Australia: Court Quashes Ex-PM's Decision to Block Offshore Gas Project

©BPH Energy
©BPH Energy

An Australian court on Tuesday overturned a controversial decision by the previous prime minister to block a gas exploration project off the country's east coast, opening the door for the project to be reconsidered.

The Federal Court quashed former Prime Minister Scott Morrison's move to block Petroleum Exploration Permit 11 in the Sydney Basin off the coast of New South Wales state, finding his decision may not have been impartial.

Tuesday's ruling allows the permit to be considered by the Commonwealth-New South Wales Offshore Petroleum Joint Authority, reflecting an agreement reached by the project's owners and the Australian government to end the court fight earlier in February.

The project is 85% owned by Asset Energy, which is a subsidiary of BPH Energy, with the remainder owned by Bounty Oil & Gas.

Asset Energy last year contested Morrison's decision to refuse the permit on the basis he had done so in his capacity as Resources Minister, a ministerial appointment made in secret.

An independent inquiry last November found Morrison's decision to secretly appoint himself to five ministries, including resources, during the pandemic undermined trust in government.

(Reuters - Reporting by Lewis Jackson; Editing by Sonali Paul)

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