Zali Steggall welcomes amendments to expand water trigger

7 December 2023

I rise to speak on the original amendments before the House, being the amendments from the Senate, which essentially expand the water trigger to this legislation, and the further amendments by the member for Maranoa, which essentially seek to, at this last minute, introduce carbon capture and sequestration and the consideration of its impact on water. Whilst in principle I think that is absolutely necessary, I am concerned at this very last-minute attempt to put this in without any explanation or discussion. It seems to be a very last-minute discovery by the member for Maranoa of the procedure in this place, or the ability to move amendments to improve legislation.

I commend the government for supporting the amendments in the message from the Senate when it comes to expanding the water trigger and updating its definition. I note it was a commitment prior to the election. It is really important for this to happen. It was only in October that the member for Mackellar, who unfortunately can't be here today due to illness, introduced a private member's bill to that effect. I had the pleasure of seconding that private member's bill to expand the water trigger to include all forms of gas extraction, to ensure consideration by the minister of the impact of projects on water.

We know that, for traditional owners, water is an incredibly important part of culture. We also know, through our warming planet and climate, that our water resources are going to come under more and more pressure. We know there are expected reductions in water tables and amounts of rainfall per year. We know that, for communities, water is an incredibly important resource. We really need to distinguish between the use of water by projects—in particular, when it comes to all forms of gas fracking—and maintaining water as an essential element for sustaining human life and for traditional owners, in relation to their cultural association and recognition of it.

I think it's incredibly important, and I thank the crossbench in both houses—in particular, the Greens—for having pushed the government to accelerate this amendment. I acknowledge it was a commitment, but the delay had been concerning, because it's incredibly important that the impact on the water table of projects like the Beetaloo basin is part of that environmental approval. We know the Northern Territory government had green-lit gas production in the Beetaloo basin—the region between Katherine and Tennant Creek that has big reserves of shale gas. It's incredibly important for those communities and elders who travelled down to Canberra—and I hope many in this place actually took the time to listen to them—to talk about the importance of the impact on their water and their communities. It's incredibly important, from the Pepper inquiry into fracking in the Northern Territory, to note the deep concern and the strong opposition to development of any onshore shale gas industry on their country.

I welcome the amendments. I would like to see further information from the Nationals in relation to their last-minute amendment because I think that would assist the procedure in this place. I certainly welcome any legislation that increases scrutiny of the use of nature and resources and water in relation to mining, gas extraction and, in particular, carbon capture and storage.