, we probably do not want this happening offshore. I thank the whole committee, and I thank the House for the opportunity to speak.