Beetaloo: a climate crime

The Australian Greens MPs

It’s astounding that the government and Labor aren’t even prepared to get up and speak to defend this outrage. This is a climate crime. This vote today will condemn Liberal and Labor in history, because not one Liberal or Labor MP has turned up to oppose the opening up of the Beetaloo Basin on public funds. The Northern Territory Labor government wants to open up the Northern Territory and light the fuse on a giant climate time bomb. The federal Liberals are behind it and the federal Labor Party is supporting it as well.

On the very day that we find out that the Great Barrier Reef might end up on the endangered list, Liberal and Labor are voting to open up a huge new gas basin in this country. Climate change is killing the reef. Coal, oil and gas are fuelling the climate crisis. If we want to save our reef and save Australia from climate collapse, we have to keep existing coal, oil and gas in the ground. It is as simple as that.

This is 2021, and every Labor Party member and every Liberal Party member is on notice that we need to keep coal, oil and gas in the ground, because we are running out of time to stop the climate collapse. You can’t say that we are facing a climate emergency one week and then come into this place to open up a climate time bomb that is bigger than Adani the next. We will make sure that every voter in the electorates of Cooper, Macnamara, Higgins, Kooyong, Griffith, Brisbane, Ryan and Richmond knows that today their member of parliament supported opening up new gas fields that have, in that whole Northern Territory basin, in that whole Northern Territory area, the equivalent of 68 years worth of Australia’s pollution.

If we open up these Northern Territory basins, we can say goodbye to the reef. We can say goodbye to Australia doing its fair share of keeping the climate crisis under control. We know- because we’ve been told it by the International Energy Agency, the G7, the scientists and the students who are marching in the streets – that to have any chance of stopping the climate crisis becoming a runaway chain reaction that will lead to four degrees of warming during the lifetime of today’s primary school students, we need to keep existing coal, oil and gas in the ground and we need to phase out coal, oil and gas as quickly as we possibly can. We have been put on notice. Every Liberal, National and Labor Party member has been put on notice.

And the thing is that this isn’t one small project. In the Northern Territory, these connected basins-of which Beetaloo is a part, as I have said, have 68 years worth of Australia’s pollution. Doing this and opening this up could increase Australia’s pollution by up to 23 per cent, on some estimates-just this alone. Why? Well, methane is much more toxic than CO2 as a climate gas-up to 86 times more toxic. To get this methane out of the ground, you need to go and drill huge holes, called fracking, which not only threatens the water that so many farmers and traditional owners in the area rely on but it leaks methane as well. The leakage rates from doing this are so high that, when you take that into account, gas is as dirty as coal. This is not a replacement fuel or a transition fuel. Gas is as dirty as coal. And if you don’t want to believe the Greens, listen to the former Labor premier and foreign minister, Bob Carr, who has made the point that, on industry figures, gas is as dirty as coal.

So what you Labor and Liberal members are voting for today, as you stand together to vote to give public money to open up a new gas field, is worse than Adani, and it condemns Australia in the eyes of the rest of the world. But, worse, it fast-tracks climate collapse. We don’t have time left to open up new coal, oil and gas deposits, but that is what this government is proposing to do. I think public money should be spent on schools and hospitals, not given to tax-dodging coal, oil and gas corporations to go and make the climate crisis worse. There’s at least $50 million-as part of a several hundred million dollar program going from the government-that is at stake in this bill.

Let’s put that money into free education, building renewables and improving hospitals, instead of giving it to these big coal, oil and gas corporations that are going to make the climate crisis worse.

The thing is: this isn’t just a climate crime; this is state sanctioned corruption. What is happening here is that the Liberals and Labor are giving public money to corporations that in many instances pay no tax. But what they don’t tell you, because they don’t even have the guts to stand up and defend this motion, is that those very same corporations make donations to the Liberal and Labor parties.

Between Santos, Origin, Empire Energy and Gina Rinehart’s subsidiary, Jacaranda Minerals, there has been $3.6 million in donations to the Liberal and Labor parties. That is why they come in here and vote to light the fuse on a giant climate time bomb. Santos. Santos. We should be asking these big corporations to pay tax. We shouldn’t be giving them public money when they pay no tax. Why do we have this situation in Australia where the scientists are telling us, ‘You need to keep coal, oil and gas in the ground,’ and the Liberal and Labor parties say that they listen to the science but then come in here, in 2021, and open up a massive new gas basin? Why does it happen? It happens because the Liberal and Labor parties take money from these big corporations that pay no tax and that fuel the climate crisis.

This is a fight that we’ll be taking up on behalf of the farmers in the area, who are now going to have to contend with these projects that will suck up to 34 million litres of water out of the ground as well as threaten groundwater supplies. We’ll be taking this fight up on behalf of the traditional owners, who, as previous speakers have said, do not want this happening on their land, have not been consulted and are worried that this lifeblood they call country is now under threat. And we’ll be taking this fight up on behalf of the students who march in the streets because they can read the science. They’re not on the take from the big coal, oil and gas corporations. They know, when they march, that we cannot open up new coal, oil and gas mines.

But we also find ourselves now in the situation where the Greens and the crossbench are in line with Joe Biden, Boris Johnson, the G7, the world’s scientists and the energy chiefs in the International Energy Agency, who have all said, ‘We’ve got to call time on new fossil fuel developments.’ If you want to know why our Prime Minister has to be babysat when he goes to the G7 meetings and why Australia is not being taken credibly, it is in large part because of our climate policies-because this government, with Labor’s support, wants to open up new coal, oil and gas developments. We may find carbon tariffs being imposed on our exporters. This government’s and the Labor Party’s climate recklessness is now putting our exporters at risk and at a disadvantage, because the Liberals and Labor are still wedded to new coal, oil and gas projects.

For everyone around Australia who cares about climate, know this-and we will make sure that everyone knows this before the next election: coal and gas are the leading causes of climate change, and, if you don’t have a plan to phase out coal, oil and gas, you are not serious about it. The Liberals and Labor want new coal, oil and gas projects in the time of a climate crisis. This is what today’s vote shows. That is why they will be condemned.

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