Federal resources minister Keith Pitt has given the strongest indication yet that he supports a controversial proposal to extend a licence for offshore gas exploration off the Hunter's Coast.
It comes despite every federal MP between Newcastle and Sydney speaking against the plan in Parliament this week on the basis that it risks enormous environmental damage for next to zero economic return.
Minister Pitt said he was aware that many MPs, including Liberal Party members, were opposed to extending the licence, which covers an area between Manly and Newcastle.
"I am aware of the motion and the right of members of our side to raise any issues in Parliament on matters that are of concern to their constituents," Minister Pitt said.
"As the government has made clear, gas will provide the base for our economic recovery and we support exploration. I am awaiting a recommendation from the titles administrator and the NSW member of the joint authority before any decisions on the permit terms and conditions are made.
"I am concerned that without further gas exploration, Australian businesses, manufacturers and households would be faced with higher energy prices - especially those in NSW who are almost totally reliant on gas from other states."
Several petroleum companies have explored the 4,500 square kilometre zone since 1999 with each concluding that there is little viable resource to be extracted.
But, the latest holder of the licence, Advent Energy, has sought to extend it for another five years when it expires next February.
The company argues that its plans to drill for gas represent a " potential solution to substantial gas shortage issues".
If the plans were approved the company says it would: "give capacity to supply gas into the proposed gas-fired power station being put forward by the prime minister for the Hunter Valley area".
Meanwhile, a spokeswoman for NSW Deputy Premier John Barilaro, who is also the state's joint authority representative, said the state did not support the extension of PEP11.
"NSW, under the former Minister for Resources (Don Harwin), had publicly indicated it did not support further applications to extend the life of PEP 11," she said.
"The Deputy Premier, and current minister, will make a recommendation on this issue in due course. But irrespective of that recommendation, the Commonwealth will ultimately make the determination on PEP 11."
Seven MPs - David Sharma, Trent Zimmerman, Sharon Claydon, Pat Conroy, Emma McBride, Julie Owen, and Zali Steggall spoke in favor of a motion moved by Mackellar MP Jason Falinski to extinguish PEP11.
"The House of Representatives has spoken on and agreed to the motion calling on the government to oppose oil and gas drilling off the coast of Sydney (and Newcastle) Mr Falinksi said.
"I am pleased to have received support on my motion from both sides of the Parliament. We now need to ensure that both the NSW government and the federal government do not renew the PEP11."
Shortland MP Pat Conroy said Advent Energy's proposal would likely employ less than 100 people, however, it would jeopardise thousands of local jobs in tourism, recreational and commercial fishing.
"In my speech I outlined my opposition to PEP11 and in doing so stood with my community to say no to endangering our beaches, our coastline and the fishing & tourism industries that rely on pristine beaches and maritime environment," he said.
"PEP11 should be stopped because it is the wrong project in the wrong place."
Founder and director of Save Our Coast Natasha Deen said she was delighted the motion had received unanimous support from across the political divide.
"This is a direct result of our huge community movement to end the dangerous plan to drill for gas in PEP 11 that risks catastrophic harm to our beautiful coast, the livelihoods that depend on it, and our way of life, and we thank all community members and MPs who have united to save our beautiful coast that we all love," Dr Deen said.
"We continue to implore the joint authority, ministers Keith Pitt and John Barilaro, to similarly heed community concerns, respect the motion accepted by The House (of Representatives), and to not approve the extension of PEP 11.
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