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Tuesday, 4 June 2013
Page: 5173

Ms SAFFIN (Page) (21:54): I rise to speak about coal seam gas mining—in particular, the federal coalition's stated policy that they will hand over environmental assessments for coal seam gas mining to the states. The coalition resources spokesman, the honourable member for Groom, Ian Macfarlane, last week said in a speech, as reported by Lenore Taylor:

The Coalition says it will 'get around' a new law—

and the new law is one where the federal government takes responsibility for coal seam gas, but it will 'get around' that—

… giving power for environmental assessments to the states to speed up the approval process and boost the CSG industry.

And the coalition spokesman further says that the new law, even with the amendment referred to as the Windsor amendment:

… "contains nothing to prevent" the Coalition from proceeding with its stated policy intention to hand over environmental assessments to the states, including for gas wells, under strict standards set by the commonwealth.

"We can get around it,' he said. 'We want a one stop shop, and that's what we will achieve. We'll delegate approvals to the states. We already have an expert panel to assess water impacts—

That is referring to the independent expert scientific committee which we set up and established here. He further says:

Labor is assuming the state governments are incompetent and don't have processes in place to deal with it …

Well, in New South Wales, the state certainly does not have the processes in place to deal with coal seam gas mining in our area. We want an exclusion zone and a moratorium. At the same time, the coalition resources spokesman is pressing New South Wales to approve more coal seam gas wells because of what he calls the 'looming gas crisis'—and I will save that for another debate, but that is just not so; there are ample resources.

I turn now to Senator Birmingham, the coalition spokesman for the environment and the Murray-Darling Basin. In the debate in the Senate on the second reading of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Amendment Bill that has the water trigger in it, he said:

We have many concerns about this legislation. As I said, though, we understand the concerns of the community as well. We hear those concerns and we are not, by opposing this legislation—

I repeat: 'by opposing this legislation'—

… going to allow the government to politicise this issue. We will work to fix these issues should we succeed later this year. We want to work to ensure that we get community confidence for this important industry, because it is an important industry—

He was talking about coal seam gas mining. And he continued:

It is generating billions of export dollars and thousands of new jobs and is very important to the economic wellbeing of all states of Australia—to securing, in particular, our future gas supplies.

But the facts do not establish that at all.

I turn now to a statement just put out by the Nationals candidate for Page, Mr Hogan. He says that the coalition is voting in favour of the water trigger legislation, and has no plans to wind back the legislation if it wins government. He is either ignorant of his party and coalition colleagues and of their stated comments and published policy, or is deliberately deceiving and trying to gain political advantage. Either one does not bode well for someone who puts himself up to represent the people—particularly in my area, where people expect you to be absolutely straight down the line and to fight for them. He says:

I have spoken to my colleagues this week and have been assured that Coalition Senators will be voting for the water trigger legislation, and it will pass the Senate …

And we know—they have said—they are going to do that just so they can wind it back. I am not too sure who he spoke to, but obviously not the opposition spokesman on environment and resources. He goes on to say:

The only reason it hasn't reached the Senate is because the Labor Government is holding it up—

That is simply not true. Then he goes on to say that I am 'spreading baseless fear'. Well, he just needs to read what his colleagues say—and in Hansard, too. And he says that I say that:

… the Coalition has vowed to wind back this legislation.

And he says that:

This is nothing more than a bid to deceive people.

Well, it is not me deceiving; it is clearly him. Then he goes on to say:

… the Federal Coalition won't be handing back water protection responsibility to the State Government if elected.

Yet we have their comments—the comments of the resources spokesman. And he also says that, if he were elected, he would cross the floor. His vote would not count.