Northern Rivers Mining
20 June 2013
Hansard Transcript Page: 21859
Speakers Acting-Speaker (Mr John Barilaro);
Parker Mr Jamie; Gulaptis Mr Christopher; Hoenig Mr Ron; George Mr Thomas;
Hartcher Mr Chris
Business Petition, PET
Discussion on Petition Signed by 10,000 or More Persons
ACTING-SPEAKER (Mr John Barilaro): Order! I welcome guests to the public
gallery, who I know are passionate about coal seam gas exploration. I ask them,
as guests in this place, to show respect to other visitors, staff and members of
Parliament. Commentary, applause or jeering from the public gallery will not be
tolerated during the debate. I ask visitors to follow the rules.
Mr JAMIE PARKER (Balmain) [4.35 p.m.]: I support the petition of northern rivers
residents opposing coal seam gas, gas from tight sands and unconventional gas.
acknowledge the campaign and supporters in the gallery, including those from
Lock the Gate Alliance, which is the organiser of this petition, Carlos Beres
Silva, Ian Gaard, Michelle Cullin, Isabel McIntosh, Jacinta Green and the many
others who cannot be here but who helped to gather support for this very
The almost 12,000 petitioners have united in their request
that the northern rivers region of New South Wales, encompassing all river
catchments from the Clarence River to the Tweed, be declared a coal seam gas,
tight sands and unconventional gas mining free zone.
They also request that the
current licences and/or leases that allow any such activity be revoked, and that
no such new licences or leases be granted. I welcome the Minister for Resources
and Energy in the Chamber.
Coal seam gas has no social licence with local
farmers, business people and residents across the political spectrum who are
uniting to highlight the dangers of this industry to water, biodiversity and
This matter is way beyond party labels, with people from all
political parties and independent people supporting this inspiring petition.
is fantastic to see such a strong consensus emerge in steadfast opposition to
this damaging industry, which will leave a lasting legacy of pollution in our
river catchments and in our air, above and below the ground.
First, it is
important to address the misconceptions. In their attempts to force coal seam
gas mining on communities in New South Wales, both the industry and government
are pushing the idea that New South Wales is facing a gas shortage. That is
simply not true.
For example, BHP Billiton President Mike Yeager has
acknowledged that the company has plenty of gas for sale to supply these closed
He is quoted as saying:
"…the Bass Strait field still has a large amount of gas that's undeveloped," Mr
"We have a lot of gas in eastern Australia that's available. It's
more important to let the citizens of Victoria and New South Wales, and to some
degree, you know, even Queensland … there's plenty of gas to supply those
provinces for—you know, indefinitely."
There is no need for us to continue expanding this damaging industry—communities
do not want it and the State does not need it.
The coal seam gas industry's
propaganda clearly is not working, with growing community opposition, including
a poll yesterday that showed that 83 per cent of respondents are happy to pay
more for gas to keep coal seam gas out of the northern rivers region.
86 per cent of the people polled said that landowners should have the right to
refuse access to their land for coal seam gas exploration.
The truth is the gas
is for export, which is why Metgasco also wants to build a pipeline north
through the Lions Way and a section of World Heritage listed Border Ranges.
Another misconception is that this industry creates local jobs. It may bring a
few jobs but the claim is untrue, especially when one considers the risk from
this industry to other sectors in the community, particularly farming and
The people of northern rivers have said "no".
They also know that there
are just a few shareholders of Metgasco,
Dart or Red Sky Energy in the northern
rivers. The vast majority of shareholders do not live in the local community—in
fact, many do not even live in Australia.
The people of the northern rivers are
to be subjected to an industrialised gas field from which almost all the profits
will be sent elsewhere.
Evidence suggests that devastating and long-term damage
created by this industry continues to grow, and residents are right to unite
The Government has already openly acknowledged the dangers of coal
seam gas and has imposed a two-kilometre exclusion zone around residential
The Government has also protected horse studs and viticulture, but that
protection is not available to farmers or to the people of the northern rivers.
Yet it is available to many others in our community.
We know that coal seam gas threatens biodiversity, water resources, and
agricultural and sustainable industries.
We must safeguard our environment for
the future instead of allowing powerful mining companies to exploit our
resources and leave a negative legacy.
I will mention the 10,000 plus voices
behind this petition.
They include organisations such as the Northern Rivers
Guardians, Githerbal Tribal Group Original People, Ngarokowol Original
People—Uncle Henry Boyd, Kyogle Group Against Gas, Girls Against Gas, Knitting
Nannas Against Gas, Keerrong Gas Squad, Stop CSG Fracking Lismore, Casino and
Drake, Coast and Yaragir Alliance, Clarence Against Gas, Tweed Lock the Gate,
Region Wide Gasfield Free Communities, Iluka Gasfield Free Communities, Northern
Rivers Regional Alliance, Nimbin Environment Centre, Casino Environment Centre,
Byron Gasfield Free Communities, Dunoon Gasfield Free Communities and Whian
Whian Gasfield Free Communities.
This petition contains the signatures of more than 10,000 persons.
This is the
second petition presented on coal seam gas because communities are united
against it. I hope the Government addresses the substance of this petition. What
this Government does when it knows it is on the ropes—for example, the petroleum
bill, which it cannot get through the upper House, and the wheat bill, which
does not provide protections—is focus on the politics, not the issues.
debate around the science and the impacts on local communities. Whether one is a
member of The Nationals, The Greens or the Labor Party, communities do not want
coal seam gas in their area.
This petition highlights that fact. The petition
should focus the Government on the issues, not the politics, so it protects the
environment and our communities.
Mr CHRISTOPHER GULAPTIS (Clarence) [4.40 p.m.]: Coal seam gas is a big issue in
the northern rivers region and in my electorate.
I am neither for nor against
coal seam gas. My position, and that of The Nationals, is that we have to
regulate the industry to ensure it does not impact on our land or water.
South Wales, 1.1 million people rely on gas as a source of energy.
We have a
responsibility to ensure that those people can access gas at a fair price
without compromising our environment.
That is the approach the Government has
taken. I am somewhat confused about the approach of The Greens and the former Labor Government on this matter.
One minute they are for it and the next minute
they are against it; one part of the party is for it and the other part of the
party is against it.
They have more positions on this issue than there are in
the Kama Sutra.
When Dr John Kaye came to the northern rivers area, leading the
charge to stop TransGrid, he was reported in the local newspaper as saying:
The Metgasco find shows that TransGrid has failed to conduct a rigorous analysis
of the need for the Lismore-Bonshaw high voltage powerline.
The potential for
local gas generation should be factored into any planning for the Far North
Coast's energy strategy.
The report goes on to say:
TransGrid's planning dismissed any role for gas, renewable energy or demand
management as a solution to the region's future electricity needs.
Mr Jamie Parker: Who said that?
Mr CHRISTOPHER GULAPTIS: Dr John Kaye said that. Later, when he was speaking in
the House about electricity generation, he said:
Coal must be replaced by renewable and low-emission options, such as wind and
solar energy as well as high-efficiency gas generation, and the distribution
networks need to be redesigned to facilitate more efficient embedded generation
options and incorporate smart load control systems.
He went on to say:
International best practice is in favour of high-efficiency gas-fired
tri-generation systems that exploit the waste heat from the generation process
to both heat and cool water.
That is just one extract from Hansard. Another Hansard extract shows that Dr
John Kaye asked a question of the then Minister for Energy, the Hon. John
My question is directed to the Minister for Energy. Has the Minister received a
letter from the Premier requesting that he "develop a comprehensive energy
policy with a strong emphasis on clean energy"? Can the Minister confirm that
either or both of the new baseload power generator proposals at Mount Piper and
Bayswater B are now to be restricted to be gas-fired only and not coal?
Guess what the Hon. John Robertson said?
I will cut to the chase, given the time
constraints. He said:
What I will say is that gas is obviously a more competitive source of fuel for a
prospective power station due to the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme—which is
another reason why the Government supports it.
What is the position of those opposite?
ACTING-SPEAKER (Mr John Barilaro): Order! I direct the Serjeant-at-Arms to
remove from the public gallery the gentleman who was interjecting. I remind
visitors in the gallery of my earlier warning.
[The person interjecting was removed by the Serjeant-at-Arms.]
Mr CHRISTOPHER GULAPTIS: Let us look at mining under the former State Labor
To get a clearer understanding of Labor's position on coal seam gas,
one has only to look at the New South Wales Trade and Investment Resources and
More than 50 petroleum exploration licences were issued by the
former State Labor Government.
Sixteen of those licences were issued when the
Federal member for Page, Janelle Saffin, was a member of the New South Wales
Three of the licences are within her electorate of Page, and she
promotes this petition. She helped to create the problem and now she has jumped
on the anti-coal seam gas bandwagon as part of her Federal election campaign.
That is what this is all about.
At the same time as she is opposing coal seam
gas in New South Wales, her Federal environment Minister, Tony Burke, approved a
coal seam gas mine at Gloucester.
This is at a time that Janelle Saffin is
jumping up and down protesting. While she was opposing coal seam gas, the then
Federal Minister for Resources and Energy, Martin Ferguson, released the Federal
Government's energy white paper saying,
"All jurisdictions must work to remove
impediments to the timely development of domestic gas supply."
While the Federal member for Page was
opposing coal seam gas mining, her State Labor colleagues—colleagues she sat
with in this Parliament, former mining Ministers
starring daily in Underbelly 4 at the Independent Commission Against Corruption.
There is a good chance there will be a sequel, Underbelly 5. That is how Labor
and The Greens work. [Time expired.]
Mr RON HOENIG (Heffron) [4.45 p.m.]: On behalf of the Opposition I congratulate
the residents of the northern rivers region on bringing this very important
matter to the attention of the House. I know it is a matter of considerable
effort to collect a petition of this size.
It is the voice of the people that forces
governments and oppositions to make proper, realistic assessments of decisions
that have been made.
The community's voice was heard by the
O'Farrell Government when it made its decision recently in relation to coal seam
gas and it was the voice of the people in March 2011 that caused the Labor Party
to change its position.
The Leader of the Opposition made it very clear when he
… we got coal seam gas wrong and it is time to set things right.
The Leader of the Opposition went on to
As leader, I am drawing a line in the sand
and I do so again today. That is why I have personally directed Labor to change
its position on coal seam gas exploration.
Labor's new policy can be expressed
very simply—it's farmers and local communities first, coal seam gas second.
food and water first, coal seam gas second. Labor is listening and Labor is
That is the position the Labor Party has
put on the record through its leader, and I support it. As a common lawyer I say
in relation to mining and mining licences that there is something fundamentally
wrong with a system that allows a licence to private organisations to walk onto
Police are not allowed to do so. Officers of the State cannot
do so without warrant and, only about 20 years ago the High Court, in Plenty v
Dillon, reasserted that age-old policy that a man's house is his castle.
I know the argument that the minerals are
owned by the people of New South Wales. However, we need to resolve that
One of the reasons the public has lost faith in relation not only to
coal seam gas mining but also to so many issues in New South Wales is that it
has lost faith in the planning system and the integrity of the planning system.
The white paper is no solution, part 3A is
no solution, and the Labor Party failed what was once a very good Act in 1979.
Consequently, I say to members of the House that things are changing because of
the work of the residents of the northern rivers region.
Mr THOMAS GEORGE (Lismore—The Deputy-Speaker) [4.48 p.m.]: This is a very
emotional subject. I recognise some of the people in the gallery who are from my
electorate. I thank them for travelling all the way to Sydney.
Since coming to government we have had the
job of trying to bring this industry under control. For 16 years those on the
other side of the House took the money for the licences and ran. They have now
changed their story. The O'Farrell Government has been left with the job of
For the information of those in the gallery
who may not know, I am the member for Lismore. A lot of these contentious issues
affect my electorate and that of the member for Clarence.
I have never had one farmer or landowner
who has exploratory wells on their property come through my door and say, "Get
them off my property."
I stand to be corrected, and perhaps the
Minister can confirm this, but I doubt whether one person in New South Wales who
has exploratory wells on their property wants them removed.
I have always maintained that we need to protect agricultural land, the
environment and the community. It is all very well for the member for Bankstown
to criticise but she has never come to the North Coast to take a look.
The member for Balmain tabled this petition
but he omitted one group that has consistently called my office: the Knitting
Nannas Against Gas.
The Government is fully aware of the coal
seam gas issues we have in this State and its proposed policies have not been
finalised. We are continuing to work on the issues.
We have listened to the communities that
have raised their concerns with the individual members around the State. These
policies are being introduced to try to control the industry so that it can work
in conjunction with the community and landowners. Indeed, the Government will
continue to work on this issue, unlike those on the other side.
Mr CHRIS HARTCHER (Terrigal—Minister for Resources and Energy, Special Minister
of State, and Minister for the Central Coast) [4.51 p.m.]: I seek leave to make
a contribution to debate.
ACTING-SPEAKER (Mr John Barilaro): Order! The Minister is seeking leave. Is
leave granted? Leave is granted.
Mr CHRIS HARTCHER: If one member objects leave is not granted. Let the record
show that the member for Sydney objected.
ACTING-SPEAKER (Mr John Barilaro): Order! The people seated in the public
gallery have travelled a long way to hear this debate today. I will ask the
question once more: Is leave granted? Leave is granted.
Mr CHRIS HARTCHER (Terrigal—Minister for Resources and Energy, Special Minister
of State, and Minister for the Central Coast) [4.52 p.m.], by leave: I have been
the Minister for Resources and Energy for 2½ years.
In that time I have received
only one question on coal seam gas from the member for Balmain. I have received
zero questions from the member for Heffron, who glories in the title of shadow
Minister for Energy.
When in government, the New South
Wales Labor Party granted 44 exploration licences, covering 30 per cent of New
South Wales. The Coalition Government has not granted a single exploration
In the nine months that John Robertson was Minister for Energy eight
licences were granted or renewed.
The Labor Party granted licences over
metropolitan Sydney, urbanised areas, without a single environmental, water or
land requirement. Which party gave its preferences to the New South Wales Labor
Party to get elected in 2003? Which party gave its preferences to the New South
Wales Labor Party to get elected in 1999?
The Greens were responsible for putting
Labor into power. How many questions about coal seam gas were asked by The
Greens in the period from 2003 to 2011? The answer is none.
Mr Jamie Parker: We did not have a member in the lower House, so how could we
ask a question?
Mr CHRIS HARTCHER: The Greens had members in the upper House. The hypocrisy of
those who sit opposite on this matter is extraordinary.
For those opposite to
now pretend to be looking after the farmers or other interested parties in New
South Wales is a total joke.
The O'Farrell Government imposed a moratorium that
lasted 18 months and it has also undertaken a major review.
In September 2012 we had a list of 27
requirements. Those requirements were regarded then as the most stringent in
On 19 February 2013 the Government expanded and augmented those
requirements with even more stringent ones. The O'Farrell Government has not
granted a single licence.
It has also imposed the strictest regime
and as a result Planet Gas, Metgasgo and
Dart Energy have withdrawn from New South
In this State 1.1 million customers and
31,000 businesses are dependent upon gas. New South Wales produces only 5 per
cent of its gas, so it is facing big challenges. The Government will respond to
those challenges but it will also protect our farmland, water and environment.
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