Tuesday, 27 November 2018
I ask that the general business notice of motion No. 1240 standing in my name for today, relating to a cumulative water impact assessment for coalmines in the Galilee Basin before any decision is made on the China Stone mine, be taken as a formal motion.
That so much of the standing orders be suspended as would prevent Senator Waters moving a motion to provide for the consideration of motion No. 1240.
The motion that I've moved today relates to the water impacts of another mega-mine proposed for the Galilee Basin. We've already got the Adani coalmine, ticked off by both sides of politics, which would drink 12½ billion litres from the Suttor River. It would also then suck six gigalitres of groundwater. This newly proposed coalmine, the China Stone mine, which had its EIS ticked off by the Queensland government last Thursday, would double the water take on that delicate region, which is already in drought. We know that 58 per cent of Queensland is already in drought. The last thing we need is for farmers to be asked to tighten their belts while the coalmines get free, unlimited groundwater, as the Queensland Labor government has given them, and a licence to take all of the surface water that they desire from the Suttor River.
This motion says: 'Please, let's prioritise the science. Let's actually look at the cumulative impacts of these mines in the Galilee Basin before you approve yet another water-sucking thermal coal mine.' I have another motion that I've submitted for consideration tomorrow, which relates to the climate impacts of this mine, and I'll have another motion, again, which relates to this mine not ever receiving public funding. But today's motion relates to the water impacts of this mine. I would urge both sides of the chamber to think seriously about prioritising the water needs of not just the planet but those other water users in that drought-stricken region when deciding how to vote on this motion.
I'm very disappointed that I've had to suspend standing orders in order to move this motion. We've seen a pattern over the last few days of a number of senators denying leave. The low level of behaviour that this chamber has stooped to in the last few days has already been spoken about very eloquently, and we just saw a most revolting display of sexism from one of the particular senators who is, sadly, a repeat offender in that regard. Now we have leave being denied for us to conduct the business of the Senate. We seek to get through these motions. We have every right to move these motions. We don't want to delay the chamber, but we will not be silenced by randos who want to deny leave for reasons that are known only to themselves, with no good reason and certainly without the support of the chamber. Be it upon yourselves. We will continue to move substantive motions that we support and that are based in fact and based in science. If you continue to act like naughty preschoolers in denying leave for us to conduct the business of this parliament then we will sadly continue to use standing orders to bring reasonable issues to the attention of this chamber.
I conclude my remarks and urge once again that we consider the water impacts of mega-coalmines as well as the climate impacts, the social impacts and all the other impacts of the destructive potential for a second huge thermal coal mega-mine in the Galilee Basin. I urge that we consider these matters and that we be able to vote on this motion.
In response to the substantive motion, there are already strong legislative protections at the federal level for the sustainable development of Australia's and Australians' resources. The proposed coalmine has been subject to a detailed environmental impact assessment and considered in accordance with the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999. The Independent Expert Scientific Committee on Coal Seam Gas and Large Coal Mining Development has also provided advice on the proposal. The Commonwealth will make a decision on whether to approve the China Stone coalmine proposal once the Queensland government's evaluation report is carefully reviewed. We will be support the suspension; we will not be supporting the motion.
We, too, will be supporting the suspension, but we will be opposing the motion. In doing so, we note that the assessment undertaken by the independent expert scientific committee for this proposal was based on early information and their advice, therefore, necessarily identifies further information and data that is needed to address the questions raised. Labor notes that the environment minister must not approve large coalmines until the independent expert scientific committee has undertaken a thorough analysis.
Labor considers the early advice from the independent expert scientific committee indicates their analysis needs to be updated. This updated assessment must consider any impacts on the Great Artesian Basin and other groundwater systems; groundwater-fed springs, systems and ecosystems; groundwater bores; river, streams and creeks; and availability of water for agriculture users and the environment. In accordance with the standard practice of the independent expert scientific committee, the analysis should consider the cumulative water-related impact of the proposal in the context of past, present and reasonably foreseeable actions. Labor expects the results and modelling must be made publicly available immediately after the final document is received by the minister.
It is not free.
Senator Waters interjecting—
It is not free. Adani have paid in the vicinity of $19 million to the Queensland state government for the use of this water. It is coming out of the river, but the river has to be over a certain level and floodwaters to actually use it. The Adani mining company have actually been to all the farmers around there and have assured them that they will have water security and that the mine will not take water from the farmers. They are quite agreeable with that.
What we are hearing here is scaremongering—again—by the Greens, who want to shut down industry, manufacturing, the farming sector and native vegetation. They want to shut down everything in this country. They want to take this country back to absolutely nothing. In Queensland, where we make about $55 billion from our resources in the state, they want to shut down a mine that is very instrumental and important in bringing money into the economy and, indirectly, about 10,000 jobs. Directly, the mine itself will employ 1,462 people. But the Greens aren't interested in that. They have their jobs in this place and they are not worried about other Queenslanders being able to pay their bills or put a roof over their head.
They continue to raise these issues, and they use mining as if it is going to destroy the Great Barrier Reef. That is another furphy—when it is about 350 miles from the Great Barrier Reef. When mining has been going on for over 100 years and has not destroyed the Barrier Reef, how is this Adani mine all of a sudden going to shut down the Great Barrier Reef? This is just not true. They are scaremongering. That is what this is all about. I have had extensive talks with Adani mining, and I have asked them direct questions. If I thought that this was in any way going to have an impact on the land, on water resources, on the farming sector or on the Great Barrier Reef, I would be the first one standing up and fighting against it.
I have really done some homework on this and I really know what is going to happen. This is not about votes. This is not about shutting our country down, but that is exactly what it is doing. The Greens talk about wanting to put in windfarms, and they want to shut down the mining. Australia has coking coal. A lot of the mining in Queensland is coking coal. The Adani mine is thermo. That goes to energy. Every windmill that is built takes 220 tonnes of coal to build. Why we have coking coal, and why China and others countries want our coking coal, is to use it to make steel. That's why they want it. The best steel in the world comes from our coking coal. If you want to build more windmills around the country and around the world then you need our coal to build them. It is the coking coal that gives us the best steel. If you want to cut out mining in this country, consider where you are going to get your windmills from. It takes 220 tonnes of coal to make a windmill in this country. Stop spreading the lies. I say to you—through you, Mr President—stop spreading your lies and fearmongering and stop trying to say that the whole world is coming to an end. It's not coming to an end. It will come to an end if the Greens ever get control of this parliament.
Before I go on in this debate, the clock can be paused. This particular section of the Senate's business is cascading—in behaviour and time. If there are motions moved to suspend standing orders to deal with the motion in a formal sense, I will apply the limits of the standing orders incredibly strictly: the terms of the debate will be about the suspension of standing orders and not about the substantive motion that the senator is seeking to have debated. I remind all senators that there is normally some tolerance for that. I will not let this session of the Senate's business, which is cascading, become a forum for de facto debate via suspension of standing orders. Any senator who wants to move or speak to a motion: limit what you are saying to the suspension of standing orders and do not seek to debate the substantive motion.
I rise to debate the suspension of standing orders. I can't think of anything more important that has happened in my lifetime—as someone who has just turned 50 years old—than what has happened to the Great Barrier Reef in the last five years. Think about this—the Bureau of Meteorology is reporting today more record temperatures off Queensland:
Extreme heatwave conditions are affecting far north Queensland this week—from Cooktown and Cairns to Townsville, Mackay and Rockhampton. Maximum temperatures today have been well above average, with records already broken …
We have seen catastrophic bushfires in Queensland in the last three days.
On the point of order, Mr President, you made it quite clear to debate the suspension and not the subject. Senator Whish-Wilson is clearly debating the subject instead of the suspension. I ask you to bring him to the topic of the suspension of the standing order.
I was going to give the senator a minute. Given that other senators have been shown some liberality in this debate, I'm not going to enforce it halfway through the debate. The next time a suspension is moved, it will strictly be about the suspension of standing orders. I will apply it more strictly than it has been applied in the Senate, out of respect for the other 70 senators who don't get to speak in these debates because of the forum in which this is adopted other than by leave. Senator Whish-Wilson, I ask you to consider that and ask you to please continue.
We should be suspending standing orders, because Senator Waters deserved to move this motion. It doesn't deserve to have leave denied. This is one of the most important issues of our lifetime. If you want to talk about water, what about that body of water off the coastline called the ocean? We have had two back-to-back bleaching events. Our best climate science models predicted it wasn't possible to have back-to-back coral bleaching on the Great Barrier Reef before 2050, yet, in 2016 and 2017, we had the fourth bleaching event in 10 years, with back-to-back bleaching. It's official: half the reef is dead. Half the Great Barrier Reef is dead. And guess what? Sadly, we are on track for a third bleaching—a third bleaching in four years. That will spell the end of the Great Barrier Reef. If it is anything like the bleaching events that we saw in 2016, that reef will not recover—not in our lifetime. Think about that. This is critical. This motion deserves to be moved. Any senator who doesn't believe that this is one of the most important issues facing not just this chamber and this country but humanity needs to get their head checked. They need a reality check. I have gone up there and stuck my head under the water, and I suggest that every senator does the same thing. The Senate Environment and Communications Committee went up there. We went out to the Great Barrier Reef. We heard from the exporters. We know that there are 60,000 jobs at stake if that barrier reef continues to die on our watch. The only thing we can do is take every possible means to cut emissions, both here in this country and overseas. That means no more coalmines and no more coal exports. That's what this motion is about. This is not just about the damage that this mine is going to do to the watertable in a drought impacted Queensland, in a country totally in drought, in a country with catastrophic bushfires, once again breaking temperature records.
The sad thing is, Senator O'Sullivan, that it is not just about Queensland. In my state of Tasmania we have lost our giant kelp forests—an ecosystem 10,000 years old that stretched from north-east Tasmania right to the bottom of south-west Tasmania, and it is gone, through climate change, the impacts of invasive species, warming waters, ocean acidification and extreme storms. That ecosystem was the home to all our commercial fisheries. That is just the beginning of what's going on off the coast of my state because of climate change. This is an issue that affects every single one of us. It couldn't be more serious. And to have it denied formality by the Senate—we need to be having a debate, we need to be suspending standing orders, we need to see this motion moved.
As for the Labor Party, I swear I heard you during question time, reading from a young Australian who was here for the climate protests, asking Mr Morrison why he hugged coal. Well, I've just seen you hugging coal in here today as well. Seriously, you can't have your cake and eat it. This is so serious a matter. There is a line in the sand that we have to draw. We need no new coalmines. We need to take a very strong stand on this.
I thank the chamber. I move motion 1240:
That the Senate—
(a) notes that:
(i) 58% of Queensland is drought declared,
(ii) the Adani Carmichael mine has applied to extract 12.5 billion litres of water from the Suttor River every year, nearly as much as all other local users combined,
(iii) the China Stone coal mine, which is now one step closer to approval, is expected to extract another 12.5 billion litres of water, from the very same river system,
(iv) the Queensland Government has granted the Adani Carmichael mine an unlimited groundwater extraction licence for 60 years,
(v) it is expected that the China Stone mine will draw a similar volume of groundwater as the Adani Carmichael mine,
(vi) polling conducted by ReachTel shows voters are concerned about water extraction by Adani, and 70% agreed the groundwater extraction licence should be revoked to safeguard water for farmers, and
(vii) the Queensland Coordinator General has asked for MacMines' China Stone mine to provide extra revised groundwater impact assessment, as well as an associated water licence before the mine could be approved; and
(b) calls on the Minister for the Environment to require MacMines Austasia to conduct a cumulative water environmental assessment for coal mines in the Galilee Basin before any decision is made whether to approve the China Stone coal mine project.