The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK (14:32): I seek leave to make an explanation before directing a question to the Minister for Mineral Resources Development and planning on the subject of Seeking a Balance.
The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK: With some form of whimper, the government has confessed that its report Seeking a Balance has been a complete failure. I quote the minister on radio on 22 September, stating that the government accepts it 'was fairly universally rejected, not just by conservationists but by those that support mining themselves'. Further, in the weekend Advertiser, a spokesperson was reported as saying: There was an expectation that we could do that— (make a decision about mining)—
before the [Marathon] licence came up for renewal but that hasn't occurred, but they (Marathon) have been advised through the department that they can continue under the current lease arrangements until such time as (the minister) is ready to make a decision.
My questions to the minister are:
1. When will the minister announce a decision on Marathon's lease extension, which expired on 10 October?
2. Is it the minister's intention still to alter the current zoning that applies to Mount Gee and other geologically and environmentally sensitive areas within the Arkaroola Wilderness Sanctuary?
The Hon. P. HOLLOWAY (Minister for Mineral Resources Development, Minister for Urban Development and Planning, Minister for Industrial Relations, Minister Assisting the Premier in Public Sector Management) (14:34): I thought I had pretty well answered this question, or addressed these matters, when the Hon. Mr Parnell asked me a question on a similar subject some time ago. As I said then, really the government's definitive position in relation to Seeking a Balance was the important one, not whether or not a lease extension was offered because, in fact, even under the current lease, Marathon has not been able to do anything other than airborne exploration and other non ground disturbing activities. In fact, the issue of the lease is really not significant in terms of the activities that would take place on Arkaroola.
I did indicate at the time, and it is still the position, that we are working with the minister for environment in relation to getting a response to the 'Seeking a Balance' report. It was not just on radio that I made comments about it, but also in this parliament. If one goes back and looks at it, I am sure I indicated that there was, clearly, some dissatisfaction in relation to that report. That is not to say that it was a waste of time, because what it has done is brought in a whole lot of submissions that have been extremely helpful in relation to the way forward.
I have already spoken at some length in this place about the submission from the South Australian Museum and others talking about the need for further work to be done. I hope to be in a position where we can announce the way forward soon. We also hope that the mining bill will pass the other place fairly shortly because that has a number of provisions in it which would toughen the penalties that apply under the Mining Act and would also provide greater control to government in relation to managing processes.
I would also remind the honourable member of some of the answers I gave about 12 months ago when the Marathon lease was extended; if one were to require Marathon to take any remedial action, the only way they could have access would be under the terms of the lease. Under the current act, if a lease were not to be renewed and another company were to apply, my advice is that there would be no means to prevent somebody else from taking a lease.
So, there are good reasons, as I indicated 12 months ago—and I refer the honourable member to my answer back then—as to why the lease issue is relevant in relation to Marathon. In terms of the way forward as the government's definitive response to 'Seeking a Balance', I hope to have that fairly soon, but there are a number of issues which need to be addressed and on which the government is seeking further advice.