Fossil Fuel Watch Weekly Digest: June 13-19

This week in Fossil Fuel Watch we had Morrison spurting coal lobby lines about environmental protection, Victoria passing legislation to open up onshore gas projects and more Covid Commission scandals.

350 Australia is tracking the fossil fuel lobby and its attempts to use the Covid-19 health crisis to its advantage. We will be providing a weekly update on developments in the area.

Updates for 13 – 19 June:

  • Scott Morrison flagged at the CEDA conference that the National COVID-19 Coordination Commission will have an “onward life” and “translate into a new mode soon” with “a few more voices” added, reported here and here. The PM also raised a “deregulation taskforce” has been moved into the PM’s office. 
  • Paul Bastian, national secretary of the Australian Manufacturing Workers Union and a member of a Manufacturing Working Group advising the National Covid-19 Coordination Commission, confirmed gas had “completely dominated” taskforce discussions, while renewable energy played a much smaller role. Mr Bastian told the Guardian the government should be focused on setting a path to net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, in line with the Paris climate agreement.
  • Environment organisations wrote to Prime Minister Morrison over concerns that the National Covid-19 Coordination Commission falsely claimed to have consulted the organisations. Media stories are here, here and here. Signatory organisations included Greenpeace, the Wilderness Society, the Sunrise Project, the Australian Marine Conservation Society and the Australasian Centre for Corporate Responsibility.
  • Scott Morrison announced to the Committee for Economic Development of Australia (CEDA) that he will be cutting assessment times for major projects. The announcement was welcomed by the Minerals Council of Australia, meanwhile Labor announced they will consider the Government’s legislation to fast-track approvals however “that for matters of national environmental significance there always has to be a role for the Commonwealth”. 
  • The Victorian Government has passed the Petroleum Legislation Amendment Bill 2020 to allow onshore conventional gas exploration, a move welcomed by APPEA.
  • The Minerals Council of Australia chief executive Tania Constable, and Australian Petroleum Production and Exploration Association chair Kevin Gallagher, have been appointed to the 18-member Ministerial Advisory Council to inform trade negotiations. The Council’s first meeting will be next month. 
  • Ai Group, whose Chief Executive Innex Willox is a member of the Manufacturing Working Group, released a report Pivot – Rebound – Transform which outlines recommendations in keeping with Australia getting to net zero emissions by 2050. 
  • Nev Power, Chair of the National Covid-19 Coordination Commission has removed his private jet from being tracked publicly after facing questions over its use in the Senate Committee public hearing.
  • Minister Susan Ley confirmed that New Hope Group is under investigation for alleged non-compliance at its New Acland coal mine in QLD, reported here.
  • Oil giant BP wrote down as much as $US17.5 billion in the largest oil and gas industry write down in years, whilst Credit Suisse analysts say the Australian oil and gas sector faces massive writedowns if oil prices stay at long term lows.

Next week:

  • The Senate Select Committee into Covid-19 is holding three public hearings from June 23-25th, featuring unions, business and health sector representatives. Detailed programmes are available here

Contact for further background and media comment: 
Lucy Manne
CEO, 350 Australia 
0417 387 516
[email protected]