The Senate has knocked back a call to double the length of public consultation if Asset Energy lodges an environmental plan in the holiday period for another round of seismic testing off the coast of Newcastle.
Greens Senator Mehreen Faruqi tabled a motion in the Upper House early this week, which would have compelled the Commonwealth regulator, NOPSEMA, to increase the time allowed for feedback from 28 to 60 days if a plan was lodged over Christmas-New Year.
But the motion only attracted support from the nine Greens Senators, with 44 others from across party lines voting against it.
Labor Senator Katy Gallagher told the house her party would not support the motion because the Senate should not direct the regulator and cast a shadow over its independence.
"We do support rigorous safety and environmental assessments that consider whether impacts and risks are acceptable on the basis of independent, scientific advice," she said.
"We also believe that science and consultation, including from the community, should be at the heart of NOPSEMA's decision-making processes."
However, Senator Faruqi said after the vote that the result was a betrayal of the Newcastle and Central Coast communities.
She said the motion was "a reasonable request".
"The local community is firmly against this proposal and is deeply concerned that the environmental plan will be sneakily lodged during the holiday period, denying the time to properly scrutinise it," Dr Faruqi said.
"I cannot fathom how Labor and the Coalition could argue with the premise that the community should be given a fair go to have their say on the plan."
Asset Energy conducted seismic testing, in an exploration area known as PEP11, off the coast of Newcastle in April, 2018, amid vocal public concern about the impact the process would have on marine life and industries such as fishing and tourism.
The company, which has previously said publicly the method was not harmful to the marine environment, plans to conduct further seismic testing in the area in search of gas under the ocean floor.
Natasha Deen, founder of community action group Save Our Coast, said it was disappointing that there was no support from Senators outside the Greens "for what was really a very simple request".
"The government and regulator should ensure adequate community consultation - if the plan is released over the holidays many people will miss an opportunity to have a say," she said on behalf of the group.
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