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Private Members Statement - PEP 11

Having fought this issue for many years, I find it offensive and extremely disappointing that the spectre of PEP 11, the dangerous proposal for drilling for gas off the coastline from Newcastle to Manly, still hangs over us. Despite overwhelming opposition, including an unusual amount of political will from MPs of all stripes, this project just refuses to die.

Unfortunately, until it is off the table for good, we must remain vigilant. Today I reiterate my longstanding opposition to the PEP 11 exploration licence as well as any proposal for oil or gas mining off our precious coastline.

It will come as a surprise to no-one that the people of the northern beaches are passionate about the health of our coastline and our oceans. The coast from Newcastle to Manly contains many of the most iconic beaches in the country, if not the world, so when we learned about the threat of proposed offshore gas drilling off our beaches, the community rallied in opposition. What a surprise! The Surfrider Foundation first raised the alarm and built momentum behind a community campaign against the project, including its fearless and consistent champion for the oceans, Layne Beachley. The Federal member for Warringah, Zali Steggall, took up the fight in Canberra with her "Stop PEP 11" bill of 2021. The Federal member for Mackellar, Dr Sophie Scamps, has now joined her in continuing to promote that bill.

I have been opposed to this project from the outset. In October 2020, as mayor of Northern Beaches Council, we passed a motion as a matter of urgency to write to our local Federal MPs outlining our opposition, as well as to the joint authority responsible for making the decision on approving the PEP 11 exploration licence. On this and many other occasions, the Northern Beaches Council and I, as mayor, made our opposition to the project crystal clear. In February 2022, wanting to secure support on the northern beaches in the lead-up to the Federal election, Prime Minister Scott Morrison made a ham-fisted effort to stop the project. As we all now know, he infamously secretly assumed the powers of his Cabinet colleague and resource Minister, Keith Pitt, to supposedly cancel the PEP 11 exploration licence. That botched attempt was then challenged in court by Asset Energy and the decision overturned in February this year.

That very unfortunate series of events has led us to where we are today, without certainty that the project will be stopped. This matter should have been sorted by now. We are in this situation because of the administrative and leadership failures of the Federal Morrison Government. With the February decision again raising the prospect of the project progressing, PEP 11 became a feature of the recent 2023 election campaign. Due to pressure from Independent candidates running in northern beaches seats with their own draft bill to prohibit development associated with offshore oil and gas drilling in New South Wales, the Liberals then proposed a bill during that election campaign to stop gas drilling in New South Wales waters. I welcomed that race to the top in what turned into a competition of who can oppose PEP 11 the most. I welcome the continued advocacy from my fellow northern beaches MPs.

The PEP 11 exploration licence is back with the joint authority for determination. Minister Houssos sits on that authority, but the Federal Minister, Madeleine King, has the final say. Not only should the PEP 11 exploration licence extension be refused, but all drilling for oil and gas off our coastline should be banned, full stop. It presents too many risks to our marine wildlife, our beaches and our climate. We must protect our coasts from offshore gas drilling and especially protect our food bowl on the Liverpool Plains from gas mining.

We need a gas decarbonisation plan for New South Wales that rapidly reduces demand for gas in our State. For our climate, for our coasts, for our farmland and for our precious water resources, we must stop new gas mining. Regrettably, there is unfinished business with this PEP 11. My community has spoken, loud and clear, as has everybody from Newcastle to Manly. We have spoken loudly and proudly about this. We will continue to fight it. It is time to end this destructive proposal once and for all.

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