Federal Register of Legislation - Australian Government

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A Bill for an Act to establish a Commission of Inquiry into the coal seam gas industry in Australia, and for related purposes
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Registered 04 Sep 2017
Introduced HR 04 Sep 2017

2016‑2017

 

The Parliament of the

Commonwealth of Australia

 

HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES

 

 

 

 

Presented and read a first time

 

 

 

 

Commission of Inquiry (Coal Seam Gas) Bill 2017

 

No.      , 2017

 

(Mr Katter)

 

 

 

A Bill for an Act to establish a Commission of Inquiry into the coal seam gas industry in Australia, and for related purposes

  

  

  


Contents

Part 1—Preliminary                                                                                                             1

1............ Short title............................................................................................. 1

2............ Commencement................................................................................... 2

3............ Simplified outline of this Act.............................................................. 2

4............ Definitions.......................................................................................... 2

Part 2—Establishing the Commission of Inquiry (Coal Seam Gas)       3

5............ Commission of Inquiry (Coal Seam Gas) is established..................... 3

6............ Terms of reference.............................................................................. 4

7............ Report to the Parliament...................................................................... 5

8............ Extending the period within which the Commission may report......... 6

Part 3—Powers of the Commission of Inquiry (Coal Seam Gas)            8

9............ Hearings.............................................................................................. 8

10.......... Commission not bound by the rules of evidence................................. 8

11.......... Application of the Royal Commissions Act 1902................................ 8

12.......... Application of Commonwealth laws................................................... 9

Part 4—Other matters                                                                                                       10

13.......... Staff.................................................................................................. 10

14.......... Legal and financial assistance............................................................ 10

15.......... Regulations....................................................................................... 10

 


A Bill for an Act to establish a Commission of Inquiry into the coal seam gas industry in Australia, and for related purposes

The Parliament of Australia enacts:

Part 1Preliminary

  

1  Short title

                   This Act is the Commission of Inquiry (Coal Seam Gas) Act 2017.

2  Commencement

             (1)  Each provision of this Act specified in column 1 of the table commences, or is taken to have commenced, in accordance with column 2 of the table. Any other statement in column 2 has effect according to its terms.

 

Commencement information

Column 1

Column 2

Column 3

Provisions

Commencement

Date/Details

1.  The whole of this Act

The day after this Act receives the Royal Assent.

 

Note:          This table relates only to the provisions of this Act as originally enacted. It will not be amended to deal with any later amendments of this Act.

             (2)  Any information in column 3 of the table is not part of this Act. Information may be inserted in this column, or information in it may be edited, in any published version of this Act.

3  Simplified outline of this Act

This Act establishes the Commission of Inquiry (Coal Seam Gas).

The Commission has the same powers as a Royal Commission.

4  Definitions

                   In this Act:

Commission means the Commission of Inquiry (Coal Seam Gas) established under section 5.

Judge means a Judge of the High Court, of a court created by the Parliament or of the Supreme Court of a State or Territory.

Part 2Establishing the Commission of Inquiry (Coal Seam Gas)

  

5  Commission of Inquiry (Coal Seam Gas) is established

             (1)  A Commission is established by this subsection, to be known as the Commission of Inquiry (Coal Seam Gas).

             (2)  The Commission is constituted by 6 Commissioners, consisting of:

                     (a)  3 Judges, or former Judges; and

                     (b)  3 representatives of the Australian community.

             (3)  The Commissioners are to be appointed by a committee of members of the House of Representatives.

             (4)  The committee of members of the House of Representatives is to consist of:

                     (a)  a person nominated by the Prime Minister; and

                     (b)  a person nominated by the leader of the Opposition; and

                     (c)  a person nominated by a member of the Australian Greens who is:

                              (i)  a member of the House of Representatives; or

                             (ii)  if there is no member of the Australian Greens who is a member of the House of Representatives—a senator; and

                     (d)  a person nominated by a member of the Nick Xenophon Team who is:

                              (i)  a member of the House of Representatives; or

                             (ii)  if there is no member of the Nick Xenophon Team who is a member of the House of Representatives—a senator; and

                     (e)  a person nominated by a member of Katter’s Australian Party who is:

                              (i)  a member of the House of Representatives; or

                             (ii)  if there is no member of Katter’s Australian Party who is a member of the House of Representatives—a senator.

             (5)  The committee must also appoint one of the 6 Commissioners to be the Presiding Member of the Commission.

             (6)  A decision of the committee is made by the agreement of a majority of members of the committee.

6  Terms of reference

                   The matters into which the Commission must inquire are:

                     (a)  the impacts of fracking and unconventional gas on land, water and communities; and

                     (b)  the power imbalance between family farming operations and coal seam gas companies who have professional legal and expert technical teams; and

                     (c)  whether that power imbalance should be addressed by better enforcement of legal costs being borne by the coal seam gas companies, without this being used as a leverage on agreements; and

                     (d)  that the onus of proof should be on the coal seam gas company not the landholder when proving damage caused or alleged to have been caused by the coal seam gas company; and

                     (e)  that the regulator have greater requirement to lodge breach of condition notices within fixed time frames; and

                      (f)  the movement of staff between government agencies and coal seam gas companies; and

                     (g)  any payment of monies by coal seam gas companies to government bodies or personnel, and the nature and consequence of this; and

                     (h)  the need to extend the period of time open for lodgement of damages claims against coal seam gas companies to allow long run impacts damages to be claimed by farmers; and

                      (i)  the previous recommendation that a land access ombudsman be appointed, and the terms of reference, appointment and reporting standards for this role.

7  Report to the Parliament

             (1)  The Commission must submit to the Speaker of the House of Representatives a report containing:

                     (a)  the Commission’s findings of fact; and

                     (b)  the Commission’s recommendations as a result of the inquiry.

             (2)  The report must be submitted on or before the end of the period of 2 years starting on the commencement of this section, unless that period is extended (see section 8).

             (3)  The Commission must submit with its report a record of so much of the evidence before the Commission as the Commission thinks necessary to substantiate its findings of fact and its conclusions.

             (4)  If the Commission is of the opinion that, if any of its findings or conclusions or any of the evidence given before the Commission were laid before the Houses of the Parliament:

                     (a)  a person who has been or may be charged with an offence might not receive a fair trial for the offence; or

                     (b)  the conduct of an investigation of a breach or possible breach of the law, might be prejudiced; or

                     (c)  the existence or identity of a confidential source of information in relation to the enforcement or administration of the law might be disclosed or a person enabled to ascertain the existence or identity of that source; or

                     (d)  there might be prejudice to the safety or reputation of a person;

the Commission may submit those findings or conclusions, or that evidence, to the Speaker of the House of Representatives in a separate report, together with a statement of its opinion.

             (5)  As soon as practicable after receiving the report and record of evidence, the Speaker of the House of Representatives must cause copies of the report and record, other than a separate report submitted under subsection (4), to be laid before each House of the Parliament.

             (6)  The Minister must table the Government’s response to the report within 6 months after copies of the report are laid before the House of Representatives.

8  Extending the period within which the Commission may report

             (1)  The Commission may request an extension of the period within which the Commission must report under section 7 by notice in writing to the Speaker of the House of Representatives.

             (2)  If the Commission requests an extension, the Speaker must convene a committee made up of members of the House of Representatives to consider the request.

             (3)  The committee of members of the House of Representatives is to consist of:

                     (a)  a person nominated by the Prime Minister; and

                     (b)  a person nominated by the leader of the Opposition; and

                     (c)  a person nominated by a member of the Australian Greens who is:

                              (i)  a member of the House of Representatives; or

                             (ii)  if there is no member of the Australian Greens who is a member of the House of Representatives—a senator; and

                     (d)  a person nominated by a member of the Nick Xenophon Team who is:

                              (i)  a member of the House of Representatives; or

                             (ii)  if there is no member of the Nick Xenophon Team who is a member of the House of Representatives—a senator; and

                     (e)  a person nominated by a member of Katter’s Australian Party who is:

                              (i)  a member of the House of Representatives; or

                             (ii)  if there is no member of Katter’s Australian Party who is a member of the House of Representatives—a senator.

             (4)  The committee may extend the period within which a report is to be given.

             (5)  A decision of the committee is made by the agreement of a majority of members of the committee.

Part 3Powers of the Commission of Inquiry (Coal Seam Gas)

  

9  Hearings

             (1)  The Commission may hold hearings.

             (2)  The hearings may be held at such places as the Commission determines.

             (3)  Subject to this Act, the procedure at a hearing is to be such as the Commission determines.

10  Commission not bound by the rules of evidence

                   The Commission is not bound by the rules of evidence and may inform itself on any matter in such manner as it thinks fit.

11  Application of the Royal Commissions Act 1902

             (1)  Subject to this section, the Royal Commissions Act 1902, and regulations made under that Act (the Royal Commissions Regulations), apply in relation to the Commission, and to the Commissioners conducting it, as if:

                     (a)  the Commission were a Royal Commission; and

                     (b)  each Commissioner were a member of a Royal Commission.

             (2)  The Governor‑General may make regulations (under this subsection), amending the Royal Commissions Regulations, as the Royal Commissions Regulations apply in accordance with subsection (1) of this section.

             (3)  Sections 10 and 15 of the Royal Commissions Act 1902, in their application in accordance with subsection (1) of this section, have effect as if references in those sections to offences against that Act included references to such offences as apply in accordance with subsection (1) of this section.

             (4)  If a body corporate is convicted of an offence against the Royal Commissions Act 1902, in that Act’s application in accordance with subsection (1) of this section, the court may impose a pecuniary penalty not exceeding 10 times the amount of the maximum pecuniary penalty that could be imposed by the court on an individual convicted of the same offence.

12  Application of Commonwealth laws

                   The law of the Commonwealth (including the general law) applies in the same way in relation to the Commission as it would apply in relation to a Royal Commission.

Part 4Other matters

  

13  Staff

             (1)  The Commission may employ such persons as it considers necessary for the performance of its functions and the exercise of its powers.

             (2)  An employee is to be employed on the terms and conditions that the Commission determines in writing.

14  Legal and financial assistance

             (1)  A person who is appearing or is about to appear, or a person who is entitled to appear, before the Commission may apply to the Commission for assistance under this section.

             (2)  The Commission may, if it is satisfied that:

                     (a)  it would involve substantial hardship to the person to refuse the application; or

                     (b)  the circumstances of the case are of such a nature that the application should be granted;

authorise the provision to that person of such legal or financial assistance in respect of that person’s appearance as the Commission determines.

             (3)  The authorisation given may be conditional or unconditional.

             (4)  The Minister must ensure that any legal or financial assistance authorised by the Commission is provided.

             (5)  Any legal or financial assistance authorised by the Commission is to be paid for out of moneys appropriated by the Parliament for the purposes of the Commission.

15  Regulations

                   The Governor‑General may make regulations prescribing matters:

                     (a)  required or permitted by this Act to be prescribed by the regulations; or

                     (b)  necessary or convenient to be prescribed for carrying out or giving effect to this Act.