Targeted Lead Abatement Program (TLAP) | QUESTION TIME

08 Jun 2021

The Hon. G.G. BROCK (Frome) (15:11): My question is to the Minister for Energy and Mining. Can the minister update the house on the progress of the new or updated agreement with the TLAP Port Pirie program, which is due to expire in 2024? With your leave, and that of the house, sir, I will further explain.

Leave granted.

The Hon. G.G. BROCK: In 2014, this agreement between the South Australian government, the Department for Health and Nyrstar was formulated to address issues with regard to reducing lead in the blood of our children and also the environment in Port Pirie. There was an independent review undertaken during early 2020, which passed the halfway mark of this agreement when it was supposed to have been done before that; however, to my information, it was completed in April 2020, with a new agreement to be brought back.

Minister, it's now nearly 15 months since the draft was presented to the parties and neither the mayor nor myself have seen a final report before it being made public, which the minister has mentioned in this house during estimates on 24 November 2020 and also in answering my question on 31 March this year. With your leave, I will quote both of those:

I have certainly committed to the member for Frome that he would get a copy of that report before it goes public—no change whatsoever on that from my perspective.

That was on Wednesday 31 March. In estimates, it was the same question and the same answer.

The Hon. D.C. VAN HOLST PELLEKAAN (Stuart—Minister for Energy and Mining) (15:13): I start with the last part of the member's question. Those quotes are accurate and those quotes remain accurate. As I have said to the member on numerous occasions in and outside this chamber, he will receive that information and he will receive it in advance of the public receiving it—so nothing has changed there.

To the substance of the question, it is actually about the TLAP program. For those who may not know, the Targeted Lead Abatement Program is a program that the previous government, when the member for Frome was a minister in the previous government, devised in partnership with Nyrstar, the company running the smelter. The member for Frome was integrally involved, deeply involved in creating this program.

This program has done some good things, but not good enough for our government. We have been very respectful with regard to allowing that program and the people running it to get on with the work. The member for Frome set them a task, as did his ministerial colleagues under the former Labor government. We wanted it to have every opportunity to achieve the results the former government said it would achieve. Let me thank the people who have worked on that program. They have worked hard, they have done a good job and they have made a contribution.

The program that the member for Frome and his colleagues back under the former Labor government put together has not delivered enough. As the member for Frome would know, on Friday last week I was in Port Pirie with Mr Peter Dolan, who is currently the second in charge of the EPA. Mr Peter Dolan has taken up an employment contract to work and to lead the TLAP program. The second in charge of the EPA is moving from Adelaide. He has bought a house in Port Pirie. He is going to live in Port Pirie and he is going to run this program, because our Marshall Liberal government and I, as the lead minister for this area of work, are determined to make sure that the people of Port Pirie get a better deal, get better results, get better outcomes and have healthier lives than they have received under the former Labor government.

We are determined to make sure that this happens. Step 1, and one of the recommendations from the independent review that has been undertaken, was to put a new leader in place, and we are doing that. We will also restructure the way it works. We have had many discussions with the company on this, keeping in mind that this is a program which is jointly overseen by the Nyrstar company and the South Australian government. We are working very, very closely with them. We are making sure that the community gets the very best results.

Another complaint the community has had about the program that the member for Frome and the previous government developed has been with regard to transparency. We have made sure that information is going to be available for the community, for the local media who want it, for anybody who wants it. The new structure which we are going to put in place will work extremely well for the people of Port Pirie.

The Hon. A. Koutsantonis: Too little, too late.

The Hon. D.C. VAN HOLST PELLEKAAN: The member for West Torrens says 'too little, too late'. Well, guess what?

The SPEAKER: Order! The minister will not respond to interjections.

The Hon. D.C. VAN HOLST PELLEKAAN: I have not given up on the people of Port Pirie. Perhaps the member for West Torrens has given up on the people of Port Pirie, but I have not given up on those people. They will get a better deal—

Members interjecting:

The SPEAKER: Members on my left!

The Hon. D.C. VAN HOLST PELLEKAAN: —under the Marshall Liberal government than they got before. Mr Peter Dolan starts his job on 12 July, and on 12 July we will have much more information to share not only with the member for Frome but with the Port Pirie community more broadly and this chamber.

The SPEAKER: Before I call the member for Frome on a supplementary question, the member for West Torrens and the member for Playford will leave for the remainder of question time under standing order 137A.

The Hon. G.G. BROCK (Frome) (15:17): So, minister, your advice in the house is that there has been no-one outside who has a copy of or seen the final report or the draft report of the TLAP investigation that was independently carried out by Lew Owens.

The Hon. J.A.W. GARDNER: Point of order: standing order 97. I am not entirely sure there was a question in there. It certainly didn't comply with the standing orders.

The SPEAKER: I did take the member for Frome's contribution as a question. The member for Frome may wish to seek leave to introduce facts in relation to a report.

The Hon. G.G. BROCK: Can the minister confirm to the house what was his indication before, that this report has not been made public to anyone to see—the final report, which was handed out by Lew Owens in 2020?

The SPEAKER: I will give the Minister for Energy and Mining an opportunity.

The Hon. D.C. VAN HOLST PELLEKAAN (Stuart—Minister for Energy and Mining) (15:18): The member for Frome the first time asked if I would confirm that nobody outside this house has seen the report, and then the member for Frome asked the second—

The Hon. G.G. BROCK: Just for some clarity, I said outside of this house or in the public domain outside of this house, yes.

The SPEAKER: The member for Frome might have repeated the question. The Minister for Energy and Mining has the call.

The Hon. D.C. VAN HOLST PELLEKAAN: Let me try to help the member on this issue the very best I can. The first question was: has anybody outside this house seen a copy of the report? The answer to that is, yes, people in my office have seen it and very senior people in the Department for Energy and Mining have seen it. It's a report that was commissioned quite appropriately. It will need to go to cabinet before it can be made public. I expect that will happen, without wanting to pre-empt my colleagues' decision.

The second time that the member asked he said, 'Has anybody in the public seen it?' No, I don't believe that's the case. I am not aware of that being the case. I can't say any more clearly than I have perhaps half a dozen times to the member for Frome that I will make sure that he gets to see it before it goes to the public. I think that's a fair courtesy and respect to a local member on a local issue.

I can say, and have already, that one of the recommendations that has come out of this report is to make some very significant changes to the TLAP program as it was developed by the member for Frome and the former government. So we are doing that, and that is not about throwing the baby out with the bathwater. The people who worked on that program have done a lot for Port Pirie. Port Pirie would be in a more difficult position with regard to lead on surfaces, etc., than they would be if those people had not done their work.

But we are not satisfied that enough has been achieved, so we are not prepared to continue with the program as it stood any longer. We wanted, out of an abundance of respect to the people involved and to the member for Frome who developed that program with his colleagues at the time, to give it every opportunity. But it has not delivered the results that we are determined to provide for the people of Port Pirie.

There are two things which I have shared: one is a new structure and a new leader, and the other is greater transparency. Both of those things have been announced. In fact, I said to the media people who came to hear of this announcement in Port Pirie on Friday that I would give each and every one of them Mr Peter Dolan's mobile number on 12 July when he starts his job, not sooner for obvious reasons. They were all very glad to hear that.

People from the local media were saying that they just got stonewalled by the previous government. They just got stonewalled every time they were looking for information on very straightforward things to do with this very important topic. They just hit brick walls everywhere they went. I have assured them that that will not be the case under the leadership of Mr Peter Dolan—and I say again, second in charge of the EPA in South Australia. We have brought an incredibly high-calibre person into this work who is incredibly focused on getting better results for the people of Port Pirie.

I should also share something with the house for those who may not be completely aware. One thing is with regard to contemporaneous emissions from the stack at Port Pirie that the EPA oversees. The TLAP program is about dealing with 130 years of legacy lead in the city—lead that's in the ground, below the ground, that comes up when people are excavating, lead that comes up in dust, lead that lands on playgrounds, lead that has been in houses in some cases for decades. We are determined to make sure that the people of Port Pirie get a better deal under our government.