8 Reasons Why Drilling for Oil in the Great Australian Bight Doesn’t Stack Up

The Australia Institute
5 min readSep 16, 2019


1 // FACT. Equinor have already had 239 oil spills. We only have one Great Australian Bight.

Equinor, the company currently trying to drill for oil in the Great Australian Bight, had 239 accidental oil spills in 2018 alone. Eleven of their oil and gas leakages that year were classed as ‘serious’.

Just one of Equinor’s serious incidents in 2007 saw nearly four million litres of oil spill into the Arctic waters north of Norway.

An oil spill would completely devastate the Great Australian Bight, but would only be a number on a spreadsheet for Equinor.

2 // More than 27,000 existing Australian jobs will be put at risk

While the number of jobs in exploratory oil drilling are small, highly specialised, and most likely involve FIFO workers, Australia Institute research has shown that more than 27,000 existing Australian jobs in coastal tourism, fisheries and aquaculture would be put at risk by a catastrophic oil spill in the Bight.

We looked at the three states that are likely to be worst affected by a spill and found more than 10,000 jobs in South Australia, 9,000 in Victoria and 7,000 in Tasmania would be threatened.

From an employments perspective, the risks clearly outweigh the rewards, especially for the coastal communities that rely on a healthy ocean to survive.

3 // Economically, for Australia, drilling in the Bight just doesn’t stack up

The Australia Institute found that modelling commissioned by the oil and gas lobby shows that South Australia is unlikely to receive any noticeable benefit from tax payments as a result of oil and gas production in the Great Australian Bight. What benefits exist will go mostly to the Commonwealth, but even those benefits are small relative to the total Commonwealth budget, would take decades to materialise and are based on “preliminary” modelling.

Additionally, decades of subsidy may be necessary before the project provides even these small benefits to the State and Federal Governments.

Australia is being asked to shoulder all of the risk for this project while a foreign oil company hopes to swoop in and take all of the financial gain.

4 // The environmental impact is simply not worth the risk

85% of the marine life in the Great Australian Bight is found nowhere else on earth.

The longest south-facing coast on Earth, the Bight is a marine environment of extraordinary ecological significance. It is a nursery for the endangered southern right whale and it acts as a sanctuary for critically endangered southern bluefin tuna, Australian sea lions, great white sharks, albatross, turtles, and seahorses.

Nearly two in three Australians (65%) think drilling in the Bight would have a negative effect on the environment.

Operation Jeedara photo by Eliza Muirhead and Tim Watters of Fair Projects

5 // Equinor’s own modelling shows an oil spill could reach anywhere from Albury WA to Sydney’s northern beaches

In their environmental plan for drilling in the Bight, Equinor revealed modelling which showed an oil spill could reach as far west as Albany in Western Australia, cover the entire coastlines of South Australia, Victoria and Tasmania and could affect beaches as far north as Sydney in New South Wales.

6 // Why would we risk an oil spill just to unleash a carbon bomb that will only make climate change worse?

With early predictions indicating there could be billions of barrels of oil in the Great Australian Bight, opening up this new fossil fuel frontier would be another carbon bomb that would only make global warming worse.

Drilling for, extracting and then burning new oil reserves is the complete opposite of what the world needs as it moves towards a renewable energy future.

7 // The Traditional Custodians of the land oppose it

Bunna Lawrie is an Indigenous Elder of the Mirning people, the Traditional Custodians of the land and water of the Great Australian Bight, and he says that companies are seeking to drill in direct opposition to the wishes of his people;

“When I got up to speak at Equinor headquarters… I said, ‘consultation is important but none of the Equinor people came to talk with the Mirning Elders that hold the knowledge and custodianship of that Country’. I said, ‘you are not welcome in this country’ and they put their heads down in shame.” — Bunna Lawrie, Indigenous Elder of the Mirning people

8 // It’s not just South Australians who are opposed, in fact, most Australians don’t want it

Australia Institute research shows it’s not just a majority of South Australians who are opposed, but a majority of ALL Australians who are opposed to drilling for oil in the Great Australian Bight.

Only one in five Australians, and a tiny 16% of South Australians, want drilling in the Bight.

Meanwhile, more than two in three Australians want to see the Great Australian Bight given World Heritage protection.

Also, half of all Australians think drilling in the Bight will have a negative effect on tourism (50%) and three out of five (60%) think it will negatively effect fishing.

Tell the Australian Parliament to protect the Great Australian Bight > Add your name to the petition