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Monday, 8 February 2010
Page: 790

Ms JACKSON (8:06 PM) —I am not too sure whether to tackle the member for Kalgoorlie for jumping the gun with his motion, given the process that is actually underway in the Kimberley—and I will address that in a moment—or accuse him of being well over a decade too late, given that he has been the member for Kalgoorlie, including the area of the Kimberley, for some time and it has taken until the election of the Rudd Labor government for some serious and cooperative planning, including development, to be undertaken in conjunction with the Western Australia government. So, as I say, I am not too sure whether you are jumping the gun or you are a decade or more too late.

I might say that I think the member for Kalgoorlie and I would agree that the Kimberley is a very special place. As one who has been fortunate to visit the Kimberley on many an occasion, I do have a great sympathy with the notion of protecting and heritage listing many parts of the Kimberley. I am also a realist, though. I grew up in the bush and I believe in the opportunities for regional development and employment for those who live in rural and remote areas of Western Australia.

There are two particular processes that I want to address today, one involving the West Kimberley, which I think is the genesis of some of the member for Kalgoorlie’s concern. Secondly, I want to talk about developments in the East Kimberley.

There was an agreement reached with the Western Australian government some two years ago, where the then state Labor government and the Rudd government agreed that the two governments working together would embark upon a strategic assessment of the West Kimberley, including, under the EPBC Act, a common user liquefied natural gas precinct to service the Browse Basin reserves.

Part of that agreement included an assessment of the cultural and environmental values of the West Kimberley and formal identification of its national and potential international heritage values. In other words, there is a joint process being undertaken. I am concerned that the member for Kalgoorlie’s motion appears to be predicated on a lack of understanding about what that process involves and the very rigorous and proper consultation process that is now underway. Indeed, the Australian Heritage Council’s assessment is required to include extensive consultation with landowners, occupiers and the Indigenous people with rights and interests, and they make recommendations to the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and the Arts on possible national heritage values and the potential boundaries and protection required for those national heritage values.

As I understand it, Minister Garrett has asked the council to provide him with their advice by 30 June 2010. So I want to assure the member for Kalgoorlie that there is a rigorous consultative process underway. The member for Kalgoorlie, and those he advocates on behalf of tonight, have ample opportunity to have input into that process, and I urge them and encourage them to do so as part of those recommendations concerning the West Kimberley going to Minister Garrett by 30 June 2010.

I think it is also important in this debate to acknowledge that National Heritage listing is not a means to restrict development. It is to ensure that National Heritage values are given appropriate weight in decision making when new developments are proposed. I would hate for you to think that National Heritage listing means that there would be no opportunity for future development in any particular region.

I listened closely to the member for Kalgoorlie. I was not aware of whether he provided any specific evidence of problems on behalf of particular constituents in his seat but, if so, I certainly urge him to encourage them to join in the process and made sure that their views are heard. I suspect he and I share what I consider to be of much greater concern in inhibiting development in this region: the duplication of approval processes and requirements from state, local and federal governments. If there is one thing I would really like to see us address, it is to ensure a much more streamlined process for all involved in those development applications.

I also take this opportunity to congratulate the Parliamentary Secretary for Western and Northern Australia, another Western Australian, Gary Gray, the member for Brand, on his progress with the East Kimberley Development Package. I am assuming that the member for Kalgoorlie is well aware that the Rudd Labor government entered into agreement again with the Western Australian government regarding a nation-building initiative which involved a joint assessment. It involved not only the Parliamentary Secretary for Western and Northern Australia but also the Western Australian Minister for Regional Development, Brendon Grylls.

The parliamentary secretary, along with the relevant ministers in the Western Australian state government, has visited the East Kimberley several times to meet with local citizens, community groups, non-government organisations, business and the Shire of Wyndham East Kimberley to hear and discuss their ideas on infrastructure requirements for the region. The member for Kalgoorlie would be well aware that on 3 July last year the Prime Minister and the Western Australian Premier, Colin Barnett, launched the East Kimberley Development Package. This followed the Western Australian government’s decision to proceed with the expansion of the irrigated agricultural land around Kununurra and their commitment to the National Water Initiative.

Since that package was announced and agreed to between the parties we have seen a number of projects being launched. Some 29 individual projects are in some stage of planning, design or implementation in the East Kimberley. We have seen construction commence on several projects, including the upgrades to the Wyndham health facilities and the hospital component. We have seen the construction of staff housing begin. We have seen improvements in the residential rehabilitation facility near Wyndham. We have seen the Kununurra Airport upgrade for the patient transfer facility. The WA government has recently awarded contracts for the construction of 23 dwellings in Kununurra and Wyndham, and a tender is currently out for the construction of five more dwellings. We have community consultations progressing on the more complex projects of the Kununurra Hospital expansion and the redevelopment of the Kununurra education precinct. There has been tremendous involvement of the community in the designs for the Wyndham Community Jetty, which promises to have an important community aspect.

We have not forgotten the issue of employment, especially the issue of Indigenous employment. I am told by the parliamentary secretary that the first 12 participants to go through pre-employment apprenticeship training with Kimberley Group Training are 100 per cent local Indigenous people. Funding for salary and mentoring support for 20 new local apprentices will increase the availability of skilled labour in the region to come.

All of the projects funded under this package are scheduled to be completed by June 2012. Contrary, I think, to the concerns raised by the member for Kalgoorlie in his motion, there are two very good and complementary processes underway involving the Western Australian government, local participants, residents and Indigenous landowners in the Kimberley, both for the West Kimberley and the East Kimberley. I believe that with that level of cooperation there will only be good and successful development for the region to come out of those proposals.

I say to the member for Kalgoorlie: you are jumping the gun. The process is still underway. You can have your say, but you are a decade too late. You were part of a government that for 12 long years did not take one step to see cooperative assessment and evaluation of the Kimberley region. I am sorry to be partisan about it, but like you I also think the Kimberley is a very special place. I look forward to future development in the region as well as the protection of significant natural heritage areas.