October 19, 2020

The beaches and the ocean environment of the Central Coast and Lake Macquarie are renowned for their natural beauty and abundant sea life. It's one of the reasons so many of us choose to live there. I remember spending my youth jetty jumping and fishing for flathead. I remember learning to catch waves as a nipper. It was an immense privilege to grow up in a fibro worker's cottage with a beach at the end of the street. I was thinking about this as I was standing in the water at Redhead Beach nine days ago watching my seven-year-old daughter using her bodyboard for the very first time while my five-year-old son ran through wave after wave.

It struck me how different it would be if I could see an offshore gas drilling rig from that position. It struck me what a tragedy it would be if my kids were unable to swim at the beach due to an accident on that rig. It saddened me to think about if the only fish the families fishing along Nine Mile Beach saw were dead ones washing on the shore. This is what is at stake when we debate the petroleum exploration permit 11 licence and the application by Advent Energy to begin exploration drilling off Redhead Beach.

I stand with my community in saying no to PEP 11, no to endangering our beach and coastline, no to endangering the lifestyle we love, and no to endangering the fishing and tourism industries that employ thousands of people. There is no justification for drilling to extract gas and oil off our beautiful coast. From a local jobs perspective this development will probably employ fewer than 100 people—most of whom will likely not be locals—but will risk thousands of jobs locally in tourism and recreational and commercial fishing. I simply will not risk our jobs in whale watching, bait and tackle shops, fishing charters, surf schools, cafes and accommodation for this development. There are thousands of direct jobs and tens of thousands of indirect jobs that depend on our pristine beaches and maritime environment.

From an economic perspective, the clear answer must be no to drilling.

With regard to energy security, in the short to medium term, New South Wales does need to produce more gas, but there are projects, some of which are in advanced development now, that will produce gas more cheaply and in less sensitive environments without endangering existing industries. Beyond the short-term need for adequate gas supplies, the answer to Australia's energy security is more renewable energy—renewable energy firmed by batteries and pumped hydro for electricity generation, leading to lower power bills and lower emissions; renewable energy exported to the rest of the world, either directly through cables or indirectly as hydrogen, or embodied in clean steel and clean ammonia; renewable energy generating hydrogen as a feed stock for industry. This is the answer to Australia's energy security, not drilling within sight of the most densely populated region of the nation.

I've never seen a proposal generate such deep and broad opposition from all segments of our communities as I've seen with PEP 11. I've met with recreational fishing industry advocates deeply opposed to this. I've been approached at markets by 80-year-old grandmothers worried about this development. I've had local engineers spontaneously raise this issue when I've talked to them about other matters. On the same day I was at Redhead Beach, I held a stall at Pelican Markets, where a young mum came up to my stall with her 10-year-old daughter and expressed to me her fervent opposition to PEP 11. I want to say thank you to everyone who has expressed their opposition to PEP 11. Thank you for your passion. Thank you for your commitment to our beautiful environment and for fighting against climate change. Thank you for your commitment to our coastal way of life.

To those who are concerned about how we create jobs in our region, I say this: this project is not the answer. Growing jobs in Lake Macquarie and the Central Coast is my first priority, and it always will be, but this project will not grow jobs. Instead, it has the potential to destroy thousands of jobs.

This motion is a good start, but the future of this project rests in the hands of the New South Wales and federal Liberal governments. The current PEP 11 application for a secondary work program variation and a suspension and an extension of year 4 of the permit are currently sitting with the offshore petroleum joint authority. The joint authority is the decision-maker for offshore petroleum title matters, and its sole members are the federal minister for resources, Keith Pitt, and his New South Wales counterpart. They can kill this project right now, and they should.

Let me finish where I began, by saying that I stand with my community in saying no to PEP 11. I say no to PEP 11. I say no to endangering our beaches and coastline. I say no to endangering our lifestyle. I say no to endangering the fishing and tourism industries that are the bedrock of local employment. PEP 11 must be stopped because it is the wrong project in the wrong place.