Regional communities piling increasing pressure on State Government on multiple fronts
Regional communities are piling increasing pressure on the State Government on multiple fronts, as country constituents in Liberal heartland double down on issues they say will hurt them.
A distrustful farming community has urged Energy and Mining Minister Dan van Holst Pellekaan to listen to its concerns about contentious mining reforms after four Government MPs crossed the floor to delay a vote on it until February.
Grain Producers SA and farmers have also turned up the heat over the Government’s plan to allow the Country Fire Service to order grain harvesting be halted if they believed it could spark a fire.
Premier Steven Marshall tried to shrug off questions about party divisions after Liberal MPs Fraser Ellis, Nick McBride, Steve Murray and Dan Cregan crossed the floor to delay a vote on the Mining Bill. All four MPs hit out at a lack of community consultation over the Bill, and farmers have been left fuming by the Government’s refusal to further consult on the planned reforms before they re-enter parliament next year.
Land used for cultivation is exempt from mining without permission, although mining companies can apply in court to waive the exemption. Farmers, including Ardrossan grain producer Stephen Lodge, say companies often use the threat of legal action to gain access to land, and warn the Bill weakens legislation that “already gives us no rights”.
Mr van Holst Pellekaan said he was “quite comfortable” with his colleagues crossing the floor, because 21 of the Government’s Lower House MPs supported it.
He defended his “extensive community consultation” over the Bill, and did not commit to a new round of talks before debate begins again in February to win over disgruntled farmers.
“Very quickly after this Bill passes through parliament we will move on to phase two, another extensive, deep, thorough and open stage of communication which will deliver even more benefits for landholders and the mining industry,” he said.
Labor government accountability spokesman Tom Koutsantonis said Mr van Holst Pellekaan had been “humiliated” on Tuesday, and “civil war” was being waged in the Liberal Party over mining.
Mr McBride told The Advertiser Mr van Holst Pellekaan had not held consultation with farmers about the legislation in the way that they were promised.
But he did not repeat claims he aired on ABC Radio that the four renegade MPs had “saved the party from complete turmoil” among its key constituents by delaying the legislation.
Mr Lodge said Mr van Holst Pellekaan needed to “pull his finger out” to ensure farming communities felt heard before the Bill was debated again.
“He’s going to have to actually listen and put down what we want and actually fight for that. At the moment all he’s doing is exactly what the mining companies want,” he said.