Senate debates

Tuesday, 3 March 2015


Liverpool Plains

3:45 pm

Photo of Larissa WatersLarissa Waters (Queensland, Australian Greens) Share this | | Hansard source

I move:

That the Senate—

(a) notes that:

(i) the Liverpool Plains is one of the most important agricultural regions in Australia with rare and highly productive black soils, excellent water resources and a favourable local climate,

(ii) farming has occurred on the Liverpool Plains for generations and the agricultural productivity of the area is up to 40 per cent above the national average for all farming regions of Australia,

(iii) highly productive agricultural land, like that of the Liverpool Plains, is a finite resource,

(iv) the New South Wales Planning Assessment Commission has recently approved the development of Chinese state-owned company Shenhua's Watermark open-cut coal mine on the Liverpool Plains, which will extract 268 million tonnes of coal over 30 years, 3 kilometres from the town of Breeza,

(v) farmers in the region are angry and extremely concerned that if this coal mine goes ahead their soils and the highly interconnected groundwater aquifers they rely on will be irreversibly damaged,

(vi) the Northern Daily Leader reported on 4 July 2014 That the Minister for Agriculture (Mr Joyce) said, 'I think the idea of a coalmine on the Breeza Plains is an absurdity' and 'I think it's most likely that it's going to have a deleterious effect on the aquifers', and

(vii) the Australian Broadcasting Corporation reported on 9 September 2014 That the Minister for Agriculture said of the Liverpool Plains, 'I've always said from the start that I don't believe that it is the appropriate place for a coal mine'; and

(b) believes That the Liverpool Plains should be permanently off limits to coal mining and coal seam gas extraction.

Photo of Mitch FifieldMitch Fifield (Victoria, Liberal Party, Assistant Minister for Social Services) Share this | | Hansard source

Mr President, I seek leave to make a short statement.

Photo of Stephen ParryStephen Parry (President) Share this | | Hansard source

Leave is granted for one minute.

Photo of Mitch FifieldMitch Fifield (Victoria, Liberal Party, Assistant Minister for Social Services) Share this | | Hansard source

On behalf of the environment minister, I say it is not the place of the Senate to dictate land-use decisions in New South Wales. Australia's government involvement in this project is limited to matters of national environmental significance and, appropriately, the project is being assessed in accordance with requirements of national environmental law.

Minister Hunt has visited the Liverpool Plains and is keenly aware of the community's concerns. On Friday, Minister Hunt announced he would stop the clock on Australian government assessment of the project and requested additional advice from the Independent Expert Scientific Committee on Coal Seam Gas and Large Coal Mining Development.

This will ensure that any decision made under national environmental law is based on the best available science. Minister Hunt takes his responsibility under the national environmental law very seriously and seeking this further information will ensure that the assessment is robust and based on the best possible scientific information. The minister has assured the community that no decision will be made until he has had time to fully consider all relevant information.

Photo of Stephen ParryStephen Parry (President) Share this | | Hansard source

The question is that the motion moved by Senator Waters be agreed to.

The Senate divided [15:47]

(The President—Senator Parry)

Question negatived.