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Question to the Environment Minister on the water trigger

21 March, 2024:

Dr Scamps: My question is to the Minister for the Environment and Water. Minister, last year you expanded the water trigger in our national environment laws so all forms of unconventional gas were covered by it. The gas company Tamboran Resources has approval from the Northern Territory government to start gas fracking in the Beetaloo Basin. The new water trigger very likely applies to that project, but Tamboran has not referred it to you for assessment. Minister, why haven't you used your powers to call in the Tamboran project for assessment?

Ms Plibersek (Minister for the Environment and Water): I want to thank the member for Mackellar for her question. She has been a very long-term advocate for better environmental protections, and she did an enormous amount of work to strengthen the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act to broaden the water trigger to all forms of unconventional gas. I thank her for her support of the government's first tranche of changes to the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act, which passed this parliament at the end of last year, including the water trigger but also, of course, establishing the nature repair market.

Of course, as a potential decision-maker, I'm not able to comment on any individual matters that may come before me, but I want to reassure the member for Mackellar that the Department of Climate Change, Energy, the Environment and Water wrote to all known companies that have activities in the Beetaloo Basin, including Tamboran Resources, to inform them of their new obligations that may apply to any operations they have under the water trigger amendments. I haven't received any referral for the activities of any of those companies in the Beetaloo Basin. As I say, it's not appropriate for me, as a potential decision-maker, to offer commentary on any particular project. But, because the member for Mackellar and a number of members on this side have raised concerns, I have asked my department to provide advice to me to assure me that all companies that are operating in the Beetaloo Basin are complying with their obligations under the expanded water trigger.