Higgins questions the Minister for Climate

Labor MP for Higgins, Dr Michelle Ananda-Rajah, did well to get the Minister for Climate Change and Energy, Chris Bowen, to front a community forum at the Malvern RSL on 23 October.  Community members filled the hall and had a barrage of questions for him.

Minister Bowen spoke of the urgency of climate action – just 7 years to meet Australia’s 2030 emissions reduction target, if we are to limit global warming to the 1.5 degrees globally agreed necessary to avert irreversible climate risks.  We must move faster, Bowen said; we nodded furiously.

The Minister rattled off a list of significant Labor government achievements on climate action – done or about to be done.   On the Safeguard Mechanism, Bass Strait Offshore Wind Zone, remedying Snowy 2.0 debacle, and more.

But what has not been done? – putting a stop to approving new coal and gas projects! Community members challenged the Minister, and he offered his standard explanation: Gas is required for the transition.  A flexible fuel necessary for peaking and firming. Domestically and for our trading partners. Reputation as a reliable supplier.  Balancing act. Green hydrogen, green steel, not ready. Fuel efficiency standards and charging reliability take time. Still need gas for industrial and commercial users. Economic growth and reducing emissions not incompatible … etc

Community members asked many more pointed questions on climate policy – about fossil fuel subsidies, lobbyists, accountability, escalating energy costs, big batteries, EVs, transmission lines, the ‘Living Wonders’ court case, assistance for communities and councils, the role of professional associations, and more. And Bowen answered reasonably. But, at the end of this Forum, we received little assurance about these new fossil fuel projects that will continue to emit even more carbon into the shared atmosphere we are all sweating to mitigate.  A trio of young women raised their banners in protest.


Fossil fuel projects approved by the Albanese government include:

  • 30 August 2023: Approved the expansion of the Gregory Crinum Coal Mine in central Queensland for 11 years. Gregory Crinum is owned by Australian miner Sojitz Blue.
  • 29 June 2023: Approved the nine-year extension of the Ensham thermal coal mine, owned by Japanese fossil fuel giant Idemitsu Kosan.
  • 23 June 2023: Decided that the proposed Star coal mine did not require environmental approval, and could proceed as planned.
  • 30 May 2023: Approved the Isaac River Coal Mine Project, owned by Bowen Coking Coal.
  • 12 February 2023: Approved Santo’s Towrie Gas Development.
  • 10 February 2023: Approved Santos’ Dorado Development in the Bedout basin. Dorado will be designed for liquid handling rates of 100 thousand standard barrels per day (KSTB/d) and gas reinjection capacity of 235 million standard cubic feet per day (MMscf/d) over 20 years.
  • 6 January 2023: Extending the life of the Lake Vermont open-cut coalmine, owned by Jellinbah Group, until 2063. This decision does not increase the amount of coal that can be mined, only the period of time it can be mined in.
  • 27 June 2022: Approved Santos’ ‘Van Gogh’ Petroleum Field Development project.

Source: Ten and rising: Albanese government new fossil fuel approvals unveiled, by Callum Foote , Michael West Media,  Sep 8, 2023