Great Artesian Basin Needs Leadership

14 May 2024. Michael Guerin, AgForce CEO.

At BEEF24 in Rockhampton last week – Nationals Leader David Littleproud made a significant concession in our ongoing battle against a proposal to pump the Great Artesian Basin (GAB) with industrial waste.

He acknowledged that the last LNP Government got it wrong when it waived through an application by international mining giant Glencore to store waste carbon dioxide in Australia’s largest underground freshwater system on February 9, 2022.

His admission was a welcome and strong display of humility and leadership, with the industry response showing a palpable sense of relief.

It was also notable to industry and community that Queensland Premier Steven Miles expressed his view at BEEF24 that the Glencore proposal was ‘not a good idea’ and unlikely to get the state environmental approvals it needed.

This all shows how absurd it is that AgForce has been left with no other option but to defend and protect the Great Artesian Basin by seeking judicial review in the Federal Court. It also speaks volumes about the current Federal Government, which has the power to bring the Glencore proposal back in for proper consideration, yet for some unfathomable reason appears determined not to.

Make no mistake – this issue can only be solved at a federal level.

This entire farce highlights a crucial legal oversight – that the Great Artesian Basin should and must have protection from federal environmental law. That protection should be provided by the Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conversation Act, which failed on February 9 2022, but should be remedied.

That some organisations continue to promulgate the falsehood that this dilemma can be solved through State Parliament baffles AgForce, and sadly takes energy away from the focus and leadership needed at the Federal level.

The plea from every Australian who becomes aware of what is proposed by Glencore is that the Federal Minister for the Environment Tanya Plibersek should use her power to bring the proposal back in for proper consideration. Make no mistake – she has that power.

And we concur – making a plea to the environment minister, for the sake of one of the world’s largest and most precious natural wonders, and all who rely on it, to please reconsider the Glencore proposal under the provisions of the Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act relating to Matters of National Environmental Significant (MNES provisions).

It’s a call also backed up by Agriculture Minister Murray Watt – who told Beef24 that the Glencore project is the number one issue being raised with him. It’s time for proper due process and rigorous assessment of this proposal, and as Senator Watt said – its impact on prime agricultural land and agricultural production.

/Public Release. View in full here.