NATURAL RESOURCES COMMITTEE: ANNUAL REPORT 2013-2014

The Hon. J.S.L. DAWKINS ( 17:55 :43 ): I rise to support the motion moved by the Hon. Mr Kandelaars and to endorse his remarks about the work of the committee. It is a very good committee and is well chaired by the Hon. Steph Key, and the staff service it very well. I will take a few moments to make particular reference to one of the reports that the Hon. Mr Kandelaars mentioned, namely, the report the committee did into the Whyalla region fact-finding visit on 23‑24 October 2013. That report made a number of recommendations in relation to issues regarding properties in close proximity to significant mining operations in the Middleback Ranges.

The concern I have is that that report was passed through the parliament on 26 November and, as members would be aware, ministers and their departments have four months under the Parliamentary Committees Act to respond to such reports of a standing committee. So, the report should have been responded to by 26 March. When the committee met after the election it was some time after 26 March, and nothing had been heard from the minister or the department.

If there had been a difficulty in getting a response then I would have thought that the department might have contacted the committee and explained that there was some issue and delay. However, nothing was heard. Certainly, our presiding member contacted the minister's office and alerted what was then DMITRE to the fact that there was no response. Subsequently, we got a response on 4 July, some further months late.

Recently the members of the mining division of the Department of State Development, which is what has followed on from DMITRE, came and gave evidence to the Natural Resources Committee. I and other members of the committee were concerned with the responses when senior officers were asked about the reasons for the delay. Initially we were told that there were other priorities. They then, to my mind, did not answer satisfactorily about whether they really understood the responsibilities, and once they had been contacted by the presiding member said that they were, yet it still took another three months for the response to come in.

I will not go on, because of the hour of the day, but the other thing that disturbed me was that one of the documents given to us was a document that had gone to the minister, the Hon. Mr Koutsantonis. Whether we were supposed to get this document or not is immaterial. The reality is that we were given it and there were two dot points that I was concerned with.

One was where it said 'DMITRE questions the expertise of the NRC to make recommendations on regulatory matters that are based on limited information and fact.' The other dot point that I and other members of the committee took exception to was, 'In summary, DMITRE questions whether the NRC has gone beyond the scope of the "Functions of the Committee".'

Mr President, I think that, as a former member of parliamentary committees and someone who holds the role of the parliament as paramount, certainly as distinct from the role of government, you would probably have the same indignation that I and many others had. I think it is fair to say, and the Hon. Gerry Kandelaars would agree, that those sentiments were relayed to those officers at our meeting, but it is something that I found quite offensive. With those words, I will say that I enjoy being a member of the Natural Resources Committee, and I commend the motion to the chamber.

Motion carried.