Mining Royalties Amendment Bill


Mr VAN HOLST PELLEKAAN (Stuart) (15:53): I will just make a few comments. I know this subject has been covered very well by the people who have spoken before me, so I will not keep the house for too long. I have a few things I would like to say with regard to the Mining (Royalties) Amendment Bill. The first is the obvious—it is part of the budget so, naturally, the opposition will be supporting it along those grounds. While we all have some concerns about mining, whether it is social, whether it is environmental, whatever it might be, and we all agree that issues must be dealt with, and the member for Bragg delved into some social issues which are very important.

I think it is fair to say that on this side of the house we are all extremely supportive of the mining industry in general, and we are all hoping that the state will benefit enormously from it. Despite the Premier's assurances that he has single-handedly superman-ed the mining industry over the last eight or nine years, the reality is that less people are employed in mining than they were many years ago, and on both sides of the house we consider employment and jobs to be one of the most important things that we can try and contribute to.

Nonetheless, I am very supportive of the mining industry. I used to work for BP Australia back when BP Australia owned 49 per cent of Olympic Dam. I took a very strong interest in mining from that point onwards. I lived at Pimba through the second Olympic Dam expansion and learnt a lot about it then.

I was fortunate enough to arrive at the drilling camp—where the current Challenger gold mine is—when Dominion started that mine, the day the drillers received news on the satellite phone that it was going to get the go-ahead. It was quite an unusual situation to turn up there on a hot, March day, early to midafternoon, to find everybody sucking on tinnies and having a great old time and really enjoying themselves. Having been to many of the other camps in that district, I certainly understood when they explained to me that they just had word at lunchtime that all their hard work was going to be rewarded, that there was going to be a mine there. I visited Challenger many times through its expansion phase. I am very supportive of mining.

With regard to royalties and what we are talking about here—an increase in state royalties in mining (I will not going to the details because the shadow minister covered that in great detail)—I think it is important to point out that this probably will not result in a great deal of extra money for our state. I think that between the federal government's horizontal fiscal equalisation calculations and the impending resource rent tax, the federal government will probably make whatever adjustments it wants with regard to the funding support that it gives our state. So, if we gain a bit more here it will not necessarily add to the pie overall, but we will just have to wait and see how that turns out.

The one thing that is very different, though, is that the Liberal opposition went to the last election with a policy of putting 25 per cent of all state mining royalties into the Regional Development Infrastructure Fund. On last year's calculations, that would have taken the total amount of money available in that fund from something like $2.5 million to something like $42.5 million, so straightaway $40 million more directly transferred into regional infrastructure spending. I support that wholeheartedly.

While the current government probably cannot control the total amount of money that it is going to get because the federal government will probably just make adjustments offsetting these royalty increases, a potential Liberal government could certainly make some very significant decisions that would control how this money is spent.

That was a commitment at the last election and policy has not been determined for the 2014 election, but I make absolutely no bones that I will certainly be fighting very strongly for the Liberal opposition to include that again in its commitments heading towards the next election, so that we would guarantee to spend 25 per cent of mining royalties and by an increase, without going into all the details, broadly speaking, of 3.5 per cent, 5 per cent, 25 per cent of the 5 per cent, which would mean even more money for regional development infrastructure projects. I will go to my grave fighting very hard for that sort of program for regional, country, outback, remote South Australia.

Roads, as everybody knows, is an area that I am very passionate about. I believe it is completely underfunded currently throughout the outback of South Australia and the country areas. However, I point to some other significant infrastructure spending requirements which are coming up and which are going to have to be met one way or another. We could haggle about the urgency. I might think they are urgent now and the transport minister might think that they are not so urgent just yet, but the reality is we are going to have to find money for these things regardless of who is in government.

Yorkeys Crossing and a second two-lane bridge over the gulf in Port Augusta are going to be necessary. They are absolutely unavoidable. I think that this money, this increase in mining royalties, should be spent on projects exactly like that. I challenge the government to quarantine some money from the increase in mining royalties and to put it towards those things and to do it before the next election.

There is no need to wait for us to make a commitment heading to the next election and then potentially match it or not match it. Why not just get on with the job government is meant to do, which is look after all of South Australia, and quarantine some money? We are going to increase mining royalties. Why not just say straightaway that that gives some money that comes from remote South Australia, that comes from outback South Australia, and that we will spend it directly in the country and outback areas of South Australia?

The Port Augusta power station is another big issue. It is an issue that I have spoken about extensively here and in the media. It is going to be expensive. Regardless of who is in government, we are going to need a lot of money. We are going to need millions and millions of dollars to do something with regard to the Port Augusta power station. Whether it is upgraded maintenance because, over time, the quality of the coal declines, whether it is the fact that the cost of accessing the coal is going to increase over time—as we have to go deeper and further away to get it, it becomes more expensive to receive it—or whether it means that we need to do something to entirely re-jig the Port Augusta power station for environmental reasons and for carbon tax reasons, something is going to have to be done.

Again, I challenge the government and say, you have an extra 1½ per cent in mining royalties here, how about just allocating that? How about committing that money to go to some of these very, very important regional projects?

Another example—and I will not hold the house up too long with my very, very long list—would be airstrips at small towns, so that, all over country South Australia, people can fly to the mines. Most towns have an airstrip, as members would know, but most towns do not have airstrips that will take the large planes that are required by an airline to take people on economical flights to work at the mines.

I think it would be a tremendous regional infrastructure development program to say, 'We will take some of this new mining royalty income and we will spend it on airstrips, spread evenly throughout country and remote South Australia, so that people from towns can actually get on planes and fly to the mines, so that they can actually get some of those direct employment benefits.' The minister is shaking his head.

The Hon. A. Koutsantonis interjecting:

Mr VAN HOLST PELLEKAAN: The minister is shaking his head but did not have anything useful to say about the bill. So, this would be a tremendous way to spend this new money that the minister is asking the house to get for us. As I said, that would be the last one that I would mention with regard to projects that I consider to be important.

One question that I put to the minister quite sincerely is, I understand that, from the reading that I have done in preparation for speaking today, there are different ways of treating uranium and different ways of treating BHP. I am not saying anything negative about that whatsoever, but I do understand that ore taken from Prominent Hill to Olympic Dam for processing includes a small amount of uranium.

Olympic Dam extracts a small amount of uranium out of the ore that comes from Prominent Hill. So, it is important to point out that, in essence, Prominent Hill is actually, in a very, very small way, a uranium mine as well because it extracts uranium out of the ground and sends it off to Olympic Dam for processing. When the opportunity arises, I would like the minister to just clarify exactly how that uranium would be treated with regard to this change in state mining royalty rates.


No Very

Captcha Image