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Thursday, 7 February 2013
Page: 489

Mr TRUSS (Wide BayLeader of The Nationals) (16:39): Last night in the adjournment debate, the member for Richmond said that all National Party candidates on the North Coast 'support harmful CSG mining'. That is an outrageous statement and a dishonest claim which I utterly reject. The Nationals do not support any kind of harmful industrial activity. We do not support harmful CSG extraction or any kind of harmful mining activity. For the member to make such an allegation is simply outrageous.

As far back as November 2011, the federal National Party laid down what it saw as the clear principles which should underpin the operation of the CSG industry. These included that a CSG development should not proceed unless it is clear that the project will not have an adverse impact on the environment, that strategic agricultural land needs to be protected, that CSG development should not occur near residential areas, that landholders should receive appropriate payments from CSG projects in return for access to their land, and that regions hosting CSG developments should receive a reasonable share of the generated income. We have made it absolutely clear that, as a party, we believe that the CSG industry can contribute to meeting our future energy requirements but that it must always operate under safe and appropriate conditions.

The member for Richmond has never complained about the CSG industry before. She stood by while the previous Labor government in New South Wales issued all 44 of the coal seam gas exploration and production licences in that state. She stood by without saying anything while these licences were issued—without any regulations in place to protect land or water. Labor pocketed the cash from issuing these licences. It has been the New South Wales coalition government which has been working hard to get the balance right between economic development and protection of valuable agricultural land and water.

The member for Richmond has spoken in this House 163 times in her eight years in the parliament, but she has never raised the CSG issue before. She sat there silently while all of these proposals were approved—as did the member for Page, the member for New England and, for that matter, the Minister for Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities, who seem to be late participants in the protest against the coal seam gas industry. It is a tragedy that there is this kind of an attempt to completely misrepresent the position of the Nationals.

On the other hand, the Labor Party have been consistent supporters of the CSG industry—and not just the New South Wales government, which indiscriminately handed out exploration permits. The Prime Minister herself has been quoted often as supporting the CSG industry. On page 146 of the Energy white paper 2012, Australia's energy transformation, issued by the government last year, the government pledges itself to:

… addressing regulatory and other impediments to the timely development of our gas resources, particularly new CSG and shale gas resources.

The member for Richmond was silent while the Prime Minister was praising the industry and committing to support it. But now she comes into this parliament and tries to blame the Nationals for the fact that the CSG industry is proposing activity in northern New South Wales. Labor handed out exploration licences covering the best part of a quarter of New South Wales. The coalition has not issued any new CSG exploration licences but has put in place measures to try to ensure the industry is conducted in an appropriate way—increased fines, security bonds and the appointment of a land and water commissioner to oversee the process.

In the parliament, the minister for the environment and, for that matter, the member for New England have said that the New South Wales government is not prepared to participate in the national partnerships plan. That is completely false. The government's own statement on the issue makes it clear that the national partnership agreement includes Queensland, New South Wales, South Australia and Victoria and that they have all committed to seek the committee's advice at appropriate stages, to ensure that the decision makers take account of the committee's advice and to provide input into the research agenda. The reality is that the New South Wales and federal governments reached an agreement in December 2012 on the protocols to underpin these arrangements and are now awaiting the Prime Minister's endorsement of them. If the minister cannot find the protocols, perhaps he should look on the Prime Minister's desk.