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Thursday, 23 August 2012
Page: 6272


Senator GALLACHER (South Australia) (15:23): I would like to point out one fact: I am in agreement with Senator Bernardi about the contribution from Senator Ludlam last night—exulting in the fact that this proposal will mean there will be less uranium mined and exported from Australia. But that is probably the only point of agreement.

Those who know South Australia realise that copper is in its DNA. If you go to the formative days of the state, the copper mines of Burra underpinned the economy—Moonta, Wallaroo, the copper coast. The simple facts are—and I visit these places—Pirie, Port Augusta, Whyalla and Roxby are vibrant communities whose mines are very valuable contributors to the South Australian economy. There are more than 600 kids at primary school in Roxby. There are more than 4,000 people living there. It is one of the highest postcode earners of South Australia. It is a vibrant and continuous contributor to the South Australian economy.

The fact that it was going to undergo a tremendous multiyear development stage was highly anticipated by all of the surrounding communities and all of the people in South Australia. To my view, it was a bipartisan project with the total support of all South Australians. And to see today people playing politics and trying to get a political advantage over what is a disappointing decision, something that is going to delay the further development of our great state, is quite dissatisfying. I see people taking a short-term political advantage over what should be a bipartisan approach to get this project up and over the line. The development phase was four years. It took four years to dig down up to 500 metres to expose the ore burden.

I suppose it is worth putting on the record some of the things that have been said. It is really important that BHP has recognised that the South Australian government has been fully supportive of the Olympic Dam project and has created an environment that is highly conducive to business investment. We have been very much encouraged by their attitude to business development and the Olympic Dam expansion project. I know that Tom Koutsantonis and Premier Weatherill made every effort and moved every obstacle in the path of BHP's decision. Let us be fair dinkum about this: this is about the future of South Australia. Let us be fair dinkum: there is not a politician representing South Australia who would not do anything in their power to make this project go ahead.

But if iron ore is US$113 a tonne and it used to be US$180 a tonne, if BHP has had a 34 per cent reduction in profit, if they have made some decision worldwide which has cast into doubt their ability to expand $80 billion worth of capital around this country and the world, then don't be coming in here and saying, 'It's Minister Wong's fault'. Don't be coming in here and saying, 'It's all the Labor Party's fault.' This is a global, multinational business that, quite frankly, makes its decisions independently and irrespective of most of the governments it deals with. It has a responsibility to its stakeholders and shareholders to define its longer term development plans. This is a unique, world-class ore body.

As I said at the outset, copper particularly is in South Australia's DNA. Burra mines underpinned the development of the state. They stopped it from going bankrupt at one stage. It is my view that this BHP decision is a dramatic setback, but it is not the end of the journey. The ore body is still there. It is world class. The statements about industrial problems are absolutely ludicrous. There have been no impediments to a 24-hours-a-day, seven-days-a-week efficient operation at Olympic Dam.