Labor fractured over Bight oil exploration

A federal Labor senator has broken ranks to side with the Turnbull government over drilling for oil in South Australia’s Great Australian Bight.

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A long-running Greens/Labor-dominated Senate inquiry into the plans of companies like BP and Chevron to drill in the area tabled its report in parliament on Thursday.

The 172-page report featured additional comments from Greens, government, Labor and Xenophon Team senators but South Australian Labor senator Alex Gallagher split from colleagues, instead endorsing the comments of coalition senators.

The coalition senators with Senator Gallagher pledged support for oil and gas exploration in the Great Australian Bight subject to oversight from the national offshore petroleum safety authority.

Labor meanwhile recommended amendments to existing laws to ensure consultation with stakeholders and communities and to require oil proponents to publicly release oil spill modelling and emergency response plans.

The Greens oppose any oil or gas exploration in the Great Australian Bight marine national park and are calling for legislation to ban it.

Committee chair Greens senator Sarah Hanson-Young said thousands of tourism and fisheries jobs would be at risk if oil drilling was allowed.

She used parliamentary privilege to accuse Senator Gallagher of crossing the floor to protect the interests of Chevron.

“Isn’t it interesting that Chevron, the big multinational company that wants to drill for oil and gas in the Great Australian Bight donated money to the South Australian Labor party within days of the hearing into that particular issue by the Senate committee,” she told parliament.