Friday, April 1, 2011

Extract from Hansard [COUNCIL — Wednesday, 16 March 2011] p1415a-1416a Hon Giz Watson [1] JAMES PRICE POINT DEVELOPMENT



HON GIZ WATSON (North Metropolitan) [10.00 pm]: I rise this evening to urge the Premier and Woodside Petroleum to show some real leadership and corporate responsibility by reconsidering their plans to impose polluting heavy industry on the Kimberley coast at James Price Point.

In March 2006, the Premier expressed in Parliament his lack of awareness of the heritage values of the Burrup Peninsula during his ministerial role in the imposition of the liquefied natural gas industry on the Burrup, with all the consequent impacts on the internationally significant rock art of that area. Prior to this industrialisation being approved, many people had said that the cultural heritage values of the Burrup were too important to be put at risk, and there were better options for gas processing sites. But ministers like Mr Barnett, and companies like Woodside Petroleum, arrogantly and stubbornly ignored those appeals and went ahead regardless.

A few years later, a similar mix of arrogance and stubbornness led to the decision to locate a huge LNG plant on Barrow Island, which is an A-class nature reserve. The fossil fuel company involved in that project, Chevron this time, is probably now regretting its decision to insist on this problematic location, despite the existence, once again, of better options elsewhere.

Now, for a third time, a similar stubbornness and ignorance is being applied to the decision to locate a huge LNG plant and industrial port on the Kimberley coast at James Price Point. The Kimberley coast is one of the natural wonders of the world. Studies show it to be in the top four per cent of the least impacted marine areas in the world. The waters off the Kimberley coast support humpback whales that breed and give birth in the waters off James Price Point after their long journey from the Antarctic. Our very own threatened sea turtle, the flatback turtle, is also found in these waters, as well as many dolphin species, dugongs, and a high diversity of fish species.

Research has only just begun into the international importance of the Kimberly coastal and marine environment. To industrialise the Kimberley before we even understand it properly would show a spectacular lack of judgement on the part of the government. Once the Kimberley is industrialised and polluted, we can never go back. The impacts of the proposed gas hub and port include a massive dredging and blasting program. That would destroy several square kilometres of seagrass beds, sponges and coral reefs that support protected marine life and important fish populations off the Kimberley coast. Twenty-one million tonnes of seabed and corals would need to be dredged and blasted to make way for the port and the shipping channels for the thousands of oil and gas supertankers that would be used to export millions of tonnes of liquefied natural gas and hundreds of thousands of barrels of oil condensate a year. Up to 50 supertankers a week will be charging through a humpback whale nursery. That will mean that deaths due to ship strike will be extremely likely, if not inevitable.

The project will require at least eight billion litres of fresh water a year. Woodside has already admitted that it does not know where this water will come from. If the water is taken from local aquifers, the impacts could be disastrous for both the environment and the communities in the area, including Broome. If the water is taken from desalination, there is a severe risk of increased pollution of the pristine local marine environment from the plant’s waste water discharge.

The LNG plant would also pollute the Dampier Peninsula airshed with a wide range of toxic and noxious chemicals, including benzene and toluene, which are known carcinogens. The proposed LNG plant would be the largest source of industrial air pollution in Australia. The cumulative impact of marine pollution from dredging, waste discharge and accidents, together with the construction of a huge breakwater extending out to sea for over five kilometres, and the dramatic increase in shipping movements, will have a severe impact on the extraordinary marine life of the area, including humpback whales and their calving grounds.

So why have we been led into this predicament yet again? In February 2008, an agreement was signed between the Western Australian and commonwealth governments for a strategic assessment of options for the processing of Browse Basin gas. This agreement committed the WA government to investigate feasible alternative processing locations outside the Kimberley. However, soon after coming to government the Premier, Mr Colin Barnett, effectively abandoned that bilateral agreement. He almost immediately announced that the project would be located in the Kimberley. When community concerns are raised about the clearing of remnant rainforest and the destruction of rare dinosaur footprints or humpback whale calving grounds, the Premier boldly declares that they will be protected, but he cannot protect them when plans before the EPA clearly state that remnant rainforest will be cleared and dinosaur footprints destroyed. The Premier is insulting our intelligence and he has no qualms about promising one thing and, in fact, doing the opposite. So much for due process, so much for signed agreements and so much for public participation!

Here we are, two and a bit years after this change of direction, and what do we have? We have a failure to investigate options outside the Kimberley, in breach of the strategic assessment agreement. This is despite the fact that several of the joint venture partners have clearly and publicly expressed their preference for processing options outside the Kimberley. We have continuing threats of compulsory acquisition in place of the original agreement on the need for the consent of traditional owners. We have a continuing attempt to pressure and coerce Indigenous communities into supporting the project in return for basic services and opportunities, despite the fact that the Barnett–National Party government has demonstrated on many occasions that the income derived from resource projects can be allocated anywhere the government sees fit and is not dependent on communities giving up their land and their rights for such resource projects. There is no reason Kimberley communities cannot receive benefits from the development of Browse gas wherever the gas is actually processed. We should just look at the entire royalties for regions program as an example of this.

We have an environmental and social impact assessment process that has been completely subverted by the WA government and by the federal Minister for Resources and Energy, Martin Ferguson, through the imposition of mining lease conditions that require the Browse LNG joint venture companies to prioritise James Price Point and spend hundreds of millions of dollars on this location prior to any approvals being given. We have an environmental impact statement, or strategic assessment report, for the proposed gas hub that is staggering in its ineptness, with studies that require years of research being conducted in one or two seasons and a chronic lack of detail on crucial and cumulative impacts and risks.

We have a local community that is deeply concerned about the many serious issues surrounding the industrialisation of the region and increasingly up in arms over the unwelcome presence of Woodside Petroleum, which is already trying to re-brand Broome as a Woodside town and, which, through its private security firm, Hostile Environmental Services, very aptly named, is actively intimidating local opposition to the gas hub.

We have a government turning a blind eye to reports showing that the gas hub will have serious negative social and environmental impacts, including skyrocketing housing and other living costs, as has already occurred in the Pilbara, and the loss of potential growth in sustainable tourism enterprises that depend on the globally unique and unspoiled nature of the Kimberley coast. We have a government trying to avoid the bigger agenda of the development of resource extraction as a corollary to the gas development clearly outlined in 2005 in the “Developing the West Kimberley’s Resources” report.

The Premier must show that he is able to learn from his and previous governments’ past mistakes. They do not have to go on making them. WA does not have to keep on destroying our most unique and precious environments and heritage areas on the passing whim of politicians and corporate executives when better, less damaging, options are available.

We ask that the Premier recall his regrets over the Burrup and ensure that we do not make the same mistake in the Kimberley


  1. 8,000,000,000 liters of water.That is a lot.According to Google Subiaco Oval holds 187,500 cubic meters to the top of the goal posts.That is nearly 43 times to the top of the goal posts!Mindboggling!Bound to be more,so it could be said a Subi a week.
    A square kilometer of the aquifer to a depth of 8 meters every year.

  2. Amazed to learn that Melbourne,a city of 4 million,uses a gigalitre a day.(1 gigalitre = 1 billion litres).
    So the planned plant would use enough water to supply Melbourne for 8 days.
    Or Perth,a notorious heavy user,for 10 days.

    Also on ABC talkback radio today,a CSIRO professor,said the perceived huge amounts of water used by the mining industry are false.
    Because so many of the mines are going into and under the water table,they are required to submit an application for water use,even though they only want to dump,or get rid of the water.
    Not long ago I heard Barnett answer a question on the heavy use of water by the mining industry.He didn't mention the above information,in fact he used the falsehood to leave open the possibility of a dam on the Fitzroy to supply the mines!