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Time for SA MPs to back Bight oil drilling ban

Opinion

With the federal election over and Bight oil exploration marking itself as an issue of concern in key South Australian marginal seats, now is the time for local MPs to stand up and put words into action by backing a Greens bill to ban Bight oil drilling once and for all, says Sarah Hanson-Young.

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In the dying days of the election campaign, the Labor and Liberal parties showed South Australians they had finally noticed the opposition to drilling in the Great Australian Bight.

Protecting the Bight became a first order issue and extended well beyond South Australia’s borders.

While in Noosa, Bill Shorten promised to review oil spill risks. The Coalition answered by promising a review into the regulator’s approval process.

They could no longer ignore the overwhelming message from South Australians, environmentalists, surfers and beachgoers. Now it is time to heed the call.

The Greens ran a strong campaign to protect the Bight, and we were rewarded at the ballot box. Not only did we double our senate vote, but we had swings in every lower house seat in the state.

In the seats on the frontline of the fight for the Bight – Boothby, Mayo and Grey – the Greens’ Senate vote almost doubled.

South Australians elected the Greens to protect the Great Australian Bight. When Parliament resumes, that is just what I am going to get to work to do.

South Australia’s MPs need to work together to protect the Bight. This can start by fellow MPs adding their names to a Bill I will introduce next month to ban drilling in the Bight. This is not just a fight for South Australia, but we must stand firm for our state.

We have a thriving tourism industry, with people coming from all over the world to enjoy the best that SA has to offer. From the jewel in our crown, Kangaroo Island, to the farthest reaches of the Bight. South Australians know that drilling in the middle of a whale sanctuary is madness.

Just a few weeks ago, a collision between a ship and an oil platform in the North Sea forced Norwegian oil giant Equinor to evacuate its 276 staff and launch an investigation into the extent of the damage.

It’s not the first time the oil giant has run into trouble – and we will never forget the environmental disaster in the Gulf of Mexico from BP’s oil spill.

No amount of corporate spin will make drilling in the Bight safe. There is no amount of planning Big Oil can do to avoid critical accidents or disasters. A review will not protect the Bight, but banning oil and gas drilling will.

With the proposed wells so deep and remote, and the ocean so rough, petroleum law expert Professor Tina Soliman Hunter of Aberdeen University said drilling in the Bight doesn’t stack up. Australia’s offshore drilling regulations are just not up to snuff. And to cap it all off, profits and oil will flow offshore.

In the case of an oil spill, foreign oil companies like Equinor has everything to gain and South Australians have everything to lose.

Industry modelling shows a worst-case spill would cost the economy $158 billion, while Equinor’s own modelling puts it at $86 billion. We should be investing in the successful industries that are already thriving in the Bight.

No company should be given the green light to drill in the Bight’s rough waters. The South Australian community will continue to fight plans to turn the Bight into an oilfield, to keep our tourism and fishing industries strong, our beaches clean and avoid disaster.

The Labor and Liberal parties, desperate to hold their seats, need to show South Australians their promises weren’t just a stunt. They need to be held to account.

Now is the time for South Australian MPs from all sides of politics to stand up for our community, our beaches and our future.

We must follow the will of the South Australian people, do the right thing, and protect the Bight once and for all.

Sarah Hanson-Young is a Greens Senator for South Australia and the party’s environment spokesperson.

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