Government Whip in the Legislative Council

Liberal Member in the Parliament of South Australia




Statutes Amendment (Mineral Resources) Bill

Tuesday 15 October, 2019

I rise today to note my opposition to the Statutes Amendment (Mineral Resources) Bill. I do not believe that this bill goes far enough to protect our farmers and South Australia's farmland. As stated by a number of my colleagues in the other place, this bill leaves too many issues unresolved for our state's primary producers. As such, I cannot support it in its current form, and have reserved my right on the legislation.

I have consulted with a number of individuals and groups from the agricultural and mining sectors about the particulars within this bill. This deliberation stems back to 2017 when this legislation was introduced by the previous government. Farming groups understand the importance that mining plays in our state's fortunes; however, they believe mining practices can be done in a way which safeguards the land so vital to their industry.

On the other side of the table, the idea of amending sections of this bill has been further compounded with an independent review of the Mining Act being called for by the South Australian Chamber of Mines and Energy. When both sides see ample space for compromise, I do not see how I can support a bill which ignores it.

Various interstate models have been suggested in order to reach an agreement which gives miners accessibility to land without infringing on the agricultural land rights. These include possibilities such as the Queensland model where their agricultural land is protected through planning laws. Including these provisions would require comprehensive policies in regard to land access, protection of critical farm assets and remediation works for land post-mining. Included in this suite of policies is a land access ombudsman. Their role would be to act as a mediator between landholders and resource companies in order to deliver a balanced outcome for both parties. However, these calls for additions to the bill have once again been ignored.

Our state's farming land is of vital importance to both our economy and our own wellbeing. Whilst I understand the economic importance that mining also contributes to our economic fortunes, it does not have to come at the cost of another industry. There is space for the protections of landholders' rights while simultaneously expanding our state's mining opportunities.

I am proud to be a member of the Liberal Party. It is a party that allows the individual to have a voice, if they feel truly compelled to speak out on a matter. For me, this issue creates such a circumstance. As a member of the Liberal Party, I also recognise the importance of our regions and our farming communities. During the election campaign, I spoke to countless people within regional areas about the issues that impacted them the most. One issue was clear: many did not believe that there had been sufficient consultation for the first incarnation of this bill in regard to striking the right balance between the mining sector and their own livelihoods.

My response to them during the campaign never changed. I told them that a state Liberal government would not bring back this bill until we held meaningful consultations with primary industries. Unfortunately, the bill was reintroduced last year without such consultation. In the time since, nothing has changed for our primary industries. The bill in its current form retains the same lack of provisions for farmers and their ability to protect their own land and, in turn, their livelihood.

South Australia's agricultural industry not only provides food for the state but also aids in feeding the world, making it a vitally important component of our export industry. While being a lucrative and significant contributor to our economy, mining is finite. We cannot allow agriculture to suffer in the long term for short-term gain. In order to safeguard South Australia's farmland, while also exploiting the wealth of resources we have beneath our feet, a balance must be maintained. I do not believe that the correct balance has been struck with the reforms proposed in this legislation.

There have been many amendments filed for which I have much sympathy. I will not be crossing the floor on all those amendments, but it would be fair to say that I am certainly not going to let this issue die during my time in parliament. As such, I am going to reserve my right to oppose the bill at the third reading. Just so members are clear, and for those who have an interest in this debate, I do not support the right of veto for farmers. However, there are many compromises to give farmers rights so that rogue explorers cannot hold them to ransom.

I respect the many fine mining companies that we have in South Australia; they do South Australia proud. I note that they are not the people who are pushing this particular legislation. So it is with a reasonably heavy heart that, after 17½ years, I give my intention to vote against the Liberal Party and the government bill.

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