Whyalla Steel Works (Environmental Authorisation) Amendment Bill


Mr VAN HOLST PELLEKAAN ( Stuart ) ( 11:03 :00 ): I support the recommendations of the report and put on the record the fact that the opposition will support the passage of the bill through both houses of parliament. As was said by everybody, I think, on both sides of this chamber who spoke during the second reading opportunity, this bill is very important. It is pretty straightforward and pretty simple but it is very important for the Arrium company and the OneSteel company (joined as they are), for the people of Whyalla (over 3,000 of whom are employed either as direct employees or are contracted by Arrium and OneSteel), for the Upper Spencer Gulf and, in fact, for our state as a whole.

The reason this indenture is being extended from 10 years to 20 years is essentially to give Arrium and OneSteel the very best possibility of success and survival, really, would not be putting too fine a point on it, Mr Speaker. These are extremely challenging times at the moment for the mining industry and also for the iron ore and steel industries and Arrium and OneSteel participate in all of those.

It is not solely because they are difficult times for these industries that this indenture is so important. That is certainly part of it, but the key thing for Arrium is that they need to be able to retain investment and they need to be able to attract new investment. The only way that the company and the people whom it employs will thrive into the future is if they can be bold, be innovative, be nimble and flexible, and find a way not only to survive but to thrive.

They need this certainty from parliament so that they have every opportunity to say to their investors, both existing and prospective, that there is no chance that the legislation under which they operate from an environmental perspective could put them at any risk. That is not the same thing as saying that they do not need to be responsible because of course they do, and they have a fantastic track record over the last decade of being environmentally responsible. I can say that both as a shadow minister and also as a member of parliament representing Port Augusta in a neighbouring electorate.

I have been for many years very well aware of the challenges for the Whyalla community and the challenges for this operation with regard to red dust, and I am well aware of how wonderfully well that has been dealt with over the last 10 years, so much so that, to be quite frank, Mr Speaker, it is from a public perspective not even an issue anymore; it is actually just not what is front and centre in people's minds in Whyalla and the surrounding district, but it certainly was before Arrium commenced and undertook its Project Magnet, and that is really what Whyalla was known for. The minute that anybody drove into the town it was apparent that the challenge is the red dust, and that is nearly all gone. This is not about giving Arrium or OneSteel a free ride. This is about allowing them to continue the very positive path that they have taken with regard to their environmental responsibilities.

We want to Arrium and OneSteel to have every chance to attract as much investment as possible so that they can move forward as well as possible. It is really important too, of course, to fully understand the support of the environmental agencies on that. The committee, while receiving very responsible and plausible representations from Arrium and OneSteel, also had representations from the EPA, and the EPA had absolutely no hesitation in saying to the committee that they would prefer if the indenture was not extended because they would like to go about their work in the way that they normally do and they would like to have that direct relationship, and that is quite natural. They also said that they did not object in any way to this indenture agreement being extended.

They went on to say that from an EPA perspective they have probably the best relationship with Arrium as they do with any company that they deal with in the state. They were certainly supportive of Arrium's past work from an environmental perspective. They also made it very clear that two things were important: one, they had no outstanding issues with Arrium that they were currently trying to deal with; and, two, they did not think for a second that, if they wanted to change any of the licence conditions or negotiate any other changes from an environmental perspective at all with the company, extending this indenture would impede doing so.

That testimony from the EPA certainly for me was incredibly important. I really did already understand, as I put on the record in this place before, and already supported Arrium's desire to have the indenture extended, but having the EPA say to us and to the public via Hansard and via the select committee process that they had absolutely no objection to this and that they were comfortable that everything that they would want to achieve in the future with Arrium could be achieved through the indenture agreement really did seal the deal essentially with regard to being able to provide full support to this bill.

I know that other colleagues of mine from the opposition want to speak, but before I wind up I would like to correct the record of the minister's second reading speech with regard to the time lines. The minister said—and I do not doubt him—that he was sharing information that he had been advised of, but I would like to correct the record and say that there is other information which clearly the minister, at that point in time, had not been advised of which, unfortunately, meant that we were delayed by a day last week.

I have a very detailed record of phone calls, including the Voice2Text messages on my phone, which outline exactly how things transpired last week. I am pleased that, fortunately, it has not slowed us down—the government fully supports Arrium, the opposition fully supports Arrium. The only unfortunate thing about this is that we are dealing with this at the last-possible minute.

There have been 10 years to get ready for this point in time, and I know that Arrium has been engaging with the government and the EPA for several months now, so it is a shame to be dealing with it in the parliament at the last possible minute. However, it is very positive that both sides of politics support what the government wants to do for Arrium, and what the opposition wants to do for Arrium, knowing that as the EPA tell us it will not impede their work at all.

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