It gives me a great deal of pleasure to follow the member for Brand. Listening to what he said, he was very informed, very thoughtful and very insightful on the needs of Northern Australia. This is clearly going to be reflective of the report we are putting out.
There are a lot of members on this committee but those of us that have been actively participating in this have been doing so very much in a tripartisan way. At this point I would like to acknowledge the deputy chair, the member for Perth, Alannah MacTiernan, who was very supportive and very capable in the work that she did. The member for Solomon, Natasha Griggs, also did a lot of good work on this. My namesake, the member for Lingiari, Warren Snowdon, travelled around with us quite extensively. I have no doubt at all of his commitment to making these things happen. George Christensen, the member for Dawson, did great work. I see the member for Capricornia, Michelle Landry, is coming up shortly and she was very good too.
The senators including Ian Macdonald, Rachel Siewert-our Greens senator-Senator Eggleston and Deborah O’Neill also made very positive contributions and were very productive. I have to acknowledge Senator Macdonald, who really started my journey on this back in 2002 when he hosted the Northern Australia forum at Knotts Crossing near Katherine. As the member for Brand mentioned, the start of it was really the Northern Australia Land and Water Task Force back in 2006-07 and we have continued on.
There are some great opportunities but the key to this is not partisan politics. Take the politics out of it. We have some fabulous opportunities in Northern Australia: the Urannah and Nullinga dams were mentioned and both have considerable merit as does the extension to the Elliot Main Channel. Other members talked about special economic zones. I have to say, the Desert Knowledge Australia Precinct in Alice Springs is something we need to seriously look at if we are going to be looking at development as a whole. Aside from innovations such as mobile phone technology, solar panels et cetera at the Desert Knowledge Australia Precinct, the algae project at James Cook University in Townsville is something equally as astounding.
We found some fabulous outcomes in Indigenous employment. Sid Rusca and the Rusca Brothers in the Northern Territory have a 100 per cent Indigenous workforce at the Western Desert mining project at the Bing Bong Port at Borroloola. The company is 100 per cent owned by an Indigenous family and is something we can be really proud of.
We wrestle in this place with the challenges of engaging Indigenous people, but you get out into these places and you see people like Sid Rusca and his boys with 100 per cent employment. And we are not talking about menial stuff; we are talking about jobs where some of his employees are getting $1,000 or $1,500 a week. He is employing people straight out of communities like Ngukurr and Borroloola, and these people are aged between 17 and 60, and they are doing meaningful work. There is another one we are looking at in a couple of weeks’ time, Northern Projects Contracting: the Waanyi Aboriginal Corporation. Derek Aplin is the chair. They did Century Zinc; they also have a job with BHP. They are doing fabulous work.
The one thing I would say on the negative side is: let’s not blame the government too much about what happened at Nhulunbuy. When we went to other places, like Paraburdoo-and we will certainly see it when we go to Weipa and other places-we saw that the company itself had a hell of a lot to do with what happened, and they should not be let off the hook. We got evidence at Nhulunbuy that after 40 years there was absolutely no legacy left when they walked away. Let’s just remember that. I am sure we are going to get the same sort of thing out at Weipa.
Thank you to the members who have participated. You are doing a fabulous job, and I look forward to an outstanding report.To view the official Hansard, click here