Port Pirie

22 Sep 2021

The Hon. D.C. VAN HOLST PELLEKAAN (Stuart—Minister for Energy and Mining) (12:39): It is a pleasure to rise on behalf of Stuart to support the motion:

That this house recognises the history of Port Pirie and the great benefits that Port Pirie has contributed to—

(a) the state of South Australia;

(b) multicultural communities living in South Australia;

(c) the defence services during the previous two world wars;

(d) the success of the railway network in South Australia over many years;

(e) various sporting and cultural activities across South Australia and internationally;

and acknowledges the determination, pride and patience of these communities.

I support this motion absolutely wholeheartedly. We have an outstanding and very practical tradition in the Upper Spencer Gulf with regard to the members of parliament representing Port Augusta, Port Pirie and Whyalla working very collaboratively together for the common good of the Upper Spencer Gulf. In some ways, we are like that stereotypical family: we can compete together and we can argue and work on things in a competitive way internally, but if anybody from outside tries to give any one of us a hard time the three Upper Spencer Gulf cities always stick together.

It is not surprising that I have had a long association with Port Pirie as well as the Upper Spencer Gulf cities. I have been going there for decades and the name often attributed to the city of Port Pirie, 'the friendly city', could not be more apt. It is an incredibly friendly city. In some ways, Port Pirie is disadvantaged by being five to six kilometres off national Highway 1 but, in some ways, Port Pirie is actually advantaged by that as well. It is a very cohesive, intact, friendly and collaborative regional centre.

I remember, almost exactly 20 years ago, spending a lot of time in Port Pirie when I did my flying lessons down there with Mr Neil Davis at the Port Pirie airstrip. He was a fantastic instructor, I was an average student, but we got on very well. I thoroughly enjoyed it and spent a lot of time in Port Pirie. Prior to that I had just made visits, but at that stage I spent a lot of time there. Of course in 2007, 2008 and 2009 I worked full time with what was then the Southern Flinders Ranges Development Board, the precursor to Yorke and Mid North RDA as it is at the moment.

I could not agree more strongly: the Upper Spencer Gulf cities—and this motion is particularly about Port Pirie—are absolutely outstanding. I was not aware until a little while ago of what the member for Frome shared with the house, that the cheeseburger was invented in Port Pirie. I did not know that and I am sure that must be true because otherwise McDonald's and many other purveyors of cheeseburgers would have had something to do with it. But if the member for Frome says that the cheeseburger was invented in Port Pirie, then so be it.

There are a lot of other fantastic things about Port Pirie. The sporting community is absolutely wonderful, and the arts community in Port Pirie and the surrounding Southern Flinders Ranges is also very cohesive and very positive. When I was running roadhouses in the outback, quite a few of our suppliers came from Port Pirie, with regular visits and regular engagement. The Coke distributor was in Port Pirie, and PFD, a very important food distributor to roadhouses, shops and service stations and the like, was in Port Pirie.

A terrific recent development is Days Eggs, a very well-known egg producer statewide. The work that they have done recently with both their free range and other style of egg production near Port Germein, just near Port Pirie, has been absolutely fantastic to see going ahead in leaps and bounds. Of course, the surrounding farming district is incredibly important and the closest regional centre to that part of the Southern Flinders Ranges where I live myself is Wilmington, as it happens, between Port Pirie and Port Augusta.

It is a fantastic community, and it was wonderful to be with Minister Speirs at the brand-new Bluff lookout on Friday last week with other colleagues from the South Australian parliament and Rowan Ramsey, the federal member. When you look down across the plains on the western side of the Southern Flinders Ranges out across the gulf and look at Weeroona Island, look at Port Germein, look at Port Pirie, it is just a stunningly beautiful part of the world. It is a very productive part of the world and it is an incredibly friendly and collaborative part of the world.

It would not be right for anybody to speak about Port Pirie without referring to Nyrstar and the operation that has gone on there for, I believe, nearly 130 years. Currently, Nyrstar is owned by Trafigura. Our government has developed an incredibly close working relationship with Trafigura and Nyrstar over the last few years, in fact, managing the payment back to state government—or probably it is more accurate to say the removal of the guarantees that the state government had with Trafigura. It is a fantastic working relationship.

I heard the member for Giles talk about Whyalla and, yes, it is 100 per cent true that our government is fully there for these incredibly important enterprises, Nyrstar and GFG in Whyalla. The employment, productivity and social fabric cohesion that they offer our Upper Spencer Gulf communities are absolutely fundamental to who we are and what we do in Port Augusta, Port Pirie, Whyalla and the Southern Flinders Ranges, and that extends also into the closer parts of the outback communities.

It is an incredibly important part of the world and an important shipping port. In some ways, it is a little bit like being off the highway. In some ways, draft at Port Pirie is an advantage and a disadvantage. It is a disadvantage because larger ships cannot get in, so there is a certain curtailment of the industry that is available to develop there, but it is also an opportunity because it has kept Port Pirie a smaller regional city. By South Australian standards it is large, but it is smaller by broader Australian standards, which I am sure has benefited Port Pirie in many ways.

I would also like to share with the house a fantastic visit I had to the Federal Hotel. Mr Mark Phillips and his wife run that establishment and those familiar with Port Pirie would know the outstanding history of the Federal Hotel. I strongly recommend all members of this chamber to take the opportunity—and there are tours available—to go to the very top lookout at the top of the Federal Hotel, which was originally the place for spotting ships way out in the gulf that had the fairly long and slow trip to navigate the river into the port of Port Pirie. It was the lookout to see that there was a ship coming in.

If you go back 100 years, without the technology that we have at the moment, when it was clear that a ship was coming in a signal would go all around town, whether it was the official duty of the harbour masters, the customs officers or whether it was the hotels and taverns that were going to support the crew. I am reliably informed by Mr Phillips that there was even a bit of a red-light operation going on—and I am sure, knowing what a wonderful city Port Pirie is, this would have been just a tiny operation. It was a surprise to me. I would never have guessed that that was actually possible.

Of course, there were people receiving goods off those ships or putting goods onto those ships. For example, we think about the Port Germein gorge and wool and wheat coming down in oxen drays to unload, often at Port Germein but often at Port Pirie as well.

There is a lot of history that is still alive in Port Pirie and there is a lot of brand-new modern technology working really well. Our government's upgrade to the John Pirie Secondary School is absolutely outstanding, with regard to both allowing the transition of year 7s from primary school to high school and also the fantastic upgrade to the powerhouse art, music and entertainment facilities and many others.

Port Pirie is a fantastic city, as are Port Augusta and Whyalla, just as much as the Southern Flinders Ranges district and the outback are absolutely outstanding. On behalf of the government, I wholeheartedly support this motion.