Bob Brown moved:

That the senate:

(a) notes the decision by the New South Wales Mining Warden permitting BHP Billiton to proceed with exploration for coal near and under prime food-growing floodplain at Caroona, in the centre of the Liverpool Plains, near Gunnedah;

(b) acknowledges the undiminished opposition to this exploration by local farmers and other members of the local communities and the independent Member for New England in the House of Representatives, Mr Tony Windsor; and

(c) calls on the Government:

  • (i) to exercise all legal and ethical options available to cease the exploration activities of BHP Billiton at Caroona until the completion of the independent expert evaluation of the hydrology of the region, and also
  • (ii) to cease the granting of all exploration licences for the purpose of resource and mineral extraction and undertake further independent studies into impacts of mining on the surficial and underground aquifer systems which form part of the Murray-Darling system if significant risks are identified in the expert evaluation currently underway.

Joe Ludwig explained Labor MPs’ opposition to this motion, saying that:

Section 255A of the Water Act 2007 requires independent expert assessment of groundwater impact prior to considering any approval for mining ... it is very important here to distinguish between exploration activity on the one hand and mining activity on the other hand. Exploration activity in itself is unlikely to have any significant water resource impacts.

Barnaby Joyce explained that Coalition MPs’ opposed the motion because they believed it was “more of a political statement, with political purpose, and that would go beyond their desire to actually achieve something here”, and had not been proceeded with “proper consultation”. He also said that the motion’s focus on Caroona in the Liverpool Plains was intended as a political “wedge” tactic:

Also, it talks about Caroona, as if Caroona in the Liverpool Plains is extremely important. But it is not the only important place. There are other parts of our nation that have the same concerns, which also deserve to be considered in motions such as these. So this issue is being taken to a form of base politics.

Votes Not passed by a large majority

Nobody rebelled against their party.

Party Votes
Australian Greens (100% turnout) 5 Yes 0 No
Bob Brown Tasmania Yes
Sarah Hanson-Young SA Yes
Scott Ludlam WA Yes
Christine Milne Tasmania Yes
Rachel Siewert WA Yes
Australian Labor Party (52% turnout) 0 Yes 16 No
Catryna Bilyk Tasmania No
Doug Cameron NSW No
Jacinta Collins Victoria No
Trish Crossin NT No
David Feeney Victoria No
Mark Furner Queensland No
Annette Hurley SA No
Joe Ludwig Queensland No
Gavin Marshall Victoria No
Anne McEwen SA No
Jan McLucas Queensland No
Claire Moore Queensland No
Kerry O'Brien Tasmania No
Louise Pratt WA No
Nick Sherry Tasmania No
Dana Wortley SA No
Mark Arbib NSW Absent
Mark Bishop WA Absent
Carol Brown Tasmania Absent
Kim Carr Victoria Absent
Stephen Conroy Victoria Absent
Chris Evans WA Absent
Don Farrell SA Absent
John Faulkner NSW Absent
Michael Forshaw NSW Absent
Steve Hutchins NSW Absent
Kate Lundy ACT Absent
Helen Polley Tasmania Absent
Ursula Stephens NSW Absent
Glenn Sterle WA Absent
Penny Wong SA Absent
Nigel Scullion NT Country Liberal Party No
Alan Ferguson SA Deputy President No
Steve Fielding Victoria Family First Party No
Nick Xenophon SA Independent Yes
Liberal Party (50% turnout) 0 Yes 15 No
Judith Adams WA No
Christopher Back WA No
Cory Bernardi SA No
Simon Birmingham SA No
Sue Boyce Queensland No
Michaelia Cash WA No
Mathias Cormann WA No
Alan Eggleston WA No
Concetta Fierravanti-Wells NSW No
Mitch Fifield Victoria No
Mary Fisher SA No
Gary Humphries ACT No
Helen Kroger Victoria No
Stephen Parry Tasmania No
Marise Payne NSW No
Eric Abetz Tasmania Absent
Guy Barnett Tasmania Absent
George Brandis Queensland Absent
David Bushby Tasmania Absent
Richard Colbeck Tasmania Absent
Helen Coonan NSW Absent
Bill Heffernan NSW Absent
David Johnston WA Absent
Ian Macdonald Queensland Absent
Brett Mason Queensland Absent
Nick Minchin SA Absent
Michael Ronaldson Victoria Absent
Scott Ryan Victoria Absent
Judith Troeth Victoria Absent
Russell Trood Queensland Absent
National Party (80% turnout) 0 Yes 4 No
Ron Boswell Queensland No
Barnaby Joyce Queensland No
Fiona Nash NSW No
John Williams NSW No
Julian McGauran Victoria Absent
John Hogg Queensland President Absent
Totals (58% turnout) 6 Yes – 38 No