Question Time transcript - Leigh Creek and Alinta


Leigh Creek

Mr VAN HOLST PELLEKAAN ( Stuart ) ( 14:36 :47 ): My question is for the Premier. When will Dr Lomax-Smith report her recommendations coming from the Leigh Creek request for information process? How much will Dr Lomax-Smith be paid for this work and for how many hours?

The Hon. J.W. WEATHERILL ( CheltenhamPremier) (14:37:03): I thank the honourable member for his question. I have had the opportunity to travel—actually during my annual leave, but I took the opportunity to visit Leigh Creek and a range of the surrounding communities a few weeks ago. What became—

Mr Pengilly interjecting:

The Hon. J.W. WEATHERILL: No, I didn't pop into Pirie, although it does have fond memories. I did pop into the Prairie Hotel, which I must say produces the best kangaroo feed you can get anywhere I have experienced. Just a little tip, if you are travelling.

I did have the opportunity to also meet with the member for Stuart. I think he has the view, and I share it, that there is a critical window of opportunity for the future of Leigh Creek. People are making their minds up now about whether they stay or go. Other people who have recently left because they have retired are making their minds up about shifting back. It is partly, if you like, the window of opportunity which has led the government to make the decision to separate out Leigh Creek and make it a discrete, very quick project to see if we can describe a future for it, because it is on a tipping point, I think.

You cannot travel to that area and not be staggered by the physical beauty, but also by some of the internationally recognised tourist icons there. We have 560-million-year-old Ediacaran fossils which, shamefully, are not given the promotion or protection they deserve. I think we need to, as a state, realise that we are sitting on an international tourism icon of extraordinary significance. Leigh Creek has an airport the member for Finniss would die for. It is a fantastic airport.

Members interjecting:

The Hon. J.W. WEATHERILL: That's right, he doesn't want an airport. He doesn't want people to visit—that's right, I forgot. Leigh Creek has a great airport and it is a hub and quite closely connected. I found out to my surprise—I should have known this—that there is a sealed road all the way to Blinman now, so it does actually have some great infrastructure. Leigh Creek has an Olympic-sized swimming pool, an amazing set of tennis courts, resort-style accommodation, leafy tree-lined streets and the Aroona Dam, as I mentioned. So, we do need to get cracking on this. I expect it to be a relatively short timeline.

Ms Chapman: How much?

The Hon. J.W. WEATHERILL: I don't know what we have agreed to pay her, but I will come back with an answer on that. The minister is responsible for that; I will get him to bring back an answer—the minister in the upper house, the Hon. Kyam Maher. What was your third question? Money, time line—

Mr Marshall: When does she report and how many hours is she going to work.

The Hon. J.W. WEATHERILL: How many hours? I don't know. I will get the answer back on those three questions.

Mr Marshall: It's good that you said, 'I don't know what—

The Hon. J.W. WEATHERILL: Well, I knew a bit about it.


Alinta Energy

Mr VAN HOLST PELLEKAAN ( Stuart ) ( 14:40 :06 ): My question is for the Minister for Mineral Resources and Energy. Given the Alinta power generation business in Port Augusta will close on 31 March and that one of Alinta's legislated obligations is to remove the three existing power stations on the site and remediate the land to a condition comparable to never having had power stations built there, when will the government announce its future intention for the site? 

The Hon. A. KOUTSANTONIS ( West TorrensTreasurer, Minister for Finance, Minister for State Development, Minister for Mineral Resources and Energy, Minister for Small Business) (14:40:35): Yes, Alinta does have a number of obligations with regard to the remediation of both the Port Augusta and Leigh Creek sites, and the closure plan will require the assessment and determination of environmental risks at both the power stations and the mine, and that is appropriate. It includes the removal of chemicals and hazardous material on the sites. The closure of the power station and the associated mines, as well as related infrastructure, is a complicated matter and takes into account many factors, including employment implications and service provisions for the community, specifically, of course, at Leigh Creek.

The rehabilitation of the sites is subject to several South Australian acts, and Alinta has committed to meeting obligations in regard to remediation, and the Alinta Energy Task Force, which I know is happy to engage regularly with the local member of parliament and the shadow minister, will take an active role in ensuring that these obligations are met; and as more information comes to light and more information becomes available to the public we will make that publicly available.

We actually think that, in light of the closure, the remediation can actually offer opportunities for employment and can offer opportunities for alternative business proposals, as we have seen with Sundrop. But, of course, we will have more to say about that as we are negotiating with Alinta because it has a very keen incentive to work cooperatively with the government, given its requirements to remediate, but if the local member and the local community have—

Mr van Holst Pellekaan: When will you announce the intention—

The Hon. A. KOUTSANTONIS: We will. We are negotiating with the companies, but we would like more feedback from the local community and we are working very properly with the local council. So, rather than this sort of setting arbitrary deadlines and time lines, we want to make sure that we do this properly for the benefit for everyone in the Upper Spencer Gulf.

Mr Gardner interjecting:

The Hon. A. KOUTSANTONIS: I know members want to yell out interjections thinking that it somehow contributes to the debate: it doesn't. All it does is just show that you are not interested in actually getting an outcome. It's just political pointscoring.


No Very

Captcha Image