CSG WIN FOR FARMERS AND RURAL COMMUNITIES
19 June 2013 - WATER has finally been given the status it deserves in the
assessment of coal-seam gas and coal mining developments with the so-called
‘water trigger’ amendment to national environmental law passing the Senate today.
The amendment to the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act
means water becomes a new matter of national environmental significance, making
it a requirement of law that the federal Environment Minister assess CSG and
coal mining developments that could have an impact on water resources.
Independent Lyne MP Rob Oakeshott has welcomed the bill passing its final hurdle
– the Senate, despite the delaying tactics of the National Party.
“The ‘water trigger’ is now law. It’s been a long time coming, and I thank my
community, Gloucester and Taree in particular, for lobbying for this important change,” Mr Oakeshott said.
“I also thank New England MP Tony Windsor and Caroona Coal Action Group’s Tim
Duddy for their work, and the BGSP Alliance and GRiP in Gloucester, the Manning
Clean Water Action Group and the Manning Alliance for their support.
“Today, rural and regional communities can celebrate a hard-fought win, which
has taken many years, despite the best efforts of vested interests and the major
The new law extends federal powers to the CSG and coal mining approval process.
Until now, the states have had jurisdiction over planning approvals, unless a
development had the potential to impact on nationally listed threatened species or heritage.
The change to the Act means in a new matter of national environmental
significance has been added to the list – CSG and large coal mining development
which has, or is likely to have, a significant impact on a water resource.
“The amendment to national environment law, along with the scientific research
and bioregional studies being undertaken by the Independent Expert Scientific
Committee, give our farmers and rural communities their best protection yet
against the potential damage to waterways and farm lands from CSG and coal mining activities,” Mr Oakeshott said.
Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation
Amendment Bill 2013
21 March 2013 - Mr OAKESHOTT (Lyne) (12:09): I acknowledge that we have a time
frame so I will do what I can to keep my speech under five minutes.
acknowledge many who have come from the apology event in the Great Hall this
morning, and sincerely hope that today makes a very big difference for
many—certainly for a better Australia.
And I sincerely hope that this legislation makes for a better Australia, as
This is an important reform that has been driven largely by the member for
New England, who is next to me, and by many in this chamber, across party lines,
who are concerned about the status specifically of water, but more broadly about
the place of ecosystems and landscapes in this century, when reforms will be
ever more important in some of the great challenges of our time.
If the population around the world does not change we will need to be producing
twice as much food on half the landscape with half the environmental damage.
That is a very difficult and unanswered equation that this legislation will
hopefully play a small part in helping to start to answer, from an Australian
It will allow landscape and ecosystem services to be recognised
more in state and federal law.
I am disappointed that it has come to the point
that the Commonwealth has had to use the fairly blunt instrument of legislation,
but state land laws are failing to recognise some of the very real challenges
faced at a community level and the importance of water to the overall landscape
and community amenity.
I want to raise some issues that are not addressed by this bill.
population health, which is given a low planning value and does, over time, need
to be given a greater value in the planning process in terms of the cost
benefit—for example in the cardiovascular impacts of some of the decisions made
in planning with regard to large-scale open cut mining.
As well, what is not in this bill, but I hope is addressed over time, is the
status of local government planning powers and, by extension, community
Communities are completely disengaged, disenfranchised and
frustrated by the anomalies in our legislation that have approvals of mining and
coal seam gas overriding many issues in local government planning law.
I have an
example in my local community of Gloucester, where an area, through community
consultation, has been defined under local government law as an area of scenic
protection, yet there is an approval before the state authorities to put in a
large open-cut coalmine.
That is being done under legislation that overpowers
that local government scenic protection determination. That is an anomaly that,
over time, I hope is addressed.
Another example relates to recent approvals. The Gloucester Valley, only weeks
ago had an approval of 110 gas wells. It has all been very public that at the
very same time that one in Western Sydney was removed from planning the
Gloucester project was approved.
This was done only one month ago. It was done
only days before the New South Wales government put in place their two-kilometre
exclusion zone. Therefore, quite rightly, the 2,500 people living in Gloucester
will see the passage of this legislation as a bitter-sweet moment.
I urge the company involved and the state approval authorities to reconsider
some of those recent approvals, when we are still developing the law in this
chamber and at a state level—when the energy rush is on, yet the laws are
immature and proving to be ad hoc.
I urge the state and the company involved in
the Gloucester approval to reconsider in light of the new laws of the land, at
both a state and federal level. Hopefully, they will reflect on that.
I am not one to go down the path of retrospective legislation and to try and get
this House to support that, as difficult and frustrating as that is, with the
recent approval on my patch, but I will urge with all my power that the state
and the individual company reconsider.
That all words after "That" be omitted with a view to substituting the following
"whilst not declining to give the bill a second reading, the House:
(a) deep concern in several communities, such as the Gloucester Valley, where
approvals have been made in the middle of recent immature and ad hoc planning
laws being changed or updated;
(b) the ongoing failure of state planning laws that have forced the Commonwealth
to become more involved in land law, and that the Commonwealth Minister and this
Parliament continue to advocate to all states and territories the importance and
value or ecosystem and landscape management over the coming century;
(c) the anomalies in various planning laws that disempower communities,
particularly the way various provisions in various mining acts override local
government planning powers; and
(d) the low planning value currently placed on the cost/benefit of population
2. strongly urges companies involved, and Governments involved, to reconsider
some of these questionable recent approvals based on the four reasons above."
The DEPUTY SPEAKER ( Dr Leigh ): Is the amendment seconded?
Mr Windsor: I second the amendment.
The DEPUTY SPEAKER: We need a seconder who has not spoken, the Clerk informs me.
Since the member for New England has spoken in the debate, he is unable to
second the amendment. The House is seeking a seconder for the member for Lyne's
Mr Wilkie: I second the amendment and reserve my right to speak.
Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation
Amendment Bill 2013 (PDF)
WATER BILL PASSES FIRST TEST
26 March 2013 - CHANGES to federal environment laws that aim to protect water
resources from coal-seam gas and coal mining activities have passed the House of
Independent Lyne MP Rob Oakeshott said the amendment to the Environment
Protection and Biodiversity Conservation (EPBC) Act would make coal seam gas (CSG)
and large coal mining developments which “have, or are likely to have, a
significant impact on a water resource” a new matter of national environmental
The legislation, should it pass through the Senate, will not affect stage one of
AGL’s coal-seam gas project in Gloucester, however, it will apply to stages two
“I’m bitterly disappointed NSW and the Commonwealth failed to reach an agreement
on CSG protocols before the first stage of the AGL project was approved,” Mr
“It may have spared Gloucester and the Manning a lot of anguish.
“However, I am optimistic this piece of legislation will do what NSW has refused
to do and that is stop CSG projects if the science shows it will have a
significant impact on water resources.”
Mr Oakeshott thanked the Gloucester community in particular for their strong
advocacy on behalf of the entire valley.
“This critical reform in an antiquated and out-of-touch approvals process
wouldn’t have happened without the informed advocacy of community groups such as
the Barrington-Gloucester-Stroud Preservation Alliance, GRiP, Manning Clean
Water Action Group and the Manning Alliance,” Mr Oakeshott said.
OAKESHOTT WELCOMES TIGHTER CSG SCRUTINY
12 March 2013 - INDEPENDENT Lyne MP Rob Oakeshott says he is pleased water will
be recognised in law as a trigger for federal government assessment of coal-seam
gas and large coal mine developments.
The proposed change to the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation
Amendment Bill includes water resources as a new matter of national
“It’s a bitter-sweet moment for my own community of Gloucester, where AGL’s
110-gas well project was approved by the federal minister just a month ago
because, under the existing Act, his consideration was limited to threatened
species,” Mr Oakeshott said.
“If there is good news for Gloucester it’s that stages two to five of the
project, another 220 wells, will have to be referred to the federal environment
minister for consideration.
“The federal minister will also need to consider the advice of the Independent
Expert Scientific Committee.
“I am pleased we are now seeing formal progress on a legislative trigger for
water resources in the EPBC Act that will in the future have greater regard for
the potential impact of CSG and coal mine developments on water.
“It’s a significant legislative step, but also a significant win for farmers and
for rural and regional Australians who have been fighting to have their voice
heard above that of vested interests.
“On Sunday night I attended a public meeting in Gloucester that was called at
short notice and was attended by more than 200 locals.
“CSG is already having an impact on communities such as Gloucester and none of
it is positive.
“I’m confident this latest amendment to the Act will deliver the safeguards that
farmers and communities such as mine have been looking for,” Mr Oakeshott said.
Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Amendment
(Independent Expert Scientific Committee on Coal Seam Gas and Large Coal Mining
Development) Bill 2012
29 May 2012 - Mr OAKESHOTT (Lyne) (17:34): I support this Environment Protection
and Biodiversity Conservation Amendment (Independent Expert Scientific Committee
on Coal Seam Gas and Large Coal Mining Development) Bill 2012. I do no support
it for plain-English reasons.
I support it for making a substantial contribution
to better outcomes in natural resource management—productive land protection and
establishing science at the centre of planning processes for land use.
I acknowledge Minister Burke in the chair and the work that he has done, along
with the member for New England, in getting this bill before the House. This is
one of the key agreements to come out of a pretty brutal debate around mineral
resource rent taxes and their worth or otherwise.
Three agreements between me,
the member for New England and government came out of those negotiations. This
was one of them, alongside the establishment of a cabinet food, soil and water
It considers, through the GST distribution review, mining royalties
and how they relate to and talk to tax reform generally and looks at the
relationship between the Commonwealth and the state.
We are still waiting for
the supplementary papers from the GST distribution committee to see progress on
Of the three agreements, this one is the first. This one is very important and
talks to the heart of many communities. They are very vocal at the moment and
are deeply concerned.
They have fears, real or perceived, about the energy gold
rush and its impact, both short and long term, on communities as a consequence
of that. In my local electorate I have one particular community, the Gloucester
Basin, which is being challenged by both coal seam gas and large-scale mining.
Mining has been in Gloucester for some time on a relatively small scale.
Gloucester has mainly been a farming community. It is a community that is at the
head of the Manning River. It has about 300 tributaries in and around the
beautiful Gloucester Basin that is at the bottom of the Barrington Range and the
Barrington Tops. For environmental, lifestyle and food production reasons many
people choose Gloucester as their home.
They are deeply challenged, therefore,
by proposals with regard to coal seam gas in the area. In the last couple of
years, 110 wells have been proposed, with more to come. Of greater concern is a
large-scale coalmine, 1½ kilometres from the centre of town. For local council
planning purposes, the location of this particular mine is, on local council
papers, for local environmental planning purposes.
So there is a clash between
state government land use planning of extracting a resource if it is there as
the basic principle of state based land use planning and a council planning
document that says, 'We're going to have a bit of development here, but here is
an environmentally protected area.'
The situation with completely opposite
outcomes proposed by the council and the state is unsatisfactory and has the
community deeply concerned.
The Gloucester community probably has about 2½ thousand people in it and nearly
half the community turned out on a very cold evening to express their concerns
about the New South Wales 'strategic' land use planning changes.
A very strong
view was expressed that even the new changes under the new government are
completely missing the point and are really just embedding the problems that
were experienced under the old regime in New South Wales, where, at the heart of
planning was the view, as I said before, that if there is a resource it is the
obligation of the Crown to extract it.
For many communities, that is not what is
at the heart of community and, for the long-term economic interests of
Australia, that is not sensible nor strategic policy. Many are now seeing that
with an expected nine billion people by 2050 there are threats around the world
with regard to food security but for Australia enormous opportunities in food
Whilst there is a recognition of this energy gold rush of the
moment, the long-term story for Australia will, quite rightly, see a very strong
rebirth of agriculture as an important contribution to the region around us and
an important contribution to our standard of living through national economic
So we cannot 'cook' those productive lands to achieve a short-term
benefit and do ourselves damage in the long term—that is the broad principle and
That is not to deny that there may be locations where mining expansion, coal
seam gas, may have a place, but that is where the Commonwealth kicks in, that is
where this particular bill kicks in, in making sure that those decisions are not
made by vested interests, not made by political interests and not made by a
state government of any political persuasion that has the mentality of, 'If
there's a resource, we must extract it.'
It is all about science, the best
possible science we can find, and making decisions with regard to impacts on
some pretty sensitive regions, not only the water but also the landscape and
also—I am pleased about what we will see over time—issues of public health.
these things need to be taken into real and material consideration in making
decisions about how we deal with this very sensitive clash between productive
lands and the rush for energy.
I am very pleased that we are now seeing an independent scientific expert panel
being put at the heart of decision making. I am also pleased to see the very
sensible engagement with the states, and a key part of this is the development
of national partnership agreements with the state.
As we all know, from a
Commonwealth perspective, land use and land use planning has predominantly been
They are effectively the owners of the land but the underlying
principle of extracted oil costs, regardless of the long-term benefits of
potentially not extracting in particular locations, is one that was not being
I think, therefore, the role of the Commonwealth in coordinating and
enticing state governments to consider food security, water security and the
protection of productive lands alongside considerations around energy and the
extractive industries is an important step forward.
I am not sure whether we are there yet with all the states but we are pretty
close. I am pleased that New South Wales have signed up.
I do not see their
logic at all, and I suspect they would not be seeing their logic in hindsight,
in signing up to what is a pretty simple but effective approach to putting
science at the heart of this process yet, within 24 hours, trying to release
some other strategic land use planning process that they themselves have tried
to establish and control, which, if you have seen any of the protests out the
front of the New South Wales parliament, you will know has caused enormous
My message to New South Wales once this bill is passed is to keep it simple:
just use this. Make this the heart of your policy and the way out of the
position you have put yourself in in trying to be, in my view, too clever by
The protests that I and others have attended outside the New South Wales
parliament were extraordinary. To see a coming together of farmers and
environmentalists—a whole range of representatives of community
interests—expressing deep concern at the loss of community as a consequence of
getting this wrong should be a very loud and instructive message for us all.
There is a way through and it is this bill. It is making sure that not only New
South Wales but all states work very closely in cooperation and in collaboration
with what is being attempted at a Commonwealth level.
To have the Country
Women's Association standing outside the New South Wales parliament for the
first time ever in its 90-odd year history should say it all—that New South
Wales has got it wrong. This bill has got it right. It is a difficult issue. It
is one that has to navigate a path of cooperation through conflict and I
congratulate the drafters in pretty well striking the balance.
I would also like to thank the many local organisations in my area who have been
involved—the likes of the Manning Alliance, the Manning Clean Water Action
Group, the Barrington-Gloucester-Stroud Preservation Alliance, the Gloucester
Residents in Partnership and the Camden Haven Anti-fracking Group.
arguably even more important to acknowledge the many individuals who are not
aligned with any particular organisation, who have had signs up on their fences,
who have been emailing—the very ordinary ones who do not want to protest and who
do not normally want to engage in politics.
These very ordinary people have done
an extraordinary job in making sure this message is heard loud and clear around
the country and have made it a priority issue on the agenda of all parliaments.
This bill reflects the concerns of farmers, homeowners, environmentalists,
landholders and many others and, hopefully, now starts to get some sensible
public policy. It should not act in isolation. I think public policy has a lot
of things to consider deeply.
For example, food security and the sort of
strategy Australia takes—whether we should chase the idea of trying to feed all
or start to shake the top end market of the Asia-Pacific and become a specialist
in food security. There are opportunities in our strategy, but we need to think
about it a lot.
Likewise, I do not think we have nailed water security and the issues around
water yet. The Murray-Darling Basin issue is still up in the air. There are
still issues being put up by the National Water Commission which are falling on
deaf ears in government. There is more work to be done. The issue of soil
protection is one that has not had its place on the public policy landscape as
much as it could—probably because soil is a pretty, pardon the pun, dirty
topic—but it needs its place.
Our loss of topsoils globally is an issue of our
time. It is an issue that this parliament needs to start taking seriously and
needs to start contributing to not only domestically, but also internationally
as we grapple with the loss of topsoil around the world. If science is to be
believed and is to be trusted, this is an issue for the next hundred years if we
do not deal with it. It is right before us; it is a complementary issue to water
and food security.
I am pleased we have got to this point. Now it is about locking all the states
into the national partnership agreement and getting these bioregional
assessments up and running. Now it is about securing the place of the
independent science at the heart of any development processes from here.
it is about really trying to get the states—in my case New South Wales—to see
the worth of this, to use it for their own benefit and to make this the heart of
public policy on this difficult but important issue for the states, including
New South Wales, moving forward. I congratulate the minister at the table,
Minister Burke, and hopefully now we can get some sensible direction on some
A WATER BILL THAT EVERYONE SHOULD WELCOME
14 September 2011 - AUSTRALIA’S food security is at the heart of a Private
Member’s Bill that will protect our nation’s water resources from the
unprecedented enthusiasm of the extractive industries, says Independent Member
for Lyne, Rob Oakeshott.
Independent New England MP Tony Windsor introduced the Environment Protection
and Biodiversity Conservation Amendment (Mining, Petroleum and Water Resources)
Bill 2011 this week, which was seconded by Mr Oakeshott.
“The Bill isn’t an attempt to wrestle planning powers away from the states. It
is, however, a genuine attempt to protect our nation’s water resources by giving
the Commonwealth the means to intervene if mining ambitions represent a threat
to water quality,” Mr Oakeshott said.
“We are witnessing a period of unprecedented investment, exploration and
extraction of finite resources in this country, and yet we have no national
approach to protecting our most precious resource – water.
“Communities, such as mine, are feeling the frustration as state laws fail to
address the potential damage mining activities could cause to underground and
surface water resources.
“This issue is too important to be left to community groups, such as Lock the
Gate Alliance, the Camden Haven Anti-fracking Group, the Manning Clean Water
Action Group and Gloucester Preservation Alliance, to take up on our behalf.
“Food security will be one of the most serious issues facing Australia in the
decades ahead. If we are serious about protecting our most productive lands,
then we must get serious about protecting our water resources,” Mr Oakeshott
“And to do that, we need nationally consistent standards.
“The bill will allow the Commonwealth to become involved in mining and coal-seam
gas exploration applications if the development has, will have or is likely to
have a significant impact on the water quality, structural integrity or
hydraulic balance of the water resource.
“We currently have a situation where little or no account is taken of the
potential off-site impact a mining operation might have on groundwater resources
or rivers, creeks and wetlands.
“On the driest inhabited continent on Earth, that simply isn’t good enough,” Mr
Mr Windsor and Mr Oakeshott are hoping for the support of the parliament when
further consideration of the Bill occurs.
Mr Oakeshott also confirmed today that he had made a submission to the NSW
inquiry into coal-seam gas. The views of more than 1450 people who have
contacted Mr Oakeshott about coal-seam gas mining were represented in the
The upper house inquiry has so far attracted more than 350 submissions.
WATER RESOURCES TO BE PROTECTED FROM MINING INTERESTS
17 August 2011 - FOLLOWING concerns raised at last week’s community forums in
Port Macquarie, Laurieton, Wauchope, Harrington, Taree and Gloucester,
Independent Lyne MP Rob Oakeshott will help introduce legislation that protects
Australia’s water resources from mining interests.
Fellow Independent MP Tony Windsor will introduce the legislation which Mr
Oakeshott has agreed to second.
The Bill will provide heavy penalties for any mining action that has, will have,
or is likely to have a significant impact on the water quality, structural
integrity or hydraulic balance of a water resource.
“This is an issue that has been raised by all communities across the electorate,
particularly the fracking processes involved in coal seam gas mining,” Mr
“It elevates, and underlines, the importance of water quality to our community
and long-term planning in the areas of better water, better soils and more
productive farmlands,” Mr Oakeshott said.
The proposed legislation amends the Environment Protection and Biodiversity
Conservation Act to require companies to seek a licence before undertaking any
mining activity in a region that has water resources.
“The Bill will not affect responsible mining practices that have no impact on
our water resources, but it will help protect surface water and underground
aquifers,” Mr Oakeshott said.
“This is long overdue protection for our most precious resource given that
Australia is the driest populated continent on earth, and the science is not
clear in the way underground water in communities such as the Gloucester and
Lorne basins interrelate,” Mr Oakeshott said.
Rob Oakeshott can be contacted on twitter:
Rob Oakeshott's Parliamentary speeches are here.
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