The federal government could be compelled to continue with its evaluation of the effect of coal seam gas wells and big coalmines on water resources, instead of handing over the power to do so to the states. This comes as a major setback to the “one-stop shop” plan for eliminating red tape in case of environmental assessments.
The government looks forward to do away with any kind of crisis arising from the rejection of prime budget measures. On Wednesday, the Prime Minister Tony Abbott told MPs that it won’t be all plain sailing for the Senate; they would patiently, courteously, methodically and carefully work with the Senate for getting across with the legislation.
However, the negotiations are finding quite a rough patch with the opposition senators seeming unmoved by the attempted persuasion of the government, evident in the dropping of a number of key legislation pieces from this week’s Senate program, while many others wait for heavy amendment. On Tuesday, the Palmer United party took the decision of seeking the removal of the so-called “water trigger” in the “one-stop shop” amendments pertaining to the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act.
As stated by Dio Wang, Western Australian senator, the Senate plans to amend the bill in a manner which will keep the water trigger in federal hands. The Senate is in agreement with the government that duplication of federal and state procedures need not be done for flora and fauna. However, water is a national concern. Since projects can have collective consequences, it is good for the federal government to continue with the overview of the approval procedures.
Larissa Waters, Greens senator feels that the PUP should collaborate with the Greens and Labor, for blocking the entire “one stop shop” plan.
On Wednesday, PUP announced its final decision to go against the proposed GP co-payment. This along with the opposition from the Labor and Greens, foresees doom for the policy.
The insertion of the “water trigger” into the legislation was done under the previous Labor government, something insisted upon by Tony Windsor, a former independent MP, for ensuring that coal seam gas wells or coal mines do not face long-term consequences owing to a water table or water catchment.
The previous government also established an independent specialist scientific committee for assessment of the effect of big projects over water resources.
According to Wang, the government had agreed to give a chance to PUP for drafting of the “water trigger” amendments; hence consideration of the environmental laws would be delayed.
Windsor had issued a warning to the government that its plan to delegate the water assessments to the states could aggravate the existing high levels of mistrust amongst rural communities regarding the manner in which the assessment and approval of these projects were being made. The rise of the distrust has been triggered by recent Icac findings with respect to Labor as well as Liberal parties in NSW along with damaging water impacts in Queensland. Currently independent monitoring at the federal level is the prime need.