Tuesday, 22 November 2011
Minerals Resource Rent Tax Bill 2011, Minerals Resource Rent Tax (Consequential Amendments and Transitional Provisions) Bill 2011, Minerals Resource Rent Tax (Imposition — General) Bill 2011, Minerals Resource Rent Tax (Imposition — Customs) Bill 2011, Minerals Resource Rent Tax (Imposition — Excise) Bill 2011, Petroleum Resource Rent Tax Assessment Amendment Bill 2011, Petroleum Resource Rent Tax (Imposition — General) Bill 2011, Petroleum Resource Rent Tax (Imposition — Customs) Bill 2011, Petroleum Resource Rent Tax (Imposition — Excise) Bill 2011, Tax Laws Amendment (Stronger, Fairer, Simpler and Other Measures) Bill 2011, Superannuation Guarantee (Administration) Amendment Bill 2011; Second Reading
The member for Kennedy has vast personal experience in drilling holes and knowing where to find things. I know that he would understand a lot of the issues that are in Queensland. Many ministers have gone to the Liverpool Plains; the Prime Minister flew over there a few months ago; Minister Crean has been there; Minister Ferguson has been there; Senator Doug Cameron has been there; and many people from the coalition have been there, from both state and federal level. On the back of that action from Santos, I notified the Treasurer that I would not be supporting the minerals resource rent tax until three things happened. One of those is that Santos remove itself from this ridiculous action until appropriate scientific rigour can be applied to the process and the area.
For those who do not know, this particular area is a very small ridge in the middle of a flood plain which has very significant groundwater resources under it. The flood plain covers an area of about 100 kilometres, across the base of the hills, by about 80 kilometres. You can imagine a rectangle of about 80 kilometres by about 100 kilometres. And all of that water has to go through a six-kilometre neck at a little place called Breeza. You have this absurd proposition that has been placed on that community, and they boycotted BHP for 621 days until BHP saw sense and removed itself until the conclusion of independent scientific work. That is going to be completed probably mid next year.
This flood plain has this massive amount of surface water that flows across it from time to time—not every year. There are massive amounts of surface water and there is a massive drainage system. It connects with the electorate of Hunter. He would be well aware of the capacity of that flood plain to flood. He has represented part of it in the past. Given that knowledge and the fact that these people were going to blockade—in this case, a coal seam gas mine—I saw fit to use the leverage of this particular parliament to say to the Treasurer: 'I won't be supporting this unless you people fix this up. These companies aren't listening. They're just not listening to what these people are saying. They are using the law against the people on these very sensitive, highly productive agricultural areas.' And they are in fact, in my view, damaging the miners who are mining where they should be mining by attempting to move out onto these very sensitive landscapes.
The three issues I put to the Treasurer at the time included that Santos remove itself. That has happened. The second issue was that some of the proceeds of the minerals resource rent tax should be used to fund what I call 'bioregional assessments' at an independent level so the community can have some confidence in the process and in when an assessment process takes place and the independent science is found. Currently, the miners have to do that through their exploration licence. There is mistrust and no confidence in the process, because the state is relying on it for money. The third proviso was that the Commonwealth amend the Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act to allow water to be a trigger. I have had legislation in the parliament on this particular issue since September. The Commonwealth, as it does now through heritage and endangered species issues, can in fact enter the planning process on extractive industries if there is a trigger. Currently, water is not a trigger.
Mr Deputy Speaker Scott, you would be aware of instances in Queensland where 1,200 conditions were placed on a coal seam gas field by the state and 300 were placed by the Commonwealth. If you have to place 1,500 conditions on anything it says that there is a problem with the process.