Transcript from Press Conference - 5th February 2021 - Terrigal Beach, NSW
EMMA MCBRIDE, MEMBER FOR DOBELL: Good morning. I'm Emma McBride, the Federal Member for Dobell. And welcome to the Central Coast. I would like to begin by acknowledging the traditional owners of the land on which we meet, the Darkinjung, and to pay my respects to elders past, present and emerging. First, I would like to welcome Labor Leader, Anthony Albanese, back to the Central Coast. Anthony is a strong supporter of our region and a regular visitor here on the Coast. We are joined today by Labor members representing communities all along this stretch of coastline. Matt Thistlethwaite, Pat Conroy, Meryl Swanson, Sharon Claydon, thank you so much to all of my colleagues for your support and being here for this really important issue. We're also joined by Tim Heffernan from Save Our Coast, Damien Cole, National Director of the Surfrider Foundation Australia, pro surfer, Ace Buchan, and Hugh, President of the Central Coast Surfrider Foundation that's just newly been formed, all really strong advocates for our community. We've come here together on the coast today because of a really important issue. A week from today, next Friday, the 12th of February, the licence to explore for oil and gas off the coast, or PEP 11, is due for renewal. This is a risky proposal which threatens the environment, the economy and our way of life. The decision about PEP 11 won't be made on the coast, it won't be made here. It won't be made by locals, but by Federal Resources Minister Keith Pitt and Deputy Premier John Barilaro. I and my colleagues have been contacted by thousands of people concerned about this risky proposal. I'd now like to invite Labor Leader Anthony Albanese to address these concerns. Thank you, Anthony.
ANTHONY ALBANESE, LEADER OF THE AUSTRALIAN LABOR PARTY: Well, thanks very much, Emma. And I'm pleased to be joined by so many of my Labor Party colleagues as well as community activists and leaders not just from the Central Coast but from right along the coastline. Because this is a proposal that would impact our coast from Sydney right through to the Central Coast through to Newcastle and up to Port Stephens. This proposal covers an area of 4500 square kilometres and would allow for oil and gas exploration as close as five and a half kilometres from off this pristine coastline. This is a natural asset that we need to protect. This is an asset that is an important part of the way of life for those communities. But it's also an economic asset. Whether you're a recreational fishery, whether you're a commercial fisher based in Port Stephens or on the coast, whether you be someone who's engaged in surf riding and all other recreational activities. Tourism is also a vital employer in those communities. And the idea that you would have exploration for oil and gas just off this coast is a disaster, even if things go as well as they possibly could have. But if they don't, then it's potentially catastrophic. And that's why a Labor Government that I lead will stop this proposal dead in its tracks. I've seen some pretty crazy proposals. And when I examined, from time to time, when I examined this proposal, I actually had to check that it was real. It is real. The company involved say they've raised $9 million for this proposal. Keith Pitt, Angus Taylor, at the Federal level, and John Barilaro at the state level, have the power to stop this nonsense now. They should stop it. They should listen to the community. I want to make it clear; Labor isn't opposed to oil or gas exploration anywhere. We've supported proposals that have gone through appropriate environmental standards that are in appropriate areas. But this proposal is just not on. This proposal lacks common sense. It's bad for jobs. It's bad for communities. It's bad for our natural environment. This is the whale highway across here that we see that produces jobs as well, particularly at times where there isn't the same tourism that there is here in February. So we need to make sure that this proposal is defeated. The Government can make an announcement in the next week that ends it forever.
TIM HEFFERNAN, SAVE OUR COAST: Thank you, Mr Albanese. My name is Tim Heffernan. I'm speaking on behalf of Save Our Coast. Save Our Coast has been advocating to cancel Petroleum Exploration Permit 11 for just on three years. What started as a small community group sitting around cafes in Newcastle has grown into a massive movement. And we are pleased to welcome Mr Albanese and the Federal Opposition to this team. The issue transcends politics. It's not a question of Labor, Liberal, Greens. It's a question of common sense. And looking out over the horizon over my shoulder, you'll see the Petroleum Exploration Permit 11 doesn't make any sense. Now, throughout the last three years, Save Our Coast have been collecting petitions. And just a year ago yesterday, we tabled 77,000 petitions in Parliament House. But in addition to that, a lot of people wanted to put forward more, they didn't want to just sign a piece of paper and walk on. So we collected a whole bunch of other submissions. And the book that we're going to present to you, Me Albanese, is compiled from people from the Northern Beaches, from the Central Coast and from Newcastle and even abroad further away. And the book contains little snippets of what these coasts means to them. And we hope that as the fight continues, that you'll keep those thoughts close to heart as you help us to fight and cancel PEP 11. If PEP 11 isn't cancelled, our way of life here will be cancelled. Our boating, our fishing, our recreation, surfing, tourism will be cancelled if we did not cancel PEP 11.
ALBANESE: Well, thank you very much. I'm overwhelmed by the opposition that there is to this proposal. I spend a bit of time on the coasts here. And over the years from the time, I was a little kid at Umina beach but also spent a lot of time in Newcastle, in Port Stephens, but also had an aunty in the Northern Beaches at Narrabeen. So I know how important the Northern Beaches are as well. And Matt Thistlethwaite is here, a proud Maroubra boy. He would be the bloke with the Souths cap on, as you'd expect from Maroubra. And he's also a keen surf life saver. This is about our way of life. It makes no sense at all. And I think we're going to questions now. No. We're still going.
ADRIAN BUCHAN, PRO SURFER: Good morning, everyone. I'd also like to pay my respects to the traditional owners of this land, the Darkinjung People. I'd also like to thank all the MPs that have made a huge effort to come along here to our backyard. My name is Adrian Buchan. I'm a professional surfer from the Central Coast and I'm a second generation Australian. Forty years ago, my parents fled South Africa, apartheid South Africa, in search of a better life and I feel incredibly lucky to call this wonderful place my backyard. You know, I've surfed out here, I've played rugby across at the oval there. I've probably spent too much time down there as a late teenager drinking beers and chasing girls. But I've completely fallen in love with what this coastline offers me and now my three young children. For many of us, this stretch of coastline that they're calling PEP 11 is the blue beating heart of our existence. As surfers and ocean-loving folk, we feel a great sense of custodianship to look after something that has given us so much and has provided us in a time of great uncertainty, a lot of solace and a lot of comfort. So I'm standing here not saying that we're perfect, but saying that we can do better and that we must do better for our children. I've been lucky enough to travel around the world for 20 years, first as a wide-eyed kid chasing my dream and then dragging my family along with me. And, having the opportunity to spend the last 12 months in my backyard reconnecting with my family and my community, I've only been strengthened in the belief that people that live along the ocean here in Australia, as many of us do, have a great sense of duty and a great sense of care to look after the ocean. So, to the Morison Government, to the climate deniers, to the climate delayers in the Coalition, I want to say that gas is a false solution. Let's listen to the science. Let's trust the science. Let's move forward together. And the idea that technology alone is going to pull us out of this without the impetus and the infrastructure from Government itself is just a joke. I want to congratulate Anthony Albanese and his team for coming along here today. And I hope that together we can move forward and provide a safer solution for our family. The Central Coast has given us so much, as has Sydney and Newcastle and the zone that they call PEP 11. So, thank you all for coming out today. And let's hope that we can kick these projects out of our backyard once and forever. Thank you.
DAMIEN COLE, NATIONAL CAMPAIGN DIRECTOR OF THE SURFRIEDER FOUNDATION AUSTRALIA: Good morning, everyone. My name is Damien Cole, and I'm the Surfrider Foundation National Campaign Director. I just like to begin by also paying my respects to the Darkinjung People and acknowledge that this land was never ceded, it was stolen, and that they have a continuing connection to this land, to their community, to the air that we breathe and to the ocean behind us. Now also, I do really want to thank Mr Albanese for coming forward and opposing this ludicrous project. And also, all the MPs that stand behind me today who have been lobbying Mr Albanese on behalf of their constituents over the last few months. It's been great to see. And also I want to acknowledge the cross-party support from certain Liberal MPs. Some are coming later to the party than others. Also from the Greens Party and also from independents. It's been great to see that this is, as was mentioned before, this isn't actually a political issue. This is a community issue. And this is an issue for us up and down this coastline, for those who call this place home. It really is such an important and beautiful part of not only our environment for us socially, it's part of our social wellbeing, but it's also an important part of our economy. When you look at the fisheries, which is worth in New South Wales alone over $170 million a year, most of those being small to medium-sized businesses. Now the threat to that, with having gas and oil rigs out there would really threaten everything that we've ever known. And not only this, we've been told that they're mainly searching for gas. But BPH, the overarching company, has actually come out and stated that there is a strong potential for oil. Now, if there is a strong potential for oil, that means that we have a potential and we're putting at risk our communities from having oil slicks come up here and destroying everything we've ever known. And that for me, no matter how small the risk, cannot happen. In 2021, at a time when biodiversity loss is at critical stages, we're in the midst of a sixth mass extinction, and here we are threatening this entire coast. It's appalling and something that the Government needs to stand up on and represent not the oil and gas lobbies, but our communities and our constituents. Now, I think that I speak on behalf of all of our communities when we say that nobody wants this. We've just heard 77,000 people have signed this. The more people get to know about this and are educated about this issue, the more people realise that no one wants this. And it's something that we cannot do. And it's not just for us here today, but it's actually for future generations. I don't even have children yet and I'm standing here fighting for their lives. For my unborn children. I'm fighting for Adrian Buchan's young children so that they can experience what we've been so lucky to experience. So really what we're standing here for is calling on Mr Keith Pitt and John Barilaro to step up, represent the communities and ensure a safer and more prosperous future for future generations. Thank you very much.
ALBANESE: Thanks very much. And a big shout out to you. These are community-based organisations. We are full-time parliamentarians, me and Emma and Sharon and Matt, Pat and Meryl. These are community-based organisations that have worked with the local Labor MPs on this campaign. And I'm particularly pleased to see Ace here today as well. A good Avoca boy, done very well, indeed.