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Environmental Assessment at James Price Point

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Rachel Siewert 14 Aug 2012

Senator SIEWERT (Western Australia—Australian Greens Whip) (15:29): I rise to take note of Senator Conroy's answers to my questions on Woodside's proposed development at James Price Point. I move:

That the Senate take note of the answer given by the Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy (Senator Conroy) to a question without notice asked by Senator Siewert today relating to a proposed development at James Price Point, Western Australia.

I note that the government obviously have not thought about how they are going to undertake their decision-making process on James Price Point. I was not asking the minister about what the decision was. Clearly they are yet to make that decision. What I want to know and what the community wants to know is how they are going to make that decision. It is very clear that the Woodside environmental impact assessment document is unsatisfactory. It is not a comprehensive assessment of the potential impacts of this development on James Price Point.


Let us take the whales as an example. I was there myself last week and now have a fairly good understanding of the whale population in the area and also of Woodside's very gross underestimation of the number of whales using the area. They have so grossly underestimated the number of whales using that area and there is the fact that this area is a whale nursery and the home of the whales—not the Antarctic. The whales are born in this area; they are conceived in this area; they go to feed in the Antarctic and come back to give birth in this area. Woodside says that around 1,000 use the area within the eight-kilometre zone in the whole of the migration season. The community monitors, in a very scientific manner, have already, in the first five weeks of the migration period, identified 1,698 whales, including at least 99 mothers and calves, with some other sightings that are yet to be confirmed. In other words, this is a very important area.

I asked about the miniature spinner dolphins. Woodside is spending $80 million on an environmental assessment process—'It must be okay because we spent lots of money'—and, for a start, have managed to grossly underestimate the number of whales. The community-monitoring program has already highlighted the fact that they grossly underestimated it. They did not manage to find the miniature spinner dolphins. They spent $80 million but they did not manage to find them. Also, they did not manage to find the turtle-nesting sites. If they had asked the local community they could have told them where they are and the fact that they do use this area for nesting, but according to Woodside they do not. Not to mention the bilbies that they never seem to manage to find. That is just the start of the failures of the environmental impact assessment process undertaken by Woodside.

The government could not answer my question. They could not tell us how they are going to make the decision; they could not tell us whether they are going to carry out some independent monitoring. However, the minister did manage to answer a question I did not ask and, I have to say, I am quite grateful because the community do want to know what has been happening with their section 9 application. They put it in at least 12 months ago—you cannot rush these things. So I will take that answer back to the community and let them know that the minister is still undertaking that assessment.

Last week, for the James Price Point development, the Australian Institute of Marine Science carried out an assessment of the state government's own documentation and pointed out that the project will be a net cost to the taxpayers of WA and they will spend more money supporting this project than they will in collecting taxes. In fact, the impact of this particular development may lead to the loss of jobs in other places in WA.

One wonders why the WA government are so strongly focusing on James Price Point when this particular site is an economic disaster. Could it be that they have other plans for the site? Of course, they deny this, but it is highly likely. Ninety-seven per cent of the workers there will be fly-in fly-out workers. So much for the myth that this is going to generate so much local employment. It will reduce the Kimberley's reputation as a world-class tourism destination, leading to a reduction in employment in the area's other largest employment sector. It will increase demand on community services, such as health and police, and cause inflation in the Broome region for housing and things like that, as it has in other places in Western Australia. This is a bad development. It should not go on country at «James» «Price» «Point. The government should look at other places for that development and the federal government need to outline how they intend to undertake their assessment process.

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