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Thursday, 12 December 2013
Page: 2690

Mr SNOWDON (Lingiari) (11:41): I say to the House that I am not happy about speaking here today, because what I am speaking about is about tearing the heart out of a community in a region of Australia. On 29 November past, Rio Tinto took a decision to curtail its refinery at Gove. The curtailment of the refinery at Gove effectively means mothballing the refinery over a period of eight months to commence in February of next year. So, just prior to Christmas, we now know that this announcement will mean around 1,200 job losses, with a community of 4,000 people estimated to shrink to a community of 1,500 people. The impact of this on the population of Nhulunbuy and on the services being provided within the region out of Nhulunbuy will be tremendous. This is not just about closing a refinery; this is about closing down a region. And we have not heard one word, one single word, from the federal government. No minister, let alone the senator for the Northern Territory who is a cabinet minister, has bothered to visit or phone the community to discuss their concerns about the redundancies of 1,200 people over a period of some months. We are not talking about 2017 here; we are talking about today. We hear nothing from this government—the Prime Minister, silent; Minister Macfarlane, silent; the Deputy Prime Minister, silent; all of them, silent.

Small businesses will suffer. We know that already, I was in Gove on Monday. Service providers will leave the town. We know that already because I was there on Monday and spoke and to service providers who say their life is up. Businesses are being mothballed. On Monday, we were told of a tourism operation which will, effectively, mothball its operation as of April because of this decision. We do not blame the government for the decision. What I blame the government for is lack of action—no mechanism to talk to the community about the impact on them or their families, or the region. Each one of the Aboriginal communities right throughout north-east Arnhem Land will be affected. There has been no consideration by this government or an attempt to sit down and discuss with the community what the impacts will be and what a sustainable future might look like under new arrangements. There has been no discussion from this government with this community around what a socioeconomic impact assessment might look like and what the outcome of that assessment might mean in terms of a structural adjustment package—nothing. It is shameful. And we saw the Prime Minister and his ministers yesterday defending the decision they took over BHP. Here is an opportunity for them to be proactive, but they are entirely absent from the field. Of course, this decision goes back, in a sense, not just to Rio making commercial decision about the viability of this refinery but to a decision by the current Northern Territory Chief Minister not to live up to a deal done by his predecessor around the delivery of gas to Gove.

When he became the chief minister of the Northern Territory, Adam Giles said he would not live up to this deal which involved the Commonwealth, the Northern Territory government and Rio. Had they lived up to the deal, there would have been gas coming to Gove almost certainly by today. They did not do it. We had Minister McFarlane in Gove on 30 September saying to people they were going deliver 300 petajoules of gas. They called it Adam's gas: no gas, no pipeline and now no refinery.

The impact on this community is absolutely horrendous. We are not talking about Adelaide; we are not talking about Melbourne; we are talking about a community of 4,000 people in north-east Arnhem Land. No interest has been shown by this government on the plight of those people or their families or the services that are provided in the region, not one word from this government. What will the lives of those people look like over Christmas? What are they planning for? I say to this government: 'You should be ashamed of yourselves. Why are you not up there? Why is the Prime Minister not up there? Why are the relevant ministers not up there?' They just do not care and cannot be bothered.