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Thursday, 14 March 2013
Page: 1702

Senator McEWEN (South AustraliaGovernment Whip in the Senate) (11:48): In the few minutes available to me I, too, would like to make a contribution to this debate about the private senator's bill we are debating this morning, the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Amendment (Retaining Federal Approval Powers) Bill 2012. As many speakers before me have said, I would like to note that, as usual when it is a Greens private senator's bill, we have been delivered a good dose of sanctimony to start the day off. Anybody would think that the Greens were the only party in this parliament who cared about the environment.

It is interesting again to hear from the fairies at the bottom of the chamber about how they manage the environment and the need for Australia to be a modern, developing economy. We all know in this chamber that there are tensions in this; there are tensions between protecting our environment and ensuring that Australia can continue to develop and grow as it is doing under the Gillard Labor government. There are no simple solutions to that tension.

But the Labor government is very proud of its record in this regard, and the bill that this private senator's bill is seeking to amend is a very important piece of environmental legislation—the premier piece of legislation—and all senators have a big investment in it. It was first introduced into the parliament by the coalition government and many amendments have been made to it over the years since. Mostly those amendments have been with bipartisan support, because we all understand how important this legislation is. But there is not bipartisan support for this proposed amendment in this private senator's bill because the matters that are under discussion between the states and the federal government are important and complex ones and should be rightly discussed at COAG and considered.

I must say that the committee report on this bill has illuminated many of the complexities involved between the states and the Commonwealth government with regard to environmental legislation. The federal government is not about to make rash decisions in this regard.

The PRESIDENT: Order! The time limit for this debate has come.