Judge for yourself: Is Minister Hodgkinson just a mouthpiece for the CSG industry? – Budget Estimates Transcript 18/08/2014

Budget Estimates Transcript 18/08/2014

Mr JEREMY BUCKINGHAM: Can a CSG industry co-exist with the dairy industry?

Ms KATRINA HODGKINSON: We have processes in place now to greater facilitate different industries working in harmony and I do not see any reason why it could not.

Mr JEREMY BUCKINGHAM: So you have not read the upper House inquiry into coal seam gas where Norco made a submission saying that it could not co-exist with a CSG industry?

Ms KATRINA HODGKINSON: There is a lot of emotion around your particular subject of choice in relation to that question. I prefer to deal with the fact, that is, the New South Wales Government has instituted a new way forward for allowing mining and agriculture to co-exist. We have put in place a variety of tools to assist industries working cooperatively, such as the implementation of an agricultural impact statement, a new aquifer interference policy, the gateway policy, identifying bio-material-physical strategic agricultural lands and so on.

Mr JEREMY BUCKINGHAM: With all respect, the question was: Have you read the report?

Ms KATRINA HODGKINSON: I read a lot of reports. I may have read that one along the way but I know what the New South Wales Government has done to correct the misdeeds of the former Government in that space and that is a lot of work to assist with the co-existence—

CHAIR: I bet the Minister did because it was my report.

Mr JEREMY BUCKINGHAM: It was an excellent report.

The Hon. Dr PETER PHELPS: A very good dissenting report, too.

Mr JEREMY BUCKINGHAM: Are you aware of Norco’s submission that it does not believe its industry, which you said is doing such a great job, can co-exist with a coal seam gas industry? What is your response to that?

The Hon. RICK COLLESS: Point of order: I am having trouble working out how this fits in with the budget estimates process. Perhaps Mr Jeremy Buckingham could quote the line item in the budget which refers to this issue.

Mr DAVID SHOEBRIDGE: To the point of order: The Minister pointed out that the role of Norco, including in exports of fresh milk, directly related to her portfolio.

CHAIR: Order! I will not uphold the point of order. As I said before, the Minister is well aware of the limitations in her answering questions with regard to other portfolios. However, if the Minister wishes to answer questions she may do so. She has provided as much advice as she can. I suggest Mr Jeremy Buckingham move on.

Ms KATRINA HODGKINSON: I refer Mr Jeremy Buckingham to a media release entitled “AGL partners with Dairy Connect to help Gloucester’s dairy industry”, which stated:

A new powdered milk plant being proposed in the Gloucester/Hunter area could be one of the many benefits of a landmark agreement between AGL and peak industry body Dairy Connect. Last week in Sydney, AGL’s CEO Michael Fraser and Dairy Connect’s CEO Mike Logan signed a cooperation agreement which could facilitate the development, production and responsible growth of both the dairy and gas industries in NSW.

This signing with Dairy Connect further strengthens AGL’s partnerships with agricultural groups, with the long-term goal being AGL providing energy and land to assist dairy-related industries in Gloucester.

“This agreement has the potential to create jobs, help farmers better manage production costs and in doing so, open up new overseas markets, ” said Mr Fraser.

“Natural gas not only operates side by side with agriculture but can also be a powerful contributor to its success.

“We’re serious about bringing lasting benefits to individual farmers and rural and regional communities.

At a community meeting in Gloucester … attended by more than 60 locals, Mr Logan shared the NSW dairy industry’s aspirations for a powdered milk factory in the Gloucester area.

“The hope is that powdered milk—

Mr JEREMY BUCKINGHAM: I hate to interrupt, but are you reading an AGL press release?

Mr SCOT MacDONALD: Dairy Connect.

Mr JEREMY BUCKINGHAM: Is that a Dairy Connect?

Ms KATRINA HODGKINSON: “AGL partners with Dairy Connect to help Gloucester’s dairy industry”.

Mr JEREMY BUCKINGHAM: Who is that release from?

Ms KATRINA HODGKINSON: You just asked me.

CHAIR: Order!

Mr DAVID SHOEBRIDGE: Point of order: The Minister is meant to be answering questions. I understand that the Minister just read out what was handed to her. I find that disrespectful of the budget estimates process. She did not know what she was reading.

The Hon. Dr PETER PHELPS: To the point of order: It is a broad-ranging question about the compatibility of the dairy industry and the coal seam gas industry, and the Minister’s view on that. The Minister has responded by providing contemporary evidence which cuts across Mr Jeremy Buckingham’s chief line of attack. Now obviously The Greens are upset and are trying to call a point of order while the Minister was answering the question asked of her.

Mr JEREMY BUCKINGHAM: To the point of order: The question related to Norco, one of the most successful cooperatives in Australian history, a major exporter, a massive employer, actually key to the economy of the northern rivers and, indeed, the whole coast of Australia. The question related to Norco and its submission to an upper House inquiry that it could not coexist, and I have not heard anything. But the question and the supplementary question to that was—

CHAIR: No, Mr Jeremy Buckingham, we are still on a point of order.

Ms KATRINA HODGKINSON: It was an AGL press release. It was passed to me by the Director General.

Mr JEREMY BUCKINGHAM: It was an AGL press release.

CHAIR: Hansard will not record any of this; I am still ruling on the point of order. There is no point of order. The Minister is able to answer a question in any way she feels fit.

Mr JEREMY BUCKINGHAM: To confirm, that was an AGL press release you were just reading out?

Ms KATRINA HODGKINSON: At the Elizabeth Macarthur Agricultural Institute [EMAI] in Camden there are something like more than two dozen coal seam gas wells operating in perfect harmony with all the activities that we are conducting in the EMAI, including dairy.

Mr JEREMY BUCKINGHAM: Minister, was that an AGL press release you were reading out?

Ms KATRINA HODGKINSON: I do take Norco very seriously, of course I respect its submissions. But the proof is absolutely evident in the broader community—

Mr JEREMY BUCKINGHAM: Is it an AGL press release you just read out?

Ms KATRINA HODGKINSON: —and at EMAI, the Department of Primary Industries—

Mr SCOT MacDONALD: Point of order: The Minister is trying to answer the question.

Mr DAVID SHOEBRIDGE: No, she is not.

Mr SCOT MacDONALD: Mr Jeremy Buckingham is cutting across.

Mr JEREMY BUCKINGHAM: She has read out the CSG industry’s release.

CHAIR: There is no point of order. The Minister can continue with her answer, if she so wishes.

Ms KATRINA HODGKINSON: The point is that at EMAI, which is the Department of Primary Industries lead biosecurity facility, we have dairy operating side by side with CSG wells. Obviously the proof is there; the proof is broad that the two industries can coexist quite harmoniously. Of course I respect Norco and its right to express an opinion but the evidence shows that these two industries can operate harmoniously side by side.

CHAIR: The questions for this portfolio have concluded. I thank you, Minister, your officers at the table and your assistants for attending today. Questions taken on notice will be sent to you and the Committee will requires answers to those questions on notice within 21 days.

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