SPEECH: Campaign to phase out fossil fuels

In Parliament today, Mark spoke about the community campaign to rapidly phase out fossil fuels and transition our economy to zero carbon emissions. This transition will not be overnight, but it needs to be much faster than any current governments are proposing and certainly faster than anything the federal government in Australia is doing.


The Hon. M.C. PARNELL: First, I would like to acknowledge and congratulate the Hon. Irene Pnevmatikos on her contribution just now. I would like to acknowledge her support for the ongoing campaign to stop oil and gas drilling in the Great Australian Bight. It is, in many ways, the issue of our times, especially for our young people. However, I want to talk today a little bit more about the broader community campaign to rapidly phase out fossil fuels and to transition our economy to zero carbon emissions. The first thing we have to say is that this transition will not be overnight, but it needs to be much faster than any current governments are proposing and certainly faster than anything the federal government in Australia is doing.

On ABC TV's Foreign Correspondent program last night, there was a special feature on climate change activists in Germany. In that country, despite the rapid take-up of renewable energy, there is still a lot of dirty brown coal that needs to be phased out. In that country, a so-called 'coal compromise' deal between the government and the local community was to phase out coal-fired power in 20 years. That is far too slow. Climate activist groups are saying that it must be less than 10 years, and they are taking direct action to make sure that that happens.

'Ende Gelaende', if I have pronounced that correctly, in German means 'game over'. It is a radical environmental group set up specifically to stop brown coal. They know what the climate scientists are telling us and they want to bring the use of fossil fuels to an end as soon as possible. In Australia, there is no government commitment to phase out fossil fuels within any time frame. In fact, the opposite situation is true, with Coalition MPs pushing for new coal-fired power stations and supporting massive new export coal mines, such as Adani. Then, of course, we have the government supporting new offshore oil and gas drilling in the Great Australian Bight, which would be, as my colleague has said, an environmental and climate disaster on a global scale.

In South Australia, the government is equally noncommittal about the future of fossil fuels. We still have the spectre of dirty underground coal gasification at Leigh Creek and there are still vast amounts of public money being thrown at the fossil fuel industry, particularly at companies exploring for new gas deposits in the Cooper Basin and down in the South-East. I know that several members of the Limestone Coast Protection Alliance have travelled to parliament today, as they have on many previous occasions when parliament has been debating gas, especially the spectre of fracking for gas, which they successfully convinced the government to put on hold for 10 years.

However, we know that gas drilling is continuing apace in the South-East. Haselgrove-4 was unsuccessful, but they brought in a new drill and they are having another go. The Dombey-1 drill apparently was successful; it was flared and capped and is now waiting to go into production. The Nangwarry-1 well was a failure; it apparently only produced CO2, which might be good for soda water but is not good for much else. The Limestone Coast Protection Alliance points out that more than $30 million of public money was granted to Beach Energy and Rawsons for drilling these wells and for the cost of the upgrade to the Katnook production plant.

At the federal level, the government has made it very clear that they want all states to help get the gas out from under our feet, as the Prime Minister likes to say. They are putting enormous pressure on states that have bans and moratoriums in place to legislate to reverse those. I know that people in the South-East are very anxious that their hard-fought, hard-won legislated fracking ban stays in place and that the government is not swayed to reverse it—but no doubt there will be pressure.

The New South Wales government has made a devil's pact with the feds for $2 billion towards 'bringing down energy prices and emissions' by promising to open up more gas fields. I do not see, for the life of me, how that brings down emissions. The federal government has also said that in Victoria they will not get a penny unless they reverse their ban on fracking and lift their moratorium on conventional gas extraction. That is nothing short of blackmail.

I am very supportive of the AYCC, who are also here today. I very much appreciate their current campaign, which could be summarised as 'follow the money'. They are urging people to pay attention to political donations, in particular to have a look at how much Santos has been giving to the Coalition. They describe it as, 'This is what a dirty political system looks like'. I am very grateful that civil society is stepping up. We have a lot more work to do, but the phasing out of fossil fuels has to be the number one priority.