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 want to move to the issue of conflict of interest with the committee members. It is a bit unfortunate there seems to be a lack of confidence in the community about the independence of the interim committee. Certainly when I asked in estimates about the background of the interim committee members I received some alarming statistics. Half of the interim committee members in fact had financial interests in the coal seam gas industry and in some cases the bulk of their research funding was being provided by industry. Of course, that is due to the neglect of the government to fund proper research and development in our tertiary institutions, so the fault does not lie with those researchers, but the perception in the public remains that these interim committee members are not in fact independent from industry. I have some amendments, which I will move in due course, that go to this question of conflict and how it is dealt with.
I want to pick up now on a question that has been raised already but not answered fulsomely, in my view. I understand we need to balance the need for expertise on this committee with the fact that we do not want people who are compromised and have a conflict of interest. I am interested to know how the government intends to balance those competing interests in making the appointments to the final positions on this committee, if the minister could elaborate substantially on his earlier response to opposition questions with respect to that.