Resources Minister Josh Frydenberg
Resources Minister Josh Frydenberg Allan Reinikka

Right to refuse CSG on COAG agenda

THE question of whether farmers should get the right to say no to coal seam gas companies will be mulled over by mining ministers before the end of the year.

Despite Deputy Prime Minister Warren Truss ruling out any changes to the Coalition's policy on the issue, Resources Minister Josh Frydenberg has pledged to take it up.

The Coalition's current policy, Mr Truss's spokesman said this week, was still the same as at the 2013 Federal Election.

Namely, the government supports farmers having the right to refuse gas companies access, but will not take any action because it is governed by state laws.

But Mr Frydenberg told ABC he would put the issue on the agenda for the COAG Energy Council meeting, expected in December.

He said the meeting would consider how to "share best practice" and "outline key principles".

While several Nationals MPs in New South Wales have backed the idea, the National, Liberal and Labor parties opposed a Greens bill to make it a reality earlier this year.

That bill, from Greens Senator Larissa Waters, was voted down by a Senate committee inquiry, repeating the difficulties negotiating state-based rights over mineral resources.

While Queensland and NSW have land access agreements recommended to guide talks between landowners and gas companies, many farmers have hit out at an imbalance resulting from the resources sector's greater funds and access to legal advisors and technical experts.

Mr Frydenberg said he wanted landholders and CSG firms to come to agreements, but there was also a need to protect prime agricultural land and water.

COAG Energy Council released a national framework in 2013 to guide CSG regulation, based on 18 "leading practices" for environmental and minerals regulation.

The document said the framework "should be underpinned by the principle of co-existence" between landholders and gas firms.

It said all land users' rights should be respected, "while ensuring that regulated land is not restricted to a sole use without considering the implications or consequences for other potential land uses, and the broader benefits to all".

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