If the purpose of the bill's title is to convey the Government's intention at law, then the bill should have been called the "Unlock the gate and roll out the red carpet for Metgasco on the North Coast after March 2015 bill". That is because that is the intention of this bill. It will allow CSG and unconventional gas exploration to return on steroids on the North Coast after the March 2015 State election. The bill provides no guarantee to the communities of New South Wales, particularly those on the Northern Rivers, that have made their views abundantly clear. But that is no surprise. The Liberal-Nationals Government has already flagged that it will back big corporations over the people of New South Wales every time.
That is why Labor will be moving a number of amendments to the bill to bring it into line with Labor's policy, announced by Opposition leader John Robertson on 29 October. Our amendments will ban coal seam gas from the special areas of Sydney water catchment and from the Northern Rivers, encompassing the local government areas of Ballina shire, Byron shire, Kyogle shire, Lismore city, Tweed shire, Richmond Valley and Clarence Valley……
The Hon. Duncan Gay: Take your koala suit off.
Mr JEREMY BUCKINGHAM: It did not take long to get a rise out of you. The Strategic Regional Land Use plan failed, the Aquifer Interference Policy failed, and the people of New South Wales do not believe a single word those opposite say on this issue. Not even the Government's backbenchers, parliamentary Secretaries or Ministers believe a single word Minister Gay says.
The Hon. Matthew Mason-Cox: Point of order: The member should direct his comments through the Chair and should stop pointing at people across the table. He should take a moment to take a deep breath, relax and be calm.
DEPUTY-PRESIDENT (The Hon. Natasha Maclaren-Jones): Order! The Minister was referring to relevancy. There is no point of order.
Mr JEREMY BUCKINGHAM: We are debating the Petroleum (Onshore) Amendment (NSW Gas Plan) Bill. Where did this bill start? It started with the Hon. Chris Hartcher introducing an onshore petroleum bill back in May 2013. Do members remember him introducing that bill and saying ad nauseam, "These are the toughest rules in Australia"? He went on to say, "These are the toughest rules in the world". What a joke that is! We heard announcement after announcement after announcement and that bill, which passed the Legislative Assembly on 28 May 2013, then disappeared; it was pulled off the Notice Paper on 10 September this year. It died an inglorious death; slowly and quietly culled—euthanased—because it was an absolutely pathetic bill that did nothing to placate the people of New South Wales who have concerns about coal seam gas.
The Hon. Steve Whan said this bill is not very broad. I have seen needles with more breadth and depth than this bill. Talk about pinpoint legislation—it is pathetic. The Government is expunging a handful of titles—and it very nearly could not bring itself to do that—when the people of New South Wales wanted substantive action in this area. They wanted, as the Government promised, areas ruled out of coal seam gas activity. We got some very sensible recommendations from the Chief Scientist that should be applied to extractive industries across the State.
The Hon. Duncan Gay: We're going to do the whole lot.
Mr JEREMY BUCKINGHAM: No you're not. There were dozens of pages in the Chief Scientist's report—I read them—and the Bret Walker report, but did their recommendations turn up in the gas plan? No they did not. Some key things are missing from the gas plan. One of the most important things missing is the recommendations of Bret Walker, SC: The rights of farmers, the rights of communities, to be empowered in arbitration and land access. It says in the Government's response to the review in the most Yes Minister type language I have ever seen:
The Walker Report … made 31 recommendations to improve the arbitration land access framework. The NSW government has endorsed all the recommendations in the Walker Report relating to the current arbitration framework and committed to a process of implementation commencing immediately where possible."
Do Government members know who does not believe this Government, in particular? The Minister for Mental Health, and the Assistant Minister for Health and member for Wollondilly, Jai Rowell, Gareth Ward, Lee Evans, Mark Speakman, Mark Coure, Stuart Ayres, Chris Patterson, Brian Doyle, Russell Matheson, Rosa Sage, Barry O'Farrell, Don Page, Kevin Anderson, Thomas George, Chris Gulaptis and whoever the Coalition has running as a candidate in Ballina. They all rushed out within 24 to 48 hours of the announcement to state on the public record, "We're banning it. We're banning it." They knew what the community's interpretation of the NSW Gas Plan was.
It is a carpetbagging exercise by snake oil salesmen who have come into New South Wales communities to sell them a story that New South Wales is running out of gas and this State must have coal seam gas. How many Holdens does New South Wales produce and how many mangoes? Are we completely self-sufficient concerning mangoes? Do we have to have a mangoes industry? We are a federation, a commonwealth, and this issue should be dealt with at the Council of Australian Governments [COAG], not through some carpetbagging exercise by the New South Wales Government. In the context of the most outrageous, erroneous and egregious untruths, I will refer to the Minister's second reading speech, which states:
This is this the first time in New South Wales this type of dialogue has occurred. Through the dialogue there is regular contact between senior departmental officers and Gloucester Shire Council. Any topic is up for discussion. A community liaison officer from my department operates out of the council chambers two to three days a week. The tenth dialogue meeting was held last Thursday. I commend the Gloucester Shire Council, particularly the mayor, Councillor John Rosenbaum …
Through the dialogue the community has access to all materials relevant to licensing decisions and approvals about AGL's Gloucester gas project.
Mr Hoggett went on. He resigned from the committee that was his idea and that the Government enshrined in the heart of the Government's NSW Gas Plan because it is a farce—like the rest of the Government's plan. The gas plan is based on a false assumption around economics and on a belief that the Government can say just anything to the community and get away with it. I will read onto the record what Mr Jai Rowell declared in the Wollondilly Advertiser to his community in relation to the announcement of the gas plan: "'It ain't happening, it's over, we won', Wollondilly MP Jai Rowell declared last week", after the gas plan was released. Yet the gas plan refers to the very fact that the AGL gas development in Camden will remain an integral part, in the Government's opinion, of gas delivery in New South Wales. That completely contradicts what Mr Jai Rowell said—"It ain't happening, it's over, we won"; there will be no coal seam gas in Wollondilly. The community is not stupid.
The Hon. Matthew Mason-Cox: It is in Camden. It is not in Wollondilly, mate.
Mr JEREMY BUCKINGHAM: I acknowledge the interjection. The expansion plans of AGL are clearly into the Camden electorate. The member for Camden knows it. The community knows it and they are not being sold a pup on that one. Another very important element of the recommendations made by the Chief Scientist and Engineer that did not make it into the Government's NSW Gas Plan. It should serve as a warning to all people in New South Wales that the Chief Scientist and Engineer concluded her report with these words:
· All industries have risks and, like any other, it is inevitable that the CSG industry will have some unintended consequences, including as the result of accidents, human error, and natural disasters. Industry, Government and the community need to work together to plan adequately to mitigate such risks, and be prepared to respond to problems if they occur.
That Government consider a robust and comprehensive policy of appropriate insurance and environmental risk coverage of the CSG industry to ensure financial protection short and long term. Government should examine the potential adoption of a three-layered policy of security deposits, enhanced insurance coverage, and an environmental rehabilitation fund.
That is a very sensible recommendation. It is something that I would recommend in relation to any extractive industry, in all industries and most undertakings…..
The Government may argue that it did not have time to do this. Why has it not implemented the recommendations of the Bret Walker review? I would like to hear from the Minister in his reply why the recommendations have not been implemented. There is a massive configuration in the community about land access and arbitration. The Government commissioned one of the best legal minds in the nation to deal with the issue, and he made fantastic recommendations about how to deal with it. The recommendations are widely supported by the environment movement, people in social justice, the legal fraternity and all sides of politics. Yet the Government has not moved. That shows that the Government is not serious and cannot be trusted on the recommendations of the Chief Scientist; otherwise some of the low-hanging fruit in the recommendations would have turned up in this wafer-thin petroleum bill. All the bill does is set out to cancel or expunge—
Mr Scot MacDonald: Finally we can talk about the bill.
Mr JEREMY BUCKINGHAM: I will cover the whole bill in my remaining two minutes. The Government will expunge a number of petroleum title applications, which simply could have been rejected. Will the Government cancel the petroleum exploration licences [PELS] that are up for renewal? As promised, will it protect areas such as water catchments? No, it will not. With this bill, the Government thinks it can erect a thin veil and hide behind it and sneak through to the next election. However, the electors of Lismore, Ballina, Tamworth and Barwon do not want to be guinea pigs in the Government's toxic coal seam gas experiment. They understand that we are a country rich in natural resources. Former Federal Labor and Coalition governments have signed up to a massive export of LNG without proper socio-economic analysis.
There is a parliamentary inquiry into gas supply and demand. I look forward to that inquiry. We have seen some of the submissions to the lower House inquiry from companies such as Jemena, which say there is no gas supply crisis, there is lots of gas in Bass Strait from conventional sources and all it needs to do is build a pipeline. There are other suggestions for pipelines, et cetera. The Greens are not opposed to fossil fuels…..