Monday, 22 September 2014
Omnibus Repeal Day (Autumn 2014) Bill 2014; In Committee
by leave—I move the amendments circulated in my name on sheet No. 7548 together:
(1) Clause 2, page 2 (table item 2, column headed "Provision(s)"), omit "5", substitute "4".
(2) Schedule 5, page 54 (line 1) to page 67 (line 4), to be opposed.
We move these amendments for all of the reasons that my colleague Senator Rhiannon and I have articulated. What is being proposed is to remove protections for groundwater from subsidence mining in the Murray-Darling Basin. This is very serious matter and these are mining operations that are not covered by other laws that regulate the water impacts from large coalmining and coal seam gas projects, including in the Murray-Darling Basin. What the government is proposing to do, by repealing the protections for water from subsidence mining, is to allow companies to proceed with mining of gold, silver, copper—a whole host of mines that can have subsidence impacts—without doing the independent study on groundwater that existing section 255AA of the Water Act requires them to do.
We have already discussed how originally we had sought in this place to strengthen that section even further—to say that, if those groundwater impacts were identified in such an independent study, the mining exploration licence should not be granted. Unfortunately, we received very little support in this place for operationalising that groundwater protection. Nonetheless, existing section 255AA does remain on our law books and we think that it should stay there. We have already talked about the adverse changes to the ozone-depleting substances regime that will weaken protection for the atmosphere from ozone-depleting substances and also about the effect of removing the environmental provisions in the Sea Installations Act which cover protections against hotels, artificial reefs, pontoons and the like.
It is clear that we need these environmental protections to remain on our law books. We do not oppose any other part of the bill but the amendments I have moved simply retain those three environmental protections in our laws. The minister claimed that the Water Act protections are redundant because they are duplicative of EPBC Act protections under the water trigger. I have articulated how they in fact cover different operations. Since we are in committee, can the minister articulate how it is the government can still contend that there is duplication when they are clearly covering different mining operations?