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Monday, 18 March 2013
Page: 2313


Mr ZAPPIA (Makin) (12:37): by leave—On behalf of the Standing Committee on Climate Change, Environment and the Arts I make a statement on the and Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Amendment Bill 2013, in discharge of the committee's requirements to provide an advisory report on the bill, and to present a copy of my statement.

From the outset I should say the committee has endorsed the content of this statement. The Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Amendment Bill 2013 was introduced in the House on 13 March 2013. The following day, following the recommendation of the House Selection Committee, the bill was referred to the Climate Change, Environment and the Arts Committee for consideration. The bill seeks to amend the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act by inserting a new matter of national environmental significance. The new matter would be raised where a coal seam gas development or large coalmining development has, or is likely to have, significant impacts on a water resource. The bill would create an environment assessment process to assess projects that trigger this new matter of environmental significance and put in place penalties if projects proceed without approval or exemption. The bill also contains transitional provisions to minimise disruption to existing projects.

Further information on the bill's development and consultation and efficiencies of the current arrangements were canvassed by the minister in his second reading speech, and I do not propose to take more time of the House in repeating statements already made. In short, the bill proposes amendments which aim to strengthen the protection of Australia's valuable water resources in circumstances where they will, or could, be affected by certain mining projects.

In his second reading speech, the minister noted that the government has already taken significant steps to improve the regulation of coal-seam gas and large coalmining projects. This has included the establishment of an independent expert scientific committee which provides governments with expert advice in this area. The bill would ensure that this advice can be used by the minister by requiring an approval or exemption for projects that trigger the new matter of national environmental significance.

The bill has also been referred to the Senate Environment and Communications Legislation Committee. In its referral, the Senate Selection of Bills Committee suggested six specific and two general sources of evidence for an inquiry into the bill, as well as listing five possible hearing dates. In short, a comprehensive inquiry is foreshadowed. While the bill is not necessarily substantial in its reach, the subjects it considers are certainly of broad interest and worthy of examination. It is clear that any inquiry will draw significantly on the time and resources of the parliament, government agencies, stakeholders and witnesses. The time and resources required would be doubled if two inquiries were conducted into the same bill at the same time. It is unlikely that such duplication would serve the parliament or stakeholders. On several previous occasions, this committee and others in the House have declined to inquire into bills where an inquiry is considered to duplicate the work of a Senate committee. On this occasion, given the comprehensive inquiry program put forward by the Senate Selection of Bills Committee, the resources that a single inquiry would likely demand and the duplication that would result from a parallel inquiry, the committee has determined that further inquiry is not warranted. The committee therefore recommends that the bill continue to be debated in the House.