Labor and Coalition end debate on offshore gas bill with ‘window dressing’ label

<span>Josie Alec and Raelene Cooper at the North West Shelf Project in Karratha, Western Australia.  The pair are among First Nations campaigners lobbying against the OPGGS bill.</span><span>Photo: Michael Jalaru Torres/The Guardian</span>” src=”–/YXBwaWQ9aGlnaGxhbmRlcjt3PTk2MDtoPTU3Ng–/ 239e9ae5a9″ data-src= “–/YXBwaWQ9aGlnaGxhbmRlcjt3PTk2MDtoPTU3Ng–/ 9ae5a9″/></div>
<p><figcaption class=Josie Alec and Raelene Cooper at the North West Shelf Project in Karratha, Western Australia. The pair are among First Nations campaigners lobbying against the OPGGS bill.Photo: Michael Jalaru Torres/The Guardian

The Albanian government and coalition have voted to pause debate on Labour’s offshore gas bill, which has been branded “window dressing” by crossbench and environmental groups and fails to prevent new rules from blocking consultations with diluting the First Nations.

In a bid to clean up the house before Easter, the government is expected to unveil tweaks to proposed vehicle efficiency standards this week. And on Monday, Labor introduced changes to add safeguards to the offshore gas bill, following widespread concerns, including within its own ranks.

After the Greens failed to suspend ongoing orders for all-day protests against the Offshore Oil and Greenhouse Gas Storage (OPGGS) Bill, House Leader Tony Burke decided shortly after 6 p.m. debate on symbolic amendments.

Earlier, Greens leader Adam Bandt told parliament that Labor were “climate fraudsters” willing to “work with the climate deniers in the coalition to fast-track offshore gas”.

Chancellor of the Exchequer Madeleine King said parliamentary debate had been full of “blatant claims of disinformation” over the bill, which is now likely to pass its second reading stage with support from Labor and the Coalition before heading to the Senate on Wednesday go.

The OPGGS bill states that approved offshore gas projects are expected to comply with environmental laws, even if they would not otherwise be so.

Related: David Pocock fears Labor is trying to sidestep First Nations consultation on offshore gas projects

The bill has been panned by environmental groups, who worry it is an override designed to protect offshore gas from looming higher environmental standards, and First Nations groups, who warn it will hand power to the Minister of Resources to to rewrite regulations for consultation.

On Monday, King introduced changes with the Environment Minister agreeing that consultation changes are consistent with the development principles of environmental sustainability.

The changes include a sunset clause so that the overriding of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act will be abolished after 12 months.

Kirsty Howey, executive director of Environment Center NT, said the requirement that new regulations be in line with ESD principles was “practically pointless”.

Louise Morris, oil and gas campaign manager at the Australian Marine Conservation Society, said ESD “is ​​a principle, not something that has legally enforceable powers or structures”.

Environmental groups have taken advantage of a provision that even if the Minister of Resources fails to consult the Minister of the Environment, the validity of new regulations “will not be affected,” the explanatory memorandum said. Howey said this meant the new security was “technically pointless.” [and] nothing but window dressing”.

A spokesman for King said: “If there is a disagreement between the two ministers, the regulations can still be validly determined – but if that were to happen, companies would have to apply for separate environmental approvals through both the OPGGS Act and the Environmental Protection Act. and Biodiversity Protection Act.”

A group of First Nations advocates, including Raelene Cooper, Josie Alec and Bruce Pascoe, have written to the Albanian government warning that the bill is “treasonous.”

The group, which includes First Nations leaders with responsibilities for the Sea country, will travel to Canberra on Tuesday to lobby against the bill, which they said was “intended to abolish our consultation rights, the right to be heard about developments in our maritime country that influence our cultural heritage and our song lines.”

On Monday, Bandt attempted to suspend standing orders in the House of Representatives, accusing Labor of being “more pro-gas than Scott Morrison.”

The Greens have offered the government support to meet vehicle efficiency standards in return for Labor scrapping controversial provisions of the OPGGS bill.

Guardian Australia understands the government has confidentially briefed stakeholders on vehicle emissions standards and is preparing to introduce minor changes targeting light commercial vehicles and utes to bring them into line with the US changes.

Related: Could Labour’s dissent on energy restore Plibersek’s veto on offshore gas projects? | Paul Karp

Climate Change Secretary Chris Bowen said: “Clearly the changes announced this week to US standards are important to us, and are one of the things we are considering as we finalize this policy.”

Auto industry leaders, including a group that attended a government briefing last week on the new vehicle efficiency standard, have called for adjustments, including adding more credits to the scheme, as they exist in the US version. An industry source who spoke to Guardian Australia was optimistic the government would relax its proposed NVES in line with these concerns.

‘Super credits’ for the cleanest vehicles, ‘off-cycle credits’ for specific green technologies used in cars that are not measured in tailpipe emissions, and ‘air conditioning credits’ for the use of greener refrigerants only appear in the least ambitious NVES model, namely considered, but not the “option B” preferred by the government.

Earlier on Monday, Bandt fired a warning shot over both gas and emissions standards, warning that “Labor must choose its dance partner on climate change”

In Question Time, King accused the Greens of seeking to continue “a lawyers’ picnic of approvals” through the courts, which she said was delaying traditional owners from having their say.

A spokesman for King said: “The bill is not and was never intended to be an exception for the resources sector to make positive reforms.”

The Labor Environment Action Network, which had lobbied against elements of the original bill, said the amendments were a “workable solution to a situation that threatened a major goal of its own”.

Independent MPs Zali Steggall, Zoe Daniel and Sophie Scamps all criticized the changes as insufficient to enact the original bill.

Independent Senator David Pocock said: “The Albanian government arranging a backdoor approval process for offshore gas stinks.”

Australian Conservation Foundation national climate adviser Annika Reynolds said the ACF remains “deeply concerned” that the amendments do not address its “fundamental concerns”.

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