Environmental Planning and Assessment Amendment (Sea Bed Mining and Exploration) Bill 2024

Published on: March 2024

Record: HANSARD-1323879322-139004

Environmental Planning and Assessment Amendment (Sea Bed Mining and Exploration) Bill 2024

Second Reading Debate

Debate resumed from 7 February 2024.

Ms KELLIE SLOANE (Vaucluse) (14:51:17):

It feels a bit like Groundhog Day to be talking about Petroleum Exploration Permit 11 [PEP 11] in this Chamber. The fact is that the Minns Labor Government could have passed legislation in June last year when the member for Pittwater introduced his private member's bill. Instead, it chose to delay the issue and send the bill to committee. The Government also could have passed legislation with amendment after that committee reported in December but, again, they sought to delay. When coastal communities called for action from this Government, they got delay and delay again. The Government has chosen inaction over action. The sceptic in me might say that the Government chose to delay the member for Pittwater's bill so it could produce a version of its own and claim it as its own win. Surely that wouldn't happen! I am reminded of a quote from Ronald Regan, who said, "There is no limit to the amount of good you can do if you don't care who gets the credit." I do not care who gets the credit. They can take the credit if they want because, at the end of the day, this is a win for New South Wales coastal communities.

The credit for this achievement belongs to the hardworking community advocates and community organisations like Surfers for Climate, who have worked for so long to achieve this result as well as Parents for Climate, Environmental Leadership Australia, Australian Marine Conservation Society, Sydney Institute of Marine Science, Climate Solutions, Blueprint Institute, FrontRunners, World Wildlife Fund and so many more. I remember, before the State election last year, standing with a group of those organisations and we called them oceans nine. It was a good day and we hoped that we would see this day eventuate, and I think we might today. Members on this side of the House have listened to coastal communities, and I am proud of the fact that we have made the Government act to prevent mining for oil and gas in New South Wales coastal waters. I am proud of the fact that we are helping put the nails in the coffin of PEP 11 once and for all.

The Opposition will be supporting the Government's bill, and I will come to the specifics of that in a moment. I note that while most of the bill is very similar to the one that the member for Pittwater introduced last year, it is considerably weakened by provisions which essentially give the planning Minister power to override many of the regulations and indeed the Act itself through an obscure Henry VIII clause which is, essentially, a get‑out-of-jail-free card. We understand that amendments will be proffered today. We welcome tightening up the clause because it effectively undermines the intent of the bill.

Report of the Independent Scientific Audit of Marine Parks in New South Wales

I turn to the purpose of the bill. Why do we need it? In essence, we need it to protect our precious marine estate. In New South Wales we are blessed to have some of the most pristine beaches and waterways in the world. Our marine estate is one of our most significant natural resources. It includes around one million hectares of estuary and ocean with more than 1,750 kilometres of ocean coastline, 6,500 kilometres of estuarine and coastal lake foreshores, 826 beaches, 44 offshore islands and 185 estuaries and coastal lakes. Our marine estate generates billions of dollars through domestic and international visitors every year. As the succinctly stated, "The NSW Marine Estate is owned by all people and has to be managed for all people." That is what we are here today to do. We are here to protect our marine estate for the people of New South Wales.

Environmental Impacts of the Deep-Water Oil and Gas Industry: A Review to Guide Management Strategies

Overwhelmingly, people in New South Wales do not want to see offshore mining and drilling in our waters. The current PEP 11 licence would involve offshore drilling as close as a few kilometres off the coast of Australia between Newcastle and Sydney. Offshore drilling would affect coastal ecosystems, intersect with whale migration patterns and devastate the environment if something went wrong. In 2009 we saw what happened with the Montara blowout, which caused a large oil spill off the coast of Western Australia. The Federal Court of Australia found that the spill spewed over 2½ thousand barrels of oil into the Timor Sea every day for 74 days. That killed seaweed crops, destroyed fishing grounds and polluted waters over more than 90,000 square kilometres—an area larger than Tasmania. A 2016 review entitled found:

Oil and gas operations have the potential to result in accidental releases of hydrocarbons, with the likelihood of an accidental spill or blowout increasing with the depth of the operations.

We also know that even early exploration activities such as the marine seismic airgun blasts, which reach about 250 decibels, can be heard for kilometres and can have devastating impacts on marine life. Those blasts can cause mammal hearing loss, disturb essential behaviours like feeding and breeding, and can mask communication between individual whales and dolphins.

Returning to the specifics of the bill, the purpose of the bill is to prohibit seabed and subsoil petroleum and mineral exploration, recovery and related development to ensure that development for those purposes cannot be undertaken in New South Wales. While New South Wales does have an offshore exploration and mining policy, introduced by the former Coalition Government, which states explicitly that the New South Wales Government does not support offshore mineral, coal or petroleum exploration or mining for commercial purposes or adjacent to New South Wales coastal waters, it is still possible for these activities to take place. The bill will send a very clear directive to those energy companies.

Offshore mining and exploration authorisations may still be granted and renewed under the Offshore Minerals Act 1999 and the Petroleum (Offshore) Act 1982, and developments may still currently be undertaken in accordance with the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979. The bill proposes to insert schedule 10 into the EP&A Act to prohibit the carrying out of seabed and subsoil petroleum or mineral exploration and recovery in coastal waters of the State and of other related developments in the broader State. The new schedule also prevents the granting or renewal of certain authorisations under the offshore Acts relating to development prohibited under the schedule.

As I have mentioned, the Opposition is concerned about the provision that gives the planning Minister override power. I am pleased to see that is being addressed. The Opposition believes that the original bill proposed by the member for Pittwater was stronger. We want the strongest piece of legislation we can have to protect our marine estate from seabed mining and exploration, and there is legitimate concern about the drafting of the current bill—this Henry VIII clause, which is self-defeating, potentially. We have been on quite a journey with the bill, and we have been on that journey with communities right up and down the coast of New South Wales and with everyone even beyond the coast—those inland who share our concern about our waterways and our beautiful beaches.

I hope that this is a good day. We draw the line in the sand here in New South Wales today. We are standing up for our coastal communities and we look to Canberra now, because Federal Labor could veto this with the stroke of a pen. Anthony Albanese has been silent on this matter. He has ignored his pre‑election promise for too long. The Prime Minister should take the baton we are handing him today, run with it and provide long overdue certainty for our coastal communities. I commend the bill to the House.

Mr STEPHEN BALI (Blacktown) (14:59:49):

I speak briefly in support of the Environmental Planning and Assessment Amendment (Sea Bed Mining and Exploration) Bill 2024. I thank the Minister, the Hon. Paul Scully, who is in the Chamber, for introducing this much‑needed bill to protect our coastal sea bed. The New South Wales Government does not support exploration or mining of the State's offshore geological resources. It is imperative that we protect our coastline and our sensitive marine ecosystems. This bill will protect our coastline for future generations by prohibiting petroleum and mineral exploration and recovery in our coastal waters. The bill will amend the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979 to permanently ban this activity.

The approach taken by the Government in drafting this bill has been careful and considered. Importantly, the bill does not impose a blanket prohibition, but makes important exemptions for, firstly, coastal protection works; and, secondly, certain dredging activities that do not require authorisation under the New South Wales Offshore Minerals Act 1999. It is essential to include these exemptions. They ensure that works maintaining and protecting the coastal environment, assets, resources and public safety are not restricted by this bill. Examples of works allowed under the coastal protection exemption include beach nourishment, where offshore sand, soil or sediment is added onto an eroding beach; beach scraping, involving the movement of sand from the shoreline to further up the beach, which reshapes the landscape and dune formations; seawalls and revetment work—you can tell I'm from Blacktown; what the hell is that?—to reduce the impact of coastal hazards and protect coastal areas from storm damage, further erosion and flooding; and dredging for environmental purposes, which does not involve the extraction and recovery of minerals.

It is critical that these activities are permitted, to ensure that erosion and other environmental issues can continue to be appropriately and carefully managed. The exemption for certain dredging activities will also ensure that some important current practices can continue. Dredging is a routine practice with environmental and economic benefits. The types of dredging that will be exempt from the prohibitions under the bill include dredging to maintain or increase the depth of navigation channels to ensure that vessels can adequately access a port or marina; replenish sand lost from coastal erosion; provide for anchorages or berthing areas; and remove sediments and pollutants to maintain clean and healthy ecosystems.

The bill also includes a regulation‑making power to permit further regulations to be made to exempt other specified sea bed mineral exploration or recovery activities and development if required. These regulations would only be able to be progressed in consultation with the Minister for the Environment. The exemptions are important to ensure that the bill does not unintentionally prohibit practices which are appropriate and have commercial and environmental benefits for the State. This bill is an important and critical step in the protection of our coastline for future generations. It is a sensible approach to protecting New South Wales against the harmful environmental impacts that can result from offshore exploration and recovery of petroleum and minerals. I commend the bill to the House.

Mr JAMES GRIFFIN (Manly) (15:03:56):

I speak on the Environmental Planning and Assessment Amendment (Sea Bed Mining and Exploration) Bill 2024. I acknowledge the Minister with carriage of the bill is in the Chamber. The reasons for this bill and the detail of the legislation will be canvassed thoroughly. These issues have received widespread media coverage for years. In fact, they generated farcical scenes during the last election in Pittwater, where competing "Stop PEP 11" press conferences took place side by side. Advocates and environmental voices did not know which one to stand behind. It was at that point that we knew that something was up when it came to the views and voices of coastal communities wanting to stop PEP 11. We have managed to get to this position of furious agreement because of the hard work, often behind the scenes, of the principled, smart and, at times, brave environmental advocacy groups who have, against the trend, gone out on a limb and proactively and comprehensively engaged with conservative politicians and voices over many years. They have brought about this outcome.

These groups have had the courage to buck the trend when it comes to the archetypal environmental advocacy group. It was the gains made by those groups who were willing and able to objectively engage—or, perhaps more importantly, those who truly understood the pragmatism required to change minds, inform, influence and educate using facts—who are ultimately the ones who have effected and will continue to effect the greatest change. The passing of this bill should, rightly, have many people claiming it as their win. It has been a collaborative effort. But that effort and reward belongs to those who were willing to leave their long‑held and often incorrect perceptions and views at the door and get around the table for a discussion. As my friend Anna from ELA says, "Conservation requires conversation. We have to get better at being in dialogue with people with different backgrounds and different values." Indeed, it is those groups, namely Surfers for Climate, who have led us to where we find ourselves today. There are still some coastal conservation groups and political voices on the sidelines that cannot bring themselves to believe we are at this point where a policy of the former Coalition Government to ban offshore mining is now being legislated with bipartisan support.

One of Australia's greatest economic assets is also its greatest environmental asset: the ocean. More than 85 per cent of Australians live within 50 kilometres of the sea, but Australia's ocean economy extends well beyond New South Wales coastal communities. Australia's national marine industries contribute significantly to the economy by generating more than $110 billion in output, adding $105 billion in value to the GDP, whilst supporting 462,000 full‑time‑equivalent jobs. Conservation, restoration and sustainable use and management of marine ecosystems and biodiversity is fundamental to a achieving a sustainable ocean economy. In that respect, the proposal of PEP 11, in my view, never delivered highest and best use of the coastal waters of New South Wales and, indeed, does not align with fundamental policy decisions and directions regarding energy security, reliability or cost.

All parties lay claim to having proud environmental records. I am proud to stand here today to speak on my party's tradition in marine conservation. The Coalition ended whaling in Australian waters. The Great Australian Bight Marine Park, proclaimed in 1998, the Great Barrier Reef, proclaimed in 1979, the Solitary Islands Marine Reserve, proclaimed in 1991, and the South‑east Commonwealth Marine Reserves Network, consisting of 13 marine reserves, are all State or Federal Liberal government initiatives. These are all major achievements of which we as a Coalition are proud and to which we can now add this legislation.

The message I leave for other States and Territories of Australia is that the economic benefits of conservation of our coastline presents an overwhelming and comprehensive case. This legislation should not be misconstrued as simply a means to preserve the visual amenity of a portion of the coast, because it is so much more than that. Cheaper, more reliable and secure energy is best achieved through other means. I take this opportunity to acknowledge the many coastal communities, stakeholder groups and various members of Parliament, either historically or more recently, who have delivered this outcome. Well done to all. I commend the bill to the House.

Mr DAVID HARRIS (WyongMinister for Aboriginal Affairs and Treaty, Minister for Gaming and Racing, Minister for Veterans, Minister for Medical Research, and Minister for the Central Coast) (15:09:01):

— I am pleased to support the Environmental Planning and Assessment Amendment (Sea Bed Mining and Exploration) Bill 2024, which will effectively ban offshore oil and gas drilling and pipelines in New South Wales coastal waters. It has been a long time coming, as members opposite have acknowledged. There was bipartisan support in the other place, where a motion passed with support across the broad spectrum of parties in opposition to Petroleum Exploration Permit 11 [PEP 11]. Our communities, particularly our coastal communities, have made it clear that they do not support offshore mining and wanted something done about it. It goes back to the old principle of risk versus reward, where you look at the potential downsides of approving something and the risks to things such as tourism, marine life, lifestyle and all the important things that our coastal communities hold very dear. In fact everyone in New South Wales holds those things very dear, because many people visit our coastline and spend a great deal of time there.

Before the election, we promised the people of the Central Coast that we opposed oil and gas mining off the coast of their beautiful home. I have been in the media over many years. Some members are only fairly new to the Parliament, but some of us have been fighting this battle for a number of years. I include my colleague the member for Terrigal, across the Chamber, although he gets a bit confused with history sometimes and tries to put the boot into us. But our position has always been consistent, at both a State and a Federal level. I acknowledge the former member for Robertson, Lucy Wicks, who was also an advocate against PEP 11. I acknowledge my State colleagues and two Federal colleagues Emma McBride and Gordon Reid. We have been totally consistent in our opposition.

Today the bill delivers on what we have spoken about. I am pleased to be part of a government that not only listens to community but also acts. Introducing this legislation is doing just that. I have spoken about this a lot locally. I contrast it with the decision made on Wallarah 2. I remember Barry O'Farrell standing on a picnic table at a place called Mardi. When it came to Wallarah 2, he said, "No ifs, no buts. We will not let this go ahead. Hand on heart, this is our promise." As soon as they won the election, it was back on the table. It is now approved and sits there over our heads and in our water supply, causing problems. On this side, we made a commitment and we have kept our commitment. We did not backflip. We did what we said we would do. I think that is very important, particularly for the voters.

No other State or Territory has acted so comprehensively to prevent the severe environmental impacts that can result from offshore exploration. The bill is about providing the community with certainty as well as protecting our coastline and marine environments. The passing of this legislation will prevent the environmental impacts that can result from offshore exploration and recovery of petroleum and minerals. It also reduces the risk of disasters like oil spills and associated climate change impacts. Under this legislation, activities will be allowed that benefit the environment. That is really important. They might include the recovery of sand for beach nourishment, which can help protect areas such as the Central Coast from erosion. Areas like ours along the Central Coast have had a really difficult time managing coastal erosion. It is an ongoing challenge. I remember the Pasha Bulker storm at Cabbage Tree Harbour, where we acted and where houses risked falling into the beautiful harbour. At North Entrance, Wamberal and right along the coast, there are places at risk. It is really important that we make sure that sand is available to replenish and nourish those coastal areas.

This legislation ensures that important dredging activities, which increase anchorage and remove sediments and pollutants at places like The Entrance and the Ettalong channel, can continue. I note that the member for Gosford is in the Chamber. The legislation also puts an end to any possibility of oil and gas pipelines in our water. We have to be very careful because some members opposite are criticising the current Federal Government for its approach. Let us be clear about what happened. A Minister from Queensland, Keith Pitt, had the carriage of the licence approval in the Federal Government. He spent months and months and did not make a decision. Unbeknown to not only the members in Parliament but also the people of Australia, the then Prime Minister, Scott Morrison, took on multiple ministries. One of those ministries was to intervene and disallow PEP 11. We might say that that was a good thing. The problem was that when those in government need to operate with "independent" processes—I put ''independent" in inverted commas—they risk decision-making in the courts when they do not act properly. The overturning by Morrison went to the court and the court ruled that he had acted incorrectly. They did the wrong thing and now it is back.

The current Federal Government committed to doing the right thing and making sure that it is a proper, robust, independent process. Members opposite will criticise that. We on this side trust and advocate for the independence of the bodies to make decisions. We need to support that. We cannot be hypocrites. We need to support that independent process. Members opposite will criticise the Federal Government and Anthony Albanese, but they are criticising them for acting legally, doing the right thing and ensuring that we are not back here again, passing more laws because the proper, independent process has been circumvented.

The New South Wales Government has checked this carefully. The Minister for Planning and Public Spaces has done an excellent job, along with Minister Houssos and Minister Sharpe, in making sure that we have all the checks and balances. We know that members opposite will say that they had a bill. But they regularly stood on this spot and said, "We cannot support this because it has not been through the proper processes et cetera". They then stood up weeks later and introduced basically the same bill. They have a lot of history on this. In this particular case, we have to make sure that we get it right because otherwise it will go back to court. When the court rules, it gets overturned. We cannot afford that for our communities, the environmental advocates or all the people who care deeply about this issue.

This is the right approach. This is the right way to do it. The Federal Government will make its independent decision, and that is also the right thing to do. In terms of this bill, it will make sure that none of that infrastructure can enter New South Wales waters. That probably means that PEP 11 will never happen because it will be far too expensive. This is the right approach; it has my 100 per cent backing. It is a great thing that we have been able to introduce it into the Parliament. Under the previous Government we passed a motion in the upper House, which I do not think was moved by them.

Mr Paul Scully:

No, by us.


They voted for it. We said we would do it. We are here and we are doing it. I commend the Minister and all the people involved in the process. On this side of the Parliament, we are determined to get things right, legally and ethically, and to make sure that we get the best outcomes for the people of New South Wales.

Mr RORY AMON (Pittwater) (15:18:21):

I thank the Minister for being here today and the members who have made contributions so far—the member for Vaucluse, the member for Blacktown, the member for Wyong and the member for Manly. I was very grateful to see the bill introduced in the last sitting fortnight. When I read it, it struck a very familiar tone in form and in words. When I put it through the Turnitin system at the local university, it came out at about 99 per cent similarity, because it is a very similar bill.

But I congratulate the Government for coming to the table on this issue because, as the Government will know through its discussions and the committee process, upon being elected to this place I set out to work with key stakeholders in the environmental space, environmental groups, the Coalition and the crossbench, to put together a bill that would comprehensively deal with offshore gas mining and exploration in a way that no parliament in this country has ever dealt with it before. I thank the stakeholder groups, including Environmental Leadership Australia, Surfers for Climate, Parents for Climate, and Vets for Climate Action. There are any number of groups for climate. They all do a wonderful job in advocating for their views on these matters. I thank them all for working together and engaging in this process.

One of the disappointing things in this process is its politicisation. I am very new to this place, having been elected in March last year. So I like to think that on this matter I come to the table with clean hands. Opposing PEP 11 is a longstanding position of the Coalition and the Labor Party. On being elected to this place, I saw that there was no proposal to put forward any legislation to meaningfully address the issue to the extent that this Parliament could. In that stead, we worked to put together a comprehensive and thorough bill to do everything this Parliament could to end offshore gas mining and exploration for good.

When that bill was put forward, it was referred to a committee by the Government, which is what we expected to happen. One thing the committee found is that sovereignty over State waters is very much a responsibility of the Commonwealth and that it had given jurisdiction over State waters to New South Wales. The committee said that, because ultimately the Commonwealth has sovereignty over State waters, if we attempt to make laws the Commonwealth might subsequently disagree with, it might remove our power and our jurisdiction over State waters; therefore, we should do nothing and not support any bill that would do what we now propose to do in PEP 11. Having made that finding and that recommendation, the Government then introduced its own bill, which did exactly what the former bill proposed to do. We can only deduce from that that the committee, which was partisan with a majority of Government members, was not acting in a way that was truly bipartisan, which is the spirit in which this matter was brought to date.

This is a monumental day because for many years people on all sides of politics—be they Green, Coalition, Liberal, National, Labor, Independent or teal—have said they will do what they can to stop PEP 11. But it was only after members on this side of the House introduced a private member's bill that spurred the Government to action. Using a crystal ball, I dare say that if no private member's bill had been introduced from members on this side of the House or from any other person in this Chamber, we would not be having this debate today. It is a credit to those in the Coalition who supported putting forward a private member's bill that would see action on this matter. I must say that the private member's bill that will be dispensed with once this bill becomes law—and I hope that it will—was a much stronger and more comprehensive bill. There are two reasons for that.

Mr Clayton Barr:

Make some amendments.


I welcome the suggestion of amendments. As my friend the member for Cessnock has alluded to, I am aware and very supportive of amendments. I think the member for Vaucluse said we will be bringing some amendments to remove the Henry VIII clause, which I read about in primary school and never thought I would again. But I keep seeing them in this place, which is interesting in and of itself. The Henry VIII clause would defeat the purpose of the bill by allowing the Minister to regulate for offshore gas mining and exploration. I note that amendments will be brought to remove that and I hope that the House will support them.

There is one other matter in which I note that the Government's bill is weaker than the Coalition's bill. It is a matter of concern, but I am assured that it will be dealt with adequately in the Government's bill. I thank the Minister and his office for facilitating briefings with the relevant departmental lawyers and experts on these matters to assure us of this. But it is important to record that the Government's bill refers to relevant development being prohibited for the purposes of offshore gas mining and exploration. My concern is that it does not specify in detail what that relevant development could include but not be limited to. For a community that was led down the garden path on this matter for many years, the more certainty we have, the better.

I appreciate that the Government's position is not to provide that greater certainty, but I am assured it is there, nonetheless. I will address the matter. The Coalition's bill would have specifically set out that prohibited relevant development would include the maintenance, repair, provisioning or refuelling of vessels, aircraft or equipment used for the relevant development, being offshore gas mining and exploration, handling, refining or processing petroleum or minerals obtained from that development, and the unloading or transportation, including by pipeline, of petroleum or minerals obtained from that relevant development. That was in the original bill but is not in the Government's bill. I am told that it is all good and I will take the Government at its word on that. But I feel it is important we identify the shortcomings or perceived shortcomings of the Government's bill.

Those things said, I congratulate the Government for following the Coalition's lead on this matter. The Prime Minister said he is opposed to PEP 11 and offshore gas mining and exploration. Every member in this place said they are opposed to it. It is good to see they are on board with opposing it by way of legislation. The ball is now fairly and squarely in the court of the Federal Labor Government to ensure that it rejects the renewal of the licence for offshore gas mining and exploration and that it can never be renewed or reactivated in future. To that end, I call on the Federal Government to do more where it can. I commend the bill to the House.

Mr CLAYTON BARR (Cessnock) (15:26:01):

Gird your loins. I find it is interesting legislation we have before the House today and how it was characterised by the member for Pittwater and his willingness to take credit for his legislation that was introduced previously when it was remarkably similar—almost word for word—to a private member's bill drafted by a former Independent member.


The member for Pittwater has already had his say. The member will come to order.


It was almost word for word the same as a private member's bill drafted by Independent MLC Justin Field. The reality is that, in the course of the 2023 election campaign, this particular topic was incredibly important for the votes won or lost on the Northern Beaches of Sydney. At the time, the Independent candidates challenging the now successful Liberal candidate for Pittwater were running hard on this issue. The election result for that particular electorate, in part as a consequence of this issue—which the member for Pittwater did not seem to have much of a position on at the time—came down to a knife's edge.

After being in government for 12 years and not tackling this issue, suddenly the NSW Liberals are passionate about it because they have a brand-new member for Pittwater—who almost lost the blue-ribbon electorate to an Independent. They have uploaded a private member's bill that was floating around and they changed a couple of words. Unfortunately, a number of the words they changed and extended made it constitutionally unsound, which is sometimes an error made by those new to this place. It probably would not have won the day in a Supreme Court challenge. We now have this issue before us. In his remarks a few moments ago the member for Pittwater took all the credit for something for which he was dragged into, kicking and screaming, and for which the previous Government did not have much interest in for 12 years.


Opposition members will come to order.


—and which the previous Federal Government did not have any real interest in until it got close to a new election cycle. We now have some of those newly elected persons—Liberal representatives in the Opposition—standing in this Chamber, suggesting that somehow Labor is to blame for the fact that PEP 11 continues to survive and be in the realms of contestability and possibility. There was plenty of opportunity over more than a decade, during which time nothing happened.

In fact, that is not true because the one thing that did happen, as the member for Wyong remarked a moment ago, was that the then Prime Minister—the man of many ministries—decided to make a decision on the PEP 11 application without being properly informed. I think that was the legal term used. That then meant that the company, when it took the Commonwealth Government to court, had the case to win. The previous Prime Minister having made an uninformed choice forced the new Government to offer to the proponent that the new Government would consider, look at, account for, properly process, properly investigate, negotiate, liaise, and extend every opportunity to the proponent in a fair and equitable way to put forward its case as per the law at the time it was submitted. That was the one thing that the former Federal Liberal-National Government did: It stuffed it up. And here we are.

The small number of words, if the member for Pittwater wants to put it that way, that have changed between his bill—which was Justin Field's bill—and this bill are incredibly important words. In fact, during the committee process one of the constant trigger points that we kept coming back to was that the member for Pittwater had inserted into his proposed bill and his second reading speech that he wanted to extend the reach of the New South Wales Government into the offshore waters controlled by the Commonwealth Government. He went out of his way in his second reading speech to make the point, not once, not twice but three times, that he wanted New South Wales to make a law to deliberately interfere with Commonwealth waters. He could have referred to "coastal water". He could have put up a bill that was legally within the confines of the State, but he chose to extend it beyond that. That is the trouble with poorly crafted legislation.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER (Ms Sonia Hornery):

Order! There is too much noise coming from Opposition members. The member for Pittwater and the member for Coogee will come to order.


That is why it is important to draft legislation carefully, with access to Parliamentary Counsel and with the engagement of the great legal minds who can give us excellent advice, not just about a set of words that a member might want to be true but about a set of words that will be legally enforceable. That is the significance of the bill that is before the House today. That is the difference between this bill and the bill that had previously been put. I draw attention specifically to some of the examples in the private member's bill that this bill avoids.

Mr Rory Amon:

Are you speaking on the Government bill or against a bill that is not being debated today?

The DEPUTY SPEAKER (Ms Sonia Hornery):

For the second time, the member for Pittwater will come to order. I do not want to have to ask him a third time.


The private member's bill would have exposed the State—

Mr Rory Amon:

Point of order: It goes to relevance. We are debating a Government bill. The member for Cessnock is using his time to speak about a private member's bill.

Mr Paul Scully:

You spent your entire time talking about your bill.

Mr Rory Amon:

No point of order was taken in relation to my wonderful remarks but I'm taking a point of order on the member for Cessnock's remarks.

Mr Clayton Barr:

To the point of order—

The DEPUTY SPEAKER (Ms Sonia Hornery):

The member will resume his seat. I do not uphold the point of order. Opposition members will cease interjecting.


For the benefit of the new member, when a person is speaking in a second reading debate, they can address the bill, as well as comments that have been made by others. I sat quietly listening to the contribution of the member for Pittwater, during which he proclaimed his wondrous bill and how awesome it was.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER (Ms Sonia Hornery):

The member for Cessnock will direct his comments through the Chair.

Mr CLAYTON BARR:Extension of time

I am using my contribution to the second reading debate to respond to some of the comments that I have heard in the debate. That is exactly what second reading debates are about. The prohibitions of the private member's bill applied to the recovery of sand, provided the recovery is for the end use of beach nourishment. It is unclear how that requirement would operate from a compliance and enforcement perspective because mining licences under the Offshore Minerals Act 1999 are granted with statutory rights to explore and recover minerals irrespective of the end use of the recovered resource. It is also unclear whether the private member's bill intended to prohibit the granting of licences that would allow the exploration of suitable sands for beach nourishment, as the member for Pittwater put it, because the bill only carves out sand recovery. Exploration is generally a necessary precursor to identifying a suitable source and location from which to recover. []

I further make the point that the private member's bill, in only referring to beach nourishment and not to other coastal protection practices, raises a question about whether beach scraping would be permissible under that particular bill. The private member's bill did not exclude dredging, which is an important part of routine practice that creates environmental and economic benefits. Unlike the private member's bill, this bill enables regulations to be made to avoid unintended consequences for development, such as dredging for port maintenance, which would have been considered seabed mineral recovery within the definition of "relevant development" in the private member's bill. That is why we need to stay away from that bill.

The regulation‑making power that is in the bill moved by the Minister is subject to appropriate safeguards. The Minister for Planning and Public Spaces will be required to consult the Minister for the Environment before recommending that a regulation be made in that regard. The committee that I chaired made a recommendation to the Legislative Assembly not to pass that other bill. The reason was that it could have been foreseen that some amendments had been made, which might have made it more constitutionally sound, but it is difficult to make that decision in a committee process when committee members are trying to get inside the mind of the person who originally introduced the bill to understand what amendments they might make. That is all in the context of the second reading speech by that member being explicit about wanting to reach into Commonwealth waters.

I stand by the recommendations and the work of that committee despite the fact that I do not live coastally, which somehow excluded me from being appropriate. I suspect that men in this House need to stay out of all questions about women, older members need to stay out of conversations about younger people, younger members need to stay out of conversations about older people and coastal members should not make a comment about something that happens inland based on the logic that has previously been put to the House about the work of that committee. I stand by the work of the committee. It was fascinating, interesting, engaging, challenging and difficult. We made the right recommendations in that committee and I stand by them because we could not foresee what amendments might or might not have been made in making recommendations any other way.

The truth is that the previous bill the committee considered was constitutionally unsound. The bill that is before the House this afternoon—and that will be passed after the lot opposite whinge and then fold—is sound. It is founded on good legal advice, it is sustainable and it can be implemented in a way that allows Ministers to deal with many otherwise unforeseen consequences. You can call it a Henry VIII clause or whatever you want, but future Ministers of this State—not just the two current Ministers—will need to make important, informed decisions about minerals in our coastal waters. That is why the bill is written the way it is. I support the bill entirely and I commend it to the House. I urge those opposite to stop trying to rewrite history and to acknowledge the importance of this moment—not the importance of a private member's bill that may be before the House.

Mr MICHAEL REGAN (Wakehurst) (15:40:32):

I speak in support of the Environmental Planning and Assessment Amendment (Sea Bed Mining and Exploration) Bill 2024. I also indicate that I will move an amendment to strengthen the bill, consistent with its intent, by tightening the exemption regulation provision so that in no circumstances can it be used to facilitate seabed exploration and mining for fossil fuels. Firstly, I thank the Government for its leadership in introducing this legislation. I commend it for stepping up and making it happen with the rigour and credibility of a government bill. Having said that, my hope is that this legislation can be viewed as a shared achievement of the Parliament. To have a race to the top across both major political parties, Independents and The Greens to prevent a fossil fuel development is pretty unusual and should be celebrated.

It is easy to take this unanimous position for granted, but around Australia right now there are massive new offshore gas projects that have political support to rapidly progress to production—Santos's Barossa Gas Project in the Timor Sea off the Northern Territory and Woodside's Burrup Hub containing three huge projects off Western Australia. The Victorian Government even wants to allow exploration for gas within five kilometres of the Twelve Apostles, for goodness' sake. At a time when the International Energy Agency has stated unequivocally that there should be no new fossil fuel projects, the scale at which Australia is proposing opening offshore gas reserves is a disgrace.

The bill is an achievement of the Parliament. More importantly, it is an achievement of all the individuals, community groups and environmental organisations who have worked so hard to make New South Wales legislation to prevent seabed mining and exploration for oil and gas a reality. The bill prohibits exploration or mining for oil and gas in New South Wales coastal waters and stops other development within the State that would facilitate these activities in the offshore area beyond New South Wales coastal waters, making any potential projects significantly less viable. It fully utilises the levers available to the New South Wales Government under the offshore Acts and the planning Act to legitimately control matters within its jurisdiction to prevent offshore exploration for oil and gas. Most significantly, the bill sends an unequivocal and powerful message: Mining and exploration for oil and gas off our precious coastline has no social licence and no political support, and together we will take every step to make sure it does not happen.

The bill comes in the context of a live threat of potential offshore drilling for gas. This is PEP 11—an exploration licence covering an area from Newcastle to Manly, first granted in 1981 and renewed several times since. The proponent has poured tens of millions of dollars into the project, actively progressed with damaging seismic testing and continues to seek extensions to their exploration licence. For my community on the northern beaches, who have been so steadfast in their opposition to PEP 11, this ongoing state of limbo has been very frustrating. We welcome the certainty that this bill provides, while recognising that the PEP 11 exploration licence extension is still pending. We will remain vigilant and push the Federal Government to sign it off and get rid of it. The risks of offshore seabed mining and exploration are well understood, and the Minister summarised them simply and clearly in his second reading speech:

Offshore mining activities can have a devastating impact on our marine fauna and their habitats, including the release of harmful or toxic materials, the removal of habitat and the creation of harmful sediment levels.

In particular, we know that seismic testing involved in exploration can be very destructive for marine ecosystems, particularly whales, dolphins and sharks. We have seen the consequences of offshore mining gone wrong in Australia and around the world. The 2009 Montara spill in the Northern Territory caused a major oil slick. The famous Deepwater Horizon spill in the Gulf of Mexico took an immense ecological toll. Impacts and risks can be minimised, but not eliminated. Things go wrong, conditions are breached and environmental degradation occurs. There may be prosecutions and fines, but too often the damage is done.

State Disaster Mitigation Plan

This bill comes at a time when our coastline is increasingly vulnerable. The need to take all possible steps to protect our coast has never been more pressing. The recently released is sobering reading. It leaves no doubt that, over the coming decades, our coast will face unprecedented threats—creeping sea level rise, supercharged east coast lows, coastal erosion and inundation on a whole new scale. As an aside, the plan identifies the northern beaches as being particularly vulnerable. The plan predicts that by 2060 the northern beaches will have the highest total average annual loss in the built environment—totalling $969 million—of anywhere in the State, mostly due to coastal inundation and erosion. We all remember the images of the houses and a swimming pool at Collaroy Beach falling into the sea after east coast lows. Unfortunately, this is just the beginning. We can reduce risk to our coast—and we must.

What is more, we do not need to open new gas reserves to supply domestic needs. We need to electrify our homes, our transport, our industry and our exports at scale, powered by renewable energy. This transition offers massive opportunities for households and businesses to save money and slash emissions. Gas is expensive, it is polluting and it is not compatible with our net zero goals. Next week I am hosting a breakfast that will present recent research on electorate-based savings to households of switching from gas to all-electric appliances. I encourage everyone to attend. To give a sample of this research, in my electorate of Wakehurst there is a potential annual energy saving of $11.9 million—$11.9 million per year just in my electorate—and the opportunity to create 39 local full-time jobs through full household electrification over a 10-year period. This means replacing inefficient, expensive and unhealthy gas heaters, stove tops and hot-water systems with electric ones.

I want to reflect, as so many have done today, on the history and context of this bill, because it has many parents. By this point, with so much momentum and broad support, it is easy to feel like this outcome was inevitable. But I am sure it did not feel that way for all those who campaigned over many years to raise the profile of the threat of offshore oil and gas mining and called on the Government to act decisively to stop any potential project progressing. I am thinking of my friend, Natalie Warren, former Greens councillor on Northern Beaches Council, who brought a motion in March 2019 that council, as a matter of urgency, write to local MPs and relevant Ministers outlining our opposition to the PEP 11 exploration licence. On this and many other occasions, the Northern Beaches Council and I, as mayor, made our opposition to the project crystal clear.

I am thinking of the many coastal community groups and environmental organisations who have been protesting against PEP 11 for many years—in particular, Surfrider Foundation and its great ambassador, my mate Layne Beachley, as well as Save Our Coast, led by the indefatigable Peter Morris, and more recently Surfers for Climate, who worked very effectively to broaden political support for New South Wales legislation. The notion of New South Wales based legislation using powers under the planning system to prohibit associated development to help prevent offshore drilling for oil and gas has been raised from time to time by various MPs and campaigners in recent years, including The Greens and others. But it was Jacqui Scruby, the Independent candidate for Pittwater in the 2023 election, who seized this idea and ran with it. She was not satisfied with the then Coalition Government's policy document opposing offshore petroleum exploration and mining. For a matter of such important community interest and clear political significance, she wanted the authority of the Parliament brought to bear.

Working with former MLC Justin Field's office and staff, collaborating with other Independent candidates and MPs—including the now member for Wollondilly and the member for Sydney—Jacqui championed a bill very similar to the one we are debating today. Jacqui and her hundreds of volunteers ran an impressive community campaign. Jacqui is a tenacious and creative campaigner, and I acknowledge that she is in the gallery today—I thank Jacqui for her work. In response to the overwhelming community sentiment in opposition, the first bill brought by the Coalition was a private member's bill—the Minerals Legislation Amendment (Offshore Drilling and Associated Infrastructure Prohibition) Bill 2023—introduced by the new member for Pittwater. And here we are today debating the Government's own bill. Suffice to say, this issue has been the topic of a lot of political pointscoring and posturing. During the 2023 election campaign, the Surfrider Foundation expressed frustration about it, and said:

Given that political parties across the board at both State and Federal levels oppose the project, we ask that they all STOP making announcements, work together, and ensure that this most iconic and valuable piece of coast is protected forever. Less talking and more signing of … legislation.

With this legislation, I hope that we have answered their call. At the time I agreed and publicly called on the then Government to be recalled to get it done, as it had not yet been prorogued. Here we are 12 months later, but who cares—at least we are doing this.

The bill builds on a strong legacy in New South Wales of ruling out fossil fuel mining where it is inappropriate. In 2010 pretty much all of the State north of the Shoalhaven was covered in coal seam gas exploration licences. The vast majority are now extinguished. I hope that we can continue in that spirit and protect our best agricultural land from Santos's Narrabri Gas Project and associated Hunter Gas Pipeline. The coastline of New South Wales is a string of jewels, from Tweed Heads in the north to the Nadgee wilderness in the south. New South Wales has over 892 beaches, stretching 1,590 kilometres. Each is unique, shaped over millions of years by the forces of nature. Under the waterline, kelp forests, rocky reefs and sea caves host an abundance of corals and marine life. In the intertidal zone, where the land meets the sea, rock shelves, headlands and sandy shores are landscapes of extraordinary natural beauty and are home to an amazing diversity of life.

In my electorate of Wakehurst, some of those special places include Long Reef and Collaroy. Everyone in this place will have their favourite spots on the New South Wales coast. Many of the best times in life are spent at the beach or in the ocean. Our beaches and marine environments are public places for everyone to enjoy, now and for generations to come. To the extent that we can, we must take every possible measure to minimise threats to the coastal environment. Today we take an important step in that direction.

Ms LIESL TESCH (Gosford) (15:50:50):

I support the Environmental Planning and Assessment Amendment (Sea Bed Mining and Exploration) Bill 2024. It is a really important issue for people on the Central Coast, and I acknowledge the advocacy of a number of groups on the Central Coast that have been fighting to stop PEP 11 for a long time. It is time for New South Wales to make the difference it can in its waters. Let me be clear: The Government does not support offshore mineral, coal or petroleum exploration or mining for commercial purposes in New South Wales coastal waters. The bill aims to provide certainty to the community and industry that no exploration or mining activities may be undertaken in New South Wales coastal waters, recognising the negative environmental impacts associated with those activities.

This issue dates back to last decade. The Federal member for Dobell, Emma McBride, and I paddled out with a group of surfers at Terrigal to draw attention to the issue, which is really concerning to the people impacted, from Newcastle down to Sydney and the coast. I thank Hugh Naven from Surfrider Central Coast, who was a great advocate and really got the community behind the protest to stop the mining going on in our coastal waters. I also thank Surfrider Foundation Australia and Surfers for Climate—which was mentioned by the member for Wakehurst—for their advocacy in the fight to stop mining off our coastal waters. Lucy Wicks, the previous member for Robertson and a close friend of Scott Morrison, was involved in the debacle that went on with the then Minister for—

Dr Marjorie O'Neill:



He became the Minister for everything and took over from his Minister responsible, Keith Pitt. There was a lot of confusion around that time, which did nothing to help the community's understanding of or trust in the political work that we do. It was just horrific. I speak in support of the bill and outline the penalties that will apply to any corporation seeking to contravene the prohibition clearly outlined in the bill, while also recognising the strength of the regulation-making power set out by the amendments contained.

By amending the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979, the bill prohibits seabed petroleum and mineral exploration and recovery in New South Wales coastal waters, as well as other development within the State for the purpose of offshore mining. It will make it an offence to carry out the activities prohibited by the bill, with the maximum possible penalty being a tier 1 monetary penalty or up to $5 million for corporations. The bill's offence provision is robust. It sends a clear message that petroleum and mineral recovery in contravention of the prohibition in New South Wales waters will be a serious offence.

Furthermore, the bill's regulation-making power will ensure that any unintended consequences can be overcome—unlike previous bills brought before the House, as mentioned earlier by the member for Cessnock. The bill includes a regulation-making power to enable the Minister for Planning and Public Spaces to exempt specified activities—mineral exploration and recovery in New South Wales coastal waters, and development for the purpose of petroleum or mineral exploration and recovery in New South Wales coastal waters and beyond—from the prohibition without the need for a further Act of Parliament.

That is incredibly important for communities on the Central Coast such as Wamberal, where I used to live, and The Entrance—particularly The Entrance North—where there is significant erosion. There has been significant erosion in the electorate of the member for Wakehurst, and the ability to use sand nourishment on the northern beaches is crucial as we move forward in the climate change environment. Its use in Newcastle is a great outcome that has been achieved by the Labor Government, with the dredging that has occurred in Newcastle Harbour being used as sand nourishment on Stockton Beach. That is the reality of our space moving forward. I commend the advocacy of Sam Boughton, who was the candidate for Terrigal, who got a lot of support because of the conversations he had with concerned citizens about coastal protection and where we need to be moving forward in that space. It is really important that the bill provides a space for sand nourishment to occur in the future, with oversight by the Minister for Planning and Public Spaces, who is in the Chamber.

This may be necessary to ensure that certain activities—for example, the excavation of the seabed or subsoil to lay cable or pipe transits, which may be considered to be mineral recovery—can continue if they require activities in New South Wales coastal waters that could otherwise be caught by the prohibition. Pipe transits occur in my community when we have dredging in the Ettalong Channel to move sand from one place to another, so I know it is really important to have that exclusion opportunity in the bill.

The regulation-making power is subject to appropriate safeguards, as the Minister for Planning and Public Spaces will be required to consult the Minister for the Environment before recommending that a regulation be made. The regulation-making power is also limited to specified seabed mineral exploration or recovery in New South Wales coastal waters. The prohibition on seabed petroleum exploration or recovery in New South Wales waters is absolute and is not subject to any exemptions or regulation-making powers.

Importantly, unlike the flawed private member's bill previously brought before the House, the bill provides an exception to the prohibition on mineral recovery and exploration within the meaning of the Coastal Management Act 2016. That will ensure that beach nourishment practices—which play such a significant role across the Central Coast, the northern beaches and further up and down the coast as we continue to live in the impact of today's changed climate—can continue and will not be impacted by the prohibition. Furthermore, the bill includes an important exemption from the prohibition on mineral exploration for certain dredging practices—a critical process for our community living along the Ettalong Channel.

This is a really important day in the New South Wales Parliament. Once again, I thank those advocacy groups—Surfrider Central Coast, Surfrider Foundation Australia and Surfers for Climate—for their advocacy to see the change occur. The bill is robust and sends a very clear message: New South Wales does not support offshore mineral, coal or petroleum exploration or mining for commercial purposes in coastal waters. I thank the Minister for Energy, and Minister for the Environment; the Minister for Planning and Public Spaces; and the Minister for Natural Resources for their leadership in this space.

Ms FELICITY WILSON (North Shore) (15:57:41):

I make a brief contribution to debate on the Environmental Planning and Assessment Amendment (Sea Bed Mining and Exploration) Bill 2024, and I am very excited that we get to consider the bill in the House today. I would have been more excited if we had been able to consider the legislation put forward by the member for Pittwater last year, but I am very glad that Labor members have come to the table. I congratulate them on that and acknowledge that what took the member for Pittwater only a month on first coming to this place took the Minns Labor Government a year. I congratulate members opposite on the speediness and urgency of the work that they are undertaking. I am very excited to see that they decided to have a legislative agenda in 2024, having failed to do so in 2023.

For many years there has been a view amongst all parties, groups and communities across our State and country that our oceans and our foreshores should be a place where exploration and mining do not occur, particularly closest to our biggest city and some of our most populated beaches. The member for Pittwater and the member for Wakehurst have spoken about the significant challenges and risks that their own local communities face from those types of activities. I am glad that we have finally brought Labor to the table to introduce legislation that will, in effect, do what the member for Pittwater's bill sought to achieve—if not entirely meeting the standard that the member for Pittwater outlined for the rest of the State.

Currently there is a significant threat to the New South Wales coast posed by exploration and mining activities under Petroleum Exploration Permit 11, or the PEP 11. The area that the PEP 11 covers is 4,574 square kilometres, and it stretches from Newcastle to Manly. As we all know, because there has been a lot of discussion about the genesis of this legislation and the genesis of the policy that it is seeking to achieve, the Coalition made a commitment leading into the last election that, if re-elected, it would legislate to ban drilling for offshore gas in New South Wales waters once and for all. We all had a really enjoyable day up in Pittwater—I had to look at my notes, because it is pretty far from home for me—overlooking the Mona Vale basin. It was beautiful.

Although I get to enjoy water surrounds in my own community along with people in my electorate every single day, there is something particularly profound about our oceans and the importance that our oceans have for our health and wellbeing, for the planet and for humanity. The impact of ocean health flows into the harbour, which I get to call home. When we think about biodiversity and marine ecosystems, we know that these are all interactive systems. That means the health and wellbeing of the oceans affects the health and wellbeing of our harbours and the quality of our own health and lives as human beings.

I am really glad that Labor is joining us on this issue, but I acknowledge that the legislation proposed today is weaker than the bill proposed by the Coalition through the member for Pittwater. Those issues were raised by people within my own party room through the committee process and the environment and planning committee, noting that they are not being addressed in the bill. I have a lot of love for Cessnock, having been born there.

Mr Adam Crouch:

That explains it.


It does explain many wonderful things about me and the member for Cessnock. We are both big advocates for Cessnock itself. I fully respect the way that the member for Cessnock approached the committee process, and I have a great deal of respect for him for trying to ensure that he got a really good outcome from this. But, regardless of my great affection and respect for the member for Cessnock, the outcome of that committee inquiry produced a diminished quality of legislation compared to what we would have seen if the member for Pittwater's bill had progressed. But we have to accept the good rather than the perfect. We are glad that we are seeing something coming out of Labor, even if it did take it a year.

The threats posed by exploration and mining exist, and those activities exist in our communities. The current licence, which stretches along some of our most popular beaches, is proposing to commence surveying activities, likely including things like seismic blasting as close as a few kilometres off the coast of New South Wales. Members will be aware that this stretch of coast is an area abundant with diverse marine life, not limited to but including whales, dolphins, seals, penguins, rays and sharks. The extraction and transportation of oil and gas underwater poses a significant risk of leaks, spills and explosions. Accidental spills of petroleum products and chemicals during gas exploration and drilling also pose a significant risk to marine ecosystems. They can contaminate water and the sediments can affect entire food chains.

This issue has broad community support. I echo what a number of members on both sides of this Chamber have said today in recognising the community effort and advocacy to achieve this outcome. This is probably the only time in my life that I will be this complimentary to the member for Pittwater, but I once again congratulate him on his legislation. That legislation was very strongly supported by a range of groups and stakeholders. I congratulate and thank Surfers for Climate, the World Wildlife Fund Australia, Surfrider Foundation and the Australian Parents for Climate Action, among many more. Many community organisations and groups up and down the coast—even, as the member for Cessnock would say, into inland Australia—regardless of demographics or geography or age or location, care about and are concerned about these issues.

This is a win for community activism and the voices of people fighting for the wellbeing of our coastal environment. We want to make sure that this legislation will mean no seismic testing, no drilling platforms, no pipelines and, most importantly, the healthiest environment possible for our oceans and our marine creatures. I do welcome the Labor Government coming to the table on this issue. We will forgive them for looking over our shoulder and copying the homework and presenting it as their own. However, I am very glad that we have finally achieved bipartisan support on this issue. I commend the bill to the House.

Dr MARJORIE O'NEILL (Coogee) (16:04:11):

I speak in support of the Environmental Planning and Assessment Amendment (Sea Bed Mining and Exploration) Bill 2024, better known as the "Stop PEP 11 Bill". The Government is incredibly proud to bring the bill before the House. Let us be very clear: this is not a new policy position. This Government has never supported offshore mining. The Offshore Exploration and Mining Policy, which was published in February 2022, provided unequivocally that the New South Wales Government does not support offshore mineral, coal or petroleum exploration or mining for commercial purposes in or adjacent to New South Wales coastal waters, and it does not support offshore petroleum exploration and mining as the potential impacts on sensitive marine environments, Indigenous heritage, commercial and recreational fishing and other recreational activities outweigh the potential benefits. However, the Government will support offshore sand recovery for beach nourishment purposes, which is incredibly important.

The bill will implement that policy legislatively. It will ensure that a prohibition on those activities is unable to be overcome without a further Act of Parliament. It will ensure that the community and the mining industry has certainty that no exploration or mining activities may be undertaken in New South Wales coastal waters. The environmental impacts of seabed petroleum and mineral recovery carry the risk of significant impacts on marine life and sensitive marine habitats. That includes the impact of noise and disturbance from seismic exploration, water pollution and impacts on Aboriginal heritage. Offshore recovery also carries the risk of major environmental disasters such as oil spills, and potential climate change impacts such as greenhouse gas emissions associated with petroleum extraction.

New South Wales is leading the way with this prohibition. No other States or Territories have taken action to prohibit seabed petroleum mining in their coastal waters. In 2021 the Northern Territory prohibited seabed mineral mining. This bill is in the best interests of our State. It makes the Government's position very clear: There will be no offshore mining on our watch. I commend the bill to the House.

Mr ALEX GREENWICH (Sydney) (16:06:49):

Our coastline is a fundamental part of our lifestyle and identity. It is where we swim, surf, snorkel, scuba dive, fish, play beach volleyball and cricket, sunbathe, run, hike, sail, whale watch and connect with the sun and outdoors. It is a major tourism drawcard for the State. But the coastline is a fragile environment supported by vulnerable ecosystems that are under pressure from a range of threats, especially climate change, pollution and development. One of those very serious threats is the proliferation of offshore petroleum exploration and mining.

A licence to explore for gas wells off the coast of New South Wales between Newcastle and Sydney has operated for more than 10 years under the Petroleum Exploration Permit 11—or PEP 11, as it is widely known. In 2022 an application to extend and expand the licence was knocked back by the former Prime Minister, Scott Morrison—in one of his many portfolios at the time—but the courts overturned that decision, and the matter has been awaiting determination by the State and Federal Joint Authority. PEP 11 is widely opposed by coastal communities, environmentalists and the wider New South Wales community. People do not want heavy industrial activities occurring along our beautiful coast, which boasts the world's largest whale migration route and supports species like the Manly colony of little penguins. They do not want to swim, surf, dive and snorkel 50 kilometres away from seabed oil and gas wells. They do not want to compromise the long-term environmental sustainability of the coast.

At the outset, I acknowledge that we would not dealing with this important legislation to stop offshore drilling if it had not been for the work done by former, current and aspiring Independent members of the New South Wales Parliament, and the advocacy of Federal Independent members. The legislative proposal that we are debating today is based on a proposal drafted by Mr Justin Field in the last Parliament. It was supported by the Independent candidate for Pittwater, Jacqui Scruby—who I note joins us in the gallery today—the member for Wakehurst, Michael Regan, and me during the last State election. We made a commitment to bring that legislation to this Parliament. Federal Independent members Dr Sophie Scamps, Allegra Spender, Kylea Tink and Zali Steggall have also advocated for the reform, because offshore exploration and mining for oil and gas pose significant risks to the marine environment from oil spills, gas leaks, sound, traffic and physical disturbance from activities and infrastructure like anchor chains, drill cuttings and drilling fluids.

Fossil fuels also contribute to climate change, which leads to ocean warming and acidification and rising sea levels, further impacting on ocean ecosystems and life. It is hard to fathom that such a heavy industrial activity has ever been contemplated along our beautiful coast. I welcome the Environmental Planning and Assessment Amendment (Sea Bed Mining and Exploration) Bill providing certainty that those activities will no longer be permitted along our State's coast. By prohibiting seabed petroleum and mineral exploration and recovery in State coastal waters, and banning onshore development for the purposes of offshore drilling and mining, the bill will ensure that the PEP 11 licence cannot continue and that no future offshore fossil fuel exploration or mining will proceed in New South Wales coastal waters.

There is multipartisan support for stopping the PEP 11 licence; however, reform has been fraught by interactions between Federal and State laws and water authorities, and a proponent willing to pursue court challenges. I acknowledge the work of the Opposition and the member for Pittwater in introducing a bill. I referred that bill to a committee to assess the constitutional issues, and the inquiry's findings led to the Government's bill that is before the House today. I acknowledge the work of other members on stopping PEP 11, including the member for Wakehurst, who will move amendments to ensure regulation-making powers do not provide a loophole for fossil fuel projects. The Minister has worked cooperatively with the member for Wakehurst, the member for Lake Macquarie and me to establish workable amendments. I thank the Government for responding to the inquiry and the community's concerns about protecting the State's beautiful and delicate coastline from oil and gas development by introducing the bill. I commend the bill to the House.

Mr TIM CRAKANTHORP (Newcastle) (16:11:41):

I contribute to debate on the Environmental Planning and Assessment Amendment (Sea Bed Mining and Exploration) Bill 2024 to share the simple message that my community has been shouting for years now: Stop offshore drilling and mining; protect our beautiful coast. The bill seeks to ban offshore mineral and petroleum exploration in New South Wales coastal waters. The bill will stop offshore drilling and mining and protect our coast. The threat of offshore drilling has loomed over the pristine coast of Newcastle and the wider coastlines of New South Wales for decades. Over the years, thousands of Novocastrians have rallied in Newcastle numerous times against offshore drilling projects like Petroleum Exploration Permit 11 [PEP 11].

I have consistently voiced my opposition to offshore drilling and mining throughout my almost 10 years in this place. It is clear that a majority of my constituency share my concerns and have thrown their support behind the legislation. We made that clear some years ago. The member for Sydney alluded to the circumstances around recommendations to the Federal Parliament, and former Prime Minister Scott Morrison assuming ministerial appointments behind others' backs to put forward his views before elections in a political manner. If he had not done so in such a manner, perhaps we would not be doing this and we would not have to do it all again for the Feds either.

The bill proposes to insert new schedule 10 into the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act to prohibit the carrying out of seabed and subsoil petroleum or mineral exploration and recovery in the coastal waters of the State, and other related development in the broader State. The new schedule prevents the granting or renewal of certain authorisations under the offshore Acts relating to development prohibited under the schedule. The prohibition is subject to limited sections where there is a broader environmental benefit, including coastal protection works such as beach nourishment. That is vital, as the Minister knows, for places such as Stockton, where sand has already been taken and distributed on Stockton Beach. We intend to do a lot more of that over the coming years. It also includes certain dredging activities, which involve moving, but not removing, minerals.

A regulation-making power is included to ensure that any unintended consequences of the bill can be overcome. The Minister for Planning and Public Spaces may only recommend the making of regulations following consultation with the Minister for the Environment. That may be necessary to ensure that certain activities can continue—for example, the excavation of the seabed to lay cable or pipe transit for wind farms. That is a much better use of resources and a much better solution for the people of our coast, in particular the Hunter, in terms of cheap electricity, jobs and future emissions from this State and this country.

The bill gives legislative effect to our policy, prohibiting seabed and subsoil petroleum and mineral exploration, recovery and related development in New South Wales. Many organisations have supported the Government's position on this, including Surfers for Climate, which opposes offshore drilling and mining, and conducted a survey asking its tens of thousands of members what they thought of PEP 11. The result, unsurprisingly, was that 100 per cent of its members in Newcastle and the wider Hunter and Central Coast region did not support offshore drilling. It brings me great pleasure to support the bill, finally seeing an end to the threat of offshore mining and exploration off Newcastle's beautiful coastline. While my contribution to debate may be brief, it is because it does not take long to communicate that Newcastle has always said no to offshore drilling and exploration, and always will say no. Let us protect our coast. Let us pass this bill.

Mr ADAM CROUCH (Terrigal) (16:16:07):

I speak in support of the Environmental Planning and Assessment Amendment (Sea Bed Mining and Exploration) Bill 2024. It is better late than never. It seems like it was only yesterday, but it was a year ago, that we were discussing this very issue. The member for Pittwater has been in and out of the Chamber this afternoon. I commend him for his tireless work on this bill. I am not a new member of this place; I was privileged to be elected in 2015. There has been a lot of commentary about new members of this place doing things in this Chamber. I commend the member for Pittwater for doing what he did as quickly as he did. Let us be clear that the Government had no agenda to bring forward this sort of legislation. The only thing that precipitated the actions of this Labor Government were the actions of the member for Pittwater to move this issue forward.

I have been proud to be a vocal opponent of the Petroleum Exploration Permit 11 [PEP 11] project since 2017. In my electorate of Terrigal, the people of the Central Coast have made it clear, in no uncertain terms, as did I, that they would not and did not accept offshore exploration projects like PEP 11 in our beautiful region. We have talked about the history. We must remember that PEP 11 was given life in 2001 by the former Carr Labor Government. Had that not been welcomed by Bob Carr, this whole project, debate and fiasco could have been avoided in the first place. Let us remember who the architect of breathing life into PEP 11 in the first place was: the Carr Labor Government. I remember trawling through clippings about this issue because I thought, "Who in their right mind would possibly think that it was a great idea to have offshore rigs off the coast of New South Wales?" It was Bob Carr. He said that it was a great investment in the economic future of New South Wales, or words to that effect.

When I started trawling through the history of the issue, I found it staggering that it could have all been avoided back in 2001 had Bob Carr not signed off on support for the PEP 11 project in the first place. That is part of the history. Let us remember who created this monster that has been breathing down the necks of the people of New South Wales for 23 years now. Nobody wanted it and nobody welcomed it. We had a Labor government at the time that was not listening to anyone. I am pleased that the current Labor Government has taken on board the recommendations from the bill of the member for Pittwater. The fact that we had to have a committee hearing about it, which kicked it down the road for months and delayed it, was one issue. Government members then did not have the guts to debate the bill in the Chamber before the end of last year. As I said last time, if they do not like a bill, they should vote it down. That is what we come to this place to do.

Ms Liesl Tesch:

You should have done it 12 years ago. You had 12 long years.

Transcription in progress…

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