August 13, 2021

SCOTT LEVI, PRESENTER: Apparently the door is still open for this Petroleum Exploration Permit despite the Prime Minister saying he doesn’t like it, despite all of the local Members – Labor or Liberal – coming around to the same conclusion that their constituents don’t want it.

Pat Conroy, good morning.


LEVI: Yeah, you’re saying that this is still on the agenda, that the door is still open for this, that it hasn’t been taken off the Parliamentary schedule I guess when it comes to this possibly happening.

CONROY: Well not only is the door open, the company has gone through the door and started sourcing the drilling equipment. The facts are that the licence expired in February of this year, and while the Minister is still making up its mind, Advent Energy have an interim licence which basically means they can keep on doing what they were doing under a full licence. So they are busily putting out tenders for drilling equipment to start the drilling process.

And it’s just a disgrace. I have never seen, like you said, an issue where community opposition is so strong and united. I have been bailed up by pensioners, by kids, by tradies, by young mums, all opposed to this project because it’s bad for the environment and it’s bad for the economy. It’s risking tens of thousands of local jobs that depend on fishing – whether it’s recreational or commercial – or tourism and hospitality. All those jobs that depend on our pristine beaches are at risk.

LEVI: Every time we have this issue, you know, we always throw it out to our listeners on the text - 0467 922 684 on the open line – and say, look, who’s for this? Because obviously we need energy sources, we need gas, we need petroleum.

CONROY: Well I did a mailout of the 20,000 homes in my electorate that are in the beachside suburbs, and I got over 2,000 people to sign my petition. I only go two people saying that they supported this project. Two people out of 20,000.

The truth is I am not anti-gas, but this is the wrong project in the wrong place. We’ve got the Narrabri gas field coming on which will supply gas in the short term which will give us more time to increase renewables. And renewables are the future, but gas will play a role in what’s called firming up renewable energy in the short term.

We don’t need this project, and for 50 or 100 fly-in fly-out jobs that may not even go to locals, we are risking tens of thousands of local jobs and risking our pristine environment.

LEVI: You’ve got to think about Advent Energy’s position though. If they are going ahead, are they getting mixed messages? Because when the Prime Minister of the land, the person supposably in charge says this isn’t going to happen, why are they expending so much of their shareholders’ money in continuing to pursue this?

CONROY: Well I think this is a case of Mr Morrison saying one thing on the Central Coast and another in Canberra. The truth is the sole decision maker is his Minister, Keith Pitt. If Mr Morrison had a word with Keith Pitt, Pitt would make a decision. And given the fact that the NSW Government has opposed the project, it would be very easy for him to say no.

All I can conclude is that the Government wants to approve it. This is a Government run by the National Party which is owned by the resource companies, not farmers anymore. They want to approve it, but I think they are waiting until after the next election because they know the community outrage will be so great when the approval is given.

It’s a shocking thing. And Mr Morrison might say he opposes it, but what has he actually done to stop it? The power is his and his Minister’s to stop this project right now.

LEVI: Well with all due respect, the Nationals don’t have any seats in this area so it’s quite easy for them regardless of, as you say, their political allegiance or their donors. You know, they’re not really the ones who would lose constituents so you could see them saying ‘oh, you know, who cares’.

CONROY: I can see them saying who cares, and they love the resources industry. But they are part of the Government, and the Government needs to be held to account. If this goes to the next federal election, Labor has said we will stop PEP 11. We will cancel it. So an Albanese Labor Government would stop it. We want it stopped before then. We don’t want the drilling to start, and that’s why Mr Morrison and Mr Pitt need to get off their bums and cancel it. But this is under their control, and this is what I find frustrating. This isn’t some independent scientific body that’s making this decision.

LEVI: Alright, Pat Conroy thanks for joining us on the program.