Monday, 16 June 2014
Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Amendment (Bilateral Agreement Implementation) Bill 2014; Consideration in Detail
I too support the amendments moved by the member for Page, but can I point out to him it is too little too late. There is no point putting a bandaid on a gaping wound, and that is what you are proposing to do today. The fact is that you and your party are huge supporters of coal seam gas mining on the North Coast of New South Wales, and this does nothing to allay the fears of people in your community and in my community and the extent of concerns about unconventional gas mining. In fact, just last weekend at the National Party conference, which I am sure the member for Page was at, he would have heard the Leader of the Nationals and the Deputy Premier slag off at people that were protesting at Bentley. That is what you and your party think of people who oppose coal seam gas mining. The fact is that you are a member of a party that proactively pushes coal seam gas mining right across the North coast of New South Wales.
There are changes being made to water down the water trigger. What we put in place when we were in government was a very important initiative to protect water resources throughout the country. The actions we took in extending the water trigger were very important to people in my electorate and indeed to people in your electorate, member for Page. What you voted for tonight took that away. You took away the provisions in terms of looking at water and coal seam gas mining. This bandaid does not repair that at all. In fact, it does nothing—it makes it worse. Tonight you have voted to hand all of those environmental powers to state governments or—God forbid—some councils.
You made reference to Bentley. We all know that Bentley is in Richmond Valley shire. We know that the National Party mayor of Richmond Valley Council is full-on keen for coal seam gas mining. What you voted for tonight means either your pro-CSG National Party state government or your pro-CSG Richmond Valley Council is going to give a big tick to coal seam gas mining at Bentley. So keep in mind what you voted for, and disregard the bandaid amendments that you have put forward.
If you want to talk about Bentley, we know that the decision on an exploration licence is going to be made by 25 June. That is pretty close in terms of the decision making and the impacts there. We saw thousands of people at Bentley come out to protest the exploration licence there and we are going to see thousands again. So I think that you need to be true to your constituents who are very worried about the exploration licence at Bentley and what that means.
These amendments are not actually going to secure anything. You have taken away so much by voting for this bill tonight. By voting to actually delegate approval responsibilities to the states and the councils as well, you have taken away the capacity for national oversight across a whole range of very important issues. Your attempt to put a bandaid response in this legislation is not going to have any effect at all in stopping harmful coal seam gas mining or in having any oversight of it. We have to look at all of those particular factors within the context of this bill.
You cannot vote for something and then pretend that the couple of minor, little amendments that you have moved mean that somehow it is not that bad. Well, it is that bad. It is that bad because you have effectively voted to hand over approval powers to a state government who, quite frankly, we know are environmental vandals. The New South Wales state government are environmental vandals; everyone knows that. It is a real concern in terms of their actions, from allowing shooting in national parks right across to their pro coal seam gas mining agenda. Their vandalism is very widespread. It includes some of their rezoning and not protecting koala habitats. There are a huge array of issues on which the state government has failed the people of New South Wales. I think that in our area and in others they will be held to account come the state election next March.
The member for Page has tonight voted to say, 'Yes, you're environmental vandals but we'll give this power to you or we'll give it to the councils.' Now, most councils just do not have the resources to be able to deal with issues such as this. They just do not have the staff, the scientists, the bureaucrats and the encompassing framework that the federal government has to look at all of these particular ramifications effectively. So it is irresponsible to hand it to them as well. Potentially, as I said, we could see some councils making decisions in relation to coal seam gas mining or even uranium mining. For goodness sake, how irresponsible is that?
The member for Page can stand here tonight and move as many amendments as he likes. The fact is that what he voted for is absolutely destructive. Your constituents—and I know what they want because they are my constituents too—want you to stop unconventional gas mining and any unconventional mining on the North Coast, but you and your party continue to pursue it. We saw your leader at the conference on the weekend denigrate and ridicule those of us who stood against it. The fact is the National Party are pro coal seam gas mining and you confirmed it by voting for this bill tonight.