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Monday, 1 December 2008
Page: 11919

Mr COULTON (5:02 PM) —The member for New England raises a point about the impact of mining on the Liverpool Plains. On that point he receives no disagreement from me. The impact of mining on some of the most productive agricultural land in the world is something that has to be avoided at all costs. I might point out that I voted for his amendment when it came through the House the first time despite the fact that at no time did he contact me, ask me for support or indicate in anyway that he was doing that. On good faith, I supported his amendment.

Upon reflection and on looking further into it, I feel that I cannot support his amendment now because basically it will not help the people who are under pressure on the Liverpool Plains at the moment. The licence to explore has already been issued and at the moment the process is currently underway in that area. As I speak, a group of farmers are blockading the entrance to a property on the Liverpool Plains in protest at what BHP are doing.

I am concerned that the real issue, which is that the planning process for mining in New South Wales is under the control of the New South Wales government, is getting clouded here. What would clear this issue up once and for all would be for the New South Wales government to agree to, and for the federal government to co-fund, an independent hydrological study into the Liverpool Plains so that a full picture of the situation with the interconnecting aquifers underneath that plain can be thoroughly assessed. I fully support that point. I am terribly disappointed that it was indicated prior to the election that an agreement had been made and somewhere during the process of election last year that did not come off, because the people in the Liverpool Plains want assistance now. While I agree very much with the intention of the member, I do not believe that the change in the amendment will allow that to take place.

Mr Windsor interjecting

Mr COULTON —The problem is that the member for New England somehow lifted the expectations of the people in the Caroona area, an area that is divided between his electorate and mine, and there was a great expectation that somehow his amendment was going to save the day when in actual fact his amendment was more about grandstanding. The people who are suffering are the good farmers on the Liverpool Plains. While it pains me considerably that these people are suffering as such, it is my duty as their representative in Canberra to actually support legislation that will benefit them. Unfortunately, the member for New England’s amendment does not do that. I will reiterate: what the people on the Liverpool Plains want in the Caroona area and now the Watermark area is a hydrological study. I believe that we should have a study of the entire Namoi Basin on the flood plain area to assess the situation before any further exploration or mining takes place.