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Wednesday, 16 July 2014
Page: 128


Mr GRAY (Brand) (11:21): I am tempted to suggest that if you parents met at Woomera, that must have been on the occasion that the various rockets were taking off and sparks were flying through the air!

The DEPUTY SPEAKER: That is exactly right!

Mr GRAY: As the member for Canning reflects, I did grow up at Whyalla. I still remember evenings when we would go out, look into the horizon and know that a Skylark rocket was taking off in the 1960s. It was the original testing bed for those British-Australian cooperative rocketry research programs through the 1960s and 1970s. I also recall the great importance of the original discovery in the early 1970s of the Olympic Dam uranium find, which is one of the great finds that demonstrate the quality of Australian geophysical survey work and also shows the massive contribution to our economy—and in particular the South Australian economy—of that wonderful and innovative enterprise of Western Mining, which was under the leadership of Arvi Parbo. It found resources in remote parts of our country and helped build the magnificent, robust, reliable and innovative resources economy that we have today.

This piece of legislation, which opens the Woomera Prohibited Area for further minerals exploration and then potentially exploitation, is particularly important. It is particularly important in Adelaide but it is important to our economy, as the mineralisation that we know exists through the Gawler Craton—which is expressed at what we now know as Roxby Downs, which is sometimes referred to as Olympic Dam—and those finds like the Carrapateena discovery in 2006 are all significant finds. They are all believed to be richly embedded in a uranium environment and all potentially highly productive for the South Australian economy and for our national economy.

This legislation saw its roots in a substantial piece of work commissioned by my predecessor, Martin Ferguson, and by the former Minister for Defence, Stephen Smith, in cooperation with the South Australian government. If I can just advise, I will speak for a short period of time to allow the member for Grey to speak on his own backyard. The work which had been done cooperatively and jointly in order to best utilise the highly prospective ground that formed the WPA is work that saw collaboration between the Department of Defence, the Department of Finance and the then Department of Resources, Energy and Tourism.

It is unfortunate that the final passage of that legislation through the Senate did not take place in the previous parliament. As we have been learning in recent weeks, and as I fear we will discover over the course of the next couple of years, the Senate can be a difficult place. This legislation was deliberately held up in the Senate in the previous parliament for no good purpose. We now see it here today and it is the fervent desire of the opposition to see this legislation enacted and receive royal assent as soon as possible in order for the best framework to be put in place cooperatively with the Department of Defence, the South Australian government, traditional owners and communities in this area of northern South Australia so that its mineral potential can be realised, so that that mineral potential can be understood and so that future companies can make decisions to extract those minerals and export them through the ports of South Australia.

It is highly likely that the minerals that will be discovered in this area will be metalliferous, it is highly likely that there will be uranium based metals, it is highly likely that there will be a lot of copper and it is a near certainty that there will be a lot of iron ore. But what is also certain is that the importance of this economic development to South Australia underwrites future generations of South Australians in employment and in wealth generation. So I commend this bill to the House. The opposition wholeheartedly supports this bill.

I will conclude by making one final point. All Australians were disappointed in 2012 when BHP announced that it would not be progressing with its then scheduled expansion of Roxby Downs. It was argued at the time that the overheated construction economy and the Japanese response to Fukushima had reduced the spot price of uranium to very low levels—and the uranium price today is less than half of what it was in those days of 2012. The reasons that were given were the high cap ex, the decisions in Japan on nuclear fuels demand and the overheated resource economy. It is our fervent hope that, at a time when the resources construction economy has substantially cooled, it will be possible to seek an expansion of Roxby Downs, further extraction of copper and uranium ores, further employment and further wealth creation. The Woomera Prohibited Area, the WPA, being brought into the exploration environment is a good thing for South Australia and a good thing for our nation. I commend this bill to the House.