Department of the Environment

Archived media releases and speeches

The Hon Tony Burke MP

Minister for Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities

Question without notice - Parliament House

23 August 2012

KIRSTEN LIVERMORE MEMBER FOR CAPRICORNIA: My question is to the Minister for Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities. Will the Minister update the House on the decisions taken for environmental approval of coal projects in the Galilee Basin? What additional environmental standards have been put in place as a result of Commonwealth intervention to protect the environment and, in particular the Great Barrier Reef?

TONY BURKE: I want to thank the member for Capricornia for the question and note her strong concerns about the protection of the Great Barrier Reef and for jobs in her electorate.

This is an approval that should have been able to be dealt with by the federal government some months ago. Members may remember that at the time the Queensland government refused to finish their part of the job and left us with a situation where having said that they would conduct the environmental assessment, ultimately, they did not.

The federal government has now concluded by working directly with the company through the necessary environmental approvals and I have given them today. Those approvals have been welcomed by the company.

I think it is important to note that as recently as today the Queensland Premier has claimed that there are a number of projects sitting on my desk that I am holding back.

In fact, there are now none from Queensland awaiting environmental approval, notwithstanding the comments from the Queensland Premier today.

It is important to note the standards that have been imposed by the Commonwealth are welcomed by the company. In a statement from GVK today it said: GVK chose to invest in Australia because of its low political risk coupled with strong environmental and safety standards which align with GVK's corporate philosophy and values.

These additional environmental standards, which would not have been imposed if we had done what Campbell Newman wanted us to do, include management plans for the Caley Valley wetlands, for water quality, taking into account the impact that run-off can have on the Great Barrier Reef, taking into account the impact that coal dust can have on the Great Barrier Reef.

While the Premier of Queensland continues to say that the Commonwealth, and in particular I, should simply get out of the way on any coal projects that are coming forward, can I make clear my position on this and the position of the federal government.

If what the Premier of Queensland wants is for me to give approvals without conducting checks, then I will stand in his way. If he wants us to trash the Great Barrier Reef and to let him trash the Great Barrier Reef, we will stand in his way.

If he wants to clear-fell every acre of koala habitat in South-East Queensland, we will stand in his way. It does not matter.

We will continue to work with industry, we will continue to get good environmental outcomes and good employment outcomes for Queensland, but, no matter how many times he asks, if the Premier of Queensland wants to indulge in environmental corner-cutting, shambolic process and environmental vandalism, we will have none of it.