The federal government is opening up 21 new acreages for oil and gas drilling in the Great Australia Bight.  The sites are spread out across six basins off Western Australia, South Australia, Victoria, and the Ashmore and Cartier Islands.

Federal resources minister Matt Canavan says Australia's appetite for energy makes it necessary:

"The Australian government is committed to the safe and responsible development of oil and gas resources," Mr. Canavan said.  "Offshore oil and gas exploration is vital to meeting Australia’s future energy needs."

But green groups including the Wilderness Society are condemning the decision to drill in the churning water as too risky.

"The pristine, treacherous waters of the Great Australian Bight are a completely inappropriate place for risky deep-sea oil drilling, especially as we hurtle towards catastrophic climate change," said the Wilderness Society's South Australia director Peter Owen.  "Seven South Australian local governments have passed resolutions raising serious concern with proposed oil drilling, citing unacceptable risk to their communities: risks to the tourism industry, the fishing industry, and the pristine coastline.

"Governments must represent the interests of the people they are elected to govern for, not damaging fossil fuel companies," Owen continued.  "There is no social license for oil and gas exploration in the Bight."