Australian Greens' Additional Comments

The Australian Greens view this legislation as crucial to the urgent tasks of driving coal and gas out of Australia's domestic energy system and replacing coal and gas exports for our energy customers around the world.
What can be enabled through this Bill is a staggering 2000 gigawatts (GW) of potential wind energy as well as a network of undersea transmission systems linking Australia's vast onshore solar and wind resources with our customers throughout the Pacific and Asia.1
While there are some improvements that should be made to the Bill, the legislation should promptly be passed into law. This will allow projects stalled by the absence of any regulatory environment to proceed, such as the 2.2 GW Star of the South which will replace Australia's oldest and dirtiest coal plant, Yallourn, in Victoria's LaTrobe Valley and Oceanex's 10 GW of projects situated offshore of NSW's coal regions of the Hunter Valley and Illawarra.
Projects like this are perfectly suited for the transition of skilled labour from coal regions into the next generation of energy employment. To ensure our abundance of renewable resources are matched by an abundance of Australian jobs, the Bill should be amended so that the merit criteria for feasibility licences, commercial licences and transmission licences include local procurement of labour and goods right through logistics and supply chains.
Tens of thousands of jobs located near existing deep water ports and industrial centres can be created through an amendment for local procurement. By harnessing the abundance of our offshore wind resources, we can drive the cost of energy down—potentially close to zero—giving Australia a competitive edge to bring manufacturing back to our shores and ensure heavy industry can continue in a carbon constrained global economy.
While proponents of projects have emphasised that they are already actively seeking out partnerships and collaboration with Australian industry and unions, the politically agreed importance of this expansion in jobs should be secured by legislation and not just rely on the goodwill of energy companies and the minister of the day.
An associated change to licence conditions that should be removed from the legislation is the acceptance or consideration of financial offers for licences in subsection 32(3) of the Bill.
These offshore tenements should be managed in the public interest of ensuring the rapid development of clean energy. Financial offers encourage financial speculators to secure access to the most resource rich resources and later flip the licences for short term profit while driving up production costs in these most sought after locations.
A third change to the Bill should be the suggestion put forward during the inquiry by Sun Cable that would make it clearer that one of the main objects of the law is to encourage clean energy exports.2 While nothing in the substance of the legislation stops the achievement of Australia exporting its vast renewable resources to the world, for clarity and purpose—to both investors and lawyers—this implicit objective of the legislation should be made explicit.
Finally, the WHS provisions should be fully harmonised with the National WHS system to ensure the simplicity, safety and security of the offshore clean energy workforce. This will remove duplication and complexity for both workers and employers alike while also improving personal safety in what can be a dangerous environment.
While this Bill could, and should be improved, given the track record of the responsible minister and this government to sabotage clean energy policies, the Australian Greens are concerned that forcing the government to make changes could be used as a reason to withdraw the entire legislation, putting Australia even further behind global progress and slowing our inevitable march to an economy where coal and gas remain in the ground.
Senator Hanson-Young
Deputy Chair

  • 1
    Mr Tom Quinn, Head of Policy and Research, Beyond Zero Emissions, Committee Hansard, 1 October 2021, p. 24. Also see, for example: paragraph 2.29.
  • 2
    See paragraph 2.32

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