VANESSA BINKS20 May 21 2020
DEBATE on a proposed inquiry into land access for mining has been “stifled” again in State Parliament, making it the seventh adjournment since it was first tabled by independent MP Geoff Brock 10 months ago.
In a bid to balance the rights of landholders and mining companies, Mr Brock introduced the Commission of Inquiry (Land Access in the Mining Industry) Bill 2019 into Parliament, after the state government’s Statutes Amendment (Mineral Resources) Bill 2018 was passed in July.
But with debate in Parliament about Mr Brock’s bill yet to happen, he said the issue had been become stagnant.
“Debate was stifled again (on Wednesday last week). The four members that showed courage and crossed the floor on the issue, have gone silent,” he said.
“If the bill continues to be adjourned, an independent inquiry will not happen before the next state election and it will be buried.”
Member for Narungga Fraser Ellis was one of four Liberals that crossed the floor in 2018, to support Labor and adjourn the Statutes Amendment (Mineral Resources) Bill debate.
But, Mr Ellis also voted in favour of adjourning debate on Mr Brock’s bill last week, stating pressing COVID-19 legislation and concerns with the bill’s “make-up” were the cause.
“Rest assured, I am not done with this issue and have been consistently working on improvements in various forms,” he said.
Mr Ellis also maintained support of the proposed independent inquiry and said “there is more to come” on the issue.
Energy and Mining Minister Dan van Holst Pellekaan said public consultation on the draft regulations for the amendment bill will occur this year and to begin a new “process” during this time would disadvantage landholders.
“The recently updated Mining Act 1971 delivers improvements for landholders and was supported by the majority of MPs,” he said.
“The government has made a clear commitment to work with communities and representative groups to develop the next tranche of improvements once the current process is completed.”
Yorke Peninsula farmers have aired their frustration about the state government’s “continued refusal” to debate Mr Brock’s bill.
YP Landowners Group chair Joy Wundersitz, Rogues Point, said the inquiry was urgently needed.
“If the intention is to silence farmers, they are badly mistaken,” she said.
“If farmers want to protect their valuable farmland, they cannot let the issue of land access be swept under the carpet.”
Ardrossan farmer Stephen Lodge believed Mr Brock’s bill was heading the right direction but was unclear about why it had not been debated in parliament.
“The bill is a good start to achieving a better outcome for farmers,” he said.
But Mr Lodge queried the government “bending over backwards for mining companies” and hoped for a fair discussion in parliament soon.
The next opportunity to debate the bill is on June 3.