LITHIUM LEADS THE WAY
I welcome the establishment of a Government taskforce to investigate how WA can benefit from the lithium boom. Lithium is a key ingredient in the batteries that drive electric cars, and in electronic devices like mobile phones and laptop computers. The South West should see increased mining activity as lithium-bearing rocks are plentiful in the region. These industries could create thousands of highly skilled, high-paying jobs. The mining activity would bring many families and associated businesses to the region. Value-adding to our mineral resources benefits Western Australians and can make use of extensive renewable energy potential. It’s exciting to see more than 15 lithium developments planned or under construction across the state, representing about $4.7 billion in future investment, with more on the way.
But, like all similar industries, we must maintain appropriate recognition for environmental and social concerns. I also asked the State Government to consider re-opening the Bunbury-Greenbushes line to facilitate rail freight of the lithium from the Tianqi plant, and take pressure off the roads. I welcome the news that the company is in negotiations with Arc Infrastructure, lessees of the rail line, for its reactivation. It’s imperative that the State Government support moves to restore the line to operating condition.
THE STATE BUDGET
This year’s State Budget has inflated household costs, with Treasurer Ben Wyatt announcing that residents would have to find an extra $300 to pay for increases to water, power, public transport and car registration. These hikes will be felt hard in all sectors of the community. All up, they take the “representative household’s” annual payment to the State to $6,327 a year for the services they receive. Many in the regional areas, with less disposable income, will struggle with the burden.
I’m also disappointed that no extra money was allocated to community resource centres, which have had their funding severely reduced. And there was no mention of Indigenous tourism, an area that was highlighted in a recent Auditor General’s report which said the State was not meeting its targets in this area.
On the plus side, I’m pleased that the Government has pledged to continue its investment in the regions. I also welcome the allocation of $15.3 million over four years to establish an independent advisory body on infrastructure needs and priorities, which has the potential to curtail ill-thought-out construction projects and save considerable funds. There were also welcome references to climate change and regenerative agriculture. Overall, it appears the government was looking at longer term strategies, which will help with the state’s fiscal recovery.
SALT OF THE EARTH
The issue of salinity in WA was a much-discussed area of concern many years ago, but seems to have become a forgotten problem in recent times. The point was reinforced recently by a damning report released by the Auditor General, which assessed the extent of salinity in the agricultural regions of the South West. The report said the scale of the problem was daunting, with an estimated one to two million hectares of land affected by salt, potentially rising to five million, with costs over half a billion dollars a year in lost agricultural production alone. It said since 2008, agencies have reduced monitoring and evaluation, and the Soil and Land Conservation Council, the key independent advisor to Government, has not met since 2003.
I highlighted this sad state of affairs in an address in Parliament. There is no question that there should be more coordinated management across government agencies, landholders and stakeholders to address the problem.
GM FINGERPRINT ON THE PULSE
I enjoyed an informative session with Murdoch University genetic engineering students earlier in June. My adviser Margaret Gollagher and I had been invited to attend a tutorial where the students, playing the roles of government scientific advisers, had to present an elevated pitch to explain the science of genetic technology, using everyday language. Unit coordinator Dr Wayne Reeve had urged them to think critically about the social and ethical issues surrounding genetically modified organisms.
It was a useful exercise to help them learn how to communicate with policy makers who are not usually experts in this area, but who help draft associated legislation. I gave out prizes to the groups who made the best presentations and who performed best in the laboratories. Ultimately, it’s good to know that the future of GM fingerprinting is in the hands of future scientists who are aware of the ramifications of their discoveries and breakthroughs, good and bad.
NO GREEN LIGHT FOR GREENPATCH
The residents at Dalyellup have been protesting long and hard about plans by developers, the Satterley Property Group, to bulldoze existing green space nearby to build 213 new residential lots. It’s understood the proposal would destroy an area of high conservation value and would not safeguard the existing biodiversity.
I’ve suggested to the State Government that it protects this area by including it within the boundaries of the Preston River to Ocean Regional Park. While part of the development site is not owned by the Government, Planning Minister Rita Saffioti has confirmed that the state does have the authority to include the lots in the Regional Park, subject to detailed assessment. This would be an ideal solution to protect this valuable land and provide a buffer for nearby sewage and waste facilities. In the interim, it is important that the Government does not act rashly in giving the green light for the proposal.
HOME ON THE RANGE
New laws have come into place which require all egg packages to prominently display the stocking density of hens. Producers must have less than a maximum density of 10,000 hens per hectare to earn free-range accreditation. Unpackaged eggs, like those sold at farmers’ markets, must be accompanied by signage with the stocking density printed on it.
In my opinion, the guidelines don’t go far enough. They’re much higher than those proposed by the Primary Industries Ministerial Council model code of practice, which recommends just 1,500 hens per hectare. I would encourage consumers who support free range to make sure they check the labelling on their egg cartons and choose densities of no more than 1500 birds.
RAIL, NOT ROAD
A recent newspaper report highlighted the increased operating subsidies for the new Forrestfield Airport rail link, as well as other proposed rail projects. While the amount is large, what’s often overlooked is the cost of using road as an alternative to public transport. There are huge intrinsic and flow-on costs associated with building new roads or improving existing ones, including expenditure spent on maintenance, repair, and policing of traffic; in effect, they serve as a de facto subsidy.
There are also socio-economic effects to consider, such as increased pollution, increased congestion on the roads, and increased possibility of road accidents. Of course, transport systems aren’t just about commuters. A highly developed freight system will ensure efficient delivery of goods and divert this process from the roads, with a much lower carbon footprint. Spending money on mass transit infrastructure, urban or regional, is a wiser investment than directing it at arteries, avenues and expressways. I would rather have my taxes spent on enhancing our public transport networks than being forced to pay a road toll.
On May 22, I commemorated one year in office. We’ve accomplished much, but there’s so still more to do to ensure proper use of natural resources and appropriate delivery of services to all Western Australians. We look forward to the challenges that face us in the future.
Summary of my activities
Lecture on Climate Change and Energy, Curtin University | Parliamentarians Leadership Course | Nornalup Art Exhibition | Visit and talk with Denmark High School Students | Murdoch Genetic Engineering Workshop; Diane as a Guest Panellist | Gender and Climate Change Philosophy Lecture | Fire Resilience Event at Bornholm Hall | Albany Roller Derby Volunteer Breakfast | Dalgarup National Park site visit | Constituents Margaret River | Constituents Bunbury | Aboriginal Heritage Act Review Workshop in Bunbury | Australian Greens National Council Conference | Stop Adani Rally | World Bee Day display at Parliament House | Pesticide Rally | Greens Consensus workshop Albany | Karri Forest, Timber Trees and Shitake Event in Pemberton | Northcliffe CRC | Manjimup CRC | ‘We’ve Been Here Before’: An Evening in Conversation with Nyoongar Elder Dr Noel Nannup and Professor Fiona Stanley | Donnybrook on-farm visits | Balingup on-farm visits | Noongars Knew Best’ Talk on Historical Burning Practices by David Ward – Bridgetown | Bridgetown community | Senator Jordan Steele-John South West Tour | PowerUP Greens Election Campaign Training | The Truth about January 26: Justice and Healing
Committee on Young People | Auditor General report briefing | ALCOA | Meeting with CAPS Yarloop Data Collection | Management of Salinity | Southern Forests Irrigation Scheme and Water Issues | Industrial Hemp Amendment Bill | Payroll Tax | Rural Fire Service | Animal Justice Party | Forests
|Questions Asked in Parliament:
South-West Rail Line – Future in Light of Lithium Boom | Greenpatch Development – Planning | Pemberton Camp School – Land Ownership | Fremantle Port Authority – Inner and Outer Harbour Development Options Evaluation Report | Greenpatch Development – Wastewater Treatment Plant | Parks and Wildlife Service – Prescribed Burning | Greenpatch Development – Tuart Bushland – Dalyellup | Greenpatch Development – Tuart Bushland – Dalyellup | Barrabup Forest – Logging | Forestry – Sawmills | Live Export – Mv Maysora | Prescribed Burning – SW Forests | Water for Food Program – Southern Forests Irrigation Scheme