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NSW calls on Anthony Albanese to block PEP-11 licence after proposing offshore drilling ban

The Guardian 15FEB23



The New South Wales government has ramped up pressure on Anthony Albanese to block a controversial gas exploration licence off the state’s coast, calling on Labor to pass legislation banning offshore drilling.

On Wednesday the NSW treasurer, Matt Kean, announced the Coalition would pass legislation if re-elected in March to ban offshore coal, gas, mineral and petroleum production in the state’s waters.

The promised legislation comes after the federal court on Tuesday quashed the former prime minister Scott Morrison’s move to block an extension of the controversial Pep-11 gas exploration permit.

But Kean, who is seeking to head off a series of challenges from teal candidates in a cluster of seats on Sydney’s northern beaches, has sought to put pressure on federal Labor to block the licence.

The Pep-11 licence is seen as a key issue in Pittwater, and on Wednesday the Liberal party candidate in the seat, Rory Amon, said he had lobbied against the exploration licence to the former Mackellar MP Jason Falinski as early as 2019.

But Amon has been criticised by his opponent in the election, Jacqui Scruby, for his decision as a Northern Beaches councillor to oppose a motion resolving that the council write to the state and federal governments to urge them to block the licence in March 2019.

Amon, who is seeking to replace outgoing minister Rob Stokes, was one of three to vote against the motion, which stated opposition to the offshore exploration “due to unacceptable environmental impacts and negative economic impacts”.

In a statement Amon said he had lobbied against the project since 2019 but voted against the motion because did not believe that councils should vote on matters beyond their direct jurisdiction.

“The people of Pittwater have made it clear they do not want Pep-11,” he said.

“I am a firm believer in levels of government only dealing with the issues over which they have control. Northern Beaches council has no jurisdiction over offshore gas exploration policy.”

He provided Guardian Australia with a copy of a speech he said he gave at the meeting in which he said he “appreciate[d] the sentiment” behind the motion.

“But what we need to do is focus on our bread and butter,” he said he told fellow councillors at the time.

Scruby criticised Amon for voting against the motion, saying she was “stunned” he didn’t believe opposing the licence “was his responsibility” as a councillor.

“As an elected representative how you vote is ultimately what matters,” she said.

“As a voice for the community you speak out for them – you don’t make up excuses on unfounded jurisdictional grounds. It’s a cop out.”

On Wednesday Scruby and fellow independent Joeline Hackman, who is running in the seat of Manly, accused the state government of “copy cat” legislation after they had previously released their own plans to introduce a bill outlawing offshore drilling

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