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Monday, 7 November 2011
Page: 8327

Coal Seam Gas


Senator MOORE (Queensland) (14:46): My question is to the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, Senator Ludwig. Given that the minister attended the recent Primary Industries Ministerial Council meeting, can he please update the Senate on any discussions at that meeting in relation to land use planning and how the Common­wealth is responding to this issue? In particular, can the minister inform the Senate on the issue of coal seam gas?


Senator LUDWIG (QueenslandMinister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, Manager of Government Business in the Senate and Minister Assisting the Attorney-General on Queensland Floods Recovery) (14:47): I thank Senator Moore for her question. I have had good discussions with my state counterparts in relation to land use planning, particularly on what the Commonwealth is doing to facilitate consistency in relation to coal seam gas developments. Everyone in this place knows that coal seam gas regulation is largely a state responsibility. The Minister for Resources and Energy, Mr Martin Ferguson, is seeking to facilitate an agreement-best practice approach to regulating the industry across all states and territories. This is a significant policy issue which must be considered carefully and the Gillard government continues to put all energy into this process. With the Commonwealth facilitating the states and territories, they have agreed to work cooperatively covering the following areas: (1) coexistence between agriculture and mining, (2) developing a national regulatory best practice framework focusing on well integrity, including hydraulic fracturing and chemical use and (3) water management and monitoring. These discussions will be progressed at the Energy and Resources Ministers' Meeting in early December this year. It is time for the states and territories to adopt a harmonised framework as a more robust means of ensuring protection of the environment, water and land use. This would provide a consistent set of rules for the future development of the industry.

I acknowledge the level of community concern surrounding coal seam gas, particul­ar concern raised by the member for New England, Mr Windsor, along with my fellow Labor member of parliament. That is why the Gillard government is helping to facilitate discussions with the states and territories.

Senator Joyce: 'Fellow Labor member'—that is dead right.

Senator LUDWIG: Your turn will come, Senator Joyce. This is important work which needs to be completed. The National Farmers Federation welcomed the Gillard government's call for harmonisation. The NFF president, Jock Laurie, said the regulation— (Time expired)




Senator MOORE (Queensland) (14:49): Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. Given that there is significant research being conducted, particularly in relation to water resources, coal seam gas and agriculture, can the minister update the Senate on what Commonwealth government actions have occurred in relation to water resources?


Senator LUDWIG (QueenslandMinister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, Manager of Government Business in the Senate and Minister Assisting the Attorney-General on Queensland Floods Recovery) (14:49): I thank Senator Moore for her supplementary question. There is significant research being conducted into the interaction between mining, coal seam gas extraction and water resources. This is particularly important work which will inform the development of the industry. There are a number of ongoing research projects relating to CSG.

The coal seam gas industry is strictly regulated by the Australian government where matters protected under national environmental law are likely to be significantly affected, such as the three coal seam gas projects in Queensland. These projects are subject to around 300 federal conditions relating to water, stipulating that the companies must test and monitor every relevant aquifer to verify whether or not they are hydraulically connected. The environ­ment minister, in granting the approval with conditions, has demanded that companies have to test and monitor every aquifer for connectivity. It is also why the minister has set up an expert scientific panel to assess the company's plan— (Time expired)


Senator MOORE (Queensland) (14:50): Mr President, I ask a further supplementary question. Is the minister aware of any risk to the implementation of these reforms or of any alternative policy positions on this issue?


Senator LUDWIG (QueenslandMinister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, Manager of Government Business in the Senate and Minister Assisting the Attorney-General on Queensland Floods Recovery) (14:50): Yesterday, we heard that the federal leader of the National Party, Mr Warren Truss, released a blueprint for coal seam gas development. I wonder if he checked with his coalition partners whether or not Mr Abbott supports the plant. What about Mr Robb? We have seen how Mr Robb has dealt with Senator Cormann. The Nationals' record of getting their policies over the line with their Liberal partners so far has been abysmal.

Mr President, do you remember the Nationals' plan to overturn Australia's biosecurity system because of apple imports? What happened to that bill? It got pulled because the Nationals got rolled. I am sure everybody remembers the backflipping we saw in relation to the carbon farming initiative. One minute they supported it and the next minute they opposed it. They were rolled again. I expect this National Party's CSG thought bubble will die the same death. We have seen it on apples. (Time expired)