HON ROBIN CHAPPLE(Mining and Pastoral)[5.49 pm]: I rise to talk on certain aspects of the budget, and I firstly turn to page 374 of the BudgetStatements, which deals with the airport rail and Metro Area Express light rail. Those two projects have been estimated to cost about $3.8 billion, yet the funding available falls short of that. It was to be made up by commonwealth funding through the commonwealth grants process. It will be interesting to see whether those funds are forthcoming, given that the new federal government is on record as saying it will fund only road and not rail. The estimated billion dollars to come out of the federal government to help fund the airport rail and Metro Area Express light rail now appears to be in question. I refer to the Herald Sun of 8 September, which states —

WEST Australian Premier Colin Barnett is expecting a better deal for his state and a better reception for himself as the Tony Abbott–led Liberal government is installed into Canberra.

Celebrating with federal deputy Liberal leader Julie Bishop in the leafy Perth suburb of Cottesloe, Mr Barnett said Mr Abbott’s ascension would also be great news for Australia’s international trading partners.

The article went on to state —

The coalition win might not help Mr Barnett secure federal funding he had wanted for rail projects, given Mr Abbott favours road over rail funding.

It will be interesting to know whether in the future this aspect of the budget will come to fruition, given that a billion dollars now looks firmly at risk in that process.

Hon Ken Travers: It’s gone.

Hon ROBIN CHAPPLE: Hon Ken Travers is dead right—it is gone. However, given the changes in the first few days of the new Abbott-led federal government, one never knows and perhaps they will come back on the agenda. We hope they do because they are two very good projects and it will be a shame to see them disappear off the budget line item simply because the federal government does not provide the funding.

I now turn to page 315 of the budget papers, which outlines the two goals of the Department of Aboriginal Affairs. The first is —

Responsibly managing the State’s finances through the efficient and effective delivery of services, encouraging economic activity and reducing regulatory burdens on the private sector.

I would have thought that goal was not actually the principal goal of the Aboriginal affairs department. The second goal of the department is to ensure that economic activity is socially and environmentally responsible. Although that second goal is a worthwhile one, surely the main goal of the Department of Aboriginal Affairs should be to enhance the wellbeing of Aboriginal people and look after the heritage values of the heritage department. It is difficult to imagine this is an implicit goal of the department when one considers the budget paper’s $3.1 million reduction in FTE staffing for 2012–13. How will that staffing reduction help the department complete its massive backlog of heritage assessments of 670 sites, which at the current rate of assessments will take 40 years? The new Aboriginal heritage information submission form is unworkable. It seems to have been developed to essentially take the place of assessment by the department.

I have used the various forms of the department when assessing Aboriginal heritage sites. The original site recording form looked like this. It was taken into the field and we would tick boxes to identify the informants and consultants. It was a tick-a-box based system. It identified where a person was located by GPS. It identified the type of site, whether ceremonial, mythological, repository, cache, painting or historical, by ticking a whole range of different boxes. It was a hands-on sheet to be used in the field. It would allow the person in the field to enter additional information, such as archaeological deposits, and it would then be tendered either to the nearest police station or to the department. It was a quick form to fill out. Every bit of information needed was contained in that one form.

There is now a 24-page electronic document that cannot be used in the field, and is basically a desktop, Perth-based system. The Heritage Council has already laid off staff and those remaining are merely Perth-based desk jockeys who do not get out and work on the ground. The very simple but very accurate document of two pages has now been replaced by this 24-page document that requires all sorts of completely irrelevant data and requires a person to go to a desktop to research data. It is impossible to take this out into the field to record an Aboriginal site. We know that various universities are laying off students. Most universities have agencies within them that tender for heritage survey work, but those agencies are laying off those students. Many of the archaeologist and anthropological associations I talk to have said that that is the death of archaeology and anthropology in Western Australia. If anthropologists are doing the survey work originally done by the department, no wonder it can afford to make a reduction of $3.1 million in FTEs.

I am concerned about that. As I said, the document that was once used has expanded from a two-page document to a 24-page document; a computer is needed to do the assessment. There is almost a doubling of FTE employees for the estimated actual in 2012–13 from the budgeted amount in the same period on page 317. The obvious question arises: do the changes in heritage applications necessitate a massive expansion of staff hours? Extra staffing would normally be welcome for an already underfunded department, but it is difficult to understand why a government whose rhetoric revolves around efficiencies and cost cutting would make a change that imposes a much heavier burden on stakeholders and, presumably, the department. There is an almost $10 million reduction in income from the state government for Aboriginal affairs for 2013–14. The 2014–15 forward estimates show another $3 million reduction in 2015–16. One wonders what the department will do in the future when there is such a massive reduction in funding for the very things that the nation holds dear. Indigenous Western Australians would certainly be concerned that their own department is being underfunded to this extent. Is it part of the industrial plan that was trotted out in early 2009, that we slowly start minimising the departments and making them one-stop shops and fast-tracking the whole process so that the agencies are not doing what they were established to do?

Members should look at the 1972 Hansard, which is now readily available online. I thank the Parliamentary Library for downloading the historical Hansard so that members can now search and read online what was said many years ago. Members should read what was the intention, moved and seconded on both sides of the house by the Liberal government of the day and the Labor opposition, to establish what was an exceptional act, but which has been slowly but surely emasculated during the term of this government and, to some extent, the previous government.

I turn again to the goal of the department at page 315 of the budget papers, which is to responsibly manage the state’s finances through efficient and effective delivery of services, encouraging economic activity and reducing regulatory burden.

Sitting suspended from 6.00 pm to 7.30 pm

Hon ROBIN CHAPPLE: There has been a problem; dinner has got in between the first part of my speech and this part, so I have to think where I finished; and I have had a glass of wine in between! I want to deal with things that in one regard were not mentioned in the budget. I turn to page 665 of budget paper No 2, which refers to significant issues impacting the mines and petroleum agency, so it is quite surprising that neither the carbon price nor the mining tax were mentioned. As has already been stated in another debate, and as reported on the ABC news Vote Compass survey of 26 August 2013, 60 per cent of people surveyed supported a price on carbon and only 32 per cent opposed it. That same Vote Compass survey dealt with the issue of climate change. I again note there is no mention of climate change in the budget in any location. Given it is a significant issue facing the state, one wonders why that was not mentioned. Interestingly enough, the introduction of the mining rehabilitation fund is mentioned. I am really concerned that as part of the new process we have now returned all the bonds, yet when we dealt with the legislation in this place and the minister handling the bill was questioned, he clearly stated that the bond system would remain in place and that those bonds would not be repatriated, and that the mining rehabilitation fund would be in place for quite a while and would develop a significant holding. We already know that Irvine Island, which has a major fiscal issue, has had its bonds returned. We also have the issue of the Bulong nickel project just outside of Kalgoorlie, which is in an absolutely deplorable state but has had its bond repatriated, and the company that was managing the area is now in receivership. What we are seeing in that fiscal arrangement is that the state and general revenue will have to pick up the specific problems at Bulong. It is estimated that the rehabilitation work that is required to fix the problems at Bulong will cost around $20 million. The bond was $1.75 million, but that was returned a matter of a few weeks ago. We now have a legacy problem that the community, as taxpayers, through general revenue will have to fix. The budget mentions nothing about those expected costs that will flow on from that process, or maybe we are not going to fix the problems and we will allow the land to deteriorate even further.

I have had discussions with BHP–Billiton about Goldsworthy, where we have an acid mine drainage problem. Thank goodness BHP has said that it will fix this of its own volition. That is because it is a major miner. That will cost BHP around $100 million. We have an example right on our doorstep at Kalgoorlie with Bulong that is not accounted for in the budget in any way, shape or form and that situation will only get worse into the future.

I turn to page 725 of the budget papers. Division 61 deals with the budget estimates of the Minister for Agriculture and Food. The budget acknowledges the trend in decreasing rainfall and more extreme weather events in the agricultural region, but does not appear to contain any significant commitment to tackle climate change, except perhaps some ad hoc adaptation measures. Climate change receives very little attention throughout the budget papers, yet they state quite clearly —

·          In terms of production capacity, the continuing trend of decreasing rainfall in the agricultural region and more extreme weather events is presenting new and increased threats to agricultural production, resource management and public health. The Department is developing systems and tools that enable producers to better understand and adapt to such threats.

·          The sector’s prospects rely heavily on the State’s enviable biosecurity status and product integrity, which sees Western Australia being recognised globally as having one of the lowest exotic weed, pest and disease burdens in the world.

However, the budget does not identify in any way, shape or form how it will assist, manage or subsidise what is, by its own notation, a critical situation in the agricultural region.

I refer to the heading “Resource Risk Management” on page 728 of budget paper No 2, which refers to the services central to minimising the risk of exotic biosecurity threats such as weeds, pests and diseases represented in the broader community environment. We have already been told that new diseases are emerging in that area with the change in climate, such as bovine anaemia and avian influenza. On 26 July 2013, an article in The West Australian titled “WA biosecurity disaster waiting to happen: Whistleblower” reads —

The whistleblower said yesterday gaping holes in the biosecurity safety net were showing.


The whistleblower said there was no longer a quarantine presence at Karratha airport, which had direct links with Brisbane, Melbourne, Sydney and Darwin.

Clearly, people within the department are concerned that the areas of risk need to be identified. The budget notes that the actual estimated expenditure was lower than planned due to program deferrals in land and water management, European house borer and biosecurity projects. If we have identified that we have a major biosecurity problem and this service is central to minimising that risk, then really and truly we should be seeing a better fiscal outcome through that department. I note that the number of full-time equivalent employees drops from 591 to 535 and then to 511 in 2013–14. One would have hoped that given the stress the Agricultural Region is under from the impacts of climate change weather diversity—because that indeed is increasing the risk of new epidemics and exotic species coming into the region—we would put a degree of more funds into that area.

Page 749 of the Budget Statements deals with energy. Interestingly, more than $15 million was allocated to the Murchison Radio-astronomy Observatory power station, yet when it came to the Perth Observatory—I cannot find the point about that at the moment—there was little or no funding. That has a 100-year tradition and should have been one of the things looked at being retained.

There are several other aspects. Quite clearly, Horizon Power continues to progress the $77 million project of constructing a new power station to improve the reliability of Carnarvon’s supply. However, as we have already heard from the answers given to questions asked in this place, what is not being factored into that, as far as we are aware, is the need to provide a grid system and smart meters that will enable renewables to come on in that area. I noted from answers to some of the questions that we asked during the year that some places were getting some attention in this area, but in the main we are just rebuilding old systems. Work has begun on the construction of a 67-megawatt gas power station at the South Hedland site. I find it interesting that the existing gas-fired power station was designed to be dual-use and use waste heat to energy cogeneration systems; they have never been implemented, yet there is availability on that site for waste heat to energy cogeneration development. Therefore, all we are doing is forgetting that idea, although the plant was built with that intention. Now we are just building another gas power station. As I mentioned in a previous debate, according to a number of people, we will have a shortfall of gas in the Pilbara region in the future. We know that the major mining companies are already looking to gain some surety by developing alternative energy sources in that region.

I will quickly touch on recent issues surrounding local government. In the last two weeks, my office has received 28 letters and emails from constituents and local government councils all asking for my support in ensuring that the Local Government Act is not amended to remove the Dadour amendment. I will read out one of the letters that I have received. It states —

Dear Mr Chapple,

May I introduce myself as a rusted on Liberal supporter since I stood on a polling booth for my father when he went into state parliament about 60 years ago.

I write to you however on what is not a particularly political matter. The Dadour Amendment as you are no doubt aware, when passed by our state parliament, required a majority of rate payer’s support before boundaries of local government bodies could be changed.

I suppose most of us believe that the best form of government is our liberal democracy in which, where possible those most affected by a decision should make it. The Dadour Amendment makes a statement about our belief in our democracy and I hope that the importance of that statement is not overlooked when this matter comes up for discussion.

Of course state government has the right to call the tune where councils are the recipients of financial support, but where their local government bodies stand on their own feet, financed by their ratepayers, then it follows that those ratepayers hold the moral right to make these decisions.


It is signed by B. Crommelin.

Hon Nick Goiran: Where from?

Hon ROBIN CHAPPLE: That is from Irvine Street, Peppermint Grove.

Hon Nick Goiran: In your electorate?

Hon ROBIN CHAPPLE: No, but I have the local government portfolio.

Hon Darren West: He sent it to me, too!

Hon Ken Travers: It is in my electorate, though.

Hon ROBIN CHAPPLE: Moving on, that is an area in which I think this government has made a significant mistake. Local government is the element of government that is closest to the people; therefore, I feel that the people who are represented by local government should rightly be the people who make the decisions and not have decisions imposed upon their local government from above. The Liberal government is taking a dictatorial approach in its move to amalgamate certain councils, so I am just bringing that to the house’s attention.

When it comes to the cost of living, I really just want to turn to the Western Australian Council of Social Service’s “2013 Cost of Living Report”. It really breaks through the hype sometimes associated with cost-of-living pressures. The introduction page of that WACOSS report identifies —

… that a number of mainstream myths and misapprehensions about the impacts of rising living costs on middle income families are being reinforced and may become the basis for poorly targeted policy commitments. Not only does this build an unwarranted sense of entitlement during a time during which state and federal governments need to be addressing structural deficits and better targeting expenditure on health and welfare, but it also serves to distract attention away from the relatively small but growing proportion of our population who are in fact being left behind by rises in the costs of essential goods and services (particularly housing, utilities, transport and food).

I understand that this WACOSS report was presented to government. It identifies that in fact there are many areas in which many people are dropping behind the norm that was established in this state as a result of the boom. It is interesting to note that with the downturn in the boom, the wage structures are still the same. We see housing costs diminishing in the Pilbara but, indeed, the disparity between those who have and those who have not is being enhanced in the metropolitan area. Certainly, we would like to develop a concessional tariff for electricity for concession card holders. WACOSS believes that there should be a 15 per cent concessional electricity tariff. The WACOSS report also called for a review of the appropriateness, accessibility and adequacy of state concessions. WACOSS believes we should introduce a targeted energy and water efficiency program for low-income householders. We had something like that once upon a time and the government phased it out. It was a very good program under which people were provided at low cost with the things that enabled them to manage their expenditure and water usage more efficiently. Unfortunately, that program was scrapped but we must remember that people in low socioeconomic areas need assistance to move into an area of energy and water efficiency. We cannot say, “Just do it”, because they are not financially equipped to do that. The Western Australian Council of Social Service went on to indicate that we should be working to assist those who are struggling with the cost of living. Under the heading “Myth vs. Reality—who is struggling with the cost of living?” the report reads —

The findings in section 3.0 have clearly shown that the incomes of low income households in WA are failing to keep up with increases in the basic costs of living. The same cannot be said of Western Australian households on middle or average incomes. A comparison of the ABS Wage Price Index and the ABS Cost of Living Index demonstrates that the growth in their income for the average working Australian over the past decade has significantly out-paced increases in their cost of living. The evidence is very clear that middle income households are not being hurt by the cost of living and are in fact much better off than they were a decade ago.

WACOSS is certainly saying that although middle income Western Australians are not doing it tough, those left behind are finding themselves in an extremely difficult condition.

I want to touch on school library staff cutbacks in the mining and pastoral areas. As someone who has lived in the Pilbara and now in the Kimberley, indeed, school library services in general are beneficial to not only the children of that area, but also the whole community. I recently received a letter from the Western Australian School Library Association, and maybe I have gone up in the world because it addresses me as “Dear Minister”.

Hon Ken Travers: Enjoy it while it lasts.

Hon ROBIN CHAPPLE: It was just a very short sojourn into a ministerial portfolio!

Hon Ken Travers: Members on the other side made that mistake about me, but that is because it’s going to happen very soon!

Hon ROBIN CHAPPLE: The letter from the Western Australian School Library Association states —

As of 27 September, Western Australia will lose its last 15 officers who have supported school libraries in this state and around Australia. Formerly Curriculum Materials Information Services (CMIS) and more recently rebadged as E-Schooling — Evaluation and E-Schooling — Cataloguing, staff were handed their redundancy notices on the 23 August and the service will cease to exist on the 27th of September 2013. There will be no more links to review sources, resource price guides and guides to selection and the management of unique, targeted collections to support curriculum in school libraries. There will be no more support for schools to resource the curriculum, particularly the National Curriculum and initiatives in technology and digital literacies.

As I say, the further we go out into the rural regions, the more important those services are because there is no alternative. The letter continues —

We cannot afford to lose this service. School libraries in Western Australia are staffed by unqualified library officers (there are only 140 teacher librarians left in WA Government schools — NSW has mandated for a TL in every school). These library officers perform a number of roles in the library such as loans, downloading catalogue records from the national database and shelving. Some schools have qualified library technicians who can perform original cataloguing, work with audio visual technologies to copy free-to-air resources and load web materials. However, these personnel do not have the curriculum knowledge to select quality resources (digital and non-digital) to support curriculum and literacy programs, nor are they qualified teachers who provide professional support for staff in the integration of educational technologies in curriculum programs and the teaching of information and digital literacies. Library officers/technicians are not registered teachers and should not be teaching/training students or staff under the Teachers’ Registration Act. These personnel do not have Information Science qualifications either and do not have the knowledge to be investigating and providing advice about copyright, the use of iPads/mobile technologies, records management or the provision of eBooks in schools.

The letter states further on —

The Western Australian School Library Association seeks your support —

My support as minister —

to ensure that students in WA Government schools receive the best education possible. Of course the impact of the loss of support services and funding increases tenfold for schools located outside the metropolitan area, where limited access to technical expertise and qualified professionals is a major issue. The Education Department still struggles to get teachers into rural and remote area schools. Teachers and students require quality professional staff and strongly resourced schools, to broaden children’s reading experiences and raise literacy levels (NAPLAN scores), to support curriculum programs that embrace new technologies and digital literacies, and to graduate students who have future workplace and lifelong learning skills.

The Association and members of school communities around the State look forward to your response to these issues.

That is, my response as minister. I cannot respond on behalf of a minister but I hope that when the minister reads this, he will respond to the Western Australian School Library Association.

Hon Peter Collier: Did they write to you on the assumption that you were the minister?

Hon ROBIN CHAPPLE: Yes. Obviously the association does not know who the real minister is. So someone is missing in action.

Hon Peter Collier: The only one in Western Australia, I would say, at the moment, who does not know that.

Hon ROBIN CHAPPLE: It was my moment of glory.

Hon Ken Travers: Are you sure it was not cc-d to you?

Hon ROBIN CHAPPLE: Yes; I will pass the letter to the honourable member and he can be assured that it says, “Dear Minister”.

Hon Peter Collier: If he’s called minister, he would remember it.

Hon ROBIN CHAPPLE: Yes. As I say, it was a moment of fame.

Hon Peter Collier: I’m impressed.

Hon ROBIN CHAPPLE: I assume the minister got the letter.

Hon Peter Collier: I can’t recall it. Who was the author?

Hon ROBIN CHAPPLE: The Western Australian School Library Association

Hon Peter Collier: What’s the date?

Hon ROBIN CHAPPLE: It was 30 August 2013.

Hon Peter Collier: It usually takes a week to 10 days to get to me.

Hon Ken Travers: I think they’ve written to all of us.

Hon ROBIN CHAPPLE: Is the member a minister as well?

Hon Ken Travers: I did not get excited about that part of it.

The DEPUTY PRESIDENT(Hon Liz Behjat): Order! Can we get back to the business at hand, thank you.

Hon Ken Travers: We’ve been deflating his balloon.

Hon ROBIN CHAPPLE: Thank you, Madam Deputy Chair. I will press on.

The DEPUTY PRESIDENT: It is actually Madam Acting President.

Hon ROBIN CHAPPLE: Quite clearly, schools are suffering.

I recently travelled to Kalgoorlie with two teachers who were mortified at the extra workload they would pick up because they will be losing three staff; therefore, the remaining staff have to be redistributed and as a result they must reapply for their jobs to fill in that sudden loss of three. I cannot tell members the name of the school, but it involved an arts teacher. It has happened literally in the last couple of weeks. We had that conversation on a bus while we were travelling. I do not know the individual case but I was concerned by what those people had to say to me. I do not know whether the minister is particularly aware of that but one would hope that as we move into not only the digital age, but also, hopefully, a more robust education in the future, the funding levels in the budget for education will be significant.

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