Thursday, 14 February 2013

PRA: Inquiry Gasfield Commission Bill

This week the Qld Parliament's State Development, Infrastructure and Industry Committee is holding hearings from those who placed submissions to its inquiry into the Gasfield Commission Bill 2012.

Property Rights Australia made a submission and it can be found at the Committee’s webpage amongst 16 other submissions.

Following consultation with five other people I wrote the first draft of PRA’s submission and with the help of fellow board members Joanne Rea, Ashley McKay and also Bill Blake of McKays Solicitors it was tidied up to the finished product. BTW Ashley’s surname and the name of the firm that Bill works under is coincidental.  

The following was my opening address to the committee at the hearing held at Parliament House in Brisbane on Wednesday. After the opening address the committee asked Bill Blake and myself questions about the submission. 

Property Rights Australia represents the interests of landowners specifically the property rights of landowners.

The purpose of the GasFields Commission is stated in the Bill to manage & improve sustainable co-existence

Current legislation ensures an imbalance of power between Resource Authorities, Landowners and the Community.  To date there have been problems with the agricultural industries and the CSG industries coexisting and friction created when trying to exercise the complexities of different parties having different rights over the same patch of ground.

Sustained Agriculture, Water and Community must be the GasFields Commission’s highest priority (or equal priority to that enjoyed by Resource Holders) if real co-existence is to be achieved.

If you the committee fulfil your role to define and enable the GasFields Commission to have a positive, constructive role, then the GasFields Commission will be better empowered to protect the interests of the State, Landowners and the community, particularly with respect to the critical importance of sustainable agriculture and water.

PRA strongly emphasises that the Bill gives the GasFields Commission a lot of power.  Our recommended amendments will further increase that power.

Proper checks and balances must be maintained to protect the interests of all parties if real co-existence is to be achieved.

PRA are in principle opposed to a non judicial body having judicial powers. This opposition is compounded when there is no right of appeal through the common court system. This is based on practical experience of the Vegetation Management Act.

When considering PRA’s submissions, we request that the Committee consider that PRA’s recommendations are dependent upon one and other to provide proper checks and balances.


  1. We arrived at the hearing soon after it started and as we were the last witnesses to be called I saw most that went on.
    John Cotter the Gasfield Commissioner made the observation that “most of the community was wearing the pain without the gain out of the coal seam gas industry.” However when asked about the Gasfield commission Bill not having an obligation of referral, John Cotter said that “the person bringing the complaint forward should take the complaint to the correct regulatory authority.” I would have hoped that the Gasfield Commission would have a more supportive role than how that came across.
    The quote of the day came during Qld Resources Council’s allotted time from a big admission that a QGC executive made when he said, “Our performance on the export pipeline hasn’t been spectacular. We were aware of it being unspectacular but were unaware just how unspectacular.”
    Cotton Australia spokesperson believed correctly that the “Gasfield Commission must have the approach that this is not two equal powers together” and later saying that “the resource sector holds more cards than landholders.” The Agforce employee backed this up by saying that it was a “David & Goliath situation."

  2. Brillant reporting by QCL's Troy Rowling about the Gasfield Commision Bill; he really cuts to the core of the problem in the article, CSG: the truth lies buried

    "While there was widespread support for the establishment of the commission, among the major points of contention, which were raised repeatedly during the public hearings by landholder groups, were the clauses in the legislation detailing the ability of the GasFields Commission to force businesses and individuals to hand over "relevant" information during investigations.

    According to the proposed legislation, landholders, gas operators and other entities must provide "relevant information" to the commission unless, among other reasons, "the giving of the relevant information might tend to incriminate the entity" or "the relevant information is confidential to the entity or the giving of the relevant information might be to the detriment of the entity's commercial or other interests".

    These two clauses have been widely slammed by farming groups, which claim it is too broad a definition and could incorporate almost any type of information, enabling stakeholders to "cover up" serious breaches, ultimately jeopardising the commission's ability to be able to make informed decisions and ensure compliance"

  3. The GasFields Commission seems to be on the cusp of gaining a great deal of power if the reccommendations of agricultural organisations bear any weight.
    Perhaps we ought to consider if it might be wise to have a retired Magistrate or Judge as the Commission Chair to guide commissioners through the maze of legislation, make reccommendations for changes and give confidence that confidential information would remain confidential.


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