Mr VAN HOLST PELLEKAAN ( Stuart ) ( 16:35 :53 ): I appreciate this opportunity to say a few more words in conjunction with the Supply Bill. I would like to speak about infrastructure, and I am prompted to do this because of the government’s announcement this morning that they are going to start to develop a strategy for the support of greater copper production and the copper industry in this state. Of course, my colleagues and I warmly welcome that, but what I would really like to say is that, after 13 years in government, it comes as a great disappointment that this government is now announcing that they are supportive of and are going to start to develop a strategy to look after the production of copper. It is a section of our overall mineral resources industry in this state, and they are just starting to get around to developing a strategy and they are going to put a very serious plan in place.
Of course, that is good, but after 13 years we actually need things to be done. We actually need some action. Do you know what we need for our mineral resources industry? We need some productive infrastructure to be built so that the private players in this industry can have the support they need to get on and do the work they do. Please remember that the government does not create any jobs in the mineral resources and energy sector: private industry does that. The government does not create many jobs in any sector, apart from the Public Service: the private sector does that.
The private sector is incredibly important, whether it is small businesses. We have 140,000 small businesses in our state who deserve support so that they can employ people, and they deserve support so that they have every opportunity to be successful, not because we want the businesses themselves to be successful as the end goal but because we want them to be able to provide secure employment. Secure employment is what allows people to get mortgages, to feel comfortable that they will be able to afford to look after their family, and to grow and prosper. Businesses need support so that they can offer secure employment to people.
It might be small business or all the way through to the extraordinarily large multinationals such as BHP or some other company like that. Rio Tinto is a very proud Australian company that is a multinational: it does not operate in South Australia. All the way through, we need to provide productive infrastructure so that those companies can get on and do their business. For the government to announce that they are going to create 5,000 extra jobs in mining is absolutely ridiculous because, first, the government does not produce those jobs (private industry does) and, secondly, since that announcement has been made we have lost over 4,000 jobs in the mining industry. It is absolutely preposterous.
Deputy Speaker, it might interest you to know that I was at the SACOME awards night a few weeks ago. It was a fantastic night which supported and gave credibility and respect to an enormous number of key players, including, I might add, SACOME’s very strong focus on enhancing the career opportunities of women within the mining industry. I notice that BHP has announced that their new head of Olympic Dam in South Australia, to succeed Darryl Cuzzubbo, is a woman. Her name is Jacqui. I read it in the paper this morning, but I apologise to the house that I have forgotten her last name; however, I congratulate her and BHP. At this dinner, the Premier said:
We’ve set an ambitious target [ for jobs growth in the mining and resources industry] and it’ s up to all of you to deliver.
That is what he said to the dinner. I do not know how many people were there—probably 1,000 people. It was a packed event. It was quite extraordinary but, really, that does explain exactly where the government’s head is at with this. The government is saying now, ‘We’re going to produce a plan and we’re going to develop a strategy for copper,’ when what they should have been doing over the last 13 years was start to put an investment plan in place and create and actually undertake investment to put in place productive infrastructure; if they had started that on day one, we would have lots of that in place at the moment.
That is exactly what they should be doing and there is no shortage of much-needed examples. Every member of this house would be aware of the fact that quite a few industries have been calling out for a new deep sea port in South Australia so that we can export. The grain industry and various resources industries are very interested in that, but the government has not progressed it at all. The government has not gone on with that at all.
Mr Duluk interjecting:
Mr VAN HOLST PELLEKAAN: I thank the member for Davenport for just reminding me that the new head of Olympic Dam for BHP is going to be Jacqui McGill. Thank you, member for Davenport. The new deep sea port in South Australia is absolutely critically important so that the private sector can get on and do its job. That is what the government should be doing.
Another very important piece of infrastructure for our state is the Strzelecki Track, which runs from Lyndhurst to Moomba. We have all heard the Minister for Mineral Resources and Energy quite rightly extolling how fortunate we are to have very good, very capable, strong companies working in the Cooper Basin trying to create wealth. I accept that those companies are really facing an uphill battle at the moment because of the decline in prices—largely oil prices, but gas is not going great either.
Nonetheless, if 13 years ago the government had started a plan to seal the Strzelecki Track, which is, in my opinion, the single most important piece of infrastructure for our state, the minute the sealing was done and it could take double and triple road trains up and down the road, all of a sudden overnight we would attract a whole swathe of business back into our state from Queensland. The Cooper Basin is supported and serviced from South Australia and from Queensland, and what we have had over the last decade or so is the South Australian road getting worse and worse and the Queensland roads and, in fact, the New South Wales roads as well, getting better and better, so much so that there is now bitumen to the border from Brisbane.
All the way from Brisbane to the South Australian border to the Cooper Basin there is bitumen, so Adelaide-based transport companies are deliberately driving via Broken Hill to get to the Cooper Basin—an extra 1,000 kilometres approximately—just to avoid driving on our road. On the one hand, that explains how dreadfully bad the situation is at the moment, but on the other hand the upside is that, as soon as that road is upgraded, business starts to flow back into South Australia. All of a sudden, servicing the Cooper Basin from South Australia and from Adelaide and from other regional centres becomes economic again for those companies and they do not do it out of Queensland or they do not lose business to Queensland companies who have the advantage that their government in Queensland has sealed their roads.
It is important that I put on the record that I have been advised by the Minister for Transport that South Australia has put an application to Infrastructure Australia for funding. The estimated cost of that project is about $450 million, but what I have not been told so far is what share of that $450 million the state government has offered to contribute. If it were 10 per cent, quite understandably the federal government would probably say, ‘No, go away, we’ve got better opportunities.’ If it were 50 per cent, the federal government would probably say, ‘Yes, that’s a very good opportunity.’ If SA puts up 50 per cent, and the federal government puts up 50 per cent, that would make great sense.
I am obviously not in a position to make commitments or promises on behalf of anybody, but that is where my head is at. I fear that the reason the state government will not divulge what share of the $450 million they have offered to contribute is that it is probably too low. They probably know it is too low and, even though they know it is too low, they will probably try to blame the federal government if their application is knocked back.
There are many opportunities. I am sure most members of this house would have seen an article in The Advertiser newspaper yesterday about infrastructure. Very interestingly, there were a dozen examples in that article written by Paul Starick and Peter Jean yesterday and, let me tell you, Deputy Speaker, half of those examples have a direct impact upon the electorate of Stuart, so I am incredibly passionate about this topic. We need to get our skates on as a state with regard to developing infrastructure. The government has got to stop talking about it and actually get on and do it.
Let me just add that the bridge over the gulf in Port Augusta needs to be duplicated. I accept that would be a project of hundreds of millions of dollars and it would take a while to get that money, but in the meantime sealing Yorkeys Crossing around Port Augusta would be tens of millions of dollars and the government must get on and do it. It says it does not meet their priorities. It says the cost-benefit analysis does not add up but, let me tell you, if they were to consider the potential impact of the freight being stopped between Sydney and Perth and between Adelaide and Darwin, if our bridge was out for a significant amount of time, they would then all of a sudden realise that $20 million or $30 million to seal Yorkeys Crossing would be an extremely good investment, not only for Port Augusta, but for our state and our nation.