Monday, 19 March 2012
Questions without Notice
My question is to the minister representing the environment minister, Senator Conroy, regarding protection for Queensland's wild rivers under an LNP state government. Many Indigenous Queensland communities fully support the wild rivers laws, including traditional owners from the Wenlock River in the cape and all of the—
Honourable senators interjecting—
As I was saying, it was including traditional owners from the Wenlock River in the cape and all of the traditional owners of the Cooper Creek and Georgina and Diamantina rivers in western Queensland. A representative of all of those Indigenous communities of those western rivers has recently written to Campbell Newman stating:
The rapid spread of mining, particularly coal seam gas, threatens these rivers ... It is only the protection under the Wild Rivers Act that gives us hope that permanent damage will be prevented.
We have written to you many times to inform you that we want the protection of our rivers under the Wild Rivers Act but you have ignored us.
Given the LNP's refusal to listen to Indigenous communities who support wild rivers, what will the federal government do to listen to the wishes of many traditional owners throughout the state who want their rivers protected?
I thank the senator for her question. I am advised that the Minister for Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population, and Communities has not received an application to emergency list wild rivers in Queensland under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act. The EPBC Act provides for the environment minister to include a place in the National Heritage List, under emergency listing provision sections 324JK and 324JL, if the minister believes that the place has or may have one or more national heritage values, that any of those values is under threat of a significant adverse impact and that the threat is both likely and imminent. As all of these conditions must be met, repealing of the Wild Rivers Act and/or a lifting of a wild rivers declaration would not necessarily itself be a sufficient justification for the minister to include a place in the National Heritage List under the emergency provisions of the EPBC Act. Senator, if there is any other information that your question was soliciting that I have not covered there, I am happy to take that on notice and see if there is anything that the minister would like to add.
Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. I thank the minister for his answer. Given the threat to wild rivers from an LNP state government, will the federal government do anything to protect those rivers—from the ravages of big mines, coal seam gas and dams—given that the state ALP government wants to double coal and gas exports in the next decade?
and I think you do well to raise those issues in this chamber, Senator. But I am not sure there is much else I can add and I will take the rest of the question on notice.
Mr President, I ask a further supplementary question. Wild rivers meet at least five of the nine criteria for listing as national heritage under our federal environmental laws because of their natural and Indigenous heritage values, so the environment minister clearly has the power to protect them. My question is not about emergency listing, which has different criteria. Will he now commit to protect those rivers if the LNP rips up our wild rivers laws?
As I said, I am not sure I have anything to add to my previous answer, and I know you have now asked a different question. I am happy to take that on notice and see what the minister would like to add.