Beetaloo Cooperative Drilling Program

17 December 2021

Labor is committed to action on climate change and building on our policies on community batteries, electric vehicle tax cuts, new energy trade apprenticeships and Rewiring the Nation, we recently announced our Powering Australia policy.

Independent modelling shows Powering Australia will create 64,000 direct jobs and 604,000 indirect jobs and will spur $76 billion in investment.

Renewables will grow to 82% by 2030, cutting power bills for families and businesses.

And alongside this economic benefit, Powering Australia will reduce emissions by 43% by 2030 setting the path to net zero by 2050, compared to the Morrison Government’s 26-28% target, which was set back when Tony Abbott was Prime Minister.

Where there is a role for gas to play in firming and peaking electricity, and as a feedstock for manufacturing, exploration and extraction must of course be subject to scientific, independent, and evidence-based approvals.

Exploration of the Beetaloo Sub-basin is in the early stages so it is uncertain what proportion of the resource will be technologically and economically viable to extract.

Federal Labor supported a Senate Inquiry into the Beetaloo Cooperative Drilling Program in the interests of transparency and the work of this committee is ongoing.

Labor will consider the final report of the Senate Inquiry which is due in March 2022.

We will continue to advocate for ongoing consultation with Traditional Owners by both government and industry to ensure cultural heritage and the environment is protected as a matter of urgency.

As you know, Labor is not in government.  I encourage you to write to the Minister for Resources the Hon Keith Pitt MP and Minister for the Environment, Sussan Ley MP. 

Traditional Owners and environmental lobby groups have expressed concerns about exploration in the Beetaloo Basin and the potential impact on underground water sources. I understand the NT Government conducted an extensive review into onshore shale gas development in 2018, which presented CSIRO analysis that found the potential of environmental contamination, and the potential for serious post-decommissioning and abandonment integrity issues, was low.

Concerns have been raised regarding cultural heritage of sacred sites. Labor believes all levels of government can and must do more to ensure that the cultural heritage of First Nations Australians is respected and protected, through processes that ensure full and proper participation and self-determination. The destruction of the Juukan Gorge rock shelters last year is an example of the failure to ensure cultural heritage is protected. Such a tragedy must never happen again and Labor will continue to support proper assessments of sites that are -potentially of national significance.

I understand that in the Beetaloo case, project proponents will be required to follow the NT Government’s cultural heritage protection laws which require consultation with Traditional Owners and heritage assessments within its processes. Labor’s expectation is that the NT Government will ensure the rights of traditional owners are respected, and there is proper input into any projects that involve the land of First Nations people.

Concerns have been raised regarding the use of public money and associated approvals processes for the program. That’s why Labor supports a powerful and independent anti-corruption commission at the Federal level.

Labor is concerned that Angus Taylor has misled parliament by maintaining that his office had not discussed the Program with recipient Empire Energy prior to the opening of applications. The Morrison Government needs to clarify this in the Parliament as a matter of urgency.

Labor has written to the Auditor-General asking him to undertake a performance audit of this program to get to the bottom of the way this money has been spent. 

Labor also moved an Order for the Production of Documents motion to force the Minister to table all the emails and documents that relate to Angus Taylor’s trip to the NT.