Resources minister Madeleine King has acknowledged there is an urgent need to clarify consultation requirements after the Federal Court overturned approvals for a second project last week.
Resources minister Madeleine King has acknowledged there is an urgent need to clarify the community consultation requirements for big projects after the Federal Court overturned approvals for a second project last week.
“There is confusion around what consultation actually entails and we do need to fix that and we're working on that now,” Ms King said today.
“That work has been going on for a couple of months now, so we're well aware of it and we just have to go through a thorough process.
“I know it's urgent and I know it's urgent to everybody, whether it's those in the community but equally proponents of the projects.”
Her comments on 6PR radio were the first time she has responded to last week’s Federal Court decision overturning conditional approvals granted by the industry regulator, the National Offshore Petroleum Safety and Environmental Management Authority.
NOPSEMA has conditionally approved a seismic testing program on Woodside Energy’s Scarborough gas project.
However, Federal Court Justice Craig Colvin found it did not have statutory power to approve Woodside’s application.
He accepted submissions from traditional custodian Raelene Cooper and the Environmental Defenders Office that they had not been adequately consulted.
The Court found the condition attached to the approval demonstrated the regulator was not reasonably satisfied that Woodside had met its consultation obligations.
That was despite Woodside detailing to the court the lengths to which it had gone to engage with Ms Cooper.
This included multiple meetings, emails, phone calls and letters.
Last week’s ruling followed a similar finding last year when the Court overturned approvals for Santos’ Barossa gas project in the Timor Sea.
That was also based on a finding of inadequate consultation.
Ms King said the two rulings were clearly linked.
“This court decision is a consequence of another court decision that was (made) earlier in the year in relation to another project off the Northern Territory,” she said
“It is confusing and I don't like that, but we are working on a review of the regulations to try and make sure there is more certainty about affected people and the consultation process.”
Ms King also noted that “some of the consultations have been less than ideal”.
“And the gas companies, they know this, they really need to improve, and they have been improving.
“You couldn't miss the consultation ads throughout all the newspapers around the country about various projects.
“So they're lifting their game but I accept that we need to review the regulations to make sure there's certainty for everyone; for our First Nations affected, for other communities affected by projects, but also for the proponents of these gas projects.”
The minister was also speaking today about the launch of a previously announced discussion paper on Australia’s Future Gas Strategy.
“The role of gas will change as the world decarbonises – both in Australia’s energy mix and in the energy use of our trading partners,” she said.
Ms King said gas was essential to modern supply chains.
“We need to ensure gas demand decreases faster than supply through the energy transition,” she said.
“Gas shortages, supply disruptions and high prices are among the consequences of reducing supply faster than demand.”