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Monday, 10 November 2008
Page: 92


Senator MILNE (9:31 PM) —by leave—I move Australian Green amendments (6) to (11) on sheet 5603 revised:

(6)    Schedule 1, item 169, page 221 (line 9), before “site closing certificate”, insert “provisional”.

(7)    Schedule 1, item 169, page 221 (line 17), before “site closing certificate”, insert “provisional”.

(8)    Schedule 1, item 169, page 221 (after line 23), after section 249CZGA, insert:

   249CZGAB  Duration of provisional site closing certificate

         (1)    A provisional site closing certificate remains in force in relation to an identified greenhouse gas storage formation until a site closing certificate has been issued in relation to that formation.

         (2)    Without limiting the liability of the applicant for the site, the applicant (or any transferee under section 249CZH) remains liable for the matters specified in the statement made under paragraph 249CZGAA(1A)(a) while the provisional site closing certificate remains in force.

   249CZGAC  Issue of site closing certificate

         (1)    If:

              (a)    a provisional site closing certificate has been issued in relation to an identified greenhouse gas storage formation under section 249CZGA; and

              (b)    a period of not less than 20 years has elapsed since the provisional site closing certificate was issued;

the responsible Commonwealth Minister may decide to issue a site closing certificate in relation to that formation.

         (2)    In deciding whether to issue a site closing certificate under subsection (1), the responsible Commonwealth Minister must have regard to the matters set out in section 249CZF in relation to a decision to issue a pre-certificate notice.

(9)    Schedule 1, item 169, page 222 (line 2), omit “249CZGA”, substitute “249CZGAC”.

(10)  Schedule 1, item 274B, page 370 (line 26), omit “may”, substitute “must”.

(11)  Schedule 1, item 274B, page 372 (after line 29), at the end of section 435B, add:

         (3)    The responsible Commonwealth Minister must:

              (a)    seek and have regard to the advice of an expert advisory committee on matters of site selection, licensing, regulation, monitoring of leakage and environmental impact and site closures; and

              (b)    publish the advice given by the panel.

I draw attention to the fact that we are dealing with sheet 5603 revised, so these are slightly different amendments, in terms of the expert advisory committees in particular—just to make sure that people are aware of that. In terms of the provisional site closing certificates, it is quite clear that the Greens want a longer period than that which has been proposed by the opposition. However, we recognise the opposition’s amendment to 15 years. We would have liked to make it longer, but we recognise where the government and opposition are coming from in relation to that. We would have liked to see the provisional site closing certificate remain in force until the final site closing certificate was issued, rather than the other way around, as has been proposed, but we accept that.

What I really want to speak about are the expert advisory committees. I note that the government has taken note of the concerns of the Senate committee in relation to expert advisory committees and note that there have been government amendments in relation to that. But my real concern is that, in the amendments put forward by the government and supported by the opposition, there is no requirement for the responsible Commonwealth minister to have an expert advisory committee on matters relating to site selection, licensing, regulation, and monitoring of leakage and environmental impact.

Earlier, at the closure of the second reading debate, in the summation of the government’s comments, I heard Senator McLucas say that the reason there is not to be an expert advisory committee in relation to monitoring of leakage and environmental impact and site closure is that that comes under the EPBC Act. Nobody in this chamber is under any illusion that the EPBC Act actually protects the environment. It is totally up to the discretion of the minister. It depends on what the minister chooses to do, and that has been the fundamental flaw with the act from the beginning.

The issue for me is that there needs to be an expert advisory committee whose advice the Commonwealth minister must seek and have regard to in relation to issues of monitoring. Once the liquefied carbon dioxide has been pumped into storage, there must be an expert committee looking at the science and the technology and advising on the monitoring. I would like to know—and I asked this earlier—who is going to be monitoring the plugs under the sea for some of these sites, who is going to be keeping up with the latest science from around the world.

We are asking people in other countries to trust us about how well we are going to sign off our injection sites. Would we necessarily trust other countries to undertake the same due diligence with theirs? I would not, and I would not expect to. I would expect, just like with everything else around the world, some countries to have rigorous processes in place and some not to. That is the reality of the international environment. The sad thing is that we all suffer the consequences if these storage sites leak, whether they are off China, Russia, Australia, Britain or anywhere else.

So it is imperative that we set up, and the Commonwealth minister seeks and has regard to the advice of, an expert advisory committee on matters of site selection, licensing, regulation, monitoring of leakage and environmental impact, and site closures and that we publish the advice given by the panel. I do not think that is an unreasonable thing to ask for. The other expert advisory committees relate to matters of interest to the corporates and others, but there is no expert advisory committee on the environmental and ongoing impacts of these storage sites. It is imperative that the minister not only has such a panel but seeks its advice and publishes that advice so the community can see what the latest science and expert advice is in relation to these storage sites and their impacts.