26 August 09: Garrett‘s Gorgon LNG Approval – Opinion Matt Keys

Today the Federal Environment Minister, Peter Garrett announced his approval of the massive Gorgon Project liquefied natural gas LNG project off the north west coast of Western Australia. The prospect of a man who has earned a reputation for his strong environmental principles approving such a project would have been inconceivable 10 years ago. Some have suggested that Garrett sold his principles down the tube when he joined Federal Parliament. Frankly, any suggestion of this nature is absolute garbage.


By joining Parliament, Garrett took the hard road to further his principles. It would have been a lot more popular and easier for him to continue throwing rocks from the outside. However, at some point he accepted that to effect real change, it must come from within the corridors of power. Hence his decision to enter Federal Parliament. Equally, the multi-national oil companies realise that they can no longer behave like a bunch of cowboys either. In the early 90’s, I well remember my colleagues at Surfrider Foundation US running a very long and ultimately successful campaign against Chevron, highlighting significant ecological concerns stemming from a large proposed Chevron development on the West Coast.


Some 15 years later we see both strident identities – ‘big oil’ and one of the most respected environmentalists on the planet coming together to sign off on a massive LNG project on the north west shelf. Why? How could this happen? Fair questions – and the answer’s quite simple; society no longer ‘desires’ high environmental performance from industry, they demand it. Equally, companies are increasingly being run by individuals who have a sincere concern for the natural environment and are not only driven by legislative demands but also by a personal desire to minimise or eliminate environmental impacts.  


Traditional company ‘thinking’ is changing. The triple bottom line is becoming a reality.


The Garretts, Suzukis, Carsons and Bellamys were (and remain) leaders of a worldwide social shift that demands improved levels of environmental performance. Governments are following this lead and now set very stringent environmental legislation which keep the few remaining ‘commercial cowboys’ in line while also pushing the rest of us to continue to lift the bar on environmental performance. It’s vital that ‘big business' continue to improve their environmental performance. While great strides are being made in this regard, the path to sustainability will be a very long journey for all of us. Garrett’s rigorous environmental approval process for the Gorgon LNG project and Chevron/Shell/Exxon’s willingness to meet the challenge is just another small, but important, step on a journey that’s critical to the long term survival of humanity and global biodiversity.


Further - Matt Keys (07) 5596 3355   

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