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Thursday, 26 June 2014
Page: 4032


Senator FARRELL (South Australia) (12:54): I rise to speak on this bill, which is noncontroversial but extremely important to the country and even more important to my home state of South Australia. At the outset, I would like to thank the government for introducing this legislation—I could say, 'Better late than never.' I would like to go back over the history of this piece of legislation, and to say why it is important to the country and, in particular, to South Australia, and why it is terrific that this parliament, on my last day in the federal parliament, is passing this piece of legislation.

The history of this piece of legislation goes back to an inquiry by the Hawke committee—not Bob Hawke, but another Hawke. The idea was that South Australia has a very large section locked up in what they call the Woomera Prohibited Area. This area is larger than Tasmania and many states in Europe. Because it was used for very good, sensible defence purposes, it meant that a large portion of the state was not open to mining. The Hawke report examined the impediments to changing the rules regarding Woomera so that it could be dual use. Sure, it is an important defence area for the country and for our alliance partners, but it has a great deal of mineralisation.

I would like to talk about that mineralisation, because we have to understand that a very large section of the Woomera area is tied up in the Gawler Craton. The predictions by the South Australian government are that there is some $35 billion worth of mineralisation locked up in the Gawler Craton, located within the Woomera Prohibited Area. This legislation—if, as we expect, is passed today—will free up all of that area to exploration. I would be very confident that there are going to be some major discoveries of new mineralisation in this area. The predictive powers of the technology are now so advanced that we can ensure that, when we start looking for this mineralisation, we have a pretty good chance of finding it.

I congratulate the government on introducing this bill. I think it is worth pointing out that I sought to get this legislation through the parliament at about this time last year; it was before the government changed hands. But it was sent off to a committee—I always thought that was a mistake. Undertakings were given by the minister that the government would reintroduce this legislation. An inquiry was undertaken by the Senate. There were a couple of changes proposed to the legislation, which is why the government indicated that it could not support my bill earlier in the year, which came up in opposition business time. A new piece of legislation was then produced. I have struggled to discover the differences between the bill I introduced earlier in the year and this bill—but I will not quibble about that. The government has recognised how important this bill is to South Australia and has introduced it. As I say, better late than never.

I will explain just how important this is for South Australia. We have seen, in recent times, some of the staple economic bases of South Australia removed. We saw, earlier this year, the announcement that Holden is going to slow down and close down. Not only does that affect that particular factory but in South Australia we have a components manufacturing operation that is second to none; it is also going to be affected by the Holden closure—so we have a double barrelled hit. In addition to that, we are in a situation where our expectation had been that Olympic Dam was going to expand. As you know, Mr Acting Deputy President Smith, that is one of the most expansive pieces of mineralisation in the world. It has some of the world's best copper and some of the world's best uranium, and there is gold also in that mine. We had expected that that mine was going to go ahead and, of course, it did not.

So how do we replace the jobs that would have been created by that expansion? How do we replace the jobs that will be lost by the closure of Holden? This bill provides the solution. It provides us with the opportunity to do further exploration. I am very confident that there will be some major discoveries that will enable our state to do what Western Australia—your own state, Mr Acting Deputy President—has done and will continue to do with minerals. You have the work that is involved in the exploration. If discoveries are made, you have the work involved in building the mines. Of course, once the mines are open, you have that ongoing employment of people who will work in that region. They are all good things for South Australia. It provides the opportunity for the state to replace declining economic interests with new ones.

One example of what I think is a potential here is manufacturing. We are all talking about manufacturing leaving the country and going overseas. Well, one very good example in Australia is a company called Osmoflo, which I had the opportunity of dealing with when I was the parliamentary secretary for water. They now run 75 desalination plants around Australia and around the world. You go to their little factory in Virginia in South Australia and they control those 75 desalination plants from a computer room in Virginia in South Australia. What is essential in this craton region of South Australia? What do they need? They need water, and we have the perfect company to deliver the water supply to these isolated regions. That will create more jobs as they build the desalination plants that are going to be used to supply the freshwater for all the people who are going to be working in this new area.

I congratulate the government on bringing this forward. I do consider that it is a swan song as far as I am concerned, because it is a great piece of legislation. When it comes to the future of economic development of my state of South Australia, of all the pieces of legislation that will be passing in this session, this one provides the greatest opportunity for the state to extend its economic development. As you know, we have a terrific new government in South Australia—

Senator Cameron: Not here!

Senator FARRELL: No, not here, but in South Australia, re-elected—

Senator Ryan: The government wasn't so keen on you!

Senator Cormann: The Premier of South Australia speaks nicely about you too!

The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT: Order!

Senator FARRELL: I do not get involved in that gutter politics, Senator Cormann—I am above that. But this is a terrific piece of legislation. The opposition completely support it and we want it to go through.