The legislation reached the senate yesterday, and while Greens senator Larissa Waters told parliament the party would ultimately support the legislation, both her and Liberal Senator Bill Heffernan had grave reservations about how the panel would operate.
The panel, which was created as a peace offering to independent member Tony Windsor in exchange for his support on the Minerals Resource Rent Tax, is being charged with offering independent scientific advice to states on coal seam gas developments.
However, Heffernan lashed out saying that the panel would be a “toothless tiger”
“This is what you do when you want to be seen doing something but are doing nothing,” Senator Heffernan said.
“This legislation is designed to make sure the commonwealth doesn’t own the problem.”
Waters, while saying the panel was better than nothing, backed up Heffernan’s call, calling into question the exact role the panel would play.
She said that the Greens were concerned the committee’s role would be advisory in nature only, and there was little stopping states from taking on the advice of the panel but simply rejecting it out of hand.
Waters also called for an independent public health expert to be appointed onto the panel, but her call was rebuffed, together with her repeated calls for a five-year moratorium on CSG until a “holistic” review of CSG could be done.
Several states, including Victoria and South Australia have already signed agreements to take the body’s advice on board.
This article first appeared in ILN's sister publication EnergyNewsBulletin.net.