SIMON BIRMINGHAM: Last night in the Senate, the Government rejected Coalition attempts to provide an option to streamline environmental laws as they relate to coal seam gas. Important new laws are passing the Parliament* as it relates to coal seam gas but the Coalition wants to make sure that we eliminate duplication between the federal and state governments in the application of these laws, just as we want to establish a one-stop shop for environmental approvals that eliminates duplication across all environmental laws right around Australia.
The Government’s confirmed that the 17 pages of new environmental laws being proposed will cost $38 million just to administer in the Canberra bureaucracy, that 50 new staff in the department of Environment [Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities] will be required just to administer these new laws around coal seam gas.
We believe that, rather than duplicating laws between the state level and the Commonwealth level, we should apply of course the highest possible standard but have a one-stop shop that allows for seamless approvals at both the state and federal level.
It’s a grave concern that Labor and the Greens rejected Coalition amendments that could save taxpayers money, that could save industry ‘red tape’ regulatory costs, that could make our system far more efficient in this regard and it’s a great concern that the Government, in doing so, imposes higher costs on the taxpayer, a higher bureaucracy here in Canberra, rather than seizing the opportunity to reduce those types of costs and it just once again demonstrates that Labor is completely reckless with taxpayers’ money, doesn’t really care about reining in costs and is quite happy to impose higher regulatory burdens on Australian industry when there is very definitely a better way to streamline these types of mechanisms.
JOURNALIST: Judi Moylan yesterday lamented the fact that moderates within the Liberal Party have perhaps disappeared. Do you share any of those same concerns?
SIMON BIRMINGHAM: Look, I would perhaps suggest that I’m standing right here and I hope to be here for a little while to come. Look, I’ve been proud to be a champion of liberal values within the Liberal Party. That’s something that I will continue to do. I’ll continue to support other candidates and Members to do that very same thing. I’ve got no doubt that there will be strong liberal voices and strong conservative voices in the Liberal Party going forward which is what is so important to ensure our party is reflective of the broad spectrum of Australian views.
JOURNALIST: She also encouraged Tony Abbott to allow more of his Members, more of the Liberal Party, to be able to vote with their conscience. Do you agree with that and perhaps on the issue of gay marriage?
SIMON BIRMINGHAM: Well, I’ve made my views on that particular issue known for a long time. Judi has been, can I say, an outstanding contributor to the Parliament and she will be a very real loss to the Coalition party room and to the Liberal Party in particular but, as one Member leaves this place, others replace and I have no doubt there will be fabulous new voices who will come into the party room. The important thing in politics nowadays is, yes, that we present a unified, disciplined approach but the most important thing in the Liberal party is that we have great freedom within our party room to speak our mind, to argue the issues and, indeed, freedom that is denied of Labor MPs to go into the Parliament and cross the floor if you so wish. Judi is one who’s exercised that right over the years – others will do so in the future – but it is a right that, like so many rights, should be used preciously, cautiously and on very rare occasions when it is really, really justified.
JOURNALIST: But not on the issue of gay marriage?
SIMON BIRMINGHAM: Well, I think in future, I hope, that we will see some changes there but those are debates for the next Parliament.
*Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Amendment Bill 2013