Protests against oil drilling in the Great Australian Bight continue

Over the weekend, thousands attended yet another nationwide protest against deep-sea oil drilling in the Great Australian Bight, with 'Hands Across the Sand' events being held across the State, including at Middleton, Port Willunga, Brighton and on Kangaroo Island.

A crowd of around three hundred showed out at Middleton Point last Sunday for the 'Hands Across the Sand' event which was opened by Major Moogy Sumner, respected local Ngarrindjeri elder, who led the crowd in a welcome to country, and later in a chant.

City of Victor Harbor Mayor Moira Jenkins and Alexandrina Mayor Keith Parkes were both in attendance and spoke at the event, discussing their shared opposition to oil exploration and drilling in the Great Australian Bight.

Alexandrina and Victor Harbor councils represent two of the 15 councils in South Australia and Victoria who have now passed motions opposing oil drilling by Norwegian oil giant Equinor, of which the Norwegian government holds a majority stake.

Mayor Jenkins said the Victor Harbor Council remained opposed to oil drilling in the Bight.

"As we are just about to launch this year's whale season, we are reminded of the beauty and fragility of our oceans and the marine species that call the Great Australian Bight home," she said. "As a community, the impact of any oil spill on our agribusiness, tourist industry, and our coastal communities would be devastating.

"We live on the boarder of a marine park and need to preserve our fragile ecosystem not carry out activities that threaten its viability for generations to come."

Federal Greens Candidate for Mayo, Anne Bourne who also spoke at the event, said it was part of a global movement to say no to fossil fuels and yes to clean energy.

"The focus of the many events around Australia [on Sunday] was to draw a line in the sand against drilling in the Great Australian Bight; communities want to protect our coastline, our marine life and thousands of jobs in fishing and tourism," she said.

"The community is saying no to fossil fuels and yes to a renewable and sustainable future that protects out environment and communities."

Member for Mayo Rebekha Sharkie, and Labor Candidate Saskia Gerhardy, attended the simultaneous event held at Port Willunga.

The upcoming federal election was a hot topic, with Anne Bourne discussing with the gathered crowd the importance of making the environment and climate action a top priority in the lead up to May 18.

Marine biologist, Dr. Mike Bossley, emphasised the ecological significance of the Bight, and discussed his views on the unsuitability of industrial activity and oil exploration in such a remote, unique marine environment. He also discussed the possibility of more extreme weather events due to climate change that had the potential to increase risks associated with deep-sea oil drilling.

Speaking to The Times earlier this year, Equinor's Country Manager Jone Stangeland said the organisation recognised a range of views on exploration in the Bight.

"We are committed to collaborating with communities and local industries so we can develop the best plan for our exploration project in the Great Australian Bight," he said.

"We have undertaken extensive engagement activities. We have held more than 130 meetings with local communities, councils, fishing industry associations and conservation groups to listen and learn about issues that are important in the region.

"During these meetings we have heard from many people who are keen to understand about our plans for safe operations as well as many people that are keen to understand the potential for jobs and other opportunities that a commercial discovery would bring."

Mr Stangeland also said Equnior had a proven, decades long track record and would only drill in the Bight if it could be done safely.

"Equinor has a track record over more than four decades operating successfully and in coexistence with fisheries and tourism in Norway and around the world. We regularly drill in deep waters with comparable weather conditions to the Great Australian Bight without incident."

Rebekha Sharkie has since written to all 169 Members of the Norwegian Parliament to advise them of opposition within the Mayo electorate to Equinor's proposal to drill for deep-sea oil in the Great Australian Bight.

"The Government of Norway is the majority shareholder of Equinor and in the past this company has stated they will not operate in our waters without social licence," said Ms Sharkie.

A delegation from the Great Australian Bight Alliance, including Wilderness Society SA Director Peter Owen has since traveled to attend Equinor's AGM in Norway, seeking to make the issue an agenda item.