Mr PASIN (Barker) (19:49): In August 2023, Minister Bowen announced six proposed regions for offshore renewable infrastructure, including the Southern Ocean region off Portland in Victoria. Just to set the scene, I want to quote Minister Bowen’s department, the Department of Climate Change, Energy, the Environment and Water.

The consultation documents for this particular zone state: “The Victorian Government’s recently announced updated renewable energy targets are 65% by 2030 and 95% by 2035. It is also targeting at least 2GW of offshore wind energy generation by 2032, 4GW by 2035 and 9GW by 2040, with first power by 2028.”

They say: ‘Offshore renewable energy projects within the Southern Ocean region can help the Victorian government meet these targets.’


Well, Minister, that’s great, but the Southern Ocean region, which stretches over a vast area of 5,100 kilometres from Warrnambool in Victoria, also includes the community offshore of Port MacDonnell in South Australia. So what benefits does this proposal bring for South Australians, Minister—because I can tell you the community of Port MacDonnell will never be the same if this proposal goes ahead. Port MacDonnell is the southern rock lobster capital of Australia and the world. The southern rock lobster industry employs a thousand people and contributes $140 million in gross state product—not to mention the wider fishing and tourism industry.

The sustainable fishing industry and the stunning coastline that forms the basis of a thriving local tourism industry will be decimated by an offshore wind farm. In this region, the continental shelf is less than 30 kilometres from shore, creating an abundance of rare and temperamental fisheries akin to prime agricultural land. The very purpose of renewable energy, the minister would have us believe, is to reduce the environmental impact on vulnerable species and ecosystems. How does drilling and pouring concrete into these very fragile reefs to erect towers up to 250 metres above sea level fit that brief? So, while this proposal may help the Victorian government reach what I suggest to you is a ridiculous renewable target, it’s destroying livelihoods and lifestyles, not to mention the fragile marine environment in South Australia.


I brought a delegation of concerned residents to Canberra in August last year to meet with the minister and explain their concerns about this proposal, because it’s important that the minister, as the ultimate decision-maker, hears concerns firsthand, not just through the department’s flawed consultation process. This meeting had to be held in Canberra because, although the minister may be keen to allow wind turbines along the coast of Port MacDonnell, he wasn’t willing to travel to the region in person.


Since that meeting, the community has run a petition calling on the government to reject any proposal to declare an area suitable for offshore wind off the coast of Port MacDonnell in South Australia. The petition has garnered 4,649 signatures in just four weeks. People are concerned. While it has been presented to the parliament electronically, I rise in this place to ensure that the importance of these 4,649 signatures is recognised.


The Albanese government’s ideological crusade to establish renewable energy projects across the country is being met by opposition from rural, regional and coastal communities across the country, including in my very own Limestone Coast. Helping Victoria to meet its ambitious targets may help Labor win inner-city Melbourne seats in the state and federal governments, but I want it on the record in this place that it will be doing so at the expense of small coastal communities who want to be heard.


Now, I’ve always prided myself on being Barker’s voice in Canberra, not Canberra’s voice in Barker, so, Minister, I want you to listen. Our communities do not want this proposal off their coast. They don’t want to be excluded from the fertile fishing grounds in the Southern Ocean off Port MacDonnell. This proposal has no social licence. Minister, listen to the community. They’ve run a fantastic campaign, and on your head be it should you move ahead with this proposal which will decimate their lives and livelihoods.


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