The Hon. D.C. VAN HOLST PELLEKAAN (Stuart—Minister for Energy and Mining) (20:42): I have listened attentively to the shadow minister’s comments and I would have to say that the vast majority of what he said I agree with; not everything, but certainly the vast majority of it. Some people like to claim that, if the government and the opposition agree on something, it’s a fix, it’s a set-up, it’s a problem, you’re colluding, you cut us out. And I have been told that quite a lot in the last several weeks and months.
But I know, and I suggest that every member of this house knows, that the overwhelming majority of people in South Australia say, ‘Why can’t the government and the opposition agree on something? Why is it that they have to fight? Why is it that they have to create a false argument just to seem like they can’t get along?’ How often have we all been told, ‘Wouldn’t it just be better if, where they find something they agree on, let them say so, let them act on it?’
I know that that will not satisfy a lot of people taking close interest in this issue, and this is a very difficult issue. This is an incredibly difficult issue. This is an issue that the previous government did its best on for close to two years. It is an issue that now, 15 or so months into the Marshall Liberal government, is still being dealt with, and I suggest that, given the schedule we have ahead of us in parliament with estimates and no parliament in August, we will be dealing with this for a couple more months at least.
It is not an easy issue, and I agree with the shadow minister that it is not an issue that we are ever going to find a solution for that will satisfy everyone. We will not find it tonight, we will not next year or in 10 years or in 20 years. On this issue we will never be able to find a solution that suits everybody. This is an issue that will be difficult and it is also an issue that will evolve. Farming practices evolve, regional communities evolve, mining practices evolve, environmental protections evolve, world prices evolve and demand for different minerals evolves. This is very much a moving feast. We have to do the very best we can at the time.
We have a lot of people in the gallery here today—people who are earnest, genuine, sincere about their view. The last time that I stood and spoke on a similar issue was with regard to fracking in the South-East. It became our government’s position that not only would we deliver on the 10-year moratorium on fracking that we took to the election, which we did implement, but we would legislate for that. On the day we debated that bill there was a different group of people with broadly a similar attitude. On that occasion, I think to the surprise to most of them, they got what they wanted.
I acknowledge, and I suspect it is not to the surprise of most of them, that the people in the gallery—the good, genuine, earnest, down-to-earth, caring people—will not get tonight what they want. I will step through this and explain it to the very, very best of my ability. There are so many pros and cons associated with the issue, but one of the most important things we have to keep firmly in our minds is that agriculture is our oldest industry in South Australia and today it is also our biggest industry.
No-one can pretend that agriculture is not extraordinarily important to our state for a wide range of reasons. It is important with regard to its contribution to the economy most broadly and also with regard to contributions into regional communities, to lifestyles, to environmental protection in country areas that would not happen if it were not for farmers and graziers—a wide, wide range of reasons. But mining is also one our most important industries and one of our biggest industries. It is also probably our greatest growth opportunity from a wealth development perspective.
We have to find a way for those industries to coincide. I know that a lot of people think it cannot happen. I know and I understand a lot of people think, ‘I’m on my farm, I’m in my community, I’ve got my family, I’ve got my heritage, I’ve got my work, I’ve got my investment, I’ve got my future, and it can’t work here.’ I do not doubt that when people say that they mean it. I do not think anybody who says that is making it up, but the reality is that we have to find a way. People say to me, ‘This bill is not good enough. This is not the way.’
I have said very openly, genuinely, honestly to people for a long time, ‘I know it’s not the perfect solution. I know it’s not the final solution, but in my opinion and in the opinion of the overwhelming majority of members of parliament not only in this chamber but in the government, we believe that what we have to do is lock in the positive work that has been done so far. We have to lock in the benefits that we have now, acknowledging that they are not enough and this is not the place to stop. We have to lock in the benefits we have, take a good, strong, half a step forward, get through that, and then start work again and look for another good, strong, solid step forward.’
I know that is an approach that dissatisfies some people, but I also know that if we try to get the perfect solution, get everything wrapped up and to the best of our ability satisfy as many people as possible all in one go, we will not do it; it just will not happen. Let’s take the benefits that we have at the moment, understanding that the agricultural sector wants more and the resources sector wants more. Neither is fully satisfied. Some people say that we have not made anybody happy, what a stupid bill. I say we have benefits for both. We will lock them in, then we will start the work all over again.
It cannot be agriculture or resources. It has to be agriculture and resources, otherwise our state is never going to fulfil the potential that it has. We have been underperforming for a long time. We have to find better ways to do things, and getting this right is one of those very important ways. The shadow minister mentioned his personal challenge with regard to South Road and his electors and his friends, people he would see outside of his work and has known for a very long time. Not that anybody has to care, but do you know what? This issue is exactly the same for me.
I live in a small community in Wilmington of about 250 people. It is a farming town on the outskirts of Port Augusta. A lot of people work in Port Augusta, but a lot of those people who work in Port Augusta live on farms and are multigenerational farming families. I also know that a lot of those farming families in my home patch would not have their farms today if they could not have worked at a mine over the last 15 years or so, let’s say. There is so much integration between these industries that goes far beyond what actually happens on the piece of ground that may or may not be in conflict for the use of that piece of ground.
This is an extraordinarily deep industry. I do not suggest that everyone who is farming anywhere in the state—potentially people in reliable country, higher rainfall country, good soil country—needs to think the way people in the Wilmington area do, especially on many other parts of the state where there is lower rainfall, because there are places where you do not need that off-farm income, and good luck to you. That is outstandingly tremendous, and I would bet that every farmer in Wilmington wished they had those circumstances as well.
But we cannot make different rules for different circumstances in that way. We have to be thinking about communities. We have to be thinking about environment. We have to be thinking about the state’s economy and jobs and rural communities, but we cannot be saying that because a person might believe they will never need mining in their area that we would rule it out for them. I believe that is a mistake and I understand that other people feel differently.
The shadow minister said this is Labor’s bill. Labor started consultation on this bill. Labor brought the genesis of this bill to this parliament before the last election, and he is quite right to say that the genesis of this bill was passed in this house. I was sitting over there and the shadow minister was sitting over here. It was debated thoroughly and it was passed. Since then, an enormous amount of additional consultation has taken place. It has been put to me that there has not been enough, and I understand that frustration. But people say there has not been enough because maybe it has not reached where they want it to be in this half a step forward.
It has also happened that some of the people who have told me that there has not been enough consultation have also asked—and, in some cases, in writing—how many times have we had the discussion and why are you not listening? So I think it is very important, and I say this with respect, to separate ‘not enough consultation’ versus ‘we have not come to the same landing that people want to be on’. I understand that that is a very difficult issue. It is easy to say, ‘If you did not do what I want, you were not listening,’ and we all know how that can work. But there has been an enormous amount of consultation.
There have been approximately 20 amendments to this bill since the last election, so there has been some significant change to it. Five of those amendments, covering three topics, we will deal with here this evening. So there have been 20 amendments, and it has also been put to me that some of them are irrelevant or inconsequential and do not mean a thing. Maybe it is just the change of a word. Well, fair enough.
However, then in opposition, we were also told, ‘You have to change this word. You have to change this term. It’s really important. I know it’s just about appearances or semantics, perhaps, but we really want that to happen.’ Then, when we did it, we were told, ‘That’s just a word. It doesn’t count.’ Whoever tells me these things is quite right. They are 100 per cent right with regard to their integrity and their sincerity when they tell me these things. I do not think for a second that anyone is making it up, but we have to figure it out.
We have to pick the landing spot that we think is the best for now and, as I have said and will continue to say, if this bill is passed, we have to get straight back to work to look for the next phase of improvement. I have made that commitment countless times publicly in the media and countless times face to face with people who are very dissatisfied with me for my position on this. I have made it to my colleagues individually and collectively. If this bill passes, that is what I and the Department for Energy and Mining, in consultation with a very wide range of stakeholders, will do.
I will not go through absolutely everything. Understanding that I run the risk of some people saying, ‘Well, that’s not that big a deal,’ or, ‘That’s a lovely list, minister, but you haven’t got the thing that I want on the list, so it doesn’t matter,’ understanding that some people may react that way, I will go through the benefits to landholders.
There are benefits to the environment, there are benefits to Indigenous communities and there are benefits to the resources sector as well, but this is just a list with regard to landholders. There is an increased contribution from the resources sector to landholders with regard to legal advice about exempt land, from $500 to $2,500. People are quite right when they say, ‘What does $2,500 get you?’ Not enough, never enough, but it gets you five times more than exists at the moment under law.
The exempt land radius will be increased. Much has been made of this in the media. Perhaps deliberately or perhaps accidentally, some people have said, ‘Well, it’s 400 metres right now for exploration from the boundary of exempt land. It’s coming back to 200 metres. That’s a huge backwards step.’ That is partly true, but of course that only applies to low-level invasive exploration, which is back to 200 metres, in return for extending the 400 metres out to 600 metres for invasive exploration. That is an agreement that representatives of the agriculture sector agreed to and said that they were satisfied with. It is an improvement for landholders.
The range of courts that can hear these issues will be expanded. Nobody wants to go to court; I get that. It may not be too attractive to say, ‘You’ve given me lots of places to go when I’m really in strife,’ except for the fact that people actually asked for a wider range of courts to go to if necessary. People have been given what they sought in that area, and the Warden’s Court is a no-cost jurisdiction. There is a new right for landholders to apply for an exempt land determination. This is one of the amendments. We will come to it later, but this was in the bill and it is proposed that it be taken out of the bill.
This is an obligation that was contemplated to require a landholder to prove commercial value of an asset or some exempt land. You can imagine that might be a dam that may not have held water for quite a while, or it might be a shearing shed that may not have been used for quite a long time or is perhaps even in disrepair, just as some examples. The previous government’s bill included an obligation that the landholder would have to show commercial value for that asset for it to be considered exempt land. We hope to remove that so that, essentially, the landholder will not have that obligation anymore to make that commercial proof. Again, it is a step forward.
There is free access to information of what is approved over land. One of the things that landholders have been quite rightly very concerned about is not knowing nearly as much about the rules, regulations, rights and responsibilities as the resources sector proponents do, and that is a very fair thing for them to say. A lot of what is in this bill is about trying to get greater clarity and greater simplification.
There is improved industry and government transparency and accountability, updated and expanded public consultation on tenement applications and change of operations, clearly documented reasons for ministers’ decisions through preparation of assessment reports and publications of directions or orders for noncompliance by tenement holders. So, essentially, when somebody does the wrong thing—which does happen and I will come back to that—publish the fact that they have done the wrong thing. I think that was a very fair request from landholders, and anybody from the resources sector who thinks that is unfair to them should just stay off the list.
We are improving definitions of operations so that notices to landholders are clear about what activities are proposed and approved. There will be improved notices to reflect the potential impact of proposed exploration activities, making it really clear to the landholder—’Not only am I asking to come onto the land, this is what I want to do and I want to drill a couple of holes, etc.,’ but be really clear: ‘This is exactly what I want to do and these are the potential impacts of that.’
There is a new notice of intention to apply for a production tenement, with rights to object or progress negotiations. Again, there is more about clarity. People might say, ‘That’s not a lot, that’s not a lot and that’s not a lot,’ but every one of these are part of the half a step forward. There is increased time to give notice of activity. Again, I hope this will pass in amendment. The current law is that three weeks’ notice must be given to a landholder by somebody who would like to access their land.
The current bill moves three weeks to four weeks at the request of the industry and some of my colleagues—again, I will come back to that. The amendment we will deal with tonight proposes to move it to six weeks. So it is three weeks now, the previous bill said four weeks and we propose going from three weeks to six weeks, which is a significant change aimed clearly at giving people more time to consider things, understanding the seasonality that a lot of landholders have to deal with.
There is a new right for pastoral lessees to object to notices of entry to commence activities. I understand that that probably will not be of interest to too many people who are in the gallery today, but it is a very important thing for landholders. There are increased compliance and enforcement tools so all environmental rehabilitation obligations are met. There are guaranteed payments to landholders with new powers to recover unpaid debts and increased penalties for breaching exempt land and notice of entry obligations.
There is the right to use more extractive minerals on the landholder’s property. If a landholder wants to get some extractive minerals, typically through a small quarry on their own land, there is greater opportunity to do that on their own land, which seems very fair and a good step forward. There is the right to compensation being protected by clarifying that rent or lease payments and compensation are not the same thing. There has been a blurring of that over time where some resources sector proponents have said, ‘I am paying you rent, so that’s all okay; I don’t have to do anything else.’ Well, no, rent is rent. Compensation is on top of rent. We are making that very clear.
Another amendment that we want to deal with tonight is one which again came from colleagues and the farming sector and which is to clarify that the tenement holder, not the landholder, must notify the registrar of an agreed waiver. Again, people might say that is a small thing but it is something that the sector sought. I will come to a couple of other things in a minute, but I want to be very clear about these amendments. The government would not be proposing and dealing with these three topics covered in five amendments here tonight if it were not for four of my colleagues: the member for MacKillop, the member for Kavel, the member for Narungga and the member for Davenport.
Those four MPs have done everything they possibly can to represent their communities. They have come to me with these suggestions. They came to me with some others as well—let’s be really clear about it—which are not on the list, but those four MPs are responsible for these improvements. I commend them for that, and I thank my other colleagues for seeing the wisdom of what they have put forward to us and supporting them as well. I think that is very important to get very clearly on the record.
There are a couple of other benefits. We took to the election a commitment that we would give the Small Business Commissioner the authority to deal with mining/exploration/land access disputes, and we have done that. We have delivered on that because we said we would. In quite an understandable reaction to that, some people have said, ‘Look, that’s fantastic. I would love that her extra help if ever I am in strife.’ Other people have said, ‘That’s great if you are in strife. We don’t want to get in strife. Help us before we get in strife.’ That is a very fair suggestion to make. We have done it, nonetheless, because we think it is a positive step forward.
We have committed that if/when this bill passes, we will provide an up-front, free, independently delivered advisory service to landholders about their rights, their responsibilities and any other information they are after with regard to this legislation and interaction. If discussions progress, as I fully expect they will, that will be delivered by Rural Business Support, a support agency, which is an organisation with a terrific reputation that is genuinely independent from government, operating throughout regional South Australia.
The government, through the Department for Energy and Mining, will fund that service if this bill is passed. I think that, as the up-front service, combined with the tail-end service from the commissioner for small business, is a very genuine step forward for people so they can understand everything they need to understand at the beginning, and they can get support at the end if they need it. I think those are all important. Some of them are small and some of them are quite big, but anybody who says that there are not benefits in this bill for landholders is making a mistake.
Anybody who wants to, though, could say, ‘But it’s not enough,’ and if they believed that they would be right. So many of the people, hundreds of people, I have dealt with personally, face to face, have said to me, ‘That’s great, Dan. Thanks so much, but you are missing a couple of really important things that I want, that my community wants or that our district wants. They are not on your list, so your list is worthless.’ I have a different view. I accept that there are other things that are sought.
I accept that there are people who genuinely believe it when they describe it to me that way, but I do not accept that there is nothing in the bill for landholders. I have a very strong view and the government has a strong view—not a unanimous view but a strong view—that we need to lock in those benefits and start working again to look at the next list of improvements that we can make, things that we can do to help both of the sectors.
I should also comment on the shadow minister’s contribution, where he said that he only just received a briefing this morning on the five amendments covering three topics. That is quite true: he did only receive that briefing this morning, but what is also true is that in late November he was offered that briefing in writing. I have a copy of the email, so certainly in very good faith the government did go to the opposition in late November last year offering the briefing on exactly those amendments. It was not taken up. It was sought in the last couple of days and it did happen today. I think that is very important to clarify.
Much has been made of the internal discussions of the government on this topic and I do not think that is anything that anybody should shy away from, be ashamed of or sweep under the carpet. As the shadow minister said, in the Labor Party you just do not get to do that. As I have said a couple of times today, if you acted in the strong fashion that four of my colleagues have in the Labor Party, you would be sent off to a Siberian salt mine and never seen or heard from again.
It might make us a bit messier, perhaps a bit more difficult to deal with, perhaps it takes us down a slightly windier road to get to where we need to be, but I support the right of Liberal members of parliament to reserve their right to speak and vote against legislation, so long as they do it in the clear, responsible, up-front way that we have articulated in our rules. I respect their right to do that. I respect the member for Narungga, the member for Davenport, the member for Kavel and the member for MacKillop for taking the write-up and using it to the very best of their ability on behalf of the communities they represent.
We have had absolutely nothing but sensible, constructive, cordial, responsible, mature discussions on this issue. Have we agreed on everything? No, we have not agreed on everything. Have we agreed on lots of things? Yes. Are we big enough to say, ‘Here are the things that we still are at odds with. Let’s come back next week and see if we can flesh it out. We will both go away and get some more information and see how we can improve our position’? That has been a process—and the opposition will be very disappointed to know this—that has made our team of government MPs better and stronger than it was before.
The Hon. D.C. VAN HOLST PELLEKAAN: People in the media like to try to make it difficult. People in the opposition—we have two of them here, cackling away, laughing and trying to make jokes. It is because they just do not understand.
The SPEAKER: Order!
The Hon. D.C. VAN HOLST PELLEKAAN: They do not understand. We would not have—
The Hon. A. Koutsantonis interjecting:
The SPEAKER: Order, member for West Torrens!
Mr Cregan interjecting:
The SPEAKER: Member for Kavel!
Mr Pederick interjecting:
The SPEAKER: Member for Hammond!
Mr Murray interjecting:
The SPEAKER: Member for Davenport!
The Hon. D.C. VAN HOLST PELLEKAAN: They do not know what a favour they have done for the Marshall Liberal government to test us in this way. Do you know what? We have passed the test.
The SPEAKER: Order! Audible laughter is out of order.
The Hon. D.C. VAN HOLST PELLEKAAN: It does display a lot about the opposition to listen to that. I thank my colleagues who have supported me or agreed on our position all the way through this debate. I thank my colleagues who have not agreed or supported me all the way through this debate. This is not something that we are scared of or that we worry about. In another year or whenever it is, there will be another topic and there will be another small group who say, ‘This isn’t quite right.’ We will work it out and we will know how to do it even better on that occasion than we do already.
One of the ways the resources sector suffers is caused by a bottom-end tail, overwhelmingly in the exploration side of the business, that does not do what it should do. That has to change. I often say mining, in the public opinion, is not like cars. If you buy a Commodore and you are totally dissatisfied, you can drive a Falcon for the rest of your life or vice versa. You move on, you find what you like and you find what you do not like.
If a bad operator turns up at your property, knocks on your door and says, ‘I want to get access to your land,’ or do this and this, and they do it completely the wrong way, and that landholder or that group of landholders have a bad experience out of that, get treated inappropriately or badly, guess what? In those people’s minds the whole mining industry has been tarnished. It is quite natural and quite understandable.
The person does not say, ‘Well, here is a dodgy operator. I’m going to make sure next time I’m dealing with good ones.’ All of a sudden you get one dodgy operator from interstate coming and scratching around on your land and, in people’s minds, BHP is blemished or tarnished. That is understandable, and we have to fix that. We need to make that part of the next phase of what we do. This is incredibly important.
I will share an example with the house of very good friends of mine just outside Wilmington. They both have two generations of adult couples actively working on their properties at the moment. An explorer came along and went to both of the older generations’ homes and said, ‘I want to come along. I think there will be something here, and you will just have to let me on.’ They said, ‘Well, no, we don’t just have to let you on. Actually we don’t even want you on.’
He said, ‘Well, I’ll just go away and get permission. It will just happen. You might as well just let me on now because if you don’t it will just happen.’ They said, ‘Well, go and get your permission. If you come back with something that is legally binding, yes, of course, we will comply, but we do not want you on.’ And guess what? Two weeks later one of them found that dodgy explorer trespassing on the other family’s farm.
Why would you not have a bad taste in your mouth if that happens? Why would you not say, ‘I don’t want anybody ever coming here again,’ if you had that experience? So then all of a sudden my friends come to me—because unbeknownst to me this is happening—and they say, ‘Dan, you’re our local MP. You’re the mining minister. Sort this out. What on earth is going on?’
That is exactly the type of real-world example which has to be fixed, because do you know what? There are a lot of very good operators, a lot of very good explorers out there, wanting to work with people properly. There are companies that have said to me, ‘If people say no, we just don’t go there because it’s not worth the hassle. We don’t want to tarnish our reputation. We don’t want to force our way in with legal means and go exploring or have a mine, whether it is native title rights or whatever it is. If they say no, and we can’t convince them, we don’t go there because we don’t want our brand tarnished that way.’
That is tremendously good practice. The other example I shared is tremendously bad practice. As Minister for Energy and Mining, one of my responsibilities is to work with industry to try to clean up that bottom tail so that the industry has less problems, so that landholders have less problems. It is incredibly important that we understand that this is overwhelmingly a responsible industry in mining. This is overwhelmingly a responsible set of operators, whether it is in exploration or in mining. But the ones at the bottom of the pile do a lot of damage to everybody else, and I can understand why landholders would have so many frustrations.
Right of veto has been discussed quite a lot. The shadow minister described his views on this very well. I will lay out a few things but in a slightly different way. If I was a landholder, if I was a farmer—I live in a rural community, but I am not a farmer—I would want a right of veto. Of course I would. Who would not want that right to be able to say, ‘I’ll choose whether this proceeds or not’?
Some people might want it because they are never, ever leaving, and they want nothing to change. Some people might want it because they know they can bid up the price perhaps and just get a better deal to say yes. There is a range of reasons, but I can understand. I would want a right of veto if I was a landholder. But the reason I cannot agree to that for landholders, and the reason the government does not agree to that is that, number one, we are talking about a genuine transfer of rights from one to the other—and the shadow minister touched on that.
If that were to happen, we would need to apply an extraordinary amount of compensation. I do not even know how many millions of dollars it would be, but over almost all of South Australia there is some kind of mining permission. Whether it is something that may never be used or whether it is something highly prospective, these permissions are all over the state—inland, country, pastoral country. They are everywhere.
If the government were to say that they have decided, hypothetically, to make this change, who would compensate the people who currently have those rights which have just been taken away or perhaps have been made significantly less valuable? Who would pay for that? Would the government just be writing out cheques to people in the resources industry all over the state? No. Would the landholders be writing out the cheques and saying, ‘Well, the government has just given me a right of veto and you’ve got an exploration or a mining lease on my property or under my property; I’m just going to write you a cheque’? No, of course not. How would we get through that? Who would bear that cost? I do not think there is an answer to that.
The sovereign risk would be very serious and very genuine. It would have a significant detrimental impact on our state’s economy. Sure, if you are the landholder, that may not be your biggest problem. If you are in government, that is a serious consideration. In my mind, the most important reason that a right of veto should not be given to landholders to have the right to say that they have sole discretion about whether an exploration or mining activity will go ahead is that it would do nothing for the neighbours. I know this is not in all cases; I know that.
There is a very live case in our state at the moment where this does not apply. However, it is true to say that generally, overwhelmingly, the landholder and the mining company come to an agreement on whether there is going to be a mine. If you have the situation we have at the moment, they generally come to an agreement. If you had a right of veto, I still think they would overwhelmingly come to an agreement. It would just be a more expensive agreement; it would be much more expensive.
But what about the neighbours? What about the people who live around the outside of that land? The person who lives where the mining activity is has the right of veto, and overwhelmingly they will surrender that right in return for something else—not always, I accept, but overwhelmingly. All the neighbours are then left next door, hypothetically, to a mine. They get nothing out of the right of veto. So today, if there is a mine, it is the neighbours who are left with the biggest problems because now they will be living next door to a mine, and they do not want that. If we have a right of veto, it is the neighbours who will be left living next door to a mine, and they do not want that.
The biggest reason I do not support a right of veto is that that right of veto to the individual landholder does nothing to help the people and families who, if there is a mine, now have to live next door to it. It does nothing for them, and I think that is a significant flaw. Other people have different views. Other people will disagree with me, and that is how it is, but it is only fitting that I explain my view in this contribution.
Another reason we have these challenges is not so much about whether we grow enough food or whether we have enough copper to export. It is not so much about the value of the production of the land. Is it better to allow it to produce grain or something else for the next however many hundred years or is it better to mine it for the next 10 or 20 years? One of the biggest issues is that we are talking about people’s homes; we are talking about where they live. Mining companies do not live there. Mining companies and mining employees fly in and fly out more and more. It is work, and then they go back to their home in a small country town in the middle of Adelaide, Brisbane, Sydney or Melbourne, or wherever it may be.
However, the landholder—most of the time, not always of course but the cases that are toughest to deal with—says, ‘It’s not only my business, it’s not only about food production, it’s not only about the economy of the region, and all those other things, it’s actually my home.’ In my mind, that is one of the most difficult parts of this issue that we need to deal with better. We need to address that better in the next phase of work on this matter if this bill passes.
The shadow minister talked about royalties. He talked about approximately $1 billion of income from the resources sector in royalties, and he is right; it is around about a quarter of a billion dollars a year. That is very important. It may not be the top priority to the landholder who feels exposed, but I can tell you that it is a huge priority when it comes to government requiring income to build roads, to build schools, to build hospitals, to pay police officers, etc. It is a hugely important issue. I am not saying that everything is about money but I can certainly say that we are not in a position in our state to do anything that would undermine the flow of that income. In fact, we should be doing things that will increase the flow of that income over time.
Another thing that has been discussed is the proposal for an independent review into the mining sector and, broadly, land access in exploration and mining. It is an incredibly compelling proposal. We should have an independent review, and we will get advice and recommendations from that independent review. Yes, it is great in theory. I am 100 per cent on board with that. I know that representatives of the ag sector and the resources sector are 100 per cent on board with that, but they are 100 per cent on board with it, as am I, in principle.
But when you delve down into how that would really work, when you actually sit down with representatives of those industries and ask, ‘Could we flesh out terms of reference? Could we actually get the sectors to agree on what is most important with regard to the terms of reference?’, that is when it gets really hard. That is when you actually find that the principle that everyone is united on, moving towards the practice of doing it, starts to separate pretty quickly.
When you talk to people and ask, ‘Who would be the independent leader of this review?’ that is not so easy either. This is probably the most difficult one. If you were to ask people: if hypothetically we could do this, if hypothetically we could get everybody to agree to terms of reference and get everybody to agree on who would lead it, the time line, the budget, exactly how we would do it, would everybody agree to what this inquiry recommends? No way—and nor should anybody agree to that.
No-one should be asked to agree to the recommendations of an inquiry that has not even begun. But without that, what do we have? Without that agreement, whenever that inquiry is done, we are right back to where we started, with people saying, ‘We have a whole set of recommendations and some we like and some we don’t; some we agree with’—there is a whole range of views—’why don’t we adjust this recommendation just a little bit and why don’t we cut that one out?’ And we are right back to where we started.
I believe I am taking a pragmatic view about this. I understand that there are people who have another view. I have said that a lot tonight because I really do want to acknowledge it, but the nice, theoretical concept that we can all agree with, of an independent review, when you try to put that into practice it does start to get pretty woolly pretty quickly.
So I come back to my view, the government’s view, that we should lock in the benefits, accepting that people want more, accepting that it can be described as half a step instead of a whole step. We should lock them in and get those benefits, that list of benefits that I read out before. I do not want people to wait any longer than they need to in order to get those benefits. Even if those benefits are not all they want, we should still get those benefits out there and not delay moving onto the next phase of work to see how we can make things better from here.
As I said before, I have made a firm commitment to my colleagues, to myself and to people from both the resources and the ag sector that, if this bill passes both houses, shortly afterwards I will get on with the next phase of work along with my department, my team and others. I have been asked about all sorts of things: could this be in or could this be out, or this, that and the other, and I have given a view, and I have described my view as best I can with regard to the right of veto.
Broadly speaking, let me say that I am not ruling anything in or anything out about where we might go from here. It has been put to me by some of my colleagues that we should consider royalty payments to landholders. Well, let’s look into it; let’s find out. I am not saying that it is right or it is wrong, or that we will do it or we will not do it. But, broadly speaking, let whatever is sensible to be considered in the next phase of work be considered. Let’s have a look at it and see exactly what it is that we can do.
Let me just finish and sum up very quickly. We have five amendments in the government’s name—in my name, technically. They actually come from discussions with four of my colleagues. We have an overwhelmingly strong position within our government to support this legislation. We acknowledge that not every government member is satisfied, and we respect their rights and their views to represent their seat in this chamber exactly as they see fit.
I give enormous credit to those four MPs I mentioned before for the way they have worked through this to the best of their ability. I have worked through this to the best of my ability with them. We have done everything we possibly could to get to where we are. Is it perfect? No. Is it vastly improved? Yes. If this bill passes, will the resources industry and the ag industry be better off than they are today? Yes. Will we use the work and the learnings that we have acquired over the last 15 months to streamline our approach and make it better? Yes, we will.
I have also made a personal commitment to the member for Narungga and the member for Kavel that, if this bill passes and gets through both houses, one of the very first things that I will do is go with them to their electorates to personally engage with their communities again as quickly as possible. That is the government’s position, and I believe it is the right position. I know that not everybody believes it is the right position, but the government thinks that this is where we are and this is what we should do.
I would also like to thank people in my office and people from the Department for Energy and Mining; I will not name anybody specifically. For better or for worse, wherever we are today, whatever anybody’s opinion is about what is being presented to this parliament, people in my office, and even more so people in the Department for Energy and Mining because they have been at it for longer, have put an enormous amount of effort into this work, and I thank them for that. Thank you.