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 just wanted to speak generally on the amendments, but since we are on this I want to recapitulate as to where we are with the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Amendment (Independent Expert Scientific Committee on Coal Seam Gas and Large Coal Mining Development) Bill 2012. It was a bill setting up a scientific committee to look at issues relating to coal seam gas and large coalmining developments. The committee was to be an independent and expert committee. There were amendments proposed, which actually set down the types of expert scientists that would form part of that committee. The debate in the second reading ranged widely on issues relating to coal seam gas and I spent some time in my second reading contribution referring to the new Queensland government's GasFields Commission that had been set up under the leadership of Mr John Cotter, a distinguished Queenslander who has spent a lifetime living in Southern Queensland and former chairman of AgForce. I indicated to the Senate in my second reading contribution just what the role and remit of the Queensland GasField Commission was.
When we came to the committee stage, I asked Senator Conroy, the minister who is taking this bill through the chamber, being the representative environment minister in this chamber, a couple of fairly succinct and relatively simple questions. One was: what would the scientific committee do that the Queensland GasField Commission would not do? The other question was relative to how the government was going to select the members of this independent expert scientific committee. I asked those questions before question time. Senator Conroy indicated that he would, during the course of this debate, attempt to get me answers for those questions. He indicated, and I accept, because I am a reasonable sort of fellow, that he did not have that information at his fingertips, but here we are five hours later and I am sure that Senator Conroy in the five hours would have had his advisers and public servants working flat out to find that information. I would not have thought it would take terribly long. As an aide memoire to the minister, I look forward to the answers to those questions which you indicated you would provide.