Wed, 11/12/2013

HON ROBIN CHAPPLE (Mining and Pastoral) [7.30 pm]: I think it is fairly widely understood that we will be opposing this bill. We will oppose this bill because of, in essence, the lie. This is not a lie by anyone specifically, but it is most probably by Chevron. We have to remember the importance of this place. It is an A-class reserve. The original agreement with West Australian Petroleum Pty Ltdallowed it to be used under very special circumstances for the extraction of oil. I recall that there are around 400 donkey pumps on the island extracting oil. All of those pumps were supposed to be removed and cleaned, the island was to be slowly returned to its natural state, and that was to be the end of it. The original piece of legislation on access to Barrow Island was specific that that was the only thing that was ever going to happen. When Chevron came along and wanted to put the Gorgon gas project on Barrow Island the Environmental Protection Authority in Bulletin 1221 of June 2006 advised the government that in its best opinion the development should not go ahead. The EPA made a number of observations. I will touch on those observations and deal with how they have all come true. Indeed, answers to questions I have asked in this place indicate that no action has taken place even though there are significant fines associated with these events. The report makes a number of recommendations on the EPA’s observation that development should not occur. The first observation is —

Due to the limited level of knowledge, multiple threats, probability of impacts, potentially high consequences and low level of certainty about how any impact could be effectively managed, the EPA does not consider that the risk of significant environmental impacts to the flatback turtle population can be judged to be acceptably low. The EPA concludes that the likely impacts on flatback turtles from the project as proposed are environmentally unacceptable.

The report went on to state —

The EPA considers that, even with best endeavours, the likely impacts of the dredging and infrastructure currently proposed would be environmentally unacceptable. The EPA thus considers that the proposed scale of dredging and marine infrastructure development should not be approved.

The next recommendation from the EPA on the matter states —

The EPA considers that the residual risk of the introduction of non-indigenous species to Barrow Island Nature Reserve is environmentally unacceptable as the risk has not been demonstrated to be acceptably low and no feasible additional quarantine barriers or other control conditions have been proposed to achieve an environmentally acceptable outcome.

I will come back to that in a minute to show how it has come to pass. The report continues —

With the current level of knowledge, the EPA can only conclude that there is a finite risk that these taxa —

That is in relation to the endemic species on the island—buffel grass, which Hon Mark Lewis would know all about. The report states —

would be lost and that such an outcome would be unacceptable. Accordingly, the EPA concludes, on the current evidence, that clearing of the sites where these taxa occur is environmentally unacceptable.

The report continues —

The EPA considers the project would be environmentally unacceptable if it did not include a scheme designed to inject a high percentage of the reservoir CO2, or implement alternative measures to abate the equivalent amount of reservoir CO2 vented to the atmosphere.

We know that the project is trying to deal with that issue and is proposing to reinject CO2. We have yet to see whether that CO2 into the Duprey system will actually work.

The final recommendation in the report reads —

The EPA submits the following recommendations to the Minister for the Environment:

1.        That the Minister considers the report on the relevant environmental factors and principles the EPA considered relevant to the proposal, as set out in Section 4.

2.        That the Minister notes that the EPA has concluded that the proposal cannot meet the EPA’s environmental objectives and is considered environmentally unacceptable, particularly with regard to the risk of impacts to flatback turtle populations, impacts on the marine ecosystem from dredging, risk of introduction of non-indigenous species and potential loss of subterranean and short range endemic invertebrate fauna species.

3.        The EPA therefore recommends that, from an environmental point of view, the proposal should not be permitted to proceed as proposed at Barrow Island.

4.        That the Minister notes the EPA’s other advice presented in Section 6 and Appendix 4 outlining essential environmental requirements that the EPA considers would need to be applied to the proposal, should the Government decide for other than environmental reasons that the proposal may be implemented.

The government did decide “for other than environmental reasons”, and it was interesting to note—I think Hon Kate Dousthas already touched on this—that the current Premier, the then state opposition leader, Hon Colin Barnett, in an article on Monday, 20 October 2003, in The West Australian by Steve Butler stated —

STATE Opposition Leader Colin Barnett will try to force the $11 billion Gorgon Gas development from environmentally sensitive Barrow Island on to the mainland if he becomes Premier at the next election.

He did become Premier, and he did not do it! The article continues —

Mr Barnett told The West Australian yesterday he would try to convince the Federal Government and developers to spend an extra $1 billion to build the project’s main plant at Maitland, south of Karratha, creating the nation’s biggest industrial estate.

The Greens supported that position at the time. To continue —

The move would attract up to 20 associated chemical operations which would boost the Karratha township and generate local jobs.

None of this was forthcoming and, as we know, the project has blown out time and again. We are importing water from Broome to Barrow Island because there is not enough water on the island. We are importing granophyre rock from the Burrup peninsula, an area that Hon Colin Barnett is as passionate about as I am, to develop the project on the island.

As this bill came before us I had a briefing from the department and I would like to thank the department again for briefing us on this matter. We also got a briefing from Gorgon and Chevron. Mr David Lee presented to us and also Russell Langdon. Russell has been involved in the project from almost the inception. I visited the island a number of times in the company of Russell when the project was being thought about. Basically, the briefing explained why they wanted the 32 hectares of additional uncleared land south of the gas treatment plant, comprising 20 hectares construction support and lay-down and a 12-hectare operation support area for warehousing, maintenance, workshops and offices. These are to be kept some distance from the plant because of the risks from the plant.

We asked a question in this place a while ago, and we clarified it with Chevron. As the Deputy Leader of the Opposition has already said, we know that a significant section of the land has already been used by, in my view, a level of deceit. As the WAPET development has been winding down, it has been leaving some of the donkey pump areas empty of donkey pumps, and those areas have now become, in essence, cleared land. They are under the jurisdiction of WA Oil, not Chevron. As Chevron is the proponent to both components of the development on Barrow Island, it has been in a position to move its infrastructure onto WA Oil land. As such, we now know that a significant area—235 hectares—almost the same size as the original proposed area is being used for lay-down on the island. This was not supposed to happen. When we dealt with the bill in this place originally, there was a cast-iron guarantee that we would only use the area that had been allocated. I cannot remember how many hectares that was, but I will come back to that. We have already achieved a greater usage on that island by almost doubling the footprint already. While questions in the house have indicated that the expansion of the airstrip was essentially done for WA Oil, we know that to a large extent that was because we are now taking larger planes, more of them and more often into Barrow Island for the purposes of Gorgon. The expansion of the airstrip indirectly has also seen an increased usage of the area. We have been told that the 20 hectares of construction area that Chevron is applying for, which is to support lay-down on top of the 235 hectares it has already acquired from WA Oil, will be returned when the land is no longer required and will be available for rehabilitation.

This is a pretty glossy document. It is full of pictures; we have not come to anything useful. It talks about the critical environmental issues identified by the Environmental Protection Authority during the project assessment for quarantine, dredging, turtles, carbon dioxide and subterranean fauna. The company went on to tell us that it was doing a sterling job. Let us talk about this sterling job. Originally the process of how to minimise impacts was laid down by Harry Butler under West Australian Petroleum control. The speed limits of vehicles were kept down. There was to be no excessive driving at night. If an animal was struck, one was to record the fact that the animal was struck and then one had to get out of the vehicle, remove the animal from the road and take it over to the bush so any animals that were predators of that killed animal would not be impacted. People might not understand how diverse and incredibly condensed biodiversity is on Barrow Island. If we were outside at night on Barrow Island, we would have boodies, short-tailed bandicoots and a range of animals all around us, going over our feet and moving across the tables. It is the most amazing place. We can see what Australia was like before the advent of the dingo. There is really incredible fauna on the island. For many years we thought the bandicoot on the island was a special species because it had a very short, stumpy tail, until people worked out that the numbers were so high and the competition for food was so great that it had great pleasure in nipping off the tail of other bandicoots. Almost no bandicoot on the island has a tail but it is not actually due to genetics; they were so prolific that they lost their tails. The amount, the variation and the size of fauna on Barrow Island is interesting. It is five or 10 per cent larger than that of the mainland because it does not run away from anything; it does not have natural predators. In one day I have seen 12 different perentie. It is a unique experience to see a perentie, but to see 12 really big buggers—excuse my language; sorry.

The PRESIDENT: I am sure you meant big animals!

Hon ROBIN CHAPPLE: Thank you; they were very big animals. Barrow Island is an amazing place. The management of animals on the island has diminished. Injured animals used to be sent to Karratha and a group of people in Karratha looked after them. Unfortunately, over time, Chevron has determined that rather than sending the injured animals to the mainland they will euthanase them. This corporation does not seem to have the level of concern that it used to have. The following was provided in answer to a question we asked in 2011 —

Chevron has advised that 1,027 vertebrate fauna casualties have been recorded from the commencement of construction on the Gorgon Project on Barrow Island in September 2009 until the end of April 2011.

The EPA said this would happen and the government and Chevron said it would not, but it did.

The answer continues —

This includes seven boodies, 59 golden bandicoots, 54 spectacled hare-wallabies and 4 Barrow Island euros reported in the 2009/10 annual environmental performance report for the Gorgon Project,

Because we no longer record injuries, this is just what we knew because that whole recording process established under Western Australia oil no longer exists. The Pilbara wildlife carers, who used to look after injured animals, were deeply concerned at the level of the project’s impact. They experienced it initially because the number of animals they received went up, but to stop the public becoming aware, Chevron decided to go down the path of euthanasia. In 2009 we asked about injured animals and quarantine, which I will come to a bit more in a moment. On 31 October this year, the Greens asked a question about land currently being used on Barrow Island that was not part of the original 300-hectare footprint. The areas of land that are being used outside of that 300-hectare footprint range in area from 0.14 hectares to 120 hectares. The cumulative size is about 235 hectares. They were granted 300 hectares on the basis that they would not use anything else, but they are already using an extra 235 hectares and now want to expand even further. The conditions and guarantees that seem to have been established at the very beginning of this project do not seem to bear any reality to what is going on.

I also asked a question earlier this year about the nature of introduced species on the island. Unfortunately, I do not seem to be able to find that answer at the moment, but it was something like 39 minor breaches, two major breaches and five critical breaches. The company, in response to the Environmental Protection Authority’s determination that there should be no quarantine breaches, said that it could guarantee that. In fact, in 2009 the Greens asked a question about this. Question 714 to the Minister for Environment asks —

With regard to the environmental quarantine requirements stipulated for the development of the Gorgon project on Barrow Island —

(1)           Is the minister confident of the ability of Chevron, or companies contracted by Chevron, to fulfil the environmental quarantine requirements —

That there would be no breaches. Hon Donna Faragher replied, “Yes.” We know that is not the case.

Part (3) of that question asks —

Does the minister have the power to call to account Chevron, or companies contracted by Chevron, if it or they are found to be in breach of the environmental quarantine requirements?

In answer to that part of the question the minister said, “Yes.” Then when we asked —

If yes to (3), what powers does the minister have in this respect and what penalties could apply?

The minister replied —

Section 48 of the Environmental Protection Act 1986 allows the Minister for Environment to make orders or take actions to bring about compliance with the relevant conditions or procedures in the ministerial statement applying to the Gorgon proposal on Barrow Island. Failure to comply with an order served under section 48 is an offence punishable by a maximum fine of $325 000 for a body corporate, and a daily penalty of $65 000.

Has Chevron ever been served with a notice under section 48 for having breached those conditions? We have asked the questions and the department has come back to us and said, “Yes, there are breaches going on all the time—significant breaches.” Has any action been taken? No. Why not? One would assume it is because the government does not want the EPA to rock the boat. This from a company that perpetually puts out advertisements in The West Australian and on TV—I think we have all seen them—“It’s time to get serious about our energy future”. This is push polling. It asks us to agree. Everybody would agree that it is time to get serious about our energy future. They also tell us, “Now is the time to invest in the future.” They ask us to click, “I agree.” Everybody agrees with that one, too. “Protecting the planet is everyone’s job.” I agree. There is nothing in those advertisements to ask if Chevron is doing any of these things, which clearly it is not. It spends millions of dollars each year advertising on TV and in full-page ads in The West Australian and The Sunday Times and yet we know it cannot live up to any commitment it has given. We in this chamber—the ones who supported the project—believed in what we were told. Clearly, not one thing that we have been told about this project and its guarantees has come to pass.

In my view, we should not give this corporation any further licence to destroy Barrow Island; any further licence to expand when it guaranteed to us that it did not need any more space on the island; any more licence to impact on wildlife on the island; any more licence to breach quarantine; and any more licence to do any of those things that the EPA said—I have to say this is in hindsight—the corporation should not do and that we now know it did do. Why did we not listen to the experts at the inception of this project and agree with what the EPA had said? The EPA is often referred to as a trusted entity. The EPA came out and said, “No way”, and it has been proved right on every single point that it has raised. There was a marine spill, and had it not been for some people in Karratha who saw the half-sunken vessel being towed into port, leaking oil on the way, we would not have known that that had happened. Eventually we saw photographs that showed that the barge had been holed and there had been a release of oil around the island. That is exactly what the EPA said it was worried about, and that is exactly what happened.

Chevron said to the EPA that it would sequester the CO2 and put it in the ground. We know from a couple of articles that appeared in about insurance for this proposal that an agreement was reached between the Department of State Development, on behalf of the state, and the federal government to underwrite the insurance for that geosequestration project. It was announced on 17 August 2009 that the state and commonwealth governments would jointly accept responsibility for any long-term liabilities associated with the geosequestration of the CO2 under Barrow Island as part of the Gorgon project. However, by 17 August 2009, no modelling had been done to determine the quantum of liability associated with this project. All we know is that at some stage in the future—it may be in 75 years—we will establish what that insurance premium is. No-one buys a house without the knowledge that they can get that house insured and they can afford the premiums. The state and commonwealth governments are underwriting a private development and insuring it. In the answer to my question on notice 1276 of 10 November 2009, I was told that the Department of State Development advises —

No modelling of the potential financial liability of the CO2 injection project post-closure has been done.

We have signed off on insuring it, but we do not know how to model it —

The requirement for a post-closure indemnity for the Gorgon Joint Venture … by the Commonwealth and the State Government is not expected to occur for at least 75 years.

We do not know what premium we will pay until 75 years later. No insurance company or public company operates in this manner —

It would only occur after continuous monitoring and modelling by the GJV of the stored CO2 during, and for a period of at least 15 years after the CO2 injection project ceases, when the GJV has satisfied both Governments that the site is acceptable for the GJV to relinquish responsibility.

The joint venture is saying that it will monitor it for 15 years and then it will relinquish responsibility. If it goes bad, it will come up with a premium and a compensation package some 75 years later that the state and federal government will pay. I found the whole dealing around this legislation has been incredibly bad. It is a nightmare. It was Australia’s ark; it has been irrevocably damaged and I doubt whether we will get it back to the island it was when Harry went there and where I was privileged to go on a number of occasions.

The joint venture is looking for an extra 520 hectares; 285 are cleared with 10 applications to go up to 300; 120 in the road network; 64 for a new airport; 29 for CO2 monitoring; and the balance is WA oil land subject to tenure, adding to the 300 of totally uncleared land primarily for lay-down, but also workshops, as listed in the proposal. I am really surprised that we need to go through a legislative program to give them this small amount that it is after given that so much has already been taken without having to come back to the house.

Hon Ken Travers: Except it is a requirement of the bill that it is restricted to 300.

Hon ROBIN CHAPPLE: Yes, but it has used 235 extra anyway without having to come back to the house. It is just nonsense. We now know that it is using 535 hectares when it was granted only 300.

Hon Ken Travers: For the gas processing or other operations on the island?

Hon ROBIN CHAPPLE: For lay-down for the gas processing. All that was originally supposed to be within the 300 and it did not have room. If the joint venture goes to the extra train it is talking about, it may have to apply for an extra area anyway. This has just been a creeping incremental disaster. If we had not found out that these lay-down areas were being utilised by the proponent and asked the question, we would have just passed this added amount without any question. I question why we are not allowing the joint venture an extra 300 hectares so that it can put into its operation all the land it already has by default and by deceit. That would be far more honest, would it not? I see that the Leader of the House is laughing, but it would be a far truer reflection of what is going on.

Anyway, we will certainly oppose this legislation. Barrow should have never occurred. As the then Leader of the Opposition in the other place stated, it was a bad idea; it should have been forced on the mainland and I concur with Hon Colin Barnett.

Question put and a division taken, the Deputy President (Hon Simon O’Brien) casting his vote with the ayes, with the following result —

Ayes (27)

Hon Ken Baston                         Hon Brian Ellis                          Hon Col Holt                              Hon Simon O’Brien

Hon Paul Brown                         Hon Donna Faragher               Hon Peter Katsambanis          Hon Ljiljanna Ravlich

Hon Jim Chown                         Hon Adele Farina                      Hon Mark Lewis                         Hon Samantha Rowe

Hon Peter Collier                       Hon Nick Goiran                        Hon Rick Mazza                         Hon Sally Talbot

Hon Stephen Dawson              Hon Dave Grills                         Hon Robyn McSweeney           Hon Darren West

Hon Kate Doust                         Hon Nigel Hallett                       Hon Michael Mischin                 Hon Phil Edman(Teller)

Hon Sue Ellery                           Hon Alyssa Hayden                   Hon Helen Morton                    

Noes (2)

   Hon Lynn MacLaren                    Hon Robin Chapple(Teller)

Question thus passed.

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