Wednesday, 31 July 2019                     HOUSE OF ASSEMBLY                        Page 6873

Introduction and First Reading

The Hon. G.G. BROCK (Frome) (10:32): 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 and the Opal Mining Act 1995, 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) (10:33): 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 to be able to obtain access to agricultural land and work collaboratively with both sectors that have been affected. Previous bills have been 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 we as legislators 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 always improve on what we do.

The 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 is 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 the bill the opportunity to look into the practices of not only interstate but also overseas jurisdictions and how they have been 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.

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.

In the past few days, I have had numerous—and I mean numerous—calls from across all regional South Australia regarding the current situation, supporting this independent commission of inquiry. People ringing me on my Parliament House telephone this morning from across the South-East and also in other areas across South Australia suggested that this inquiry should go further and include other acts, such as the Land Acquisition Act 1969. There may be other acts that the commission may elect to investigate, along with any other legislation that may be identified.

As in general life, we are advised and guided by others. In our journeys we come into contact with people who may have different ideas or views, and sometimes we need to stand back and re-valuate what we do and how we do things. What we do in this place is no different from what we do in our general life.

It has been mentioned at times that the department could be seen as both the regulator and the promoter of any projects that may eventuate. Currently, it is my belief that a resource company obtains the licence first and then proceeds to undertake the required environmental processes. Perhaps there is another sector that may have 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 and for the best practice of all concerned.

The independent inquiry would 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, legislation and any other opportunities that may arise. This inquiry will also bring greater transparency and a better balance of all landowners and mining companies. It should be stated today that there are many projects that go through the current process and all may be in agreement; however, there are other occasions when the process may not have been so smooth and has cost many people a lot of frustration, money and time.

There have been times when the agricultural sector has been stressed due to the length of approval and 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 and 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 industry. All this bill asks for is that an independent inquiry into land access be established for the mining industry and for the final report of the commission to be laid before each house of parliament within six days of receiving it. As mentioned earlier, I have received numerous calls from across the state regarding this bill and what progress there will be from here.

I present the bill today. The second reading will be deferred and an opportunity will be given for everyone in this house to look at it. As I have now presented the bill for all members to peruse and consider, I hope that the government will have the bill on the next sitting day of parliament after the six-week winter break. I look forward to getting bipartisan support for this bill to ensure best practices are put in place, which will benefit both sectors involved with regard to modernising mining approvals and other processes. I commend this bill to the house.