Queensland Government denies backflip on laws that give big miners controversial water rights

Queensland’s Acting Premier Curtis Pitt has denied the Labor Government is preparing to backtrack on an election pledge by keeping controversial water reforms designed to help big mining operations.

In the lead-up to this year’s state election, the ALP vowed it would scrap Newman government laws giving resources companies, including coal miners, the right to extract vast amounts of groundwater for their operations.

At the time, Labor described the package of reforms as “shameful” and “an utter disgrace”, warning they would have “a detrimental effect on the Great Barrier Reef catchment systems and allow for over-allocation of Queensland’s precious water resources”.

But a leaked document, from the Department of Natural Resources and Mines, suggests the Palaszczuk Government has changed its tune significantly and is set to backflip on its commitment.

Asked about the Government’s stance today, Mr Pitt insisted Labor’s election commitments would be met.

“We have further consultation to undertake, but we are very pleased to say that we will be meeting all our election commitments and at the same time protecting our water assets,” he said.

Unfortunately, the Labor Party in opposition overreacted. It was no deal for the mining sector, never was.

Michael Roche, Queensland Resources Council

“I think the suggestion of that is completely unfair given that we have already acted to stop the previous government’s water laws and to ensure that we overturn those and bring something into the Parliament which is going to meet our election commitments.”

The Queensland Resources Council said on Wednesday it was being consulted about possible changes to water laws.

QRC chief executive Michael Roche said mining groups did not lobby for the legislation in the first place.

“Unfortunately the Labor Party in opposition overreacted. It was no deal for the mining sector, never was,” he said.

“We wait with interest with the rest of other stakeholders to see what the State Government’s conclusions are.”

The Water Reform and Other Legislation Amendment Act (WROLA) was introduced by Campbell Newman’s LNP government in November last year.

Heated debate was sparked by Part 4 of the bill, which de-regulated the use of groundwater by resource companies, expanding on a model already enjoyed by coal seam gas operators in Queensland.

The changes would give the mining industry a statutory right to take associated underground water, or water that has to be removed to allow for the extraction of the resource. The public would no longer be able to challenge miners taking this groundwater.

Critics warned the new provisions would allow mining companies to take billions of litres of water without the need for a licence and could even have an impact on water supplies to regional towns.

While the act passed, it was not proclaimed before the January state election, which saw the LNP lose office. The act is due to come into force in November.

In the lead-up to this year’s state election, Labor vowed to repeal the legislation, warning it would allow for too much water to be taken from the Great Artesian Basin and would harm the Great Barrier Reef.

“In essence, this is a shameful bill. It is an utter disgrace,” said Labor’s then-environment spokeswoman Jackie Trad, who is now Deputy Premier, during parliamentary debate on the bill in November.

“[Ms Trad] certainly used extremely strong language in criticising the LNP’s legislation, and quite frankly it was a disgraceful approach to water resources,” Tim Seelig of the Wilderness Society said.


Source: ABC News