Debate continues today over mine rehabilitation laws
CHANGES to Queensland's mine rehabilitation legislation will be debated in parliament this week and Treasurer Jackie Trad has hit back at claims made by Senator Matthew Canavan about "secret" amendments and their potential to harm the resources sector.
Ms Trad has denied claims that any changes to the legislation would be retrospective.
"This legislation is not about punishing existing mines for past wrong doing," she said.
"It is about making sure practices of the past, which saw taxpayers and communities foot the bill for rehabilitation, don't continue."
Ms Trad said Queensland had the equivalent of 10,000 football fields of priority abandoned mine sites, and more than 14,000 other identified abandoned sites and amendments, made after dozens of meetings with stakeholders, would be introduced into the parliament this week.
"This is world-leading legislation," she said.
"Some of these amendments represent feedback from the mining industry. Some of the amendments represent feedback from the environmental sector."
The Queensland Resources Council is continuing to work on the amendments with the Government today and CEOIan Macfarlane said they were hopeful of a positive outcome that removed all retrospectivity.
"But it's essential we get this right, as the Government promised there were no retrospective elements to the new laws," he said.
"The resources sector adds more than $55 billion to the state's bottom line. It employs about 300,000 Queenslanders and contributes more than $4 billion in royalties.
"We want to have the highest standards of rehabilitation, and world-leading environmental practices, but we also have to keep the resources industry alive.
"We can't throw away Queensland's reputation as a safe place to invest.
"It's not only thousands of existing jobs in mines across Queensland that are on the line. The Government would also be risking future investment and jobs for the next generation of Queenslanders if the laws are retrospective."
However activist group, Lock the Gate spokesman Rick Humphries said a loophole, which allowed current mines to leave behind pit voids, waster rock and water dumps needed to be filled.
He said polling in the electorates of Capricornia, Dawson and Herbert indicated 91 per cent support for mining companies to back-fill coal pits at the end of the mine's life and called for further tightening of the legislation.
"Better rehabilitation means more earthworks, more bulldozers and more people to drive and maintain them," he said.
"That's more jobs and investment in regional Queensland."
The mine rehabilitation legislation was originally introduced during the last term of parliament and, according to Ms Trad, has struck a balance where all miners would pay into an insurance fund to ensure rehabilitation happens and mines are not left abandoned or in care and maintenance for decades.
She said the bill "essentially says" where a void can, in best interest of the community, economy and environment, be refilled, it should be, according to world class standards.
It was this issue that Senator Canavan was most concerned about.
Last week he said it was not possible to fill all voids and a requirement to do so had to potential to make some companies insolvent overnight.
He said neither he nor the industry were arguing against improvements to the laws but some requirements were impossible to meet and would put thousands of jobs at risk.
"That particular proposal seems more about hurting the prospects of mining ... than it is realistically about making sure we have appropriate balance between environmental protection and job creation," he said.