Wednesday, 25 March 2020                                House of Assembly                                                       Page 603

Introduction and First Reading

The Hon. G.G. BROCK (Frome) (10:31): I seek leave to move the notice of motion standing in my name in an amended form.

Leave granted.

The Hon. G.G. BROCK: Obtained leave and introduced a bill for an act to provide for a commission of inquiry into land access regimes under the Mining Act 1971, the Opal Mining Act 1995 and the Petroleum and Geothermal Energy Act 2000, the operation of the Department for Energy and Mining in relation to such land access regimes, and for other purposes. Read a first time.

Second Reading

The Hon. G.G. BROCK (Frome) (10:32): I move:

That this bill be now read a second time.

The bill that I present to this house calls for an independent commission into land access and approvals for the mining sector and the petroleum sector to be able to obtain access to agricultural land and work collaboratively with all sectors that have been affected. Previous bills have been brought through the Parliament of South Australia, but no bill has been able to satisfy all parties; therefore, I feel it necessary to have this commission of inquiry.

There are people who may say that as legislators we get it right every time we bring any legislation into both houses of parliament, but we must be realistic and look at and review our consultation and how we do it, especially with the general public. I believe that we can and should always improve on what we do, and in particular we must improve how we communicate and consult.

This bill proposes that the inquiry be held away from politics and also that the commissioner be an independent person. My bill requests that the commissioner be a retired justice of the Supreme Court or Federal Court and that this person be appointed by the Attorney-General. This person should not be a retired political person but someone well and truly away from politics.

It appears that for far too long mining legislation may not have looked at all opportunities. For this reason, I have placed in this bill the opportunity to look into the practices of not only interstate but also overseas jurisdictions and how they may be able to achieve best practice and balance the rights of landowners and those who may seek access to land to explore for or extract mineral resources, including petroleum. I also envisage that the commissioner will inquire into administrative and legislative options that may be a model of best practice for not only South Australia but also other jurisdictions. The bill also requires that the operations of the Department for Energy and Mining be looked at for the best model for all to be able to operate within.

Since I introduced a similar bill in the last parliament, which at that time did not include the petroleum industries, I have had numerous calls—and I mean numerous—from across regional South Australia regarding the current situation, supporting the independent commission of inquiry. People have been ringing me and also stopping me, not only in my electorate but also across the whole of South Australia.

I have received support from Yorke Peninsula, across the South-East, the West Coast and also from other areas across South Australia suggesting that this inquiry should go further than the original bill submitted in the last parliament and should include other acts such as the petroleum industry. There may be other acts that the commission may elect to investigate along with other legislation that may be identified.

As in general life, we are advised and guided by others whether they are family, or advisers, as in our case. In our journeys, we come into contact with people who may have different views or ideas, and sometimes we need to stand back and re-evaluate what we do and how we do things. What we do in this place is no different than what we do in our own lives. It has been mentioned many times that the department is seen as both the regulator and the promoter of any projects that may eventuate.

Currently, it is my belief that a resource company obtains a licence first and then proceeds to undertake the required environmental processes. Perhaps there is another way for there to be best practices that are agreeable to all parties. It is very rare for numerous stakeholders, including the South Australian Chamber of Mines and Energy (SACOME), Grain Producers SA, the National Farmers Federation, Primary Producers SA and Livestock SA, to come together at a round table to contribute to the best opportunities for all their members. It was a resolution of all parties that an independent review be commissioned for the best opportunities for the best practices for all concerned.

The independent inquiry should also be able to identify alternative models and jurisdictions with a view to suggest best practice ways to address the question of land access, aquifer protection, environmental legislation and any other opportunities that may arise. This inquiry will also bring greater transparency and better balance for all landowners and resource companies. It should be stated today that there are many projects that go through the processes that are in place currently and all may be in agreement. However, there are other occasions where the process may not have been so smooth and has cost many people thousands of dollars and lots of frustration.

There have been times when the agriculture sector has been stressed due to the length of approval and the development processes that have taken place. The education for all parties should be clearer and easier for all parties to understand the process. We are a great state and we need to be able to extract the best we can from all sectors to put in place the best practices and methods to enable everyone to achieve the best outcomes for all involved and for all our other industries.

This bill will allay concerns from everyone in the mining and petroleum industries. All this bill asks is that an independent inquiry into land access be established for the mining and petroleum industries and that the final report of the commission be laid before each house of parliament within 60 days of receiving it. As mentioned earlier, I have received numerous calls from across the whole state regarding this and what progress there will be from here.

When the minister introduced his bill in the last parliament, he was successful in getting his bill through. One of his undertakings was to make a personal commitment to consult. This bill could form part of his commitment to further consult. I present the bill today. The second reading will be deferred, as normal, for the opportunity for everyone in this house to have a look at it. As I have now presented the bill for all members of parliament to pursue and consider, I hope that the government will have the bill on the Notice Paper as soon as it can for debating and hopefully at the next sitting of parliament.

I look forward to getting bipartisan support for this bill to ensure best practice is put in place so as to benefit all sectors involved in regard to modernising our mining and other processes, including the petroleum industry. I know that we have discussed lots of things previously but I think what we need to do is try to get our message out with clear consultation and communication to all sectors. I feel that this bill should be supported by all sides of politics. It should be supported by everybody. Like I said earlier, we have to review what we do every day. Today I review what I did yesterday and hope I can do better tomorrow. This bill is along the same lines. I commend the bill to the house.

Debate adjourned on motion of Mr Pederick.

Hansard – Wednesday 8 April 2020 


Second Reading –  Adjourned debate on second reading.     (Continued from 25 March 2020.) 

The Hon. G.G. BROCK (Frome) (11:24): I have spoken about this in my second reading contribution. It is very important. The issue is that when the mining bill went through the parliament last year, the minister at the time took a lot of consultation out there but, as I understand it, he never got back into the regions. One of our concerns at that particular point was that when he closed his debate he said that after the bill went through both houses of this parliament (and it did) four Liberal or government backbenchers went across and voted with the Independents on the original bill. 

This does not investigate the bill itself. This is a bill to understand whether we have the best process in place for access onto agricultural land by both the resources and petroleum industries. We in this house make the legislation, and we do a lot of that on the advice of advisers. That does not mean to say we get everything right the first time. My argument is that we have the opportunity to look at all avenues and to reassess the processes. As a state and as a government, we then have the opportunity to look at processes by way of discussions to support access onto agricultural land by resource companies and mining opportunities. 

We as legislators think we get everything right the first time, but we do not always get it right the first time. We always need to go back. I look at opportunities in my own life. What I do today I analyse tomorrow and the next day and try to do something different. Every day we do something in our lives. We look at what we did yesterday and then ask ourselves: did we do it the right way or can we improve ourselves? We analyse that today. 

I am asking the government to look at what we as a state and what other jurisdictions do in relation to accessibility for stakeholders and farmers who are really involved in this. Some of these agricultural properties have been in the family for many generations. Quite often, when the big companies come in—and let me say that a lot of the companies are doing everything right—there are always opportunities for smaller companies to do something that is frustrating and not right for those communities. I ask that we look at other avenues. Look at how they do it interstate and internationally, in particular. 

I had the opportunity to travel overseas a couple of years ago under the previous government. I looked at how the petroleum industry liaises with the fishing industry off the Scottish coastline. They looked at all their opportunities and they had a great facility to get the best results, not only for the petroleum industry but also for the fishing industry. In fact, at that particular time they were both working together. 

In our system here, quite often the Department for Energy and Mining appears to be the promoter and also the regulator. Is this the best way to go about it? Can we do it better? Can we have a bit more transparency? I know that the government is always promoting transparency and always promoting opportunities out there, and to make certain we listen to everybody. As a parliament, as a government, as a state, we have been given the due diligence and the opportunity for small people out there—the farmers—to have a true process going through. 

SACOME and Primary Producers SA are both looking for an independent review. This review is asking for somebody away from politics to do the review and for that opportunity to be kept well and truly away from the political avenues. All I am asking for is to have an independent inquiry into access by the mining and petroleum industries onto agricultural land. It is simple. It is not political. It is looking at the best opportunities. If this independent inquiry comes back after we look at all those opportunities and avenues, and we do it in the correct way, then everybody is— 

Mr BROWN: Point of order, Mr Speaker: I draw your attention to the time and ask if it is appropriate that the member for Frome seeks leave to continue his remarks, given that it is now 11.30 by my reading of the clock. 

The SPEAKER: It is 11.30. There is a little bit of time there. Would the member for Frome like to seek leave to continue his remarks? 

The Hon. G.G. BROCK: I seek leave to continue my remarks, please, Mr Speaker. 

Leave granted; debate adjourned.