Windsor asks for patience on CSG issue

KEY federal independent MP Tony Windsor has called for patience as the Parliament deals with the contentious issue of coal seam gas.

During a lengthy debate in the lower house this week Mr Windsor said he was not opposed to the expansion of the CSG industry, but only in areas where clear scientific evidence indicated it was safe to proceed.

His comments came as the House of Representatives debated a bill to establish an independent scientific committee to provide advice on CSG and large coal mining projects where there was a potential risk to water resources.

"The one thing that the scientific committee, the National Partnerships Agreement and people's genuine concerns express is that they do not want to rush in to some of these things," Mr Windsor said.

"I am opposed to the people who are just opposed for the sake of being opposed; I do not agree with those people at all.

"There has to be an objective process that makes a determination that people on all sides can have some faith in.

"Regrettably, in New South Wales - I cannot speak for Queensland, although I think there are some aspects of it there - the community has had very little faith in the decision-making process, particularly when it is applied to some of the more sensitive lands that have groundwater and surface water issues, productivity issues and perhaps even salinity issues."

Mr Windsor has long been interested in the issue of CSG extraction and has been instrumental in the establishment of the scientific committee.

He said industry claims there was enough gas to power a city the size of Sydney for "5000 years" added weight to the patience argument.

"If this is the case, couldn't we just wait a little while, if that much is known now?

"It is not an energy security issue that is going to paralyse the city or the state.

"We need some more objective science in terms of the sensitive areas," he said.

Opposition resources spokesman Ian Macfarlane said the Coalition supported the legislation and had "confidence in the expert panel".

But not for the first time he mounted a spirited defence of the CSG industry and talked about its ability to "reinvigorate" regional and rural communities.

"The Coalition does support the coal-seam industry, where it does not impact on underground water and on the quality of land and its productivity," Mr Macfarlane said.

"It goes without saying that there has been a huge economic boost to rural communities.

"I say to those people who oppose the coal-seam industry, regardless of what it does to ensure that it is protecting the environment, that they should go out there and have a look at communities that, during my 57 years of life, have done nothing but go backwards.

"If we are serious about reinvigorating rural communities, we will not just do it with agriculture and tourism. We need active industries out there.

"While we do have to be extraordinarily careful with this industry to ensure that we protect our long-term legacy, we should with one hand be guiding and steering it and ensuring that protection, but with the other hand we should be thanking it for the economic contribution it is making to areas I genuinely thought we could never save."

The bill is now back before the Senate after further amendments were passed by the lower house on Monday.