Thursday, 12 November 2015
Unconventional Gas Mining
I seek leave to amend general business notice of motion No. 937 standing in my name.
I move the motion as amended:
(1) That a select committee, to be known as the Select Committee on Unconventional Gas Mining, be established to inquire into and report on or before 30 June 2016, on the following matter:
The adequacy of Australia's legislative, regulatory and policy framework for unconventional gas mining including coal seam gas (CSG) and shale gas mining, with reference to:
(a) a national approach to the conduct of unconventional gas mining in Australia;
(b) the health, social, business, agricultural, environmental, landholder and economic impacts of unconventional gas mining;
(c) government and non-Government services and assistance for those affected;
(d) compensation and insurance arrangements;
(e) compliance and penalty arrangements;
(f) harmonisation of federal and state/territory government legislation, regulations and policies;
(g) legislative and regulatory frameworks for unconventional gas mining in comparable overseas jurisdictions;
(h) the unconventional gas industry in Australia as an energy provider;
(i) The current royalty and taxation arrangements associated with unconventional gas mining; and
(j) any related matter.
(2) That the committee consist of 5 senators, 1 nominated by the Leader of the Government in the Senate, 2 nominated by the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate, 1 nominated by the Leader of the Australian Greens, and Senator Lazarus.
(a) participating members may be appointed to the committee on the nomination of the Leader of the Government in the Senate, the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate or any minority groups or independent senators;
(b) participating members may participate in hearings of evidence and deliberations of the committee, and have all the rights of members of the committee, but may not vote on any questions before the committee; and
(c) a participating member shall be taken to be a member of the committee for the purpose of forming a quorum of the committee if a majority of members of the committee is not present.
(4) That every nomination of a member of the committee be notified in writing to the President of the Senate.
(5) That the committee may proceed to the dispatch of business notwithstanding that not all members have been duly nominated and appointed and notwithstanding any vacancy.
(6) That Senator Lazarus is appointed chair.
(7) That the committee elect a member as its deputy chair, who shall act as chair when the chair is absent from a meeting of the committee or the position of chair is temporarily vacant.
(8) That the chair, or the deputy chair when acting as chair, may appoint another member of the committee to act as chair during the temporary absence of both the chair and deputy chair at a meeting of the committee.
(9) That, in the event of an equally divided vote, the chair, or the deputy chair when acting as chair, have a casting vote.
(10) That 3 members of the committee constitute a quorum of the committee.
(11) That the committee have power to appoint subcommittees consisting of 2 or more of its members, and to refer to any such subcommittee any of the matters which the committee is empowered to examine.
(12) That 2 members of a subcommittee constitute a quorum of that subcommittee.
(13) That members of the committee who are not members of a subcommittee may participate in the proceedings of that subcommittee but shall not vote, move any motion or be counted for the purpose of a quorum.
(14) That the committee and any subcommittee have power to send for and examine persons and documents, to move from place to place, to sit in public or in private, notwithstanding any prorogation of the Parliament or dissolution of the House of Representatives, and have leave to report from time to time its proceedings, the evidence taken and such interim recommendations as it may deem fit.
(15) That the committee be provided with all necessary staff, facilities and resources and be empowered to appoint persons with specialist knowledge for the purposes of the committee with the approval of the President.
(16) That the committee be empowered to print from day to day such papers and evidence as may be ordered by it, and a daily Hansard be published of such proceedings as take place in public.
I seek leave to make a short statement.
I have been fighting for over 12 months for farmers and landholders to have the right to say no to CSG and other forms of unconventional mining taking place on their land. Sadly, some four weeks ago George Bender, a brave and courageous Queensland cotton farmer, took his own life because he could not cope with the stress and devastation of CSG mining happening on his cotton farm. Today I am taking a stand for all families, farmers and landholders across rural and regional Australia who are having to suffer the impact of CSG and other forms of unconventional gas mining. I am determined to ensure that George Bender did not die in vain. My motion establishes a committee to inquire into the human impact of CSG and other forms of unconventional gas mining. We must listen to the people of Australia. We must investigate the impact of CSG. We must acknowledge, face and respond to the suffering and devastation that is being endured by farmers and landholders at the hands of this industry.
I recognise Senator Lazarus's keen interest in this issue, but the government cannot support this motion because of flaws in its construction. The coalition has supported previous inquiries into coal seam gas, including one chaired by Senator Bill Heffernan in 2011. That inquiry provided a fair opportunity for all senators to have their say. Because of that, it made recommendations that actually ended up in law. However, the proposed inquiry before us today would be established in a way that prevents the fair reflection of all views in this chamber. The motion provides for just one coalition senator out of five members, despite the coalition representing more than two in every five members of this chamber. It also establishes another select committee, when there is no reason why this inquiry could not usefully be sent to a standing references committee. Finally, I note that the issues outlined in this motion are largely ones for state governments. That is why the Commonwealth energy minister has committed to raising these issues with his state colleagues at the next COAG energy council meeting.
Senator Xenophon, if you are going to amend motions, you really should have them in writing and before me at the time, but it is a simple amendment, so we will probably manage. Is leave granted for Senator Xenophon to seek to amend the motion?
I seek some clarification of Senator Xenophon's amendment. My understanding is that this committee would have five members. If you were to add one member to the government's side, that paragraph of the motion would then be internally inconsistent.
I move that the motion be amended as follows:
in respect of paragraph (2):
"That the committee consist of 6 senators, 2 nominated by the Leader of the Government in the Senate, 2 nominated by the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate, 1 nominated by the Leader of the Australian Greens and Senator Lazarus."
I raise two points of order. In relation to the motion as a whole, is there a rule in the Senate that senators can only chair one committee? I note that this is a second committee that Senator Lazarus would chair. The second point of order is: I understood there was a convention, if not a rule, that all of the crossbenchers would share in any committee chairs that were going to the crossbenchers. I am not aware of any other crossbencher having the chairmanship of a committee, whereas, if the motion to establish a select committee passes, this one senator will have two chairs.
I am certainly not aware of any such rule. I am aware that other senators have chaired two committees in the past. To my knowledge, there is no rule that limits chairs going to crossbenchers. The question is that the amendment moved by Senator Xenophon be agreed to.
Question agreed to.
The question now is that general business notice of motion No. 937, as amended, be agreed to.
Question agreed to.