31 May 2017

2nd Reading Speech

The Hon. ADAM SEARLE ( 16:57 ): I lead for the Opposition on the Mining and Petroleum Legislation Amendment Bill 2017. I indicate that the Opposition does not oppose the legislation. The object of the bill is to amend the Mining Act 1992, the Mining Regulation 2016 and the Petroleum (Onshore Act 1991 to clarify how those activities that are now known as mining purposes, to be called “ancillary mining activities” in the future, are carried out in connection with mining leases and regulated under the Mining Act. For example, this bill will permit the consolidation of multiple ancillary mining activities into a single mining title. At present there might be a primary mining title and then multiple and separate titles regulating each individual ancillary mining activity taking place in conjunction with the primary mining operation. These are typically to do with tailings, dams, stockpiles of displaced soils and other works. This is to make sure that they can all be consolidated into the one title and regulated more simply.

The bill also makes further provision in relation to the giving of enforceable undertakings under the Mining Act and Petroleum (Online) Act and the enforcement of those instruments. For example, it requires those undertakings, including any variations made to them, to be published publicly. It will enable the secretary of the department to apply to the NSW Land and Environment Court rather than the District Court for an order if a person contravenes an enforceable undertaking under the mining and petroleum acts, whether or not proceedings have been instituted for an offence for the contravention of the enforceable undertaking.

At present if the court is satisfied that the person who made the enforceable undertaking has contravened the undertaking of the court, in addition to imposing any penalty it may also make orders directing the person to comply with the undertaking, an order discharging the undertaking and any other order the court considers appropriate in the circumstances. This includes orders directing the person to pay to the State the costs of the proceedings and the reasonable costs of the secretary in monitoring compliance with the enforceable undertaking in the future.

This bill adds to that and makes it clear that those applications can now take place in the Land and Environment Court, not just the District Court. This is a rare example perhaps of this Government taking a jurisdiction from a generalist court of a lower stature, such as the District Court, and giving it to a superior court of record equivalent to the Supreme Court and the Land and Environment Court and giving it specialist jurisdiction. It is a bit like the reverse of the work, health and safety jurisdiction being taken out of the industrial court and sent down to the District Court. There is a little irony there.

The legislation also permits proceedings to deal with breaches of enforceable undertakings to be dealt with summarily in the Land and Environment Court. That is a sensible provision to make clear. The legislation makes further provision in relation to offences under the Mining Act and the Petroleum Act regarding the furnishing of false or misleading information. It significantly increases the penalties and makes them consistent with offences under the Mining Act, the Petroleum Act, the Protection of the Environment Operations Act, the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act and the Biodiversity Conservation Act. Penalties are increased from $55,000 to $220,000 for individuals and from $110,000 to $1.1 million as a maximum penalty for corporations. We welcome that aspect of the legislation.

The legislation makes other miscellaneous amendments regarding the administration and enforcement of the Mining Act and the Petroleum Act. I note that all relevant stakeholders in the sector appear to have been consulted including the Minerals Council and the mining division of the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union. The Minerals Council is not happy with aspects of the legislation but not so unhappy that it would oppose it. We have no difficulties with the legislation before the House.