Senator RUSTON (South Australia) (14:51): My question is to the Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy, Senator Conroy. I refer the minister to the Prime Minister's comments this morning that the appointment of the public media advocate would be made in consultation with the opposition. Can the minister confirm what the criteria for selection will be?
A number of the things raised by Senator McKenzie are fantastic examples of where the agricultural sector in this country is overburdened by the weight of compliance regulation and red tape.
It is with pleasure that I rise to take note of answers given by Senator Conroy to questions asked in question time today about the minerals resource rent tax. I come from South Australia so I can tell you firsthand what this tax means to people in my state. It has reduced mining activity, which equates to fewer jobs and reduced opportunities for everybody. Do not let Senator Marshall or anybody else convince you otherwise—the minerals resource rent tax did have a major impact on the decision by BHP Billiton not to proceed at Olympic Dam on the Roxby Downs expansion. I know there has been a lot of comment that this mine's expansion would not have been directly impacted on by the tax, but the cost of doing business in Australia is what has been affected. It is about the risk of doing business in Australia and that is the fundamental problem here.
I rise too to speak on the Water Amendment (Water for the Environment Special Account) Bill 2012. As a South Australian, and as an irrigator, I understand intimately the importance of a healthy river system, with sufficient water flowing into South Australia to ensure our future. One can only hope that if the South Australian environment is healthy then all the environments of the states upstream will be in a similar condition.
I rise to speak on the Environment and Communications References Committee report on container deposit schemes. The intention of this inquiry was to investigate the pricing and revenue allocation practices of the beverage industry in South Australia and the Northern Territory, which are the only two states in Australia where the CDS exists. The South Australian scheme is 35 years old and well established, and the Northern Territory scheme is brand new. As such, the South Australian community is largely accepting of this system of legislation. But I would just like to put on record that other states should be very, very careful before they consider going down this path, because there may well be better options available to achieve disposal outcomes.
I, too, rise to speak on the Water Amendment (Long-term Average Sustainable Diversion Limit Adjustment) Bill 2012. Firstly, can I say that I am an irrigator. I hold a water licence in South Australia and I am a member of a community that relies absolutely entirely on the Murray River for its very existence. There is not one person in the community in which I live that does not want a healthier river—a river that is in a robust enough condition to continue to provide for river users, a river that will continue to feed this country and many people who live overseas, and a river that will provide enjoyment and benefit for every Australian. My community is very, very keen to see a Basin Plan that will return certainty to their lives.
Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Amendment (Making Marine Parks Accountable) Bill 2012
I too rise to speak to the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Amendment (Making Marine Parks Accountable) Bill 2012. Firstly, I put on the record that, like all my coalition colleagues, I strongly support the role of government in ensuring the conservation of our nation's natural resources and the protection of the environment for the benefit and enjoyment of everybody in Australia. It seems a pity that the government either misunderstands this role or is deliberately misdirecting it to satisfy the extreme protectionist views of groups that care nothing about the massive benefits that flow to society from the sustainable harvest of these resources.
I have sat in this chamber for 14 days now, and I have endured 14 hours of question time. In that time, I honestly do not think that I have heard a question answered that has been put to the other side by the Liberal Party, the Nationals, the Independents or even the Greens. I am sure it is not a new phenomenon over the last 14 days. I am sure that questions have not been answered for a lot longer than that. I do not think that is acceptable. It is an extraordinary waste of everybody's time, and I think it is deflecting us from the real issues that we should be here talking about.
Thank you, Mr President. Can I thank you and all the members of this chamber for the wonderfully warm welcome that you have extended to me since I have been here. It is a great privilege to have the opportunity to serve the people of this nation and of my home state of South Australia. I would like to thank the people of South Australia for the trust that they have placed in me as their representative.