National Party senators believe more offshore oil and gas projects, such as the controversial PEP-11 application off the Hunter coast, are needed to secure Australia's energy future.
Prime Minister Scott Morrision last month effectively killed off a proposal by Advent Energy to extend its licence to explore for gas off the coast between Newcastle and Sydney.
The proposal, which still needs to be formally assessed by Resources Minister Keith Pitt, seeks to extend the existing exploration permit for another five years. Advent argues its plans to explore and potentially drill for gas represent a "potential solution to substantial gas shortage issues".
The proposal has been met with unilateral opposition from coastal communities and MPs.
But during a visit to Newcastle this week former Resources Minister and National Party Senator Matt Canavan revealed he had previously supported exploration off the Hunter coast.
"While I was resource minister I did support the continued exploration in that area but I'm not familiar with the latest evidence," he said.
He added there were many examples of gas and oil exploration and extraction occurring safely off the country's coastline.
"Just off the coast of Melbourne there are lots of oil and gas rigs that have been there for nearly 50 years. They have provided our country with fuel security," he said.
"Our fuel security has gone from almost 100 per cent production of our raw petroleum needs to less than 50 per cent in less than 20 years because the Bass Strait is declining as an oil field.
"I do think we need to look for more oil around our country."
Fellow Nationals senator Bridget McKenzie added she wanted resource exploration and extraction proposals to move beyond being debated as 'either or' propositions.
"The reality is we operate with one of the toughest environmental regimes in the world, she said.
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"We need to develop confidence in that (environmental protections) so citizens understand we can avail ourselves of natural resources, we can export them, we can employ hundreds of thousands of Australians and develop sovereign capacity here at home.
"Nothing gets me angrier than it's a nil sum game and you can only have one or the other."
The NSW Government has opposed the extension of the existing PEP-11 licence.
John Barilaro, who is also NSW Minister for Industry and Trade, previously told the Newcastle Herald that the state government's position had not changed since it declared it would not support applications to extend the life of PEP 11 in 2017.
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