House debates

Monday, 8 February 2016

Private Members' Business

Legal System and the Environment

11:15 am

Photo of Ken O'DowdKen O'Dowd (Flynn, National Party) Share this | Hansard source

I am pleased to rise in support of the member for Dawson's motion on law and the environment that he brings to the House today. Our legal system, clearly, needs revision and a complete overhaul when it comes to environmental approvals, and the wishy-washy manner in which people can object needs to be addressed immediately.

We have a system that harms our attractiveness to developers by sending them into a, potentially, disruptive process. By allowing such a drawn-out process we erode the country's ability to grow its economy. Anti-environment? Certainly not. There is a place and time when people can object to any sort of project, anywhere in Australia. They have the mechanisms and processes to object before the Queensland government, the other state governments or the Australian government approves such mining adventures.

Adani have spent over $120 million trying to get approval for their mine in the Galilee Basin. This has cost Australia a lot in investment, potential jobs—some 10,000 jobs over the life of the mine—and uncertainty in the minds of landholders, job seekers, contractors, investments and so on for the whole region. Once approval has been made by the government this just opens up another case of legal action. These protracted proceedings are often seen in the appeals court during the development process. Who is being protected and who is being supported? It is certainly not those who rely on these developments: jobs for all, bread on the table and a roof over their heads.

Recently, I was talking to people from Western Queensland, in the Alpha region, regarding Adani. What they had to say to me was, 'Let's get on with the job. The bush is dying. We need these jobs.' Otherwise, you can kiss goodbye to these rural towns that have survived over the years more on the sheep's back. Now they are looking for the mine to restore those towns to their former glory. It is certainly not the landholders. The landholders have had a noose around their neck, not knowing what to do, while all this legal action is taken by green groups and others to stop mining. These people, quite often, have never been on the site. They have come from the south and are protesting. About what?

The black-throated finch does have wings, and if there is one finch living on the mining site it will soon move to another site. It is not stupid. We have heard a lot about koala reserves and habitats. I know a mine that was held up for many years because of koalas and the offsets for koalas. These koalas had never lived in this particular mining area and had never been seen there by white man. Even the Aboriginals had said, 'This is not koala territory; why do we need to have a koala offset reserve?'

These are the issues. I believe in lock the gate. I also believe in open the gate. For those who can benefit from actions of opening the gate and getting royalties, that is fine. I know that other countries, like Japan, Korea and India—and China, to a degree—need our coal reserves to provide cheap electricity to their people who are not so well off. This is the question we have to ask ourselves as Australians. We have the natural resources. Do we keep them to ourselves and not export them to countries in greater need than us?

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