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Thursday, 11 May 2000
Page: 16371

Mr LAWLER (11:07 AM) —It was a busy weekend last weekend in the vibrant centre of Broken Hill in the west of my electorate. Members may know that Pasminco, which is the last significant mine in the Broken Hill area, announced some months ago that it was intending to close down its operations in the year 2006. While this announcement caused shock waves down the mineshafts of Broken Hill, the announcement has not dampened the spirit of these people whose ancestors were pioneers of the outback in the true sense of the word.

Over the years residents of Broken Hill have been developing a self-sufficient approach. This may not seem remarkable to those in other towns in the west who also pioneered the outback, but the contributions and leadership of the unions and the mines in Broken Hill over the years did have, to some degree, an effect in lessening the need of the community itself to find solutions to their problems.

There is no better example of the resilience of the community of Broken Hill than the biennial celebration of Agfair. These are the field days of the far west and, despite the problems faced by the pastoralists and townspeople of the western division, Agfair brings them together to look at new types of machinery, different land management techniques and water resource management as well as giving the locals the opportunity to get together and discuss the challenges of the future.

To get Agfair off the ground requires an enormous amount of cooperation from almost every charity and community group, and the level of cooperation displayed between industry, townspeople and pastoralists is an example that many towns with more secure futures could emulate. The West Darling Pastoralists Association and the South Broken Hill Rotary Club are the prime movers in getting this event off the ground, and Bruce Church was honoured by the organisers for his role in being the instigator of the first expo that I understand has run for the fifth time over 10 years. I know there are too many groups and too many other names to mention—and you always run the risk of neglecting someone who should be named—but I understand that Kevin Taylor, Erica Mallock and Sandy Bright were the real prime movers in this event in the year 2000. Though, I think, perhaps taken a little for granted by the community, they deserve a great round of thanks for their vision and hard work in keeping alive this important event in Broken Hill's calendar—so, too, do the companies and individuals who support the event. The individuals, the combined services clubs and volunteer organisations in Broken Hill all contributed to make this a magnificent weekend.

There is no doubt that governments, too, at all levels need to support communities in the western division to discover their own future, a future which is not based on one industry but which expands into tourism, value added industries, horticulture and even bush tucker. So far, the federal government has done exactly this, with around $15 million in grants of different sorts over the last 18 months or so—from the $4.6 million for the line of lode being managed through many necessary and unnecessary obstacles by Ron Hellyer and his team, including the Work for the Dole participants who have done a magnificent job in tidying up the site and restoring train carriages, to paying for an executive officer of Transition 2010, which is a community group gathered together with representatives of the council, the mining industry, the pastoralists and the community to chart the way forward with the post-Pasminco era in mind.

The federal government has also provided money for a skills audit and has paid for the position of a convention organiser to increase tourism potential in Broken Hill. It contributed $70,000 recently to the Royal Flying Doctor Service Museum, installed a department of rural health in Broken Hill and recently announced $2 million to establish local call Internet access and telecentres in places like Tibooburra, White Cliffs, Wilcannia, Ivanhoe and Menindee. Recently, $200,000 was allocated to Menindee to formulate a strategic plan. It is one of the areas that potentially can take up some of the enormous employment slack that will fall when the last mine closes. Recently, the Minister for Trade, Mark Vaile, visited Tandau. There was a most impressive set-up that we were able to tour to have a look at their cotton and horticulture. I understand that if they can look successfully at the possibilities of a cotton mill and winery, this secondary industry will also bring employment opportunities to the area.

I congratulate the members of the Employment National team at Broken Hill who embarked on a program called `a lode of jobs' in which they expected to generate about $500,000 worth of work. In fact, they generated a million dollars worth of work—and that was purely because of the drive of those people in Employment National. In the future, areas like ours need to be self-motivated and self-directing, and Broken Hill is a fine example of this. (Time expired)