QUESTION: The threat of offshore oil and gas drilling to Kangaroo Island

During Question Time, Mark asked the Minister for Tourism about the threat to tourism on Kangaroo Island that would result in the event of a major spill from offshore oil and gas drilling in the Great Australian Bight.

The Hon. M.C. PARNELL: News outlets are today reporting about a leaked environment report which shows the extent of oil contamination in the event of a major spill in the Great Australian Bight. Areas from Albany in Western Australia to the mid-New South Wales coast would be affected. So it's no wonder that a number of tourism operators on Kangaroo Island, which is much closer to the danger, have joined the campaign against oil and gas drilling in the Bight. Back in 2016, the proprietors of Kangaroo Island and Victor Harbor Dolphin Watch, in a submission to the Senate, referred to:

…the extraordinary threat offered by a catastrophic event such as an oil spill which would devastate the pristine environment which characterises the Great Australian Bight and cause irreparable harm to the creatures which inhabit it and the people dependent upon it for their livelihoods. The risk is simply too great.

More recently, Kangaroo Island tour guide Linda Irwin — who apropos of nothing is the cousin of the late Steve Irwin — was part of a protest outside the fossil fuel lobby conference in Adelaide, and she said:

The Kangaroo Island tourism industry relies on the environment remaining pristine…

What would put all of this and livelihoods at risk is an oil spill.

We contrast these views with those of newly elected Mayor of Kangaroo Island, former state member for Finniss, Michael Pengilly, who was quoted in The Advertiser as saying:

I don't oppose it…Our economy revolves around the oil industry, we have to have energy.

My question for the Minister for Tourism is:

Does the minister agree with tourism operators on Kangaroo Island that offshore oil and gas drilling poses an unacceptable risk to the environment upon which their livelihoods depend, or does he agree with his former Liberal Party colleague that the opportunity to extract more fossil fuels from the marine environment is a higher priority?

The Hon. D.W. RIDGWAY (Minister for Trade, Tourism and Investment): I thank the honourable member for his question. It is interesting. I think that a large spill anywhere, whether it's in the Great Australian Bight or anywhere around Australia, would have a significant impact on the local environment, community, fishing, tourism, all of that. But this was an interesting proposal and, at the moment, there is still only exploration potentially planned for the Great Australian Bight. Clearly, all the approval processes are matters for the federal government, and I can't recall the exact—

The Hon. J.M.A. Lensink: NOPSEMA.

The Hon. D.W. RIDGWAY: —NOPSEMA, and also I know the state agencies will have some role in it. Certainly, if there was a large spill, we would see a significant effect on a whole range of activities: fishing, tourism, the lot. I am not going to be drawn into talking about the former member for Finniss, the newly elected, although elected with a large majority, clearly the local community has embraced the return of one of their own back to the—not gracing the halls of this place but going back to the island.

I will certainly be advocating the strictest approvals and controls because I don't want to see a large spill ever, anywhere at all. I will be making sure, and I will be making representations to make sure that the work of NOPSEMA and others make sure they take into consideration the risks that any potential spill would cause and the damage it would cause not only to our tourism industry but our fishing industry and all of the other industries that could be impacted by that.