Offshore gas must not bypass genuine consultation with traditional owners, local community

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Legislation that will allow the government to relax the approval and assessment process for offshore oil and carbon capture and storage (CCS) projects is premature and risks bypassing traditional owners, local groups and tourism and fishing businesses, warns the Australia Institute.

The Offshore Petroleum and Greenhouse Gas Storage Legislation Amendment (Safety and Other Measures) Bill 2024 was introduced to the House of Representatives on Thursday.

Key details:

  • In January, Resources Minister Madeleine King released a consultation paper “Clarifying consultation requirements for offshore oil and gas storage regulatory approvals”.
  • The consultation is still open for submissions until next month.
  • Currently, offshore oil and CCS projects must consult relevant persons – including local communities, tourism operators, fishers and conservation groups, as well as traditional owners and First Nations community members – and for a reasonable period of time.
  • The changes proposed in today’s bill allow the Minister to relax the rules imposed on offshore oil and CCS projects even when those rules were a condition of the projects’ approval under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act.

“The Government did not even finish its consultation on how to run consultations before introducing legislation to let it bypass legislation. This is premature, and suggests the process has been rushed to avoid scrutiny,” says Bill Browne, Director of the Australia Institute’s Democracy & Accountability Program.

“Given how disruptive and destructive offshore oil and gas projects can be, they should not be built unless they have a genuine social licence to operate from the people whose lives and livelihoods will be affected.

“With the failure to enshrine a Voice to Parliament in the Constitution last year, it is particularly important that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people continue to be heard and genuinely included in existing consultation processes.

“Local communities and businesses can already feel overwhelmed in the face of powerful, well-organised fossil fuel companies, and laws and regulations should address that imbalance, not exacerbate it.”

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