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Monday, 17 June 2013
Page: 2940

Senator McLUCAS (QueenslandMinister for Human Services) (13:02): I thank all senators for their contribution to the debate on the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Amendment Bill 2013. The bill will amend the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999, the EPBC Act, to create a new matter of national environmental significance for coal seam gas and large coalmining developments which have or are likely to have a significant impact on a water resource, providing a strong legal basis for protection. When enacted, the bill will enable the robust assessment of a significant impact on a water resource arising from coal seam gas and large coalmining developments. It will also ensure that there are appropriate measures in place to manage those impacts before future coal seam gas and large coalmining projects proceed.

In addition, the bill includes an amendment to ensure the Commonwealth retains responsibility for undertaking environmental assessments in relation to the water trigger. This will provide the community with confidence that the impacts of these industries are being managed in a way that secures the long-term future of our vital water resources. The bill includes transitional provisions to minimise disruption to the assessment of existing projects as far as possible while also meeting the objectives of the amendments to provide robust assessments of coal seam gas and large coalmining on water resources.

Those that have opposed this bill have claimed that it will bring delays and increased green tape for industry in an already challenging economic climate. The Behre Dolbear report 2013 Ranking of countries for mining investment: “where not to invest”tells a different story. The report indicates that Australia has ranked first for the last two years based on conditions that promote investment growth in the mining sector. The report shows that Australia continues to have the fewest permitting delays of the 25 countries reviewed.

In conclusion, the changes to the EPBC Act proposed by this bill will provide a national approach for protection of water resources where they are impacted by coal seam gas and large coalmining, ensuring water resources receive the highest possible level of protection. I commend the bill to the chamber.

Question agreed to.

Bill read a second time.