Whyalla Steel Works (Environmental Authorisation) Amendment Bill - 22 September 2015

Wednesday 10 February, 2016

Mr TARZIA ( Hartley ) ( 11:33 :33 ): I also rise in favour of the amendment bill before us today.

In such a challenging time (and we have heard the shadow minister for the area say this as well) we need to send a strong, positive message to the mining industry, the mining industry that represented in South Australia in 2014 an 11 per cent share of the Australian economy in mining. When you look at mining in South Australia in 2014, it represented about a 5 per cent share of the South Australian economy.

We on this side of the chamber support the passage of the bill. We support it for the people of Whyalla, for the area, business, shareholders and also employees. It is important that we provide certainty in a time where the mining industry has had many blows dealt it, some not for its own doing, its own fault. If you look at the global all products composite index, in terms of global carbon steel prices, at July 2014 the price was $US711 a tonne. When you look at May 2015, that price had dropped to $US554 a ton.

We need to send a strong message to the mining industry that we are with them in the peaks but we are also with them in the troughs, and at the moment we are in a trough. I am sure it will not be too long before prices do bump up again, and that is why we need to give the people at Arrium the opportunity to rectify whatever issues they can wherever we can, within reason, because the industry is experiencing extremely tough times at the moment.

It is about more than just an industry; it is also about the people of Whyalla and the surrounding areas, and it is about jobs. These people have mortgages, they have kids in secondary school, they have car repayments. We cannot just sit here and let only the market dictate what happens in such a huge situation. Of course we need to protect the environment, but we need to balance that against not only the commercial reality but also the reality of people. These are real people with real lives.

Arrium approached the government seeking an extension of such environmental authorisation and, recognising the difficult financial times—due to many factors but including iron ore and steel prices and their issues, as well as the need to provide more certainty to underpin the longevity of operations—the government has agreed to extend environmental authorisation for 10 years.

There are many rationales for this extension. First, it is to maintain Arrium's confidence in the state's regulatory regime as it faces many challenges, I am sure, in the coming years. We know, without a doubt, that a strong mining industry is essential for the future of our state, and I understand the company is undertaking a broad review of its business as a result of the negative factors it is experiencing. I commend it for that. I am sure it has also had to curtail some mining in the short term, and this will perhaps lead to some decrease in exports in the near term. However, as I said, we have to stand with the mining industry through peaks and through troughs. It is experiencing some tough times at the moment, but I have no doubt that when prices do rise they will be eternally grateful to us. The state will get royalties and export dollars back, so at the end of the day why would we not stand here and support them wherever we can?

Without repeating the points that have been made before me by the deputy and also by the shadow minister, obviously we do not want to get into the habit of doing this sort of thing, but every case is different. This is a very strong case that has been put to us by a company in dire need of assistance by the government. I commend the government for putting the motion forward and, as you have heard from our shadow minister, we will not stand in the way of this. I commend it to the house.