Port Pirie Smelting Facility (Lead-In-Air Concentrations) Bill

10 Sep 2013 archivespeech

A speech regarding the Port Pirie Smelting Facility (Lead-In-Air Concentrations) Bill.

The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK (11:23): I will be brief—

The PRESIDENT: Not too brief.

The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK: —but not too brief. The leader, the Hon. David Ridgway, put a number of comments on the record in relation to the bill, and I support his remarks. This is a very important bill for Port Pirie and for South Australia. I see it, in some ways, as being quite similar to the BHP indenture and the issues relating to that, because the inherent need for it is to mitigate risk to enable that operation to undergo the transformation.

I do not see how anyone could find any negatives in this in terms of what it will mean for the future of Port Pirie. It will result in much cleaner emissions, and that is obviously a very good thing. I am very conscious of the fact that Port Pirie gets quite tired of being picked on in the media and having a reputation because of the lead smelting that takes place and the pollution that has arisen from that.

I was talking to Kendall Jackson (the candidate for Frome) about this issue. She says that the city has missed out because it has had this thing held over its head for such a long time. She says that this needs to happen as soon as possible and she is looking forward to a positive future for Port Pirie with this transformation.

Some $350 million worth of funding is going to back the transformation: $150 million from the commonwealth through the Export Finance and Insurance Corporation—and I understand that this is the first such transaction that has ever been undertaken by that organisation—$100 million supported by the state government and $100 million from Nyrstar. This will enable the upgrade of the operations there. It is one of the last lead smelters in the world. I think it might actually be the oldest lead smelter in the world, so clearly a lot of investment is required to bring that up to modern standards.

If Nyrstar were to exit Port Pirie then this state would obviously be left with a significant liability, so that is something to be borne in mind. I think this is a good, cooperative solution to enable this company and the people of Port Pirie to be able to continue those operations and, at the same time, reduce the significant amount of emissions that previous speakers have talked about.

We have had the Ten by 10 program for some years, which has been aimed at reducing the blood lead levels in children. I think it may well have plateaued in terms of the reductions, and this upgrade is certainly going to have a big impact on reducing lead levels for the local residents for some time.

I understand that the EPA will retain its licensing role, set the initial standard, but the manufacturing minister has the ability to approve any changes to that within the first 10 years. Also, this must come back to parliament if those initial levels are to be changed by the EPA. Any changes to those standards will require consultation with all relevant parties, and obviously that will be instructed by continuing understanding through research in that area.

I did say that I was not going to speak for very long, and I think that probably covers the matters I want to mention. From an environmental position and for the people of Port Pirie, I think this is a positive outcome and I look forward to the investment upgrade of that plant and the continuing operations for the benefit of South Australia.