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Environment Protection (Sea Dumping) Amendment Bill 2023

For reasons I have already outlined in this place, I do not support the Environment Protection (Sea Dumping) Amendment (Using New Technologies to Fight Climate Change) Bill. What is most alarming is that, without extensive amendments, this bill would create a pathway, whether intended or not, for new Australian gas mines to continue to open and old ones to be extended and expanded. This green light is based upon unproven and faulty technology: carbon, capture and storage. Carbon capture and storage has failed to meet expectations time and time again, including in Australia's enormous Gorgon gas field CCS project. The bill in its current form would enable fossil fuel facilities, like the colossal and highly polluting Barossa gas project, to proceed.

In an attempt to improve and strengthen this bill and to ensure it's not misused, as I have described, I'm proposing three categories of amendments. The first category is an attempt to prohibit the import to or export from Australia of any carbon that was captured from a fossil fuel facility. This includes existing new or expanded facilities. This bill must not be used to enable new gas mines to be opened or existing ones to be expanded. The basic reasoning is that CCS only deals with scope 1 emissions and does nothing to deal with the vast majority of emissions produced when gas is burnt—over 85 per cent of the emissions. I'm also proposing a prohibition on the use of public money for any carbon capture and storage project that is in any way connected to fossil fuels. Public money must not be used to prolong the life of fossil fuel projects.

The second category of amendments I am proposing should be easy for the government to agree to. The government says that this bill is necessary to implement its international obligations under the 2009 amendment to the London protocol. However, the bill omits two very important aspects of the protocol: the risk assessment and management framework for carbon sequestration in sub-seabed geological structures and the specific guidelines on the assessment of CO2 streams for disposal into sub-seabed geological formations. These risk assessment and management measures do not form part of the permanent requirements in this bill in its current form. Instead, the environment minister can grant a permit to import and export carbon dioxide by reference to high-level considerations that fail to grapple with the seriousness of the activity. If the government is bringing this bill to comply with its international obligations, why would it only legislate the harmful aspects of those obligations and not the risk mitigation measures that accompany them?

The final set of amendments I have proposed cover what should happen if—or, should I say, when—things go terribly wrong. I believe it must be the companies who want to dump the carbon under the seabed and not the Australian taxpayers who are made liable for monitoring, maintenance and remediation of carbon capture and storage facilities. These companies should also be required to put up a bond to cover those liabilities as a condition of any permit. If they go ahead and import or export CO2 without a permit, they should also suffer serious penalties, as outlined in my amendments. I urge the government to adopt these amendments to ensure that this bill is used in the manner that it is intended.