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Wednesday, 19 June 2013
Page: 3356

Senator BIRMINGHAM (South Australia) (11:27): I do not intend to detain the chamber for terribly long. There has been a lengthy debate on this bill, and it is unusual to make a contribution on the third reading, but it is important to make clear that, whilst the coalition has significant concerns about the way the government and the Greens have conducted this debate—grave concerns about the application of the gag and the guillotine, and concerns about some of the technical aspects of this bill which we have debated and sought to move amendments to—we nonetheless acknowledge, as I said way back in my contribution on the second reading and as Senator Joyce just emphasised, that there are genuine community concerns that surround the issue of coal seam gas development and large coalmining development, and what their impact may be on water resources. We understand the imperative to protect our water resources and we want to make sure that in the future they are appropriately protected and the right safeguards are in place.

That is why the coalition ultimately supports this bill and will ultimately support the passage of the third reading of this bill. In the future, in government—as is our declared policy—we will to try to streamline assessment and approval processes to ensure that we minimise or eliminate, ideally, the duplication of costs between the Commonwealth and the states when it comes to environmental assessments. But that will in no way undermine our commitment to ensuring that the water resources of Australia are properly protected when it comes to how mining and exploration activities are undertaken.

I want to make it very clear, lest there be any doubt or any attempts by others to misinterpret the coalition's stance on this legislation, that despite our misgivings around the political and tactical handling of this legislation by those opposite in the government and the Greens, and despite vehement opposition to the amendment made by Mr Windsor that attempts to block any way of eliminating duplication and excessive costs to environmental regulation, we support the third reading of this bill, support the development of the new water trigger, and will make sure should we be elected to government that it is applied in a robust way and in a way that ensures that our water resources are appropriately protected but, hopefully, also in a way that eliminates the duplicative costs that we see from state and Commonwealth overlapping of environmental regulation. With that, I ultimately commend the bill to the chamber.

Question agreed to.

Bill read a third time.