Senate debates

Wednesday, 5 March 2014


Productivity Commission

6:55 pm

Photo of Glenn SterleGlenn Sterle (WA, Australian Labor Party) Share this | Hansard source

I also rise to speak on the Productivity Commission's Inquiry Report No.65: Mineral and Energy Resource Exploration. As we know, briefly: the government that we now have were quick to go to the last election with three-word slogans, whether it was talking about boats, or grown-ups in control or—another one that has got under my skin—open for business. We know that the Productivity Commission report talks about regulatory processes that impose unnecessary burdens on resource explorers and that inhibit exploration around the mining industry. The government is very quick to say that they are the friends of the mining industry. They are very quick to say how they are going to save the nation from a mining tax that was originally being negotiated with industry because they had absolutely no problem with a profit-based tax. As we all know in this building, the industry did not have a problem with that. We in this building also know that the current structures for royalties do not work. We have seen that in the great state of Western Australia. We have seen some absolutely monumental stuff-ups, for want of a better phrase, from the state government over there in terms of how great they are going to be for the state of Western Australia, the people of Western Australia and the mining industry. Let me just talk about a couple of them. It is all very well for the federal Liberal government to be running around the country being friends, but let us look at some form from the state government.

Let us look at two of the most massive projects that have been announced in Western Australia. We were very lucky, until the global financial crisis—and even during the global financial crisis—to be blessed with many resources over there in terms of oil, gas and—in particular, but not limited to—iron ore. We had one project, where junior miners in the Mid West region, inland—for those not from WA—around Geraldton, where magnetite—the poorer cousin of haematite—which, although it is not a higher-quality ore, is the next big thing in Western Australia. I make no argument about that, especially when we talk about China and India's hunger for iron and steel. We had the Premier—who is the Premier still, Mr Colin Barnett—come out there and personally nail his colours to the mast in relation to building the Oakajee Port and Rail project. The Oakajee Port and Rail project was to build a deepwater port and rail in the Mid West region. He was out there announcing what a wonderful thing it was going to be, he went to an election with it, and he was going to be the driver of the project, and he was going to be the builder of all things great in Western Australia.

Around the same time, he was also talking about the Browse project, which is a Woodside project—Woodside is one of the proponents—to build an onshore gas facility at James Price Point north of Broome. I know my colleagues in the Greens will come out and scream about all the bad things about oil and gas, and how terrible it is to have an onshore gas facility, but there were a lot of benefits that were going to come with this project. One of the benefits was an Indigenous land use agreement to the value of $1.5 billion. But I have to tell you, Mr Acting Deputy President, I am coming from a selfish point of view: whatever will advance Indigenous peoples, particularly but not limited to the Kimberley, I am in. But I did have the good grace not to stick my nose into that business. That was a deal to be negotiated between our Indigenous owners and the proponents. And those in the environmental movement were all there, sticking up for the blackfella and looking after the poor blackfella who is going to be victimised by this gas plant and then, when that did not suit my blackfella mates, they turned on them and the rest is history; we know where that stands.

It suits certain parties to say 'the poor Aborigines were bullied'. Well, do you know what? They took a democratic vote. We know very well how democracy works—with 50 per cent plus one, you rule. When democracy goes your way, that is fine. But when it does not suit some people, the rest gets very murky. I do not want to take the pressure off Premier Barnett. He bulldozed his way in, pushed everyone aside and compulsorily acquired land at James Price Point. The Oakerjee deepwater port near Geraldton is a $6-billion project; James Price Point is a potential onshore gas project—both projects where he came and stuck his bib in. I will tell you what he did do. He managed to absolutely blow out of the water any chance to see that development on James Price Point. He blew out of the water any chance for Indigenous improvement—jobs, education, roads and infrastructure. He also managed to tip out the Oakerjee port.

One-word slogans are fantastic at elections when you are in opposition, but when you get into government you have to deliver. So far, the only thing this government has delivered is jobs offshore. They should be absolutely ashamed of themselves. The Australian people have the opportunity to be reminded of that, particularly in Western Australia in the next few weeks.


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