Category Archives: Media

Humphries 1 – 0 Blair: Last minute amendment degrades protection for environmental water

MEDIA RELEASE – 20 June 2018

The Greens NSW water spokesman Jeremy Buckingham today accused the water minister Niall Blair of being rolled by former minister and National Party rival, Kevin Humphries and his allies by introducing a last minute amendment to the Water Management Amendment Bill 2018 to reduce his own powers to protect flows of water released for environmental purposes.

Irrigators pumping during environmental water flows has become a major issue.  In mid-2017 a significant environmental release aimed at connecting the Macquarie and Barwon Rivers to allow golden, silver and spangled perch fingerlings to spread, was severely impacted when an irrigator broke a handshake agreement and pumped a considerable amount of water from the environmental flow.

A subsequent Department of Primary Industries report ‘Making the Connection: Designing, delivering and monitoring flows between catchments’ recommended:

“Adequate legislative protection of environmental flow events from extraction in both the regulated and unregulated Macquarie water sources is required. Protecting the integrity of flows is also emerging as a key factor to the success of connectivity watering events and facilitating this should be a focus in current planning and legislative frameworks throughout the Basin.“

“The original public consultation draft of this bill gave the minister strong and explicit powers to protect environmental water. These powers were watered down under pressure from irrigators in the bill introduced into parliament, but then a further amendment abolishing specific protections was handed to parliamentarians only five minutes before debate resumed last night,” Greens MP Jeremy Buckingham said.

“It appears that Kevin Humphries and his allies have rolled Niall Blair in the National’s party room to further diminish protections for environmental water in NSW.

“The last minute amendments removed the Minister’s power to place mandatory conditions on licences to protect environmental flows.”

Prior to this amendment, water minister Niall Blair justified the original provision for mandatory conditions in his second reading speech as a way ‘to provide a simpler, clearer and more transparent regulatory framework’:

“The bill allows mandatory conditions to be imposed on a water access licence or approval by regulation. Prescribing mandatory conditions by regulation will provide a simpler, clearer and more transparent regulatory framework. This is consistent with the application of mandatory conditions by regulation under other legislation such as the Biosecurity Act 2015. Stakeholders raised some concerns about imposing mandatory conditions on licences and approval by regulation without consultation. The Government has listened to these concerns and the bill now provides at item [56] that a mandatory condition, other than one that is of a machinery nature or is minor in its effect, must not be prescribed unless it is publicly exhibited for at least 28 days.”

The final Third Read vote will happen when parliament resumes today. The Greens will oppose the bill.

Water Management Bill has loopholes you can fit an irrigation pipe through

MEDIA RELEASE – 19 June 2018

The Greens NSW water spokesman Jeremy Buckingham today accused the NSW Government of watering down its Water Management Amendment Bill 2018 to create loopholes to benefit large irrigators meaning the full recommendations of the Ken Matthews Inquiry will not be implemented and mismanagement of water in NSW will continue into the future.

“Some of the provisions in the bill currently before parliament are a recipe for killing the Darling River. Essentially you will have water extraction concentrated in the upper reaches, while the lower Darling dies and Broken Hill is fed by a pipeline from the Murray at Wentworth,” Greens MP Jeremy Buckingham said.

“There are massive holes in this legislation and considerable differences between the Public Consultation Draft of the Water Management Amendment Bill 2018 and the bill introduced into parliament last week. Most of these differences favour irrigators and effectively create loopholes that will see over extraction and mismanagement of water continue in NSW.

“Many of the original provisions of the bill, based on the Ken Matthews Inquiry recommendations and the ‘Better management of environmental water – interim solutions package’ interagency taskforce, have been taken out or watered down at the request of the NSW Irrigators Council as detailed in their submission.

  • Privatisation of water metering following irrigators lobbying.
  • Exemptions for ‘no meter no pump rule’.
  • Watering down ministers mandate to embargo pumping of environmental water.
  • Removal of the clause the prohibits seeking compensation for embargos to shepherd environmental water following irrigators lobbying.
  • Fails to create individual daily extraction limits (IDELs) immediately as recommended by Mathews Report.
  • Allowing IDELs to be traded up river and between catchments.
  • Removes requirement to review water sharing plans every five years.
  • Allows NSW to pull out of requirements under the federal Water Act 2007 (e.g. Murray Darling Basin Plan) by regulation not legislation.

 

“Apart from water theft and an over allocation of water generally in the Barwon Darling, there are numerous other issues that have created a regime of mismanagement with disastrous ecological and social implications.

“The over allocation of A Class licences, which allow irrigators to pump at a low river flow, combined with allowing larger pump diameters and allowing irrigators to pump 300% of their entitlement in any one year, has resulted into over-extraction in dry times.

“The delay in implementing individual daily extraction limits (IDELs) is compounded with the provision to allow the trading of IDEL’s across catchments. This is a recipe for concentrating extraction upstream or allowing inappropriate extraction because of cross-catchment trading.

“It’s clear that we need all water extraction metered and to have telemetry provide a transparency in water management. Not only has the government blown out the deadline for the ‘no meter no pump’ rule by 3 years, but the bill allows the government to privatise water metering and creates exemptions for metering, undermining this vitally important aspect of monitoring and compliance.

“The public consultation draft had a strong provision to grant the minister the power to mandate an embargo on pumping to ensure water released for environmental purposes was not taken by irrigators. This provision also ensured that irrigators could not claim compensation from taxpayers when the minister used this mandate.  However, the government has bowed to pressure from the irrigation industry to water down the mandate and allowed claims for compensation.

“The bill should be the chance to fix water management and compliance in NSW.  Instead the government has caved to the big irrigators and created loopholes that will haunt us into the future and result in the death of the Darling River.”

Bloating energy subsidies highlight electricity privatisations failure

MEDIA RELEASE – 19 June 2015

The Greens NSW energy spokesman Jeremy Buckingham today said the $196 million increase in energy rebates in today’s NSW budget (Budget Paper Number 3 – 7-8) demonstrated that the policy of privatisation and deregulation had failed and was now being propped up by $1.9 billion in subsidies over four years. The new “one-click energy switch” program through Service NSW was another indication that the ideology of privatisation had failed households in NSW.

“The privatised and deregulated energy market is gouging customers to the extent that subsidies have blown out by $196 million from $257 million in 2017-18 to $483.2 million in 2018-19,” said Greens MP Jeremy Buckingham.

“Having deregulated energy prices, the government is now having to step in with a new program where Service NSW will help customers find an energy deal.

“While the Greens support providing financial assistance to assist low income households avoid energy poverty, the huge increase in subsidies is an indication of a failing energy market where the big gentailers are exploiting their market power to gouge customers.

“The NSW budget used to get a healthy dividend from publicly owned energy utilities. Now the budget must allocate more and more in subsidies to try to counteract price gouging in the privatised marketplace.”

(Budget Paper Number 3 – 7-8)

Draconian anti-protest laws need to be repealed despite Wollar Three charges being dismissed

The Greens NSW resources spokesman Jeremy Buckingham today congratulated the ‘Wollar Three’ protesters – Bev Smiles, Stephanie Luke and Bruce Hughes – after serious criminal charges for obstructing a mining operations were dismissed for lack of evidence.  He called for the law to be changed so that the act of protesting against mining operations could not lead to a potential seven year jail term.

“I’m very pleased that the court has dismissed the serious criminal charges that these brave protesters faced, but the draconian anti-protest laws brought in by the Baird Government need to be urgently repealed as future cases may result in a significant injustice,” Greens MP Jeremy Buckingham said.

“While the prosecution failed to present enough evidence in this case to convict the protesters under the draconian anti-protest laws, it’s alarming the magistrate noted that a different charge of ‘interfering with equipment associated with the mine’, may have been interpreted far more broadly and resulted in criminal convictions.

“The lack of evidence also meant that the magistrate did not have to consider whether these anti-protest laws breach the implied freedom of political communication under the Australian Constitution.  This is still a live question that should be answered by the parliament by repealing these laws and guaranteeing the freedom of political communication – the right to protest.

“The Greens call on the Premier Berejiklian to listen to the legal experts who warned that these laws and associated penalties represented significant overreach. These laws are far too harsh and far too broad.

“Australians should have the right to express their views and protest projects they see as harmful to the humanity and the environment.”

The Big Lie: Calls for transition plan away from coal following T4 cancellation

MEDIA RELEASE: 31 May 2018

The Greens have welcomed the news that the proposal for a fourth coal loader at Newcastle Port has been cancelled and called on the government to use this as a catalyst to develop a serious plan for a just transition away from the coal industry.

Greens Resources and Energy spokesperson Jeremy Buckingham said:

“This is wonderful news. Reality is catching up with the great lie that we can continue to export coal in an age of climate change.

“The possibility that we might have yet another coal loader at the world’s largest coal port made a mockery of Australia’s commitments to action on climate change.

“The Greens call on the government to develop a transition strategy away from coal and will be making this a key election issue,” Mr Buckingham said.

Greens Newcastle City Councillor John Mackenzie said:

“This is fantastic news for our city.  T4 was part of the old Newcastle and the air pollution and heavy industry that it represents has no place in the modern emerging global city that Newcastle is becoming.

“From the outset the economics was against this, the science was against this and the community was against it but because of our broken planning system it was approved anyway.

“Cancellation of T4 means that we can now open up Newcastle’s port capability to more diversity rather than having it quarantined for a coal industry that is on its last legs.

“Communities are sick of being placed in limbo by a planning system which has no red lights and a Government who won’t show leadership by refusing new fossil fuel projects at the outset,” Councillor Mackenzie said.

Contact:  Max Phillips – 9230 2202 or 0419 444 916

John Mackenzie – 0408 533 010

Cancel or buyback gas exploration licences covering the Liverpool Plains

MEDIA RELEASE – 16 May 2018

NSW Greens energy and resources spokesman Jeremy Buckingham called on the government to cancel or buyback petroleum exploration licences (PELs) covering the Liverpool Plains after the resources minister Don Harwin admitted in Question Time that the PELs were connected to the Narrabri gas project proposed by Santos.

NSW Greens energy and resources spokesman Jeremy Buckingham said:

“The minister has let the cat out of the bag and confirmed what farmers have always fears – that the Narrabri gas project is the thin end of the wedge for coal seam gas across the region.

“It’s concerning that the Narrabri gas project may eventually expand to include coal seam gas wells on the Liverpool Plains.

“While Santos says it has ‘no plans’ to drill for gas in its exploration areas over the Liverpool Plains, the exploration areas are clearly connected and if the Narrabri project is approved they may become active exploration areas.

“The nature of unconventional gas is that it has to continually look for new gas wells to replace older wells. It moves across the landscape in a grid pattern.

“Farmers on the Liverpool Plains and elsewhere are right to be concerned that if the Narrabri gas project goes ahead, there area may be targeted for gas in the future.

“The government should give the farmers and community of the Liverpool Plains certainty and cancel or buyback these gas exploration areas.”

Video of the Question and Answer: https://youtu.be/lmO0vqOFsE4

LIVERPOOL PLAINS PETROLEUM EXPLORATION LICENCES

15 May 2018

Mr JEREMY BUCKINGHAM ( 16:23 ): My question is directed to the Minister for Resources, and Minister for Energy and Utilities. Six petroleum exploration licences cover part of the iconic Liverpool Plains. Given that at Santos’ recent annual general meeting its chief executive officer Kevin Gallagher told farmers that Santos has no plans to drill the wells in the Liverpool Plains but it cannot excise those parts of its licences that cover the Liverpool Plains and that it is something it will have to live with, will the Government provide certainty to the farmers of the Liverpool Plains by cancelling or buying back the parts of the petroleum exploration licences that cover the Liverpool Plains and permanently rule out gas extraction in this area?

The PRESIDENT: Order! I call the Hon. Rick Colless to order for the first time.

The Hon. DON HARWIN (Minister for Resources, Minister for Energy and Utilities, and Minister for the Arts) ( 16:24 ): I thank Mr Jeremy Buckingham for his question. As he indicates, those licences do have a connection with the Narrabri project that is currently being investigated by Santos. The Santos-Narrabri project and its associated environmental impact statement [EIS] were lodged on 1 February 2017 and exhibited between February and May last year. It is a matter of public record that the EIS attracted a large number of submissions from the community and Government—the highest number of submissions ever received for a publicly exhibited EIS.

On 13 April, just a few weeks ago, the Department of Planning and Environment received Santos’ formal response to submissions for the project. The department is currently reviewing the response to submissions, which will be thoroughly considered by the department on its merits under legislation and New South Wales Government policy guidelines alongside the EIS. The application is currently progressing through a system of processes under the State significant development provisions of the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act. I am sure Mr Jeremy Buckingham would be aware that the development assessment process is being handled by the Minister for Planning, but there are clear project benefits from the Narrabri—

Mr Jeremy Buckingham: Point of order: My point of order relates to relevance. I do not believe the Minister is being genuinely relevant to the question which related to petroleum exploration licences over the Liverpool Plains. The Narrabri gas project is a distinct project. I asked a question about petroleum exploration licences [PELs] and not about the Narrabri gas project. The Minister has talked only about the Narrabri gas project. I ask that he be drawn back to the substance of the question.

The PRESIDENT: I will look at the question. I thank Mr Jeremy Buckingham for his point of order. I believe that the Minister is being generally relevant. The Minister has the call.

The Hon. DON HARWIN: The project can deliver on the Government’s priorities for a secure, reliable and affordable gas supply for the residents of New South Wales within the current market and related gas supply framework. It can provide a mid-to long-term domestic gas supply in New South Wales. It can also offer certainty to wholesale and retail customers in the short term by providing insulation from price shocks. It will have the capacity to generate up to 50 per cent of the State’s gas supply at peak production, or 200 terajoules a day for more than 25 years. I visited the site of the project and some of the wells that have been dug. I spoke to people in the community who are concerned about the project and I met with a range of groups in the Narrabri community. There is extremely strong support for the Santos-Narrabri gas project in the town of Narrabri. The community understands what this project is worth to the town. It also understands the royalties and what that would mean for the State Government.

The PELs surround the Narrabri Gas Project. Nevertheless, the project and what is affected is dealt with by the EIS. While the project is in the development assessment phase, I am not proposing to take any action on the PELs until that process is concluded. I note that the PEL that covers the area south of Gunnedah— [Time expired.]

Mr JEREMY BUCKINGHAM ( 16:30 ): I ask a supplementary question. Will the Minister elucidate his answer about his comment that the petroleum exploration licences over the Liverpool Plains were “connected to the Narrabri Gas Project” by informing the House how they are connected to the Narrabri Gas Project?

Labor betrays Murray Darling Basin

MEDIA RELEASE – 8 May 2018

NSW Greens water spokesman Jeremy Buckingham today slammed the Labor Party for betraying the Murray Darling Basin by agreeing to support the government’s move to reduce environmental water by 605 gigalitres in  the Southern Basin and 70 gigalitres in the Northern Basin.

“Labor have capitulated to the National Party and big irrigators and have betrayed Australia and the health of the Murray Darling Basin,” said Greens MP Jeremy Buckingham.

“Labor have gotten virtually nothing for selling out our rivers. Decent compliance and enforcement regimes should be a basic function of government, it should not be dependent on political deals that give more water to special interests.

“One wonders if the influence of former Labor MP Steve Whan, who is now chief executive of the National Irrigators Council, had anything to do with Labor’s backflip? The Australian people are sick to the gills of ex-politicians turning to lobbying and influencing their former colleagues.

“Just when the community thought Labor had a backbone after they supported the disallowance of 70 gigalitre reduction in the diversion limit for the Northern Basin, they’ve crumbled and sold out the entire Murray-Darling basin.

“The Murray Darling Basin needs real water returned to its rivers, lakes and wetlands. Multiple ‘water saving’ projects, without transparent business cases or definitive guaranteed water savings, are no replacement for actual water flowing down our rivers.

“This all looks like a big con, a smoke and mirrors trick to preserve the privilege of a few special interests. One day we will have a Royal Commission that will expose the rot in water management in Australia,” he said.

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