Monday, 10 September 2012
Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Amendment (Independent Expert Scientific Committee on Coal Seam Gas and Large Coal Mining Development) Bill 2012; In Committee
I table a supplementary explanatory memorandum relating to the government amendments to be moved to this bill, and seek leave to move the two amendments to the bill together.
On behalf of the government I move amendments to the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Amendment (Independent Expert Scientific Committee on Coal Seam Gas and Large Coal Mining Development) Bill 2012:
(1) Clause 2, page 2 (cell at table item 2, column 2), omit the cell, substitute:
(2) Schedule 1, item 4, page 4 (line 30), after "qualifications", insert "or expertise".
These amendments will, firstly, change the date on which the provisions come into force to a single day to be fixed by proclamation. However, if the provision or provisions do not commence within the period of six months beginning on the day that this act receives the royal assent they will commence on the day after the end of that period.
Secondly, we are inserting the words 'or expertise' to clause 505C(5)(a) to clarify requirements with regard to expertise and qualifications for members of the committee. This will require the minister, when appointing members to the committee, to ensure that each member other than the chair possesses appropriate scientific qualifications or expertise that the minister considers relevant to the performance of the committee's functions.
These amendments are now required because (1) the delay in the legislation passing the Senate would otherwise create a requirement for requests for advice on proposed actions to be referred to the statutory committee retrospectively from 1 July 2012 onward, and this would unnecessarily delay project proposals already considered by the interim committee in July; and, (2), paragraph 505C(6), an amendment passed during consideration of the bill by the House of Representatives, stipulates that the minister must ensure that a majority of committee members possess scientific qualifications and expertise in relevant scientific disciplines. This new amendment will make 505C(5)(a) consistent with 505C(6) when read together, because reference to expertise as an employment requirement then exists in both paragraphs. The effect of this amendment will be to allow the minister to consider expertise gained through means other than formal scientific qualifications, for example, relevant experience, in appointing members of the committee.
We have consulted with the opposition in the preparation of these amendments and I commend these amendments to the Senate.