North Stradbroke Island Protection and Sustainability and Another Act Amendment Bill

Hon. GW ELMES (Noosa—LNP) (Minister for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander and Multicultural Affairs and Minister Assisting the Premier) (12.58 am): I rise to make a short contribution to the North Stradbroke Island Protection and Sustainability and Another Act Amendment Bill 2013.

Mr McArdle interjected.

Mr ELMES: And a very good contribution too, as I am reminded by my ministerial colleague. I had the distinct honour prior to the last election of being the shadow minister for the environment in opposition. I had the opportunity to go to North Straddie with Mark Robinson, the member for Cleveland. I spent a good deal of time going from one end of that island to the other to look at what had been done by the company Sibelco in terms of its commitment not just as miners but its commitment as a very good custodian and champion for North Stradbroke Island. What is wrong with the argument that is being put forward by the Labor opposition tonight is the fact that it is operating from a point of view that bears no substance and has no credibility. In this case we have a mining company that has been on North Stradbroke Island for a long period of time. If anyone had spent any time on North Stradbroke they would have seen the rehabilitation work that Sibelco undertakes on the island and its commitment to the island, particularly its commitment to the workers on the island. Those workers are not just so-called European workers; there are Indigenous workers on North Stradbroke Island as well.

Sibelco knew then when I was there and it knows now that there is a time frame when it has to transition off that island. It also knows that even when the last bit of mining is done there is still a responsibility from that company to continue the rehabilitation work to ensure that it leaves that island as pristine as is humanly possible. When you have been to North Stradbroke and looked at the rehabilitation work that Sibelco has done, you cannot tell the difference. I defy anyone to tell the difference. Tonight many times we heard the story when Kate Jones and former Premier Anna Bligh were over there and they propped themselves up to do a press conference and they were doing it on rehabilitated land. They did not know. They could not tell, but there they were. I was in the House at the time when this piece of nonsense first came about. The then Premier and the then environment minister, Kate Jones, decided that they were going to do something to advance the cause of Indigenous people on North Stradbroke Island and they decided all of a sudden to close down all of the mining and have ecotourism. I can recall that they mentioned 400 ecotourism jobs on North Stradbroke Island. Did they have a plan to put ecotourism on North Stradbroke Island? No, they did not. It was like everything that Labor did—it was driven by press release. Having got the television coverage, they were able to come back to Brisbane and they got some brownie points from their greenie mates and the job was done from their point of view. Did they ever at any point have any idea or compassion or understanding for the people who live there and work there and want to continue to live there and work there? That is what those on the other side of the House forgot about—that is, that people actually call that place home. If they are going to call it home, they want to have a job. They want to be able to raise their kids. They want to be able to send those kids to school. They want to have a future on North Stradbroke Island. If we listen to what the Labor Party opposition is talking about tonight, they would not have any of that.

I think I would be, at least on my side of the House, one of the people who perhaps has a slight tinge of green about them and I come from a community that celebrates that. I am here to tell members that I am very happy to stand up here tonight and talk about the commitment of Sibelco to North Stradbroke Island and what it is trying to do. The best champion—the greatest champion—that North Stradbroke Island has is the member for Cleveland. He is a great champion because he has fought from the day he came into this parliament to make sure that there is a future for North Straddie, and the future is not mining. At the end of the day, the future for North Stradbroke is tourism. But we have to get from mining to ecotourism and tourism in particular. At the same time we have to ensure that, as the member for Caloundra mentioned earlier, the 2,000 people who live on North Stradbroke have a future, because if they do not they are going to go on the dole queue. If they do not, the school is going to close down, the businesses will close down and no tourists will want to go there at the end of the day.

There are something like, as I understand from the point of view of the Quandamooka people, 50 to 60 families who are living—

Mrs Frecklington: Fourteen per cent of the employment on the island

Mr ELMES: Thank you very much; 14 per cent of the people who live on the island are from the Quandamooka people. I know enough about Indigenous politics to know, particularly in terms of North Straddie—and you might be surprised to know this, Madam Deputy Speaker—that there are factions within the Indigenous community on North Stradbroke, as there are factions within the Australian Labor Party in this House. From time to time those factions have a bit of a blue. I also know that most of the Quandamooka who live on North Stradbroke Island want to have a future for themselves, they want to have a future for their kids and their families and they want to be able to live on the island of their choice

Only today we have announced a $200,000 plan that is going to roll out over the next 18 to 24 months which will help in that transition process, and it is going to be a great process overseen by the Minister for Tourism, the Hon. Jann Stuckey, that will enable that transition process to take place to move from mining to what will undoubtedly be the future for North Stradbroke Island—that is, tourism. Many people in this House—and if there are any people after one o’clock still listening to the debate happening in this House—will have visited North Stradbroke Island as one of the favourite places in the world that they go to. They go there to camp. They go there to four-wheel drive. They go there to enjoy the environment.

I am here to tell members that I am immensely proud of the job that Sibelco has done in making sure that the environment on North Stradbroke Island is something that it can be justifiably proud of. When we look at the plans that Sibelco has for when it transitions off that island, when you look at the infrastructure that it has put in place, when you look at the rehabilitation that it has put in place, when you look at the wind power generation that it has plans to put in place on that island, it defies logic—it just defies logic—that we would listen to some of the nonsense coming from the other side of the House that all of a sudden we have to close the whole thing down and it all has to go; it all has to go because Anna Bligh and Kate Jones had some sort of half-hearted vision that they thought could win themselves a couple of votes in the lead-up to an election campaign. I am here to tell members that the person that this House should be listening to, the person who really has a passion for North Stradbroke Island—not these people over there who are just doing it because it is politics—is the member for Cleveland. The member for Cleveland went to an election campaign and said what the LNP government was going to do and got the mandate from the people and the mandate from the people who live on North Stradbroke Island, and we are delivering it.