8 Reasons Why Drilling for Oil in the Great Australian Bight is a Garbage Idea

The Australia Institute
4 min readJul 24, 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, has had 239 accidental oil spills according to their own 2018 sustainability report.

Just one of those 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 // Thousands of 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 the number of existing Australian jobs which would be put at risk by a catastrophic oil spill number in the thousands.

In South Australia alone coastal tourism, fisheries and aquaculture employ more than 9,000 people, all of whom could lose their jobs to an oil spill.

An oil spill in the Great Australian Bight has the potential to wipe out Tasmania’s wild catch fisheries — an industry worth around $200 million dollars. That’s before we even start counting the impact to Tasmania’s tourism industry, which relies heavily on its clean and green image.

3 // Massive public subsidies mean there is limited opportunity for public economic benefit

Companies undertaking exploratory drilling in the Great Australian Bight would be unlikely to pay any royalty income or tax to state or federal governments. On the contrary, expenses on exploration would likely be used by big oil companies as deductions from future income.

Oil production in the Bight could generate more royalty revenue but, as was the case with the North West Shelf drilling project in WA, decades of subsidy totalling many billions of dollars may be necessary before major oil and gas projects provide benefits to state governments.

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.

The ecological and environmental impact of an oil spill could also reach well beyond the waters and coastline of the Bight.

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.

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