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Labor and Greens gag debate on fuel efficiency standards in deal on offshore gas bill | Australian politics


Labor and the Greens have struck a grand bargain on fuel efficiency standards, offshore gas and the petroleum resource rent tax to pass all three bills in the Senate.

The government and Greens gagged debate in the lower house on fuel efficiency standards and then combined in the Senate to add all three bills to an hours motion requiring they be voted on Thursday.

The procedural moves outraged the Coalition, which opposes the fuel efficiency standards, independent MPs and senator David Pocock, who had wanted the PRRT bill strengthened to raise more revenue.

The shadow treasurer, Angus Taylor, said the deal proved the Greens are Labor’s “preferred negotiation partners” and the “resources industry has been abandoned” less than a week after Labor promised it “a fresh start” in its future gas strategy.

The offshore petroleum and greenhouse gas storage legislation amendment is a workers safety bill containing a schedule that would allow the resources minister to override the environment minister when it comes to setting approvals rules including First Nations consultation for offshore gas projects.

Under the Labor-Greens deal, the government will remove this schedule from the bill to pass the non-controversial elements but it is not abandoning its intention to legislate this reform.

In return, the Greens will help pass the petroleum resource rent tax and the fuel efficiency standards.

The Greens revealed the deal includes a commitment not to bring back the changes to the offshore gas approvals process until the third tranche of the government’s environmental law reform.

The Greens leader, Adam Bandt, told reporters in Canberra the minor party had effectively “killed the gas fast track”.

Bandt said he could not see a “pathway through parliament” this term because the second tranche of environmental laws had not been introduced and tranche three on environmental approvals had been delayed “indefinitely”.

In the hours motion, senators Tammy Tyrrell and Lidia Thorpe voted with Labor and the Greens, indicating they are likely to supply the necessary votes, while cutting out Pocock and Jacqui Lambie.

Pocock told the Senate the government was “selling us out” by legislating an omnibus bill that makes “important changes off the back of the PwC scandal and puts them with a dud deal when it comes to the export of our gas”.

“They should be ashamed of themselves … We’re not collecting anything from our offshore gas.

“Hundreds of billions of dollars of LNG gets exported and today not a cent of PRRT [has been paid].”

Bandt rejected charges of a “dirty deal”, saying the real “dirty deal” was “the one done between Labor and the gas corporations to open up new climate-destroying gas projects against the wishes of First Nations voices”.

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Independent MP Helen Haines said it was “truly a low point” for the Albanese government, while MP Kylea Tink said it had “lost [her] faith” – both referring to the fact not one MP had been allowed to speak.

The shadow transport minister, Bridget McKenzie, criticised the deal, telling the Senate “we could be in Moscow – or any other communist country”.

McKenzie said the guillotine motions had ensured “nobody” – whether they support fuel efficiency standards or not – could have their say “on the biggest change to the transport sector since we got rid of the horse and cart”.

“This is what weak leaders do when they are afraid, afraid of dissent.”

In March Labor unveiled changes to its fuel efficiency standards, which are aimed at disincentivising the use of high-polluting cars and hastening the importation of cleaner vehicles, amid pressure from the auto industry.

The deal effectively cuts out the Coalition, which had made demands to speed up approvals of offshore gas projects in return for helping Labor pass PRRT tax changes, which had struggled to win crossbench support due to the fact they don’t raise extra revenue or tackle deductions.

Environmental groups and First Nations advocates welcomed the deal.

Climate Council chief executive, Amanda McKenzie, said vehicle standards were “a win for the climate, a win for our health, and a win for all Australians”.

Pirrawayingi Puruntatameri, Munupi Tiwi elder and law man, said: “It’s an achievement for everyone, including our supporters around the world. Santos haven’t won the battle. It’s not over.”

Raelene Cooper, a Mardudhunera woman and founder of the organisation Save Our Songlines, said “voices of traditional custodians are powerful and will not be silenced”.



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