A call for documents to be released related to the plan for seismic testing off the coast of Newcastle has been rejected in the Senate.
The Greens made the move in Canberra on budget day, raising a motion in the upper house to have all correspondence, advice and briefing notes to and from the resources minister, environment minister and National Offshore Petroleum Safety and Environmental Management Authority regarding Petroleum Exploration Permit 11 tabled by April 15.
PEP 11 covers the area off the east coast, near Newcastle, that was the site of a 2D seismic survey last year and in which resources company Asset Energy plans to conduct 3D seismic testing this year.
The Greens' motion also called for correspondence between NOPSEMA and the NSW government from November, 2015 and June, 2017 to be released.
"Communities across the NSW coastline are rightly up in arms at the prospect of their beloved oceans, the marine life within and coastlines being damaged by seismic testing," Greens Senator Mehreen Faruqi told the upper house.
"I have seen first-hand the passion of Novocastrians and these communities to protect their irreplaceable coast. To say that there has been a lack of transparency is an understatement. We need to see the documents that form the approval of PEP 11 and find out how this risky activity has been allowed to proceed."
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But Liberal Senator Anne Rushton said the federal government had last week announced strengthened transparency regulations related to applications for offshore gas exploration.
The regulations will begin on April 25 and include the publication of environment plans and a 30-day public submission period.
"Exploration for oil and gas in offshore NSW has been undertaken safely for 30 years," Senator Rushton told the upper house.
"There are strict safety and environmental standards, and the industry is overseen by the independent expert regulator, NOPSEMA."
The Greens' motion was defeated, 33 votes to 13.
Dr Faruqi said Labor Senators indicated they would vote in favour of the Greens' motion, but did not.
"Labor has shown that when push comes to shove, they will side with the Liberals and the big fossil fuel companies to shut out the community and keep information hidden," she said.
"Hundreds of people have rallied against seismic testing all along the coast of NSW because they know the risks it poses to marine animals and the environment."
A date has not yet been confirmed for further seismic testing. Asset Energy is developing its next environment plan to submit to NOPSEMA.