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Thursday, 22 September 2011
Page: 6777


Senator FURNER (Queensland) (09:51): I rise to make a contribution to this debate, which I have a strong interest in. The Landholders' Right to Refuse (Coal Seam Gas) Bill 2011 seeks to provide farmers with the opportunity to say no to coal seam gas mining on their properties without written consent. It would exercise powers to apply penalties on any constitutional corporation if it undertook any activity to explore or produce coal seam gas on food-producing land without the prior written authorisation of everyone who has an ownership interest in that land.

To date, mining and urban expansion has not threatened Australia's food security. Australia is food secure. We are sheltered from direct concerns about food shortages because we have a world-class agricultural sector and our farmers produce far more food than we consume. On 15 August 2011, the Minister for Resources, Energy and Tourism, Martin Ferguson, told ABC NewsRadio that 'it is constitutionally the states' responsibility, in association with the territories, to manage the development of our resources'. He also said that 'it would be inappropriate for the Commonwealth to start undermining the constitutional capacity of the states for short-term political gain'. Therefore we will not be supporting this bill.

Mineral resources belong to the Australian people. This bill would give veto rights to landholders and preventing access would mean that those assets belonged to the landowner—in other words, privatisation. This undermines the ownership of resources by the state government on behalf of the people. The Australian government believes that landholders and mining companies are able to work together and this position is shared by the National Farmers Federation. Vice-President and Chair of the NFF Mining and Coal Seam Gas Taskforce, Duncan Fraser, said:

Our position, and that of our members, is not about preventing mining and CSG exploration or extraction-but rather ensuring that agriculture, CSG and mining can coexist, so as to guarantee the long-term sustainability of our food and fibre production.

According to the Australian Petroleum Production and Exploration Association, APPEA, agriculture and gas industries have already coexisted for many years—we have seen gas extracted in Roma for half a century.

In my state of Queensland coal seam gas is prominent, with more than 90 per cent of the state's gas supply being CSG. CSG also constitutes one-third of eastern Australia's gas supplies. It powers a number of domestic electricity generation projects throughout Queensland, including the Origin Energy operated Darling Downs power station and the Braemar 2 power station. APPEA says that the CSG industry supports more than 5,000 jobs and expects this to boom to 18,000 jobs. They say the Queensland industry injects $850 million into the Queensland government through taxes, which means more funding for vital infrastructure.

CSG's continuous growth outran the global financial crisis, kept Australians in jobs and supplemented the fiscal and economic position of Australia. In 1997, the total output of the coal seam gas industry in Queensland was 3,652 petajoules. By the end of the 2009-2010 financial year, this figure had climbed to 27,992 petajoules, representing growth of more than 750 per cent over the past 13 years.

The international market, particularly the Asia-Pacific region, has experienced increased demand for liquefied natural gas. Coal seam gas will be fed through over 4,000 kilometres of already constructed pipeline and liquefied to produce LNG. The expected explosive demand for LNG will continue to encourage production of coal seam gas. In October last year, Treasurer Wayne Swan and resources minister Martin Ferguson welcomed an announcement by BG Group that it would invest US $15 billion to develop its coal seam gas and LNG operations to export gas from Gladstone. This funding will go towards construction and expansion of a 540-kilometre gas pipeline. It is estimated that the project will increase gross state product by up to $32 billion between 2010 and 2021 and add about $4 billion in value to our exports each year. The project also means 5,000 jobs and 1,000 prominent positions.

CSG is significant in both Queensland and New South Wales, with APPEA suggesting that these two states can produce and power a city of five million—just over what the population of Queensland is—for 1,000 years. APPEA also says that more than 1,400 land access agreements between landholders and the industry had been signed and that 'every single aspect of taking CSG to LNG for export has been examined through the public environmental impact assessment process. Both state and federal government environmental approvals have been granted, with conditions to further safeguard aquifers, landholders and the environment'.

Lock the Gate Alliance Inc, in which former Greens candidate Drew Hutton is involved, state on their website:

Coal seam gas (CSG) is a fossil fuel—a dirty energy source that adds to greenhouse pollution.

According to APPEA, electricity generated using gas produces up to 70 per cent less in greenhouse gas emissions than some existing coal generation technology, meaning coal seam gas has a significant role to play in reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Gas is an important fuel for the transition to a low-carbon economy. LNG can produce the same amount of energy as coal with significantly lower carbon dioxide emissions. According to a study conducted by WorleyParsons, the greenhouse gas intensity of LNG over its life cycle is approximately 50 per cent lower than that of coal. The development of the CSG to LNG industry is providing the opportunity to develop the massive CSG resources of Queensland economically and to bring forward the development of CSG reserves in other states.

Lock the Gate put forward a submission to the inquiry of the Senate Standing Committee on Rural Affairs and Transport into the management of the Murray-Darling Basin. In a statement dated 21 September 2011, APPEA Chief Executive Belinda Robinson said that Lock the Gate's submission included content which was copied and pasted from a United States study, with the words 'coal seam gas' substituted for the words 'shale gas'. Ms Robinson said:

The study that this group has drawn its material from actually makes no mention of coal seam gas or the Australian industry.

APPEA stated in a media release on 18 August 2011 that some people have insinuated that greenhouse gas emissions of CSG are worse than those of natural gas. APPEA refutes this. It said that any leakage from CSG is monitored and the emissions are lower by up to 70 per cent from gas-fired electricity. It said:

Since the passage of the National Greenhouse and Energy Reporting Act 2007 every major gas company in Australia—CSG or otherwise—has been legally required to monitor, measure or estimate, and report all emissions associated with its operations to the Department of Climate Change and Energy Efficiency; including fugitive emissions and emissions associated with venting, combustion, and flaring. No emissions are undisclosed.

In July, I launched the Gas Industry Social and Environmental Research Alliance, GISERA, in Brisbane on behalf of Minister Kim Carr. The launch was at a marvellous new structure where the old Boggo Road jail used to be. To see the construction alone you would more or less comply with the belief that this is an environmentally friendly building so no doubt the release was prominent and it was appropriate to do so in a building that houses CSIRO and groups of other scientists that are paving the way and certainly making steps as to the way that we look at our environment and move to a sustainable greenhouse and protected environment for our future. The Gas Industry Social and Environmental Research Alliance is a partnership that was founded by the CSIRO and Australia Pacific LNG Pty Ltd, who have invested $4 million and $10 million respectively to investigate the socioeconomic and environmental impacts of the natural gas industry over the next five years.

I had the opportunity to question some of the people involved in this launch and get some reasonable feedback about the appropriateness of this sort of injection into this particular area. As I indicated earlier, it is not a new area and it has been happening in my home state of Queensland for many decades. The alliance is to establish research, to establish fair consultation with and feedback from people in particular areas where this mining is happening to make sure concerns are allayed. The alliance will help fill the knowledge gaps of this vast energy resource and it is a chance to increase the evidence based understanding of what we are dealing with. Regulators, developers, land owners and the broader community will have a common basis to negotiate approaches which balance both the challenges and the opportunities.

I can really appreciate there being some confusion out there from the public and also some members of parliament about the effects of coal seam gas. It was not that long ago, while on a plane trip down from Brisbane, that the member for Wright and I were discussing this particular area. I think at that particular stage that member, being a member of the National Party, had some views and some concerns about the effect on farmers and about compensation and I think we were having a reasonable discussion. I think most of those issues have now been dismissed and I am sure that those people on the opposition side from the Nationals understand the value of this particular area for the industry and also for farmers in general.

Issues which will be explored by GISERA include groundwater and surface water, biodiversity, land management, the marine environment and also the socioeconomic impacts. The research will enable us to predict the consequences of decisions. It means we can assess how certain courses of action will affect the economy, the environment and the community. The results of these findings will be made available for the public. I think that is appropriate to make sure that the public is fully aware of any likely concern that is raised as a result of the research that the CSIRO and the partnership with GISERA will certainly establish and which will be available to the public.

In October last year the Queensland government's new laws in relation to land access came into effect. A document released by the Queensland Department of Employment, Economic Development and Innovation states:

The new land access laws are vital to achieving a balanced approach to private land access and compensation. They recognise and clarify the Government's expectations and rights of tenement ... authority holders and land holders relating to how resource activities must be undertaken on private land.

DEEDI states the key features of this legislation as:

... a requirement that all resource authority holders must comply with a single Land Access Code; an entry notice requirement for 'prelim­inary activities', for example, those that will have no or only a minor impact on landholders; a requirement that a conduct and compensation agreement be negotiated before a resource authority holder comes onto a landholder's property to undertake 'advanced activities', for example, those likely to have a significant impact on a landholder's business or land use; a graduated process for negotiation and resolving disputes about agreements which ensures matters are only referred to the Land Court as a last resort; stronger compliance and enforcement powers for government agencies where breaches of the Land Access Code occur.

As you can see, Mr Acting Deputy President, there is a series of steps already to work through a process to identify any concern landholders might have as a result of coal seam gas exploration on their particular land, a process that has been implemented by the Queensland Labor government to assure people that they have no concerns over risk as to what might be occurring on their particular space on the land.

In April this year the state government announced that gas and petroleum companies must provide 10 business days notice to landholders of any drilling, fracking or certain exploration taking place as well as 10 business days notice of work completion. The Queensland Minister for Employment, Skills and Mining, Stirling Hinchliffe, said:

These new laws are designed to make sure landholders know exactly what is happening on their land and when it is happening. They apply to all activities including hydraulic fracturing used in producing Coal Seam Gas, drilling, completing or abandoning a well or bore as well as seismic and other surveys associated with exploration or production. This will also help the government monitor the use of chemicals in the extraction of Coal Seam Gas in Queensland.

Just last week the Bligh government announced that it would expand its AgForward Coal Seam Gas Landholder Support Initiative into the Galilee and Bowen basins, which is an area I know quite well through my travels in the state of Queensland. It is a beautiful part of Far North Queensland. The $1.4 million injection is to assist landholders by providing them with the education and tools to properly negotiate with mining companies. The state Minister for Agriculture, Food and Regional Economies Tim Mulherin said:

We want landholders to have the knowledge and the information they need to negotiate the best agreement possible with CSG companies. Landholders and CSG companies will be working together for years to come, so it is important that the relationship is based on a firm foundation.

The minister said that this program had already been rolled out in the Surat region with four pilot sessions and 32 FarmShed workshops where the training is delivered to the 875 people taking part. The funding injection means another 20 workshops in the Galilee and Bowen basins can take place. These training sessions will assist land­holders in being able to successfully negotiate with a coal seam gas company before exploration or production takes place. Minister Mulherin said:

The aim of delivering mutually acceptable agreements is to minimise disruption to the landholder's enterprise, wherever possible, and to set out appropriate arrangements for land access and financial compensation. This is a key step in establishing a successful coexistence of the coal seam gas industry and the agriculture sector.

The state government has also introduced a strategic cropping land policy framework. This aims to produce a balance between protecting prime agricultural land while allowing for the development of the CSG industry. The Queensland Premier has also announced that CSG and mining activities will not be permitted within two kilometres of population centres over 1,000 people. These announcements from the state government prove that it is committed to ensuring that Queensland landholders are protected as well as enabling our mining industry to survive.

Investment decisions in Queensland's CSG to LNG industry taken since October 2010 total more than $45 billion. This industry will create jobs, particularly in regional communities, boost the economy at both a state and federal level and deliver billions in government revenue. It will lift Australia's export income and provide states and the Commonwealth government with a significant source of royalty and PRRT revenue. As a cleaner alternative to coal-fired power LNG is an essential part of the global solution to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and provides many jobs and opportunities in regional Australia. APPEA states that the CSG land-use footprint is much smaller than other energy sources and the land can be returned to its original use.

I took the opportunity some weeks ago, when APPEA was in the building, to have a presentation done by them and saw the before-and-after slides of what the effects of land management are as a result of them using this particular mining on properties. Virtually the end result is negligible. There is little or no impact on the particular land, certainly as seen from the photographs that were supplied. I made the point earlier that, in my travels to Roma on numerous occasions over the years, I have seen that firsthand.

The state government already has effective legislation in place ensuring protection for our landholders. They have introduced training programs so that landholders can effectively negotiate with coal seam gas companies before entering into agreements. They have introduced legislation to protect prime agricultural land under a strategic cropping land framework while allowing the gas industry to continue. We believe the right way forward is for the gas industry and landholders to effectively work together for the benefit of everyone. (Time expired)