Cement Works (Cockburn Cement Ltd) Agreement Amendment Bill 2010 Speech

Second Reading
Resumed from 14 September.

[COUNCIL - Thursday, 23 September 2010] 7203

HON LYNN MacLAREN (South Metropolitan) [3.23 pm]: I rise to also speak to the Cement Works
(Cockburn Cement Limited) Agreement Amendment Bill 2010 and to add my concerns to those raised by the
main speaker for the Greens (WA), Hon Giz Watson. I want to highlight a couple of points because, as a member
representing the people in the South Metropolitan Region, I am deeply concerned about the activities of
Cockburn Cement Ltd, and this is an opportunity to raise our concerns about this agreement act.
The Greens (WA) are fundamentally opposed to agreement acts, and I am very alarmed by the potential they
have to create monopolies in this state. I will be very interested to hear how the minister responds to the concerns
raised by Hon Giz Watson. Cockburn Cement is an important company for the people of the South Metropolitan
Region. It employs 350 people, it has a turnover of $230 million and it spends $150 million locally on goods,
services and wages. We are certainly mindful of that in all the decision making that we do about Cockburn
Cement. However, that contribution to the economy comes at a cost. Currently, the communities around the
plant are raising this matter at many levels. We recently looked at the new licence for Cockburn Cement, and my
office has made a submission about it, so I have done a bit of research on the potential impacts of its operations
in that area. In this instance, we are looking to extend for a further 20 years the operations of this company. I
would like to know the cost of Cockburn Cement operating in the South Metropolitan Region. Is there a cost in
public health? We are now trying to assess, with some epidemiological studies, whether there are impacts from
the activities that the company engages in and the emissions that are descending on the residents in that area.
Have we calculated the cost of that to the economy? Do we have any intention to calculate the cost? Hon Giz
Watson mentioned the impact on seagrass in that area, and seagrass is important to the marine life. There is a
potential cost to the fisheries in that region. What is the cost of the company’s activities to the fisheries?
Finally—this is the most important point in respect of the agreement bill—how much will Cockburn Cement
invest in replanting and replacing some of the seagrass it has damaged and destroyed? We know that there has
been research into whether it is possible to somehow restore the environment that the company has forever
changed. I would like to know whether the significant financial gain that the company is making through that
area is somehow feeding back into the environment. In the form of environmental offsets, is Cockburn Cement
really investing in those areas that we know it has forever changed by damaging the seagrass?

Hon Giz Watson explained that the Greens (WA) are concerned about the environmental licensing. I must say to
the minister that it was disappointing to us that the government did not take the opportunity, when the current
agreement act came before us for reassessment, to negotiate with the company to modernise its washing plant so
that the impact around Woodman Point would not be so extreme. It is my understanding that by modernising its
washing plant, it could improve the quality of the water that is going into that area. This could have been an
opportunity to negotiate with Cockburn Cement to get it to invest a bit in modernising its washing plant so that
the water coming out would be a bit fresher. I understand that the water is also a bit heated when it comes out.
There is also an environmental impact as a result of warm water being pushed out into the sound. I also want to
know whether the government actually tried to negotiate a bit more money from Cockburn Cement for the fund
to restore seagrass. Did we use this opportunity to try to improve the environmental licensing so that the impacts
of turbidity on the environment could be dealt with?

I know that Cockburn Cement was initially permitted to do this dredging for the very important purpose of
gaining access to lime and making cement, but it also had the pay-off of creating a shipping channel for us. That
is an important benefit to the state, and perhaps the government could look at that as a contribution that
Cockburn Cement has made to our infrastructure. However, the lack of examination of the cost of its operations
is, I think, significant, at least to the people of the South Metropolitan Region. We do not think it should be the
case that anybody can do anything at any cost, and we would like the government to use its might, when it is
giving the company access to the shell sand, to oblige it to improve its environmental record, if indeed that is
possible. I understand that dredging techniques have improved over time, that they are more sensitive now and
potentially create less turbidity—that is all good. I also understand that this state agreement act has been
negotiated, over time, to try to push the company out into areas where there is not quite so much seagrass. I also
think that is good and that those steps are in the right direction; however, I echo Hon Giz Watson’s concerns
about the 168 hectares that are potentially at risk or that have already been lost due to the operation so far.
The citizens of Cockburn, although very concerned about the impact of the cement plant on their health, want to
see the operations improved; that is, they have made it clear to me that they do not want Cockburn Cement to
close down, but are concerned that the company clean up its act. These amendments to the state agreement act
present another opportunity to bring this matter to the attention of the government and that is why I am speaking.
The Greens (WA) will oppose the Cement Works (Cockburn Cement Limited) Agreement Amendment Bill on
those grounds.