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 indicate that we have just had a vote on the issue of whether land use will be included in terms of the Greens amendments that were defeated. There was a line of questioning of the government by a number of members of the Senate, in particular Senator Heffernan, on the issue of salinity. I think there is a genuine concern that what this bill is intended to do will not be effective unless it also includes the issue of land use. I foreshadow, given the responses of the government in respect of this and discussions I have had with both Senator Heffernan and Senator Waters, that I will be seeking to move quite urgently an amendment on the issue of adding to the scope of what the committee can look at to include not only water resources but land use. I am hoping that that amendment can be circulated very shortly as a direct result of the line of questioning of the government in respect of this. I am very grateful for what Senator Heffernan raised about issues of salinity, because I do not think it has been adequately covered by the responses of the government.
I understand that the Minister representing the Minister for Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities may have something more to say about this shortly, but I think the way to guarantee that this committee will do what it is intended to do is to include references to land use in addition to water resources. So, as a result of the discussions I have had with Senator Heffernan and also a discussion I have just had with the shadow minister for the environment, Mr Hunt, as well as my colleague Senator Waters, I wanted to flag that to my colleagues and to the minister. I think it is important that we get this right and we make sure that it is what it is intended to be: a robust scientific analysis of the impact of coal seam gas. It will be incomplete if it simply includes water resources. It will not necessarily cover the issues of land use—for instance, the issue of salinity.