Farmers dug deep, but Mining Bill passed

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THE state government’s contentious Mining Bill was passed by the Legislative Council last Thursday afternoon, October 17. However, the final vote of 14 in favour, seven against, carried a degree of controversy. Liberals Dennis Hood and Terry Stephens crossed the floor to join Mark Parnell and Tammy Franks from The Greens, Frank Pangallo and Connie Bonaros from SA Best, and independent John Darley in opposing the bill. “While we expected this outcome, it is still devastating because it shows very forcibly that nothing farmers have done or said in opposition to this bill in the past 14 months has had any effect,” Yorke Peninsula Land Owners Group chairperson Joy Wundersitz said. “It is ironic that although a key aim of the bill is to encourage farmers and miners to each negotiate land access agreements, the government itself has been completely unwilling to take a similar approach. “They have not been willing to negotiate with or make any concessions that would have led to a fairer outcome. “Even last week, they refused to accept any of the more than 68 amendments tabled by Mark Parnell and Frank Pangallo on behalf of the agricultural sector.” Ms Wundersitz said the battle was not over. “Minister (for Energy and Mining) Dan van Holst Pellekaan has promised within several months of the bill being passed he would start the second tranche of reforms to the mining legislation,” she said. “He has never explained what he means by that, and given his track record to date we do not expect it will bring any benefits for farmers. “We will, however, demand he fulfils this promise.” YPLOG also plans to keep pushing for parliamentary debate about the private member’s bill for an independent commission of inquiry into land access for the mining industry, proposed by Member for Frome Geoff Brock. “Our concern is the government will try to bury this bill by not listing it for debate even though an independent review is exactly what the agricultural sector has been calling for,” Ms Wundersitz said.

Mining Bill passed – What has been said

The changes to the Mining Act will increase landowner rights, improve our state’s competitiveness across both the mining and agricultural sectors and promote further investment in our regions. It will mean landowners have more time, more legal support, increased access to justice and stronger protections when approached by exploration and mining companies. This will simplify the process for all involved in exploration and mining operations, and introduce more stringent and modern environmental enforcement powers to ensure that operations and rehabilitation occur in line with approvals.” – Dan van Holst Pellekaan, Minister for Energy and Mining

The passage of the Mining Bill in the Upper House last week was disappointing — particularly the blanket refusal from Labor to engage on any amendments presented. This stance was proof their actions in the Lower House was about politics, not outcomes. Even regional MLC Emily Bourke, who is closely connected to Yorke Peninsula, and who has publicly criticised the government in the past on this issue, remained silent while supporting the Bill. For me, the fight for increased protection for farmers and prime agricultural land is not over, and I look forward to tranche two of reform work as pledged by the minister.” Fraser Ellis, Member for Narungga

I am disappointed with both major parties pushing through the Mining Bill through. Both houses having brushed aside some very good amendments which would have given agriculture better protection and more security for its future. In the driest state in Australia, and with only less than five per cent fit for agriculture, and 95 per cent fit for mining, it really is a no-brainer. State groups including Grain Producers SA, Primary Producers SA, SA Chamber of Mines and Energy, farmers, lobby groups, Yorke Peninsula Land Owners’ Group, and a majority vote at the last Liberal State Council have all called for an independent review — all to no avail. Well done to those parliamentary members who stuck up for change. The ministers for mining and agriculture, and the Liberal Party, you promised at the last state election to consult and get this bill fairer for all. All we ask is for a fair go.” – Graham Mattschoss, farmer and Liberal State Council delegate

The passing of this bill reinstates certainty in the industry, which is needed for investment into exploration and mining to continue, and to maintain the 33 per cent of the state’s export income which this industry represents. Rex believes these amendments have improvements for both landowners and the industry in key areas, and are a first step in improving the workings of the Mining Act. Our industry has been, and is, working side by side with the agriculture in many areas of the country, resulting in a combined benefit to people living in regional Australia. As a SACOME member, Rex supports the government coordinating a future modernisation of the Act to ensure the sector remains at the forefront of innovation and a sector of choice for employment.” – Greg Hall, project director, Rex Minerals

Letters to the editor

Gov chose mining

FOR the past several months, the state government had the opportunity to change an outdated Mining Bill for the betterment of both the mining and agriculture industries and it chose mining and ignored agriculture.

Both industries called for an independent review into the bill and were ignored. Having watched the bill go through both houses of parliament, I was disappointed by the lack of support shown to agriculture in this state by both mainstream political parties. There is not one change to the bill that will give the agriculture industry in this state any sort of security.

The government is also considering new farm trespassing laws. If a protest group or individual trespasses onto my land and disrupts my business, it is proposed they could receive a $5000 fine. If a protest group or individual attempts to disrupt a mining business, they could receive up to a $150,000 fine, an increase from $5000. Hardly consistent! In parliament recently, Treasurer Rob Lucas justified the fine increase by stating “A maximum penalty of $5000 is so low it is unlikely to be in the public interest to incur substantial legal costs in a criminal prosecution to recover such a penalty.” That would make a mockery of any proposed trespass law and once again shows how much the government values agriculture in this state.

Jackie Harrop, Paskeville

No Mining Act review

DESPITE the best efforts of a group of Liberal and independent MPs, the Marshall government’s inability to embrace the concept of an independent review of our Mining Act has left many people stunned.

It has been 45 years since the last Mining Act review. We need to take a proper look at what other states have done in regards to mining development regulations. Minister for Energy and Mining, Dan van Holst Pellekaan, has stated numerous times it would be too hard to pull an independent review together. If he is unable to achieve such a review it is up to the Marshall government to find someone who can.

The disregard this current Liberal government has for the food and wine producers in South Australia is breathtaking. On the one hand, the government is promoting the idea we need to increase the value of our food and wine industries by three per cent, and also promote a clean and green image. On the other hand, there is little to no protection for the remaining 4.5 per cent, and shrinking, arable land.

That fact the Crown owns the minerals below the surface has never been in dispute. All landowners know this. We are simply asking for security for our state’s food-producing land.
Looking at the long-term prosperity of the state, I would suggest we focus our attention on the non-arable 95.5 per cent of South Australia for future mining development and leave our precious food-producing land for future generations to enjoy.
Bill Moloney, Arthurton