The Hon. D.W. RIDGWAY (Leader of the Opposition) ( 14:23 :58 ): Thank you for your protection, Mr President. I seek leave to make a brief explanation before asking the Minister for Sustainability, Environment and Conservation a question about whale removal from Ardrossan.
The PRESIDENT: Order! Allow the opposition leader time. Now listen, I will just make something quite clear. I am not going to waste what voice I have left bringing people under control. The Hon. Mr Maher, I don't want you to be the second one I have to try to boot out; I might be successful on this occasion, so just keep it cool. The Hon. Mr Ridgway.
The Hon. D.W. RIDGWAY: Thank you, Mr President. I will try not to get the government too agitated. Members will recall that on Monday 8 December 2014 seven whales beached themselves near Ardrossan, and sadly they all died as a result. I have been provided with the chronological order of what happened, when people were advised and the interaction with the state government. Nonetheless, suffice to say that seven whales were on the beach—six on the beach and the seventh wrapped itself around the Ardrossan jetty.
On 9 December the government advised that it was not in any position to assist with the removal of whale carcasses in any way, shape or form. It also went on in this chronological order to query whose responsibility it was. Eventually, departmental advice was provided that the area above the high water mark is crown land, the area between the high water mark and the low water mark (which is the intertidal zone) was considered adjacent to crown land, and the intertidal zone was the responsibility of the Minister for Transport and Infrastructure, who also has responsibility for the sea floor, but the minister had transferred the responsibility for the intertidal zone to local government, therefore accordingly where the whales lay was the responsibility of the local council.
It is interesting also to note that the minister issued a press release around that time, I think on 11 December, and said that he was thankful for the in-kind support, removal and disposal of the whales being offered by the Museum of South Australia and local company Arrium Mining. He said that the Department of Environment, Water and Natural Resources had six staff providing ongoing advice on the ground since the six whales were initially discovered, and 'today they provided an additional four staff to assist directly with the removal'.
I am quoting from a letter the minister received on 16 February, so a couple of months after the whales turned up. Further, in the minister's press release he said that he understood that the current estimates of external costs faced by the council were up to $10,000, and that he was in discussion with council to determine how these costs might be shared. A letter written by Mayor Agnew to the minister on 16 February this year—and I will not read it all as it would take up all of question time, but will read a couple of bits—stated as follows:
Following receipt of invoices and the completion of the project the external cash component to Yorke Peninsula Council's community has been finalised at $22,500. The final costing excludes Council staff time, plant and machinery costs and of course Arrium provided five staff and large equipment at no cost to community as a community service to Ardrossan setting aside their own work priorities to support this effort. The breakdown of the costs within this figure were about $20,000 to Ardrossan Earthmoving with this being at cost price and with staff time donated, the remaining $2,500 comprising hire boats, man hours and fuel costs.
He closes the letter by saying:
With the project now completed, I respectfully request on behalf of the Yorke Peninsula Council's community your consideration of this request for financial reimbursement the costs of $22,500 associated with the whale incident from the Government. I look forward to hearing from you in relation to this request at your earliest convenience.
That was 16 February, and it is now three months since that letter was written. My questions to the minister are:
1.What contribution is the state government making towards the costs incurred by the Yorke Peninsula council for the disposal of several beached whale carcasses?
2.Given that the state government said that it could not assist in any way, shape or form, what were the 10 DEWNR staff actually doing when they were there, and at what cost to the community were they there?
3.Have all intertidal zones around the state, that is, between the high water mark and the low water mark, been transferred to all the relevant local government authorities?
The Hon. I.K. HUNTER (Minister for Sustainability, Environment and Conservation, Minister for Water and the River Murray, Minister for Climate Change) ( 14:28 :37 ): I thank the honourable member for his most important question. I express my gratitude, because I was getting such a lashing last week with the Hon. Michelle Lensink in charge that it is good to have the Hon. Mr Ridgway back in his usual form.
The Hon. D.W. Ridgway: I bet you still don't answer the question, even with that rubbish.
The PRESIDENT: Order! The honourable Opposition Leader, allow him to answer the question.
The Hon. D.W. Ridgway interjecting:
The PRESIDENT: Order! The minister has the floor.
The Hon. I.K. HUNTER: I am very grateful to the honourable member for outlining the quick and appropriate response of the government agencies that were involved, working very closely with the local community and local council to remove whale carcasses from the beach. I am very grateful to Arrium Mining and of course SA Museum, as I have put on the record previously, for coming to the party and assisting. It shows what a willing government, local authorities and communities can do when we work together. So, I am very grateful that he announces that and puts on the record again our very quick and appropriate response to such a situation. I am indeed, as I say, once again very grateful to the departments for working together to make that happen with the local community and council.
In terms of the cost shares, I said previously that we will be working on an appropriate cost share on this issue with council. I understand DEWNR and DPTI are having those debates or discussions right now. Undoubtedly, they will respond to the council in the fullness of time but, as I said, we have responded very quickly to the issues on the ground and buried the carcasses, I understand, up in nearby dunes. The issue of how we share the associated costs the honourable member outlines as being about $22,000 will be worked out and passed on to council.
The Hon. D.W. RIDGWAY (Leader of the Opposition) ( 14:30 :31 ): A supplementary question arising out of the minister's non-answer: what were the 10 DEWNR staff doing, given that clearly council was doing the work of government to bury them? My third question, unanswered, was: have all intertidal zones been transferred to local government around the coastline of South Australia?
The Hon. I.K. HUNTER (Minister for Sustainability, Environment and Conservation, Minister for Water and the River Murray, Minister for Climate Change) ( 14:30 :52 ): As I said and outlined previously, the DEWNR staff were there coordinating and making sure the appropriate—
The Hon. D.W. Ridgway: What? With a dead whale?
The Hon. I.K. HUNTER: The honourable member just displays his ignorance. When there is a dead whale on the beach, who takes control? Who protects the community? Who makes sure—
The Hon. D.W. Ridgway: You said it was the local government's responsibility.
The PRESIDENT: No debate across the chamber. The minister is on his feet.
The Hon. I.K. HUNTER: Of course but, in a real-world situation, the people on the ground go out and make the early determinations and make sure the public safety is looked after, and that's exactly what happened. Of course, we brought in the appropriate authorities. We also brought in the appropriate support that was on offer from the community through ERM and also brought in the experts from SA Museum, and that's what we always do. We always put the public risk at the top of our agenda before we worry about any of the internals, because that's what a responsible government does.
The PRESIDENT: The Hon. Mr Ridgway has a supplementary.
The Hon. D.W. RIDGWAY (Leader of the Opposition) ( 14:31 :49 ): Can the minister please give some explanation as to whether all intertidal zones around the coastline of South Australia have been transferred to local government control?
The Hon. I.K. HUNTER (Minister for Sustainability, Environment and Conservation, Minister for Water and the River Murray, Minister for Climate Change) ( 14:31 :56 ): The honourable member knows completely that that's not my portfolio responsibility.
The Hon. D.W. RIDGWAY (Leader of the Opposition) ( 14:32 :01 ): Will the minister give an undertaking to this chamber to actually, as he often does, bring back an answer instead of just being so smug and sitting down without a decent answer?
The PRESIDENT: Order! The honourable Leader of the Opposition is out of order. Minister.
The Hon. I.K. HUNTER (Minister for Sustainability, Environment and Conservation, Minister for Water and the River Murray, Minister for Climate Change) ( 14:32 :17 ): At last, Mr President, the honourable member has recalled what the appropriate forms are in this place and has asked me to take that question to the appropriate minister. Perhaps he wasn't sure who it was, but I can advise him that I will—
The Hon. D.W. Ridgway: I have to go back to Shanghai to take back all the good things I said about the government over there—what a bloody joke!
The Hon. I.K. HUNTER: If the honourable member put those lovely views about the government on the record, I would be very pleased to see them—
The PRESIDENT: It's on Hansard.
The Hon. I.K. HUNTER: —and utilise them in the appropriate places. As I say, that question about the transfer of responsibility in terms of the tidal zone I will take to the minister in the other place and ask him for a response on behalf of the Hon. Mr Ridgway.