Mining Bill dead and buried, Liberals say
THE State Government’s controversial Mining Bill is “dead and buried” after four Liberal MPs who crossed the floor were unable to reach a deal with Mining Minister Dan van Holst Pellekaan.
Senior Liberal sources told The Advertiser the Bill was “dead and buried” and “all but killed off” after Mr van Holst Pellekaan told the MPs his department was unwilling to agree to changes the Minister himself had agreed to in principle. “We believe the Bill is now dead as a result,” a Liberal source said.
Liberal MPs Steve Murray, Dan Cregan, Fraser Ellis and Nick McBride crossed the floor to postpone the Bill last year citing a lack of community consultation and a lack of protection for farmers and landowners.
The Bill, which mirrors legislation proposed by the former Labor government, was put off until late February after the four MPs crossed the floor.
A Liberal MP said Cabinet had decided to shelve the Bill after a deal was unable to be brokered between Mr van Holst Pellekaan and the four MPs. “It’s disappointing that a resolution on the Mining Bill hasn’t been reached and the Minister has become beholden to his department,” they said.
“Privately colleagues wonder how the Minister will get proper reforms in mining and energy if he’s so beholden to his department.” Mr Ellis declined to comment on whether the Bill would return to Parliament, but said he’d continue to fight for “stronger rights” for landowners and farmers.
He called for farmers to be given a “right to veto” when he crossed the floor, which would prevent mining companies from accessing land without the owners’ consent.
“I thank the Minister for the good faith with which he entered in negotiations for a compromise,” he told The Advertiser. “Freehold landowners and farmers need stronger rights and we’ll continue to work with the Minister to achieve that.”
Mr van Holst Pellekaan declined to comment yesterday.
Labor mining spokesman Tom Koutsantonis said the latest development showed Mr van Holst Pellekaan was “a minister in name only”.
“Now we’ve got the department overruling the Minister,” Mr Koutsantonis said.
“There are two sides here, regional MPs and inner-city MPs, and the Liberal Party is siding with those in the city.”
Grain Producers SA chief executive Caroline Rhodes said she could not comment on the development but called on an independent review of state mining laws to occur “urgently”. “This review should, among other things, thoroughly examine best practice land access frameworks in NSW, Queensland and Western Australia,” she said.
We believe the Bill is now dead as a result
Mining Bill shelved in odd fashion
ON the face of it, the State Government’s Mining Bill should not have caused too much controversy.
Mirroring Labor’s legislation that lapsed when State Parliament prorogued in March 2018, it effectively allows the regulatory scheme to continue as it was, except for a few small changes.
The only hitch was that the Liberal Party went to the election rubbishing the former Labor government’s lack of consultation over the Bill, and promised it would engage regional communities before tabling its reform.
Furious Yorke Peninsula farmers and the state’s grain sector, as well as four Liberal MPs who crossed the floor to delay the Bill, argue strongly that the promised consultation never happened. They also were concerned about a lack of protection for landowners. Energy and Mining Minister Dan van Holst Pellekaan’s failure to deliver that to their satisfaction has turned what should have been an easy political victory for the Government into its first public sign of disunity.
Unable to reach an agreement with the four floorcrossing MPs in the four months since the internal dispute spilt over onto the floor of State Parliament, The Advertiser now understands the Bill has been shelved by Premier Steven Marshall’s Cabinet.
That decision will greatly disappoint both the grain sector and the mining lobby, who have pushed for an overarching review of the legislation that governs mining and land use laws.
It’s unclear why Mr van Holst Pellekaan did not opt to hold that review, and then use its recommendations to reform the sector. It’s also equally concerning that the Minister had reportedly agreed, in principle, to a compromise position with the four MPs, but could then not get departmental sign off. If this is the case – as has been relayed to our political team by sources from within the party – then it leaves only two rational conclusions: either the tail is wagging the dog, or the Minister is hiding behind his department. Neither would leave the mining or grain groups with much confidence in the process in the future.