PETROLEUM EXPLORATION

Mr PEDERICK: My question is to the Minister for Energy and Mining. Can the minister update the house on how new petroleum exploration licences are driving investment by the South Australian exploration industry?

The Hon. D.C. VAN HOLST PELLEKAAN (Stuart—Minister for Energy and Mining) (14:32): Thank you to the member for Hammond for that very important and sensible question. Our government supports the resources sector extremely strongly and we value it extremely highly. The member's question was specifically about the petroleum industry. As we all know, the member for Hammond has personal experience working in the petroleum industry.

It is a very important industry for us and we are seeing increases in commitments to exploration, which is incredibly important. Members would know the difficulties across the state with regard to COVID and the challenges economically. Members would know, I hope, that COVID across the world has had a very negative impact upon petroleum prices, so gas and oil prices. Yet in South Australia, thanks to our policies and, very importantly, the hard work of industry, we are seeing increased exploration.

Late in 2019, we put up new tenements for bids in South Australia, in the Cooper Basin and down in the South-East in the Otway Basin. Very happily, through that process we have received commitments for $58.85 million in petroleum exploration expenditure. That is an enormous contribution to our economy. We made that announcement on 30 June. There are still some steps that need to be gone through with regard to native title rights and things like that before the work can actually start, but I am very optimistic that that will happen.

So $58.85 million of expenditure, four tenements in the Cooper Basin and one tenement in the Otway Basin in the South-East are a massive contribution to our economy. But that's just the contribution from those organisations that have made these commitments. Very importantly, the services sector, as it is in mining and minerals, in the petroleum industry is incredibly important, incredibly dynamic, and makes a massive contribution to our economy.

People often just think of the larger petroleum and mining companies—the names that we're all familiar with—as the ones that actually do the work, get the credit and make the investment. But they do that in partnership with literally thousands of small companies that contribute to this industry across the nation and, very importantly, here in South Australia. These commitments to exploration go a long, long way—much further than would be realised purely by that $58.85 million number, which of course we are very pleased with.

It is a really massive contribution to what we are doing here. We are actually optimistic that we will see more of this in the future. Perhaps perversely, one of the positives that has come out of the coronavirus around the world is Australia's good handling of this pandemic—notwithstanding the fact that we have challenges in Victoria. By many other nations' standards, Victoria is actually still going pretty well. From an international perspective, Australia is managing this very well.

It is a place that people want to place their money. Places like Australia, Canada and others are more attractive destinations for investment from overseas organisations than they were before the virus. We were attractive before; we're even more attractive now. What we're seeing, even with low oil prices, is a lot of investment into exploration in the petroleum industry. We expect that to continue and we know how good that will be for our economy. We know we need to get more gas out of the ground so that gas is cheaper and electricity continues to be cheaper and cheaper into the future.