The offshore Petroleum Exploration Permit (PEP 11) covers an area stretching from Newcastle to the Northern Beaches. The renewal of the licence has been opposed by the Surfrider Foundation and Ms Steggall but also by fellow Northern Beaches MP Jason Falinski and Prime Minister Scott Morrison.
The licence expired in February 2021 and although no decision has been formally announced by Federal Resource Minister Keith Pitt, the decision of NSW Deputy Premier John Barilaro in February 2021 not to support the extension effectively ended the licence as the agreement of both State and Federal authorities is required for an extension.
The move to introduce a private members bill by Ms Steggall, who has been a consistent opponent of gas projects across the nation, is designed to end the remaining uncertainty.
“The coastline around PEP 11 is home to millions of Australians, whose lifestyle and livelihood relies on a healthy ocean. We need to stop the push for gas production off our coast. That’s why I am announcing that I’ll be introducing the Stopping PEP 11 Bill.
“PEP 11 is the Morrison Government’s ‘gas-led recovery’ in action. It opens the door to oil and gas rigs just offshore from our iconic beaches.
“Offshore oil and gas exploration and extraction through PEP 11 would have dire consequences for NSW’s coastal businesses, communities, ecosystems and climate. Any leak from PEP 11 would devastate our local economy already on its knees from COVID-19, destroying fishing, tourism, and hospitality industries.
“Gas is a damaging fossil fuel with high impact on global warming due to the methane emitted. The latest IPCC report has shown we must transition away from fossil fuels, not open new gas wells. Australia doesn’t need new gas wells, it could be a clean energy superpower with renewable energy and battery storage,” said Ms Steggall.
Ms Steggall’s bill has received the support of high profile Northern Beaches world champion surfer Layne Beachley AO.
“I would hate to see oil or gas rigs on the most beautiful horizon on the Earth. It would destroy tourism, it would destroy the marine ecosystems, it’s a whale migration pathway. It doesn’t belong here and I would hate to see it on my watch.
“I’m wholeheartedly in support of Zali’s bill to end PEP 11 and if there’s any politician out there who knows what’s right for future generations, for our environment and for our economy, then they should support it as well,” said Ms Beachley.
Ms Steggall’s opposition to the renewal of the PEP 11 licence was welcomed by Liberal MPs Dave Sharma, Jason Falinski and Andrew Bragg, but they said they had been advocating against renewal for some time.
“This licence is destined for the trash can, it must be the most unloved in history. For the last five years, members of both the Liberal and Labor parties have, with their communities, campaigned hard against the renewal of this licence; so it is positive news to have a member of the crossbench come out against it too.
“In October 2020, a motion moved in the House of Representatives calling for PEP 11 not to be renewed received bipartisan support from Liberals Trent Zimmerman and Dave Sharma, plus Labor’s Emma McBride, Sharon Claydon and Pat Conroy. Two months later the Prime Minister, with Lucy Wicks, confirmed his opposition to PEP 11.
“The NSW State Government is opposed to PEP 11. The Deputy Premier John Barilaro, along with James Griffin and Rob Stokes, have all spoken out against it. And of course, communities up and down the coast have backed this campaign to end the licence.
“It is difficult to find anyone who does support PEP 11. As the motion debated in parliament in October 2020 showed, there was no one who wanted to speak up in favour of PEP 11.
“It is a matter of when, not if, we are putting a stake through the heart of this unloved and unwanted licence that has hung like the Sword of Damocles over the heads of our communities from Wollongong to Newcastle,” said Mr Sharma and Mr Falinski in a joint statement.
NSW Senator Andrew Bragg was critical of the bill proposed by the Member for Warringah.
“This is more stunts, gimmicks and straw men from a totally ineffectual member. PEP 11 is a dead letter. It is friendless and will never go ahead,” said Senator Bragg.
Member for Wentworth Dave Sharma said his opposition to the extension of PEP 11 was ‘well-known and longstanding’.
“It is welcome that the member for Warringah is on board, but the legislative timeframe is far too slow to address this issue with a bill, a bill which none of us have seen, and which would need to go through the normal processes of parliamentary scrutiny and committee oversight,” said Mr Sharma.
The Liberal MPs said that their opposition to the extension of the PEP 11 licence was clear and reiterated their calls for Minister Keith Pitt to end the uncertainty and formally declare that PEP 11 will not be renewed.
Images: Zali Steggall OAM MP, Envato