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Wednesday, 6 July 2011
Page: 4238

Senator NASH (New South WalesDeputy Leader of The Nationals in the Senate) (17:47): Thanks, Minister, and I do appreciate your candour. I certainly would not expect that in ordinary circumstances there would be any gobbledegook coming from you. Quite seriously, I need an answer to this question further, and the advisers may be able to help here. I understand earlier as the chamber would recall that when we were talking about practices that are going to be defined as common practice, the minister referred to the chamber his view that it would be common sense. Unfortunately, it is not good enough to just say that common sense is going to be the criteria for whether or not it is a common practice that is being put forward by any of these proponents. I think, Minister, even you may well agree that that is nowhere near the detail that we need here in this chamber to be able to make a determination about the appropriateness of this legislation. It is simply not good enough.

This goes back to the comments I made in my second reading speech yesterday that the very reason that we are not in a position in this chamber to deal with this piece of legislation is because we simply do not have the detail. I think, colleagues, that it would be now seen by all that the answer the minister gave us simply highlighted the fact that we just do not have that detail.

Perhaps in the particular instance I was referring to before about fertiliser use and whether or not that would be common practice, the minister suggested, if I recall correctly, to perhaps do a survey and determine whether the use of fertiliser was indeed common practice. That particular course of action is obviously going to entail significant cost. For these parties, proponents or whoever is going to do the work that the minister has suggested, the funding is going to have to come from somewhere.

What sort of work, what sort of certainty, can the proponents have—or at least any understanding—of where they should be headed if the minister says that the criterion is going to be common sense? Whose common sense? The department's common sense? His common sense? Somebody else's common sense? It is simply not good enough because there is obviously going to be a real investment with this type of work. There is going to be a huge investment from proponents to bowl up these proposals to the department, and I think they deserve rather more certainty than is currently being offered to them. It is a nebulous no-man's land at the moment for any proponent that is looking to—and I understand there are many other areas; I am specifically talking about the carbon sequestration area at the moment. It is just a vacuum in terms of trying to figure it out.

Along the way, the government and department have said that they will look at the methodologies given to them by the proponents. How is a proponent going to know that the methodology that they are going to throw up is even going to be acceptable? It is a bit like cart before the horse. The minister noted in his second reading speech that there are methodologies available, and I know there are but none that relate to the sequestration of carbon in soil. So we simply have no idea of what methodologies are going to be acceptable—I see Senator Xenophon has gone to assist the minister!

Senator Chris Evans: That would be a first!

Senator NASH: I doubt that seriously! I ask the minister if he has anything further to add to the previous contribution of Minister Ludwig that common sense was going to be the determining factor around the criteria for common practice.