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Thursday, 12 February 2015
Page: 624


Senator BIRMINGHAM (South AustraliaAssistant Minister for Education and Training) (13:46): Just briefly, the government does not support the proposed amendments from Senator Xenophon. Firstly, I would highlight that these amendments are bringing a whole different aspect of environmental regulation and legislation before the Senate than what is at the heart of this bill, which is the protection of turtles and dugongs.

More generally, I would acknowledge that this amendment would broaden the scope of the water trigger, as Senator Xenophon and Senator Waters have acknowledged. However, the National Partnership Agreement on Coal Seam Gas and Large Coalmining Development was reached and agreed between the Commonwealth, Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia in March 2012. It is an agreement that achieved support across a number of jurisdictions and sets in place a cooperative arrangement for regulation of coal seam gas and large coalmining. It was notably limited to these kinds of mining activities as part of striking that agreement.

The inclusion of the water trigger and the establishment of the Independent Expert Scientific Committee on Coal Seam Gas and Large Coalmining Development under the EPBC Act is based upon that agreement between the states and the Commonwealth. This means the water trigger is limited to CSG and large coalmining activities, as I said before. The Commonwealth does not believe that there has been a demonstrated need—nor has there been consultation with or agreement from the states party to that agreement—to expand the legislation and the water trigger to other kinds of fracking.