BSA stands up for landholder rights at hearing

Report by BSA Committee Member Dale Stiller

Basin Sustainability Alliance committee members Neil Cameron and Peter Shannon represented BSA at the Parliamentary Committee hearing in Toowoomba (on 19th August) on the increasingly notorious Mineral & Energy Resources (Common Provisions) Bill. Later in the hearing Michael Murray of Cotton Australia summed up what many had been saying when he gave evidence and thereby preserved for prosperity in Hansard, “There are only 2 parliamentarians who bothered to turn up here to a roomful of interested people; it is very disappointing.” Michael then went on to speak about the bill itself, “This committee has an important role, in the absence of an upper house you are our checks and balances. This has been a huge job for everyone to respond to this very complex bill.”

First up at the hearing was briefing by the Department of Natural Resources and Mines followed by George Houen of Landholder Services before BSA’s team fronted the front desk. Neil gave a good summary of BSA’s concerns and then Peter gave an impassioned and very effective presentation of just how this bill will impact upon landholders and how the bill does not meet the Legislative Standards Act.

“This bill is the most serious attack on landowners” Peter told the hearing having firstly introduced himself as a lawyer of 30 years standing who now practices entirely on resource matters and that he is also a landowner. “I couldn’t have written this landholder opt out election ‘protection’ any better if the brief was to write it entirely for the benefit of resource companies.” In referring to the earlier briefing by DNR&M Peter said, “It is absolute rubbish that under opt out arrangements that landowners will have protection” Peter explained the dangers of removing protection to landowners against small mines reinforced with a case he is involved in that is greatly affecting a landowner. The 4 principles of the Legislative standards Act were pressed home and how this bill flaunts the principle of natural justice to be available to landowners.

It was good to see that individual landowners were able to give witness to the hearing.  Separately  3 landowners who had been in the land Court against the Xstrata Wandoan coal mine made it clear what would be the case if landowners could not object in the future and the “stupidity” of the proposition promoted by government and resource advocates that people objecting and going to the land court are “vexatious litigators”. Bruce Ubergang was able to give evidence of his experience of having CSG activity on his land since 2006. He told that he believes, “That QGC runs just within the law “and was alarmed that QGC in its submission to the bill asked that the Land Court not to have the ability to consider the matter of conduct, to as Bruce put it, “cover their dishonourable conduct.” Bruce gave example of extreme frustration of his dealings with QGC including taking 29 meetings and 2 years to ensure that QGC rehabilitated 3 old well holes they had abandoned.