Neighbourly compensations: lawyers, parliamentary submissions and coal seam gas in Australia

Dr David Turton1

1Fenner School of Environment and Society, Australian National University, Canberra, Australia


Landholder compensation is a critical part of Australia’s coal seam gas sector. One way to explore this – and the legal geography and distributive justice issues it raises – is to scrutinise parliamentary submissions prepared by lawyers for government inquiries into coal seam gas-related legislation. Drawing on the lawyer-focussed work of Deborah Martin and colleagues (2010) and the notion of a ‘rural lawscape’ from Lisa Pruitt (2014), this presentation delves into some preliminary findings from a project investigating a Queensland parliamentary committee’s inquiry into the then Mineral, Water and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2018. During this inquiry, arguments about the geographical scope of ‘compensatable effects’ for landholders impacted by coal seam gas development were raised by lawyers representing a variety of stakeholders. Their submissions gave voice to notions of distributive justice and the ability of landholders to seek compensation for coal seam gas activities. This presentation highlights the value of examining lawyer perspectives on legislation prior to its enactment, showcasing their role as public policy actors and creators of socio-spatial relations. In arguing about compensation and at what scale it should apply, lawyers attempted to shape the spatial limits of distributive justice.


David graduated from the Australian National University last year with a PhD examining Australia’s coal seam gas debate, publishing articles on the legal geography of the sector and key professions associated with the industry. He has undergraduate qualifications in History and Law from James Cook University, with research interests in the legal geography of disability and the history of the ombudsman concept in Australia. David is currently an Honorary Lecturer with the Fenner School of Environment and Society at ANU. For more information, David can be reached via email,

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