Federal Member for Robertson, Lucy Wicks, has remained stoic against a barrage of criticism that she betrayed the Central Coast community by refusing to vote in favour of a motion to allow a debate in Parliament about PEP11.
Wicks reaffirmed her opposition to PEP11 and the Morrison Government’s “rock-solid guarantee” that an extension to the petroleum exploration permit would not go ahead but in the Federal House of Representatives on Thursday, October 21, she spoke against a Motion that would have paved the way for a Private Members’ Bill to permanently kill off the PEP11 offshore drilling permit to Advent Energy.
Strongly opposed by the Central Coast community, Petroleum Exploration Permit 11, known as PEP11, is a work permit granted under the Offshore Petroleum and Greenhouse Gas Storage Act 2006.
PEP11 covers 4,575sq km of ocean from Newcastle through the Central Coast to Manly, with a target area called Baleen Prospect offshore from Lake Munmorah.
Wicks and the Prime Minister have said they would not allow PEP11 to be extended under a Morrison Government but last Thursday, Wicks voted with the government to stop the Bill from being considered.
Zali Steggall, Independent Member for Warringah, moved to suspend standing orders so her Offshore Petroleum and Greenhouse Gas Storage Amendment (Stopping PEP11) Bill 2021 could be given priority to debate.
“This Motion must be debated because it deals with vital issues: climate change; environmental destruction; and the fate of the economy for a significant portion of the east coast of Australia,” Steggall told the House last Thursday.
“As recently as October 20, comments in the media by David Breeze, the Executive Director of Advent Energy, indicated that Advent has every intention to proceed with the project.
“PEP11 is still on foot, and (Resources) Minister (Keith) Pitt, a Queensland Liberal-National MP, is still giving enough assurance to Advent Energy that they are seeking tenders for equipment to drill the works on PEP11.”
Meanwhile, Member for Shortland, Pat Conroy seconded the motion by Zali Steggall to suspend standing orders so her Offshore Petroleum and Greenhouse Gas Storage Amendment (Stopping PEP11) Bill 2021 could be given priority to debate.
Member for Dobell, Emma McBride, also spoke in favour of the Steggall motion.
McBride said the Morrison Government had turned its back on people across the Coast after refusing to allow debate on the PEP11 Bill in Parliament.
“Minister Pitt still hasn’t made a decision, eight months after his original deadline, and we’ve been told not to be hasty, and the government is gagging debate,” she said.
In his speech supporting the Motion, Conroy said he had never seen a project more opposed to by the entire community than this project.
“The Member for Robertson has said that under a Morrison Government PEP11 will not go ahead.
“Hopefully she will get up and say the project is dead. Unless she votes for the suspension …. they are just hollow words, from a member of the government that so far is allowing offshore oil and gas drilling off our coast.”
After the vote Conroy said Wicks had betrayed the people up and down the NSW coast by refusing to suspend Standing Orders to allow debate and vote on the PEP11 Bill.
When Wicks rose to oppose Steggall’s Motion she said: “I firstly want to say very loudly that I remain firmly opposed to PEP11.
“The Member for Warringah’s Motion, supported by members of the opposition, to suspend standing orders is not the best way to achieve this outcome that they seek.
“It only adds to the cacophony of confusion and misinformation that has been surrounding this issue.”
Wicks said Steggall was politicising a community issue.
She acknowledged the importance of local beaches and oceans to the Coast’s way of life and repeated Morrison’s “rock-solid guarantee” that his government would not allow the PEP11 permit to be extended.
“That is why the Motion before the House (last Thursday) really achieves nothing for communities up and down the NSW coast,” Wicks said.
“The best way to achieve the outcome that all of you and indeed many of us in this chamber seek is through the proper processes of government, not political stunts,” she said.
Save Our Coast committee member, Tim Heffernan, said the vote to suspend standing orders and debate the Steggall Bill was defeated 52 to 48.
“If Wicks, Sharma (Wentworth MP) and Falinski (Mackellar MP) had voted differently the debate would have ensued,” he said.
“The community has made it clear that PEP11 has no place off our coast and (last Thursday) our elected representatives let us down by supporting fossil fuel projects over our coastline.
“Ten days away from a global climate summit and the Liberal Government not only has no plan for net-zero, but they perverted democracy by disallowing a debate on a new Bill.”
In an interview with CCN after the vote, Steggall said: “We’ve had a lot of platitudes from especially Coalition and along the coast saying that this project won’t go ahead but the reality is that the licence holder is going ahead.
“The Bill seeks to basically decline the application for the licence and then, which is really important, it makes it that there can be no further licence approved in this area,” she said.
Later, in Parliament Question Time, McBride asked the Resources Minister, Keith Pitt, to reject extension of PEP11.
In response, the Minister said he would take advice from the regulator, National Offshore Petroleum Titles Administrator (NOPTA).
“We are considering this on balance, in regards to the law, in regards to the national interest and, of course, we’ll take into consideration the views of the community and will make a decision in due course,” Minister Pitt said.
Jackie Pearson and Sue Murray