Debates Day 5 - Wednesday 28 February 2001
Parliamentary Record 27
Debates for 8th Assembly 1997 - 2001; ParliamentNT; Parliamentary Record; 8th Assembly 1997 - 2001
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Legislative Assembly of the Northern Territory
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Legislative Assembly of the Northern Territory
DEBATES - Wednesday 28 February 2001 and, in particular the Northern Land Council, to take a constructive approach and work with the government to achieve economic and social wellbeing for all Aboriginal Territorians. The Northern Territory has lived with land rights since 1976 and, unlike anywhere else in Australia, we have incorporated this into our land administration procedures, but the land council bureaucracies have been a major constraint to positive outcomes during that period. The introduction of the Native Title Act introduced a further layer onto our land administration processes, and the Northern Territory government has again been willing to move forward constructively. As outlined by the Minister for Resource Development, this goodwill has been actively frustrated by the Labor Party at the national level, with support from Territory Labor. The CLP governments firm resolve is to see the economy expand and diversify. It cannot be denied that we ought to be building on our resource-based economy. As the minister pointed out in his statement, if you dont have mineral exploration you certainly dont have mineral discoveries, and if you dont have mineral discoveries you dont have mineral developments at the end of the day. And if you dont have those developments, there is no economic growth, jobs, or income being derived from that resource sector. Mining is extremely important to the Northern Territory economy. In 1999-2000 it was estimated that mining and mining services contributed $1.174bn or 17.4% of gross state product. Minerals and petroleum production totalled $2 .866bn, with mineral production totalling around $1.436bn. An average of 3670 people were employed in Territory mines, quarries, extractive, and exploration activities, with a total of 9.1 million hours being worked. It is evident this is a very important sector. But it is also evident that it has been declining in recent years. That, to a large extent, is also a national trend. The decline has been brought about a by a preference for brownfield exploration over greenfield exploration; lower commodity prices; global competition for exploration dollars; and continuing land access uncertainty, largely bought about by the procedures of the Native Title Act. The Minerals Council of Australia recently released its Minerals Industry Survey 2000 Report. That survey coverage accounts for all Australian bauxite, diamond, and uranium production; over 90% of alumina, iron ore, lead, silver, tin, and zinc production; around 80% of copper, black coal, nickel and rutile production; over 70% of gold production; and around 60% of aluminium production. In other words, it was a very comprehensive survey. A significant finding of the survey was that the 10-year average annual growth of mineral exploration expenditure was 5.3%. However, growth in overseas expenditure was 7.5%, while for Australia it was 4.2%. The decision to explore overseas is based on a comparison of a range of factors: Prospectivity, fiscal and regulatory regimes, sovereign risk ,and the cost of access to land. To quote from the survey: There is a growing acknowledgment within the broader community o f the need to put in place effective and efficient legislation, the legislative mechanisms to deal with the interaction o f the minerals industry and indigenous interests. The council is maintaining a longer-term perspective on the issue, and recognises that industry and indigenous people will need to form co operate arrangements. All arrangements, however, need to be underpinned by effective legislation that produces workable outcomes within realistic timeframes. The minerals council survey also reported continuing concern with the increasing level of expenditure resulting from legislative and common law developments arising from native title and related indigenous issues: Internal expenditure in 1999-2000 relating to land access and Aboriginal development was $ 12.5m. External expenditure o f land access and Aboriginal development was S35.5m. Land access expenditure includes compliance with the Native Title Act 1993 and the indigenous heritage legislation, legal representational, negotiation and anthropological studies, and compensation, cash or in kind, to Aboriginal people. Aboriginal development expenditure includes items such as special education, training, employment, small business, and community development programs. The survey excludes any costs arising from significant delays in obtaining land access for mineral exploration. Such costs, however, have contributed to the switching o f exploration expenditure to either brownfield or overseas exploration. Declining exploration activity is a cause for serious concern, particularly as there is generally a 10 to 15-year period between discovery, proving-up deposits, and their development. As the minister pointed out in his statement, the recent budget initiative to spend $16m over five years on programs such as accelerated airborne geophysical surveys and 7533
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