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Statement to the CSG rally at the APPEA conference in Brisbane

Larissa Waters 9 Oct 2012

I am so glad that all of you have taken the time to be here today, and if the Australian Senate wasn't sitting, I would be with you as well.

I have been a Senator for just over a year, and in that time I have met and spoken with hundreds of people who have selflessly devoted their time, their hard work and their passion to this cause, just like you.

The truth is, Australian communities in the bush, and the city, are really concerned about coal seam gas and worried that it's a danger to our water and our land.

And the truth is, you're not wrong.

Both the CSIRO and the National Water Commission don't know what the long term impacts of CSG drilling will be on aquifers and groundwater resources. Scientists don't know enough yet to be able to claim that coal seam gas is safe for water, land and the environment.

And when things go wrong, the results are pretty terrible. In 2009, the Walloon aquifer was contaminated. Last year a horrifying CSG waste water spill killed off several hectares of forest in the Pilliga. When I was part of a Senate Inquiry last year, I was horrified at the stories of farmers and their families who felt they had lost the rights over their own land, who had strangers coming through at all hours of the day and night.

The CSG industry is focused on trying to buy the public's good will with advertising and spin campaigns, that's their idea of a social licence. But the people I've spoken with are worried and angry because of the dangers of coal seam gas, not because they haven't seen enough advertising.

But, most importantly, I'm worried that the politicians from the old parties - people who were elected to represent your voice, and your interests in Parliament - they're not representing you and your communities, they're acting in the interests of big business and the mining industry.

The Greens have moved motions before the Senate to pause all coal seam gas activities, just until the science can catch up and tell us what the long term impacts are. Every time, these motions have been voted down by the ALP, the Liberals and the Nationals.

These motions aren't unreasonable. 68 per cent of Australians want a pause on CSG. The Greens are simply asking for what the majority of Australians want.

I also have two bills before the Senate, one to give landholders the right to say No to CSG mining on their land, another to give the environment minister more power over CSG and other mining operations that have a serious impact on water, one of our most precious national resources. The ALP, the Liberals and the Nationals have not yet shown any support for my bills.

The Labor Government have recently established an independent expert scientific committee to look into coal seam gas, I'm sure you've heard of it. On the face of it, this sounds like a really great step.

But I'm afraid the Government has made sure this committee will be toothless. It's a federal body, so the state governments only have to listen to - not follow - the committee's advice when they approve more CSG operations. The federal environment minister has to listen, but because the Government won't support my bill to give him oversight of CSG projects that impact water, there's nothing he can do with this advice.

It will take the committee five years to complete its scientific investigations into coal seam gas. The Greens amendments to pause CSG operations while this science is being done were voted down. In the next five years, many more CSG projects will be approved while we still don't know the long term impacts of this dangerous new mining.

I know the battle to save our land and water from CSG has already been a very long and disheartening fight for many people, but you're not alone. Every day, more and more people are hearing about the dangers of coal seam gas, and joining the movement. Every day, the big miners are hearing more and more voices raised against them, protesting the sell out of the future of our farmland and our ability to feed ourselves, all for a quick buck in fossil fuels.

I'm an optimist, and I believe one day soon we will win the protection against coal seam gas that we want and our land and environment deserve. I will keep listening to your stories and your concerns about coal seam gas, and I will keep representing your interests, not the mining industry, in the Australian Parliament.

Senator Larissa Waters.


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