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Wednesday, 27 October 2010
Page: 931

Senator CONROY (Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy and Minister Assisting the Prime Minister on Digital Productivity) (4:01 PM) —In question time yesterday Senator Bob Brown asked me a question about coal seam gas projects. I seek leave to incorporate in Hansard some further information in relation to his question.

Leave granted.

The additional information read as follows—

In Question Time yesterday I offered to provide further detail to Senator Brown to answer some specific questions he raised relating to the approval of two Coal Seam Gas projects in Queensland.

In his question, he asked “Who will monitor the 300 conditions placed by the environment minister on these projects? Will it be from his office or somebody else’s? What will be the cost of that monitoring and who will pay for it? What will be the penalties for these corporations if they breach those conditions?

I can now furnish further information:

The Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities is responsible for enforcement of and compliance with the conditions imposed by the Minister.

This may include reviewing plans provided by the companies to ensure they are comprehensive and robust, site inspections, seeking expert advice where necessary, independent testing, acting on issues raised by the community including landowners.

The projects may also be subject to third party audit to ensure that the companies are complying with the approval conditions.

Penalties for non-compliance can include varying the conditions, strengthening the conditions, suspending or revoking the approval (in whole or in part), civil penalties of up to $1.1 million or criminal penalties including imprisonment.

In his first supplementary, the Senator asked: what will be the cost to the farmers of the region in terms of compromised prime agricultural land, other agricultural land and productivity? Who is making that assessment and how will the recompense be paid?

I can now furnish further information:

The State of Queensland has primary responsibility for the regulation of financial compensation to landowners directly affected by coal seam gas activity. I am advised that the companies must negotiate with landowners or leaseholders, and pay compensation for infrastructure located on their land. This can include the payment by the companies of fees to landowners, as negotiated between them. Under State regulatory requirements, the companies must also make good impacts that occur for water users, which may include offsets or rehabilitation of existing bores.

Economic impacts on regional areas, including on agricultural land, were considered by the Minister in making his decision to approve the projects.

In his second supplementary, the Senator asked: “Why was the announcement made late on Friday afternoon?”

I can now furnish further information:

On 30 September 2010 the Minister extended the statutory due date to 22 October to allow more time to consider the proposals.

The Minister was advised to make the announcement after the financial markets closed in Australia, but before the financial markets opened in London, given the parent company of one of the companies seeking approval is registered on the UK stock exchange.