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 have a series of questions I have been trying to get out for a while now and I appreciate the Senate's indulgence. Yes, it is an advisory committee, but it seems a rather expensive purchase of advice that does not need to be taken into account. I suggest there might be other, more useful ways to spend $50 million per signatory state, but that is obviously why we have a difference of opinion on such matters.
I want to move to your earlier comment where you said that the states will not amend their legislation until March. Of course, March next year is the same date that COAG has agreed to hand over half of the federal environment minister's powers to the states, including the power over threatened species. The environment minister was able to impose conditions that dealt with groundwater in Queensland because of groundwater dependent, threatened species. Come March, the federal minister will not have responsibility for threatened species anymore because of that COAG agreement to enter into an approval bilateral. What influence at all will this committee therefore be able to have? What is even the utility of having this committee advise the federal minister if he never had responsibility for water—which I have attempted to establish all day—and if, come March, he will not even have responsibility for threatened species? Why even have this committee advise the minister when he will not even be able to impose conditions about species that rely on groundwater, let alone groundwater itself?