March 16 -- The Federal Court of Australia on Tuesday quashed a decision by former Prime Minister Scott Morrison to block a natural gas exploration license offshore Australia’s east coast, ruling that the refusal to allow exploration was biased.
Last year, the former Australian government, led by Morrison, and the petroleum authority issued a decision to block the exploration permit offshore Australia, a large gas producer and major LNG exporter, but one that faces a gas crisis on its east coast.
The former government had said that Petroleum Exploration Permit PEP-11 would not go ahead.
“This project will not proceed on our watch,” Morrison said in December 2021.
“Gas is an important part of Australia’s current and future energy mix but this is not the right project for these communities and pristine beaches and waters.”
After the former PM said the project would not proceed, the Commonwealth - New South Wales Offshore Petroleum Joint Authority refused the application for exploration.
However, the license holders, Asset Energy and Bounty Oil & Gas NL, sued last year to have the blocking of the permit overturned, saying that “In making the Decision, the Former Prime Minister breached the requirements of procedural fairness in that he predetermined the Application and the purported decision was infected by actual bias.”
Today, the Federal Court “has agreed with the consent position reached by the parties, quashed the Decision and concluded that the Decision of the Joint Authority was affected by apprehended bias,” BPH Energy, the owner of Asset Energy, said in a statement.
“In light of the decision of the Federal Court of Australia the PEP 11 Joint Venture sincerely hopes that the relevant applications can be re-considered in a timely manner and according to law by the Ministers now comprising the Joint Authority,” BPH’s chief executive David Breeze said, commenting on the court decision.