Thursday, 6 March 2014
Landholders' Right to Refuse (Gas and Coal) Bill 2013; Second Reading
Stop this! There was a quite unprovoked attack on Santos by Senator Waters. The company Santos is a good corporate citizen in this country. The company is an especially good corporate citizen in South Australia. They assist in a whole lot of community development programs in my home state, not least of which is the most recent one: the Tour Down Under, which they very prominently support in South Australia. That is good for health, exercise and a whole range of other things.
The important thing about Santos is that they do two things in my home state of South Australia and for Australia generally. They create jobs—generally speaking, high-paid jobs by comparison with jobs in the cities. They provide those jobs in regional areas of Australia. Lots of Australian regional centres are under pressure. This company provides good, well-paying jobs in those country regional areas of Australia. More importantly, they provide a great, clean source of energy. Let us be clear about this: there is a difference between the carbon-producing effects of coal versus gas. We know, by all of the science, that less greenhouse gas is produced by this form of gas.
It is completely inappropriate for Senator Waters to attack the coal seam industry on the basis that it produces as much, if not more, greenhouse gases than the coal industry. The Greens ought to be supporting the coal seam gas industry if one of their objectives is to reduce, in the longer term, greenhouse gases. Again, I do not accept Senator Waters's categorisation in terms of the difference between coal seam gas and coal in their effect on the greenhouse gas environment.
Santos is a good corporate citizen in this country. I think it was a quite unnecessary attack by Senator Waters on that company. Santos have been producing coal seam gas in this country for years and years. This is not a new development for this company. They have been producing coal seam gas in the Cooper Basin in South Australia for years and years. To the best of my knowledge there has not been any issue with the production of that coal seam gas. I have not heard, particularly in South Australia, any complaints from landholders about—
An honourable senator interjecting—
I do listen. I take a considerable interest in developments in my home state. I see Senator Wright in the chamber. When I proposed a piece of legislation a couple of sessions ago to open up mining to companies in the Woomera defence area, shockingly—Senator Brandis might agree with me—the government and the Greens joined forces to talk out that legislation. It was a private member's bill designed to allow mining in the Woomera defence area. It should have been passed last year. It did not, because the coalition and the Greens combined to refer it to a committee. The bill lapsed. I wanted to reintroduce that legislation, but what did the Greens do? They talked out the legislation. So here are the Greens, attacking coal seam gas—a good form of energy—but a couple of weeks ago Senator Wright was in here talking out a piece of legislation which would have allowed mining exploration in South Australia in the Woomera defence area.
Why are these things important to Australia but particularly South Australia? There is a very simple answer: we are in a transition mode. In my home state, we have seen the company Holden announce that they are closing down. That is obviously tragic news for the people who work in that industry, but it also has a long-term detrimental effect on the South Australian economy. Added to that, we then found that Toyota closed down, and many of the companies that supplied Toyota with their components also operated in South Australia. Many of the companies that supplied Holden also supplied Toyota, and those companies, of course, have had the bad news that Toyota has closed down. A company that you are very familiar with, Mr Acting Deputy President Sterle, Qantas, announced they are outsourcing their operations.
So there is a whole transition going on in the South Australian economy at the moment. As jobs go down in that industry, of course we have to see that they are replaced. Coal seam gas has in the past produced good, well-paying jobs. It has the potential into the future to continue to produce those well-paid jobs, and I think it is incumbent on the opposition to say, 'If the federal government is going to abandon industries like the auto industry, we need to do something responsibly to replace them.' This particular industry, coal seam gas, has a great opportunity to do that. Senator Furner quite rightly pointed out that coal seam gas as an energy source both is longstanding and accounts for 33 per cent of the domestic gas production on the eastern seaboard. Just one example of that is that 90 per cent of the gas used in Queensland comes from coal seam gas.
So this is a very significant energy source for this country. It is an energy source that has been providing energy to the eastern seaboard for a very long period of time. What we need to do as a country and as a community is ensure that there is a balance between this industry, which provides high-paying jobs and job security, and agricultural interests. This bill does not do that. Whatever the objective might be of the bill, this bill does not achieve that. This simply closes down an industry which I think not only currently supports a very significant portion of Australia's energy requirement but into the future is going to be expanded—and, of course, we have the opportunity for export industries. We are on the cusp now of a great deal of development within our region.
We are seeing the growing economies to our north; their standard of living is rising; their energy needs will, as a result, continue to rise. We have the opportunity to assist in that growth and in that development. We should not be putting any impediments in the way of doing that. We ought to be working cooperatively, not with this heavy-handed fist that this legislation provides to one section of the industry which, for some reason or another, the Greens have decided to dislike.
I want to state very clearly the opposition oppose this legislation. We do not think that this is the direction that this country should be heading in. There has to be cooperation between the coal seam gas industry and agricultural landowners. We believe that can be achieved through other mechanisms and we will not be voting for the legislation.