AUSTRALIAN Conservatives MLC Robert Brokenshire is hopeful debate on a replacement for the Mining Act 1971 will be adjourned until after next year’s state election, to ensure the rights of primary producers are protected.
The Statutes Amendment (Leading Practice in Mining) Bill 2017 has been tabled by the state government to replace the existing act. The bill passed through the Lower House on Wednesday last week, with debate set to continue in the Upper House.
But Mr Brokenshire said he had spoken to other members of the Legislative Council, who supported an adjournment when parliament sits again next week.
He said one major concern was a change in the bill to describe cropping land as restricted from mining exploration rather than exempt.
“There’s quite a difference between exemption and restriction and that’s the type of thing that needs to be looked at,” he said.
Mr Brokenshire said an adjournment was particularly important as the bill had come before parliament while consultation was still being undertaken.
Mining act review drop-in sessions were being run by the Department of Premier and Cabinet mining act review team at Strathalbyn, Tanunda, Keith, Naracoorte and Mount Gambier this week, with more sessions scheduled for Burra and Port Augusta next week.
“It’s a slap in the face to farmers and shows a lack of genuine consultation by the government,” Mr Brokenshire said.
“I’m saying ‘let’s get the election out of the way and then have a sensible, balanced debate on the bill’.
“There’s no point pushing this through, particularly when there’s still a lot of concern from the agricultural community that needs to be addressed. Any rushed legislation is generally not good legislation.”
Mr Brokenshire is pushing for the establishment of a mining ombudsman, so farmers did not have to spend large amounts of money to seek advice on exploration issues.
Mineral Resources Minister Tom Koutsantonis said the department had sought the views of a diverse range of interest groups throughout the consultation process.
“The bill is based on more than 130 written submissions, following targeted engagement with more than 1700 stakeholders,” he said.
"There is also a forward schedule of broad consultation on outstanding issues, regulations and subsequent bills, to be held at 14 locations across the state.
"This is a balanced bill, and for that reason not all parties can be completely happy, however these amendments will give landowners the transparency and protections they have called for, strengthen environmental protections and give investors more certainty."
Farmers have say on resource sector review
WOODSIDE farmer Jim Franklin-McEvoy is one of many farmers who have taken the opportunity to give their input into the state government’s mining act review.
He attended a review drop-in session held at Strathalbyn on Tuesday, and had concerns the state government had already put legislation before parliament while this consultation was taking place.
“For legislation to be passed through the Lower House while the drop-in sessions are still happening seems out of order and rushed,” he said.
Mr Franklin-McEvoy said it was worthwhile looking further into the details of the review.
“The problem is that miners have a lot of rights and it’s a frustration for landowners that they’re never really safe from mining,” he said.
Grain Producers SA chief executive officer Darren Arney said his organisation had put a lot of work into the mining act review, as had a lot of landowners, and it was disappointing to see the Statutes Amendment (Leading Practice in Mining) Bill 2017 was already before parliament.
“Mining had a major effect on farmers because effectively you have two owners of different parts of the land,” he said.
Opposition agriculture spokesperson David Ridgway said his party did not support putting the bill through before the state election.
“There’s so many unresolved issues,” he said.
“There’s also no point rushing it through when there’s no projects awaiting the outcome of the review.”
Mr Ridgway was concerned consultation was taking place at the busiest time of the year for many of the state’s farmers, as they were either gearing up for or getting stuck into harvest.
“When the government instigated this review it was also prior to harvest,” he said.