Parliament Updates

Zali Steggall MP supports the Expanding The Water Trigger Bill 2023

16 October 2023

 I rise to second and speak in support of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Amendment (Expanding The Water Trigger) Bill 2023 from the member for Mackellar, to expand the definition of the water trigger in the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act. This bill is simple. It expands the water trigger to provide federal oversight of the impact that many fossil fuel mining projects will have on Australia's precious water resources. The government has noted its intention to do just this and expand the definition of the water trigger to cover all forms of unconventional gas. This is consistent with the expert advice from the Pepper inquiry and the Samuel review. So no-one seems to be in any disagreement about expanding the water trigger. The question is time—time is of the essence. The upcoming summer is going to be very hot and has the potential to be as disastrous as the 2019-2020 Black Summer bushfires around this country.

Earlier this year, the Turning the tide report found that the world faces the prospect of a 40 per cent shortfall in freshwater supply by as soon as 2030. So, I repeat, time is of the essence. The minister for the environment needs to act on the election promise to amend the water trigger now. This will put great pressure on water resources. The proposed fracking and use of water without federal oversight and review will really put at risk access to water. This is a precious resource. We cannot have gas fracking projects coming before water for communities. Constituents in Warringah want rapid action to mitigate and prepare for climate change impacts. This includes properly assessing projects that may have a detrimental impact to central resources for communities.

Access to clean water is an essential human right and one that we must ensure is protected in Australia. The government has made many promises coming into power but is failing to deliver on them when it comes to protecting the environment. I urge the government to support this bill and simply get on with the job that they've already committed to do. There is immediate need, and, after the referendum, where we saw Indigenous communities overwhelmingly vote in support of the Voice and being heard, there is an opportunity now for the Albanese government to put in place practical listening. You need to listen to these remote communities, these Indigenous communities, who want their voices and their concerns heard when it comes to the use of water, their right to clean water and the importance it plays for them in their culture and in protecting the environment. So to the government and to the minister for the environment: please protect their environment above the rights of fossil fuel projects. Hear their plea and amend the water trigger by supporting this bill.