We expect this trend to continue, particularly in cases where state agreements are being renewed or other changes are being made. For example, when the joint ventures requested amendments to the North West Shelf Agreement to allow an additional 86 million tonnes of LNG for export and marketing (in the North West Gas Development (Woodside Agreement Amendment Act 2015), the VA government took the opportunity to grant the amendment, but also demanded that the joint venture comply with the gas reservation policy in Western Australia. For the first time in 60 years, the law unilaterally amended a state agreement. It relieved the state of defined obligations, nullified potential rights of appeal and verification, and excluded the principles of natural justice. The Government Agreements Act 1979 (AV) provides for individual legal agreements between the government and mining or similar development project organizations. These are called state agreements. The agreement, which is governed by the Treaty Treaty Act 2002 (WA), is an agreement between the state and seven companies controlled or run by Mr. Clive Palmer. While government agreements require supporters to respect the existing environmental legal framework (both in the countryside and at the federal level), environmental and other issues are the subject of wider debate in Parliament.
During the debate, members of the Green Party stated that they were opposed in principle to the state agreements because they were “inherently anti-competitive”. Members of the Green Party also oppose state agreements on environmental grounds. The recently amended agreement (the North-West-Shelf Agreement) was strongly rejected by Members of the Greens due to concerns about the environmental impact and the inflexibility of the extension of the term until 2071. The North West Shelf (Woodside) Agreement and the Railway and Port Agreement (The Pilbara Infrastructure Pty Ltd) are just two recent examples of agreements that have inserted local content commitments. The last state agreement to be amended by Parliament, the Northwest Gas Agreement, was 40 years old when it was amended in 2019. The main objective of this amendment was to extend the duration of the agreement so that operations could continue until 2071. However, the VA government took this opportunity to impose new obligations on the company by inserting clauses in “modern state agreements” requiring the implementation of local development plans and local participation in the project. Members on both sides of the Assembly said in opposition that it is politically partisan to support state agreements in general, as they constitute a negotiated and agreed agreement between the VA government at the time and the company concerned.
The value of Western Australia`s state agreements is often seen in parliamentary debate and is likely to continue. The state agreements have been described by Parliament as “the cornerstone of the resource sector [West Australia], particularly the large sector”. In the past, members of the VA government have argued that Western Australia would not have projects such as the extensive iron ore operations at Pilbara, North West Shelf, Gorgon, Wheatstone and dbNGP without government agreements.