Doorstop interview, Queensland Resources Media Club, Brisbane

Coal mine development, implementing the Australian Domestic Gas Supply Mechanism

JOURNALIST: The Galilee Basin, Adani’s Carmichael Coalmine is meant to be the ice‑breaker for developing that basin. Do you think it’ll ever take off?
MADELEINE KING: Whether the Galilee Basin is developed further is really a matter for proponents who can afford it, who can attract the investment and then, of course, go on to the next and very important stages of getting the correct approvals, and all the approvals you require, environmental and otherwise. So, more supply for gas is a good thing into our domestic market, and also for international markets, but that is something for those proponents to seek to address. 

JOURNALIST: But surely you have an opinion about whether you think it would be viable in the future? 

MADELEINE KING: Well, it’s only viable if proponents are able to do it. I mean, there’s not going to be any government interventions in that space where we go and develop, or we put in huge amounts of cash or something to push it forward. It’s a matter for the industry itself as to whether it can be developed. I don’t know what roadblocks might be in their way in terms of geology or extraction issues, so, you know, they might exist; I’m just not aware of them. Maybe they don’t. But the thing is it really is a matter for proponents, not for government. 

JOURNALIST: Do you think there’ll be any more Greenfield coal developments? 

MADELEINE KING: And, again, I’m not trying to avoid the question, it really is a matter for proponents. I mean, if there is a viable Greenfield coal site and it meets the environmental requirements and any other state approval processes – and there are quite a lot of them, including issues around native title right across the country, which are really important to address, and community expectations – you know, if that’s addressed and they get those approvals, then Greenfield's coalmines are able to go ahead. Because the truth is that’s an energy source that will be required and has been chosen by a number of our regional neighbours as part of their energy mix for the foreseeable future. 

JOURNALIST: But the Federal Government sets the environmental standards, so for a project to meet the environmental standards at the end of the day, it kind of comes under the Government. Will you be strengthening or tightening those environmental standards? 

MADELEINE KING: Well, the Minister, as you know is looking at implementing part of the Samuel Review, or all of the Samuel Review, so that is the changes to the EPBC Act, and those changes are on the basis of that really extensive review, and it wasn’t able to be moved forward by the former government. So, yeah, sure, the Government sets environmental standards, but those standards reflect the expectations of the community. But also industry, you know, a lot of people participated in that review. It was very fulsome and very widespread, so, you know, that’ll be Minister Plibersek’s task to implement, and we’ll be working with her. I know that the resources industry will form part of whatever the next steps on developing that legislation. 

JOURNALIST: Are we still on track to issue that notice of intent for the ADGSM by the end of August? 

MADELEINE KING: Well, at the moment, that regulation is still in process. We’re trying to get it completed as soon as possible, so that is on track, yeah.

JOURNALIST: On the east coast gas shortage, is it a case – obviously, Senex has got their announcement today about more exploration. Is bringing on more supply the solution to the current issue of bridging shortfalls rather than the big LNG export of diverting more gas into the domestic market?

MADELEINE KING: It definitely is part of the solution. More supply from more sources and more proponents, more vendors, for lack of a better word, is definitely part of the solution. Making more gas available to more people is important to end that ongoing shortage that has been predicted. So, I’m fully supportive of Senex’s announcement today. 

JOURNALIST: Will you recommend Tanya Plibersek sign off on the final environmental approvals? 

MADELEINE KING: That’s really not a matter for me. It’s a matter for Minister Plibersek, and her and her partner worked really hard to get things right and follow the rules that are in place and I have every confidence that those rules will be followed. 

JOURNALIST: On the ADGSM, obviously previously that has been a big stick that was threatened by the former government to be used – the trigger was never pulled – to pressure the gas companies to have a sort of, for lack of a better word, a gentleman’s agreement, or a heads of agreement, to do it. Is that the likely scenario this time – they’re gathering information to pull the trigger but it will force the gas companies to make an offer rather than the trigger being pulled? 

MADELEINE KING: Well, there’s two parts of the ADGSM story at the moment. One, is the renewal of the existing mechanism that is directed solely at supply, and that’s the mechanism I’ve already foreshadowed. Once we get the regulations in place and it’s all approved that, we will seek to prepare in any event a notice of intention to activate the mechanism, because we do need to address the shortfall that the ACCC report has put out there a couple of weeks ago. That’s really important. So that’s the existing one. But we are also reviewing that to improve it so we can address other issues that we’ve seen in the market, and some of that is, of course, around pricing and access and nature of the offers made to manufacturers and other users of the gas, and so that will be part of that review process, so we have a sustainable position with a supply of gas. Because I know, you always can call, get on the phone and you know try and work it out, but getting on the blower every six months to the gas companies is really an ad hoc response to a policy failure in the past. So, we don’t want to repeat that. We want to have a sustainable and ongoing system of gas supply in the domestic market, while also honouring the arrangements companies have in place, and Australia has in place with international partners, because that’s also a very important part of what we do in this country, which is provide energy security to others in our region.