Budget Estimates Monday 3 June 2013 - Economics Committee
Senator LUDLAM: I have three quick issues to raise in the brief time remaining. If it was not already canvassed before I got here, I understand that DRET commissioned CSIRO to prepare a report on residential energy efficiency, the residential ratings project. Has that been received by the department and when are you proposing to release it?
Mr Divall : Senator, could I just ask the name of the report you are after?
Senator LUDLAM: The residential ratings project.
Mr Divall : We have an early draft of that, which I have not seen, where we have provided some feedback to CSIRO. It is in early draft and there will probably be a couple of other iterations of that. It is not available at this point in time.
Senator LUDLAM: Could you provide on notice when you expect it to be finalised, the process that you propose to follow in finalising it and who you are consulting with prior to finalisation of the draft and publication?
Mr Divall : I could provide you some response now or I could take it on notice. Effectively we are going to a consultation group in July.
Senator LUDLAM: A public group?
Mr Divall : It will be a group that has expertise in this area. I am happy to take on notice the remainder of your question.
Senator LUDLAM: Do you want to give us an example of the representation on that group? Is it all internal departmental people?
Mr Divall : No, it will not be internal, it will be external.
Senator LUDLAM: Some external as well, thank you. Now I am going to jump halfway across the country to Muckaty. There was quite a significant amount in the budget, an additional $35.7 million over four years, to secure a suitable volunteer site and for initial scoping and design work to establish a regional consultative committee and so on for the national radioactive waste dump. Has the department met with NLC executive members, full council members, TOs or any other NLC representatives regarding the nomination of a second site?
Mr Sheldrick : The department has not specifically met with, I think you said, the Northern Land Council.
Senator LUDLAM: I listed a range of stakeholders, but the key to the question is regarding a second site and who you have met with regarding a second nomination.
Mr Sheldrick : We have not met specifically about an additional nomination. We have had correspondence from the Northern Land Council about their proposal to nominate an additional site.
Senator LUDLAM: Okay. They contacted you, you did not contact them?
Mr Sheldrick : They contacted the minister.
Senator LUDLAM: Could you provide for us the location of that second site, either a map or reasonably precise coordinates of the proposed location?
Mr Sheldrick : We do not have coordinates for the additional site. We understand it is on the station but we do not have any specific details with regard to coordinates.
Senator LUDLAM: So, the Northern Land Council has not provided the government with precise details of a second site?
Mr Sheldrick : That is correct.
Senator LUDLAM: But they have indicated that there may be one and that a nomination could be forthcoming?
Mr Sheldrick : That is correct.
Senator LUDLAM: Could you provide us, again on notice, some indication of how the sum of $35.7 million over the forward estimates is to be broken down, whether it is all departmental costs or whether some of that includes payments to, for example, traditional owners, or the land council, or overseas trips such as the one that, I believe, just occurred in Spain?
Ms Constable : There are a range of initiatives, which sit both in administered and departmental, across the issues you have raised. We are certainly happy to provide you some estimates broadly. We cannot give you specifics because a number of consultancies will need to occur over the next few years. That is a matter of procurement.
Senator LUDLAM: Consultancies, because presumably if you after a second site, all the work that Parsons Brinckerhoff et al did is now invalid.
Mr Sheldrick : If an additional site is put forward there will need to be some site characterisation work undertaken.
Senator LUDLAM: Understood. So a rough breakdown would be good with particular regard to payments to traditional owners either through the Northern Land Council or directly for further nominations.
Ms Constable : We are not able to give you figures on that. We do not have a second site nomination at this particular stage.
Senator LUDLAM: So that would not be budgeted for yet?
Ms Constable : That is correct.
Senator LUDLAM: Thank you very much for that. My last question is regarding the Toro Energy-Wiluna uranium project in the north-east goldfields of WA. That is under assessment at the moment by the Commonwealth environment minister. I am wondering whether DRET has had any dialogue or provided any additional advice to either the company or to the environment department as they undergo their assessment.
Mr Sheldrick : The minister provided some advice, as is required under the arrangement with the environment minister, at the time the decision was taken.
Senator LUDLAM: Sorry, I should have been a bit clearer, I meant any further advice subsequent to the conditional approval.
Mr Sheldrick : We have not consulted with the environment department subsequently.
Senator LUDLAM: Is DRET aware of criticism about the financial capacity of the proponent to fully realise its clean-up, closure and rehabilitation commitments at Wiluna? I understand that you probably do not do financial analyses of the company-that would be well outside your ambit-but where it goes to the ability of the company to pay its clean-up and rehab costs, is that something you have?
Mr Sheldrick : I am aware of those views being put in the public domain, yes.
Senator LUDLAM: Do they have any bearing on the assessment or advice that you guys would provide to the environment department?
Mr Sheldrick : Not on the advice that we provided prior to the decision being taken.
Senator LUDLAM: Are you aware that one of the conditions, or set of conditions, that the environment minister has levied on the proponent before he will give them the final approval is a closure management plan? I forget exactly what the phrasing is, but it is the long-term care and maintenance management plan. You are aware that that is among the conditions that have been applied?
Mr Sheldrick : That is correct.
Senator LUDLAM: So, if a view is being put that the company will be unable to meet those commitments, doesn't that have direct material bearing on whether that approval should be granted?
Mr Sheldrick : I said I was aware of the commentary in the public domain. I am not aware that it has been shown that that is the case.
Senator LUDLAM: But would you assess or interrogate those claims or are you going to just let it go through to the keeper?
Ms Constable : This is not the department's role in respect of the Toro Wiluna project. It is located in Western Australia. It is a matter of state responsibility to undertake those assessments, and also in relation to the environmental approvals. The state will work with SOPAC to make sure that all of those considerations are put forward and taking into account before approvals are finally given on any project.
CHAIR: Thank you, Senator Ludlam. The time has come to a close for this section.