A $50 million Morrison government fund to subsidise the exploration for new fossil gas reserves in the Northern Territory will remain in place, surviving a Greens attempt to abolish it after almost all Labor senators abstained from the vote.
The Australian Greens sought to cancel out the Beetaloo Cooperative Drilling Program, which was established by federal resources minister Keith Pitt to subsidise the exploration and drilling for more new gas reserves.
The Beetaloo exploration grants have attracted significant controversy after the first $21 million of the fund was awarded to Empire Energy – a company with significant links to the Liberal Party and after it made financial contributions to a fundraiser attended by federal energy minister Angus Taylor.
The disallowance motion moved by the Greens would have cancelled out the grants program in its entirety, disallowing the regulations establishing the $50 million fund, including the money already awarded to Empire Energy.
Speaking in support of the disallowance motion, Greens senator Sarah Hanson-Young said it was disappointing to see Labor senators back the program that was providing taxpayer funds to the fossil fuel industry.
“This current disallowance motion is to stop $50 million of Australian taxpayers’ money being handed to private gas companies so that they can continue to drill and explore for more gas,” Hanson-Young said.
“What planet are we on? This world is facing a climate crisis and we are pleading with world leaders and telling our children that we need to stop polluting but we’re spending government money, taxpayers’ money, propping up the industry that is making our planet sick.
“It just beggars belief that this is what we are facing, when the rest of the world is trying hard to come up with strategies to reduce pollution, to save the planet and to give our children a safe future. It is extremely disappointing to see the Labor Party fold into the lap of the fossil fuel industry like this.”
While almost all Labor senators abstained from the vote, the opposition party confirmed that it did not support the Greens’ disallowance – and would allow the funding to remain in place.
Just two Labor senators voted on the disallowance motion – Labor whip Anne Urquhart and Jenny McAllister – both of whom voted against abolishing the Beetaloo grants program. The remaining Labor senators abstained from the vote.
The Greens secured support from just two crossbench senators, Sterling Griff and Rex Patrick, and lost the vote 9 to 24.
McAllister said that while Labor supported stronger action on climate change, it would not support the disallowance of the Beetaloo grans program, including while a senate inquiry remains ongoing into the program.
“Labor will continue to argue for urgent and meaningful action on climate change, in keeping with our commitment to reach net zero by 2050,” McAllister said.
“Our record in government was to ratify Kyoto, to supercharge Australia’s renewable energy sector and to put Australia on a path of sharply declining emissions.”
“We also supported a Senate inquiry into the Beetaloo Cooperative Drilling Program in the interests of transparency, and the work of that committee is ongoing.
“Labor will consider the final report of the Senate inquiry, which is due in March 2022, and, as it stands, Labor does not support this disallowance motion proposed by the Greens.”
Last week, the Morrison government unveiled a new national gas infrastructure plan, which has called for the further expansion of Australia’s gas industry, including developing another gas basin in Northern Australia.
The moves to expand the fossil fuel industry stand in contrast with a growing body of evidence that no new developments can be undertaken in scenarios consistent with keeping global warming within safe levels.
Lies, myths and greenwashing. Good independent journalism is time-consuming and costly. But small independent media sites like RenewEconomy have been excluded from the tens of millions of dollars being handed out to big media companies from the social media giants. To enable us to continue to hold government and business to account, to cut through the lies and the misinformation about the renewable transition, and to help expand our work, you can make a voluntary donation here to help ensure we can continue to offer the service free of charge and to as wide an audience as possible. Thank you for your support.