Port Pirie Smelter | SPEECH


Mr VAN HOLST PELLEKAAN ( Stuart ) ( 12:03 :37 ): I too rise to support the motion wholeheartedly and I know that my colleagues in opposition do as well. The member for Frome has clearly put forward some very useful background information supporting the motion, which I will not go over, but I would like to say that we have a very strong bond in the Upper Spencer Gulf. I know that very well as the member for Stuart, and it is that often stereotypical family affair where there is healthy competition between our cities—Port Augusta, Port Pirie and Whyalla—but when it comes to dealing with the rest of the world we stick together. The Upper Spencer Gulf Common Purpose Group is a very positive, strong example of that. It is actually a great pleasure, as the member who represents Port Augusta, to strongly support the member for Frome, who represents Port Pirie, on this. I am sure that the member for Giles would feel exactly the same way with regard to his representation of Whyalla.

There is a lot in common between those cities. We are highly reliant upon primary industries and simultaneously upon heavy industry, and that is a fairly unique situation. As time goes by and as times improve, and as environmental responsibilities grow, as they should, that interaction between primary industries, a fragile environment (as we have in the Upper Spencer Gulf) and heavy industry becomes more difficult and more important to work through. Our three cities are extremely aware of that. In Port Pirie there is the smelter, in Whyalla there is the steelworks, and in Port Augusta there is the power station. Of course, there is much more to those cities than just those things, but they are the three iconic heavy industries in each of those cities. We all understand that very well.

The smelter has been operating for 125 years, under various different managements, and consistently contributing to Port Pirie. It is a significant milestone that is very worthy of support. As the member for Frome said, the smelter has supported intergenerational employment, and that is critical. Let’s be plain: it is not because people love working in a lead smelter, or they love working in a power station, or they love working in steelworks. It is because, at the end of the day, we are all people with families, mortgages and kids. We need to buy books and shoes for our kids and look after our older people—all the normal things that all of us want do to.

These significant employers in our cities have provided the incomes to the homes that have allowed our communities to sustain themselves and to thrive. That is why it is so important. Our citizens know that, and our employers—these companies—know that as well, and they take their important responsibilities very seriously. Whether it is Nyrstar, Arrium, or Alinta, they do the very best that they can to contribute to our communities and they need to be acknowledged for that.

I support this motion wholeheartedly. I think it is outstanding that the lead smelter has operated for 125 years. There are still improvements to be made. Obviously, the very significant improvement at the moment is the upgrade that is going on which is, among other things, about reducing emissions. Everybody knows that lead emissions need to be continually reduced. When this upgrade is completed, a significant step forward will have been taken and it will be time to start thinking about how to do even better and how to reduce emissions even further for the health of the community and of the environment. That is absolutely critical.

Just very briefly on the comments the Treasurer made, I will not share with the house the knowledge that I have of the many negotiations that were going on shortly after the last state election, but suffice to say that I have information which contradicts what the Treasurer just said. I firmly believe—I know—that Nyrstar, Port Pirie and the lead smelter would have got the support required for the very important upgrade that is about to take place. It would have happened whether the Liberal Party or the Labor Party had formed government. It would have happened whether or not the member for Frome was re-elected.

It would have happened regardless because whoever was in government and whomever was the member for Frome would have known how incredibly important this project and this company are. As it happens, the current member for Frome was re-elected and he did his job exceptionally well, and as it happens, the Labor Party was re-elected, and they did what they should have done. This house should be under no illusion: if it had been a Liberal state government we would have had exactly the same outcome for the people of Port Pirie. It is very important to put that on the record.

I wholeheartedly commend the motion. I admit to not having known all the facts that the member for Frome was able to share with this house with regard to the history of the smelter, particularly in terms of its contribution to the war, and I think that is outstanding information for the house to have. It shows that not only the owners and managers but also the employees, union and community more broadly, who were all involved with the Port Pirie smelter at that time, understood what a terribly important time our nation was going through. They all made sacrifices so that the smelter could produce the lead to provide for the manufacture of the munitions that were required for our nation. That is clearly a shining example out of the last 125 years but, for me, the most important outcome of the last 125 years is the families of Port Pirie, who thrive directly and indirectly because of the fact that the lead smelter is there and is successful, and it will now be successful for decades to come.