Thursday, 20 March 2014
Maules Creek Project; Order for the Production of Documents
by leave—I move:
That the Senate take note of the document.
Thank you, minister, for the provision of your letter. I understand that you are intending to comply with the order for the production of documents and supply the report that we sought by 15 April. We welcome that. We have been waiting for this report for three months, so it is very much needed. The context here is that Whitehaven Coal's Maules Creek coalmine was approved on the basis that the destruction of critically endangered box gum woodland could be offset by protecting box gum woodland elsewhere. The independent report that has been prepared by ecologists engaged by the community found that the area proposed to be tested so that the mine could slash the Leard State Forest is barely box gum woodland at all, it is five per cent the same ecosystem and 95 per cent a completely different ecosystem. Hence the genesis for this independent investigation into whether the company actually misled the government in getting an approval, making claims about offsets that have now been shown to be false or misleading.
There is a reference in your letter, minister, to the fact that the report may be prejudicial to law enforcement operations. I welcome that. There has been an investigation on foot for more than a year now. The government is criminally investigating this company, and well it should. I hope that that investigation soon comes to its conclusion and that this company is prosecuted—if indeed the report shows that false or misleading information was provided by the company.
I wish to place on record my thanks and pay tribute to the blockaders at the Maules Creek community. For 560 days they have been blockading the Maules Creek mine, protecting the wonderful biodiversity values of this box gum woodland, the Leard State Forest, and protecting the world's climate from this massive open-cut coalmine. I wish to thank the community and ensure them of the Greens' support not only for the protection of water and biodiversity but also for the protection of the climate.
I wish to take the opportunity also to apologise to the Gomeroi traditional owners of that area and the elders who sought heritage protection for some Indigenous heritage which I understand has now, sadly, been bulldozed because the application to protect it lay dormant on the department's table for more than 100 days. I take this opportunity to give my heartfelt apology to those elders for the destruction of their heritage.
We look forward to the provision of this report, Minister. The community is very aware of the contrast in the treatment of Mr Jonathan Moylan, who put out a misleading press release about this project, and the treatment of Whitehaven Coal. This company provided false or misleading information about the offsets but it was not prosecuted; in fact, it was awarded with an approval. So I welcome this independent investigation, I look forward to the report, and I look forward to the government prosecuting this company if it is shown that they provided false or misleading information.
Question agreed to.