The Hon. T.A. FRANKS ( 14:52 :09 ): I seek leave to make a brief explanation before asking the Minister for Manufacturing and Innovation questions about a solar thermal future for Port Augusta.
The Hon. T.A. FRANKS: I note Alinta Energy's announcement last week that it is set to close its Port Augusta coal stations and the associated Leigh Creek mine by 2018, with the devastating loss to that region in the order of at least 440 jobs. I commend to the minister the strong community push for solar thermal and the fine work of Repower Port Augusta, and I acknowledge through you, Mr President, that ministers Maher and Brock have recently visited these communities and that the Premier will soon do the same.
As the two-year feasibility study undertaken by Alinta Energy, the Australian Renewable Energy Agency and the government of South Australia determined earlier this year, there exists a significant funding gap preventing solar thermal from becoming economically viable at this stage. I also note the Premier's response for an allocation of an initial $1 million for support to the region and his statements that the SA government intends to request funding from the federal government, and I note that the Alinta chief executive has been quoted previously as saying an amount of around $65 million would be required. My questions are:
1. Will the State Government be actively pursuing a solar thermal future for the region
2. Will the Premier's announced funding request be based on a transition to solar thermal; if so, will that be the exclusive purpose of the funds requested or will other options be canvassed?
The Hon. K.J. MAHER (Minister for Manufacturing and Innovation, Minister for Automotive Transformation, Minister for Aboriginal Affairs and Reconciliation) (14:53 :41 ): I thank the honourable member for her question and her continuing interest in these matters. As the honourable member pointed out, there is an initial $1 million allocated to support the work of the Upper Spencer Gulf and outback community engagement team.
We are not going to rule anything out or anything in at this stage. We are open to talking to industry and the community about what future industries will provide jobs in that region. I was up in Leigh Creek and Port Augusta yesterday and met with a representative of Repower Port Augusta. We are open to discussing a whole wide range of options.