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At Taree on Monday 31 October 2011
The Committee met at 11.20 a.m.


The Hon. R. L. Brown (Chair)
The Hon. J. Buckingham
The Hon. R. H. Colless
The Hon. G. J. Donnelly
The Hon. J. A. Gardiner
The Hon. S. MacDonald
The Hon. Dr P. R. Phelps
The Hon. P. T. Primrose


CHAIR: Welcome to the second hearing of the General Purpose Standing Committee No. 5 inquiry into coal seam gas, which is examining the environmental, economic and social impacts of coal seam gas activities in New South Wales.

Before commencing, I acknowledge the Biripi people, who are the traditional custodians of this land. I also pay respect to the elders, past and present, of the Biripi nation and I extend that respect to other Aboriginals present.

Today's hearing will begin with evidence from several local councils (Upper Hunter Shire Council; Great Lakes Council/Greater Taree City Council/Gloucester Shire Council).

Other witnesses to give evidence will include the NSW Farmers Associations Dairy Committee, MidCoast Water, Barrington-Gloucester-Stroud Preservation Alliance and Manning Alliance, as well as local residents and farmers (Bruce Robertson, Beef farmer; Steven Robinson, Psychiatrist, Tourism Advancing Gloucester).

Earlier this morning the Committee informally met with representatives of six local community groups.

Public hearings will also be held at Narrabri, Bowral and Parliament House, Sydney. The details of those hearings are on the Committee's website.

Before commencing, I acknowledge Mr Stephen Bromhead, member for Myall Lakes, who is seated in the public gallery. I will now make some brief comments about the procedures for today's hearing.

Copies of the Committee's broadcasting guidelines are available from Committee staff. Under these guidelines members of the media may film or record Committee members and witnesses. People in the public gallery should not be the primary focus of any filming or photography. I also remind media representatives that you must take responsibility for what you publish about the Committee's proceedings.

It is important to remember that parliamentary privilege does not apply to what witnesses say outside of their evidence at the hearing. I urge witnesses to be careful about any comments they may make to the media or to others after they complete giving evidence. Those comments would not be protected by parliamentary privilege if another person decided to take action for defamation.

Committee hearings are not intended to provide a forum for people to make adverse reflections upon others. The protection afforded to witnesses under parliamentary privilege should not be abused during these hearings. I therefore request witnesses to focus on the issues raised by the terms of reference of this inquiry.

Committee members are aware that people hold strong views about coal seam gas development. There is a great deal of interest in the issues being examined by this Committee; shown by the 1,000-plus submissions so far received.

The primary purpose of this hearing is to give individual witnesses an opportunity to give their evidence before the Committee. Although this is a public hearing, it is not an open forum for comment from the floor. The idea is to give the witnesses the best opportunity to have their say and for them to be heard in silence.

Only questions from the Committee and the evidence of witnesses are recorded in the transcript. Audience interruptions are not recorded and may make it more difficult for witnesses to fully express their views.

Witnesses are advised that any documents they wish to table should be provided to Committee members through the secretariat. A full transcript of what is said at today's hearing will be prepared by Hansard and will be available on the Committee's website in the next few days. I ask everyone to turn their mobile phones off.

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