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Lib MP joins protest against oil drilling in Great Australian Bight, defying colleagues

Source: The Age

Liberal MP Sarah Henderson, who is defending her ultra-marginal Victorian seat, has defied her government colleagues over controversial plans to drill for oil in the Great Australian Bight.

The Corangamite MP joined protesters at the weekend who were calling for an end to the proposed drilling project in South Australian waters.

Surfers attend the 'Fight for the Bight' protest in Torquay. Credit:Adam Snow

With the drilling plans emerging as a major national environmental flashpoint, Ms Henderson has placed herself firmly at odds with her own colleagues who are keen to see exploration for oil proceed in the Great Australian Bight.

The MP, whose Corangamite electorate sits on a paper-thin margin of just 0.03 per cent, was among a crowd organisers estimated as being in the thousands who gathered on Saturday on the beach at Torquay in her electorate south-west of Melbourne.

Ms Henderson’s spokeswoman said she was invited to attend the protest by the Surfrider Foundation.

“She shares her local community’s concerns about the project. Our natural environment including our pristine oceans is something Sarah will always stand for and always fight for,” the spokeswoman said.

Liberal MP Sarah Henderson in her electorate in March this year.Credit:Luis Enrique Ascui

Several attendees confirmed seeing Ms Henderson at the rally, although she did not address the crowd.

Her office confirmed there was no official government position on the project and the minister responsible does not have discretion to overrule the National Offshore Petroleum Safety and Environmental Management Authority.

Less than a month from the federal election, Ms Henderson’s apparent opposition to the oil drilling project puts her at odds with Resources Minister Matt Canavan who has previously said offshore oil exploration should be encouraged in the bight.

Mr Canavan’s office confirmed he still supports the current process for oil exploration in the bight. He has previously dismissed opponents of the oil drilling project.

Full article by Benjamin Preiss in The Age