This speech is to acknowledge the superb work of the Governor, Rear Admiral Kevin Scarce, his wife, Elizabeth, and our Lieutenant-Governor, Mr Hieu Van Le, and his wife, Lan.
Adjourned debate on motion for adoption.
(Continued from 23 September 2008. Page 121.)
The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK (21:10): In rising to speak to the motion, like many members, I acknowledge the superb work of our Governor, Rear Admiral Kevin Scarce, his wife, Elizabeth, and our Lieutenant-Governor, Mr Hieu Van Le, and his wife, Lan. I place on the record my great appreciation for the community work they do. All four of these well-credentialled people are often at community functions.
Most recently, Hieu Van Le and Lan attended a function for the Overseas Chinese Association when, at some point during the evening, Mr Van Le and I separately shared the platform in singing karaoke. He is prepared to get up there and participate. I think that it was partly to assist one of the Attorney-General's advisers who had been unfairly dobbed in by the Attorney to sing a song, and Mr Van Le assisted in relieving her of her embarrassment that evening. So, he is a good sport, and that is the point I would like to make.
The Governor made a number of points in his speech (which was clearly written by the Premier's office and which, I think, is no reflection on his duties as Governor, as he is obliged to utter the words that are provided in his speech), and I will refer to a number of those in my address on this motion.
First of all, there were a number of comments about water. A number of members sat in this chamber listening quite intently for some new announcement and were sadly disappointed that there was nothing that would deliver any additional water, or water security, for irrigators, for Adelaide or for the towns reliant on Murray River water. So, while the great deal was lauded to us, in fact, the much taunted deal actually sees us go backwards from the deal struck with the states by John Howard when he was in office. It is a plan over three years that will take some seven more years to implement.
I think it is fair to say—and perhaps it is reflected in the polls—that nobody believes the Premier or his water minister any more when they speak about water, because there have been so many flip-flops in relation to various policies. We were warned in 2003 that South AustraliaAdelaide needed to take some additional measures in relation to water, and those warnings have been consistently ignored.
I think I have stated in my previous addresses in this chamber that I was part of a water trade mission to Israel last year, and some people involved in water utilities from other states had said that they were a bit gobsmacked at South Australia's attitude that we are 'hoping for rain'. That was a consistent policy of this government until it realised that it was probably hitting in its polling and in the focus groups, which reminds one of the ABC program, Hollowmen—that things are not acted on until they reach the focus groups.
We have had so many flip-flops on desalination. First, it was a stupid idea, then it was adopted and now it has been brought forward. I have mentioned the Murray deal. There are also references in the budget to water initiatives. A significant proportion of those funds are actually for the Wellington weir, which the spokesperson for the River Murray (the member for Hammond) has consistently opposed for very good reason: that, if we have a weir at Wellington, it will effectively result in the backstop of highly salinated water upstream from the weir. So, further upstream from the weir, all of those communities will require desalination to address that.
Other parts of the water solution need to be given good consideration, including stormwater harvesting. The government's water security minister has stated on the public record that those are the responsibilities of local government. We say that they are a core part of South Australia's water policy and that they should not be relegated to that sort of status. There are also issues in relation to wastewater—that is, water that can be treated to a high standard so that it can be reused—which is doing significant damage to the seagrasses in the gulf.
Indeed, the Adelaide Coastal Water Study—which was released earlier this year under the shade of the car race at, I think, 4pm or 5pm on a Friday afternoon—found that the greatest contributor to seagrass damage is, in fact, treated wastewater being released into the gulf. So, those areas need to be absolute priorities.
The Governor's speech also referred to the CBD building efficiency. I note that, in the budget, in 2008-09, at least $5 million will be provided to the EPA to be relocated to the SA Water building. Further details were revealed through the Capital Works Committee that nearly $300,000 would be allocated to decommissioning the EPA's existing office in Grenfell Street and that part of the $5 million-odd funds were for purchasing pot plants to turn the EPA's office into a jungle, and $1.8 million per year to lease those offices.
I have heard that building described as the Taj Mahal, and I think that that is a fairly suitable description for it. We have also had claims of the Rann ministry becoming carbon-neutral and the desalination plant being carbon-neutral. There is no justification for this claim and, indeed, I think it is fair to label that claim as a 'greenwash'. Yet, at the same time, it is this government that has cut back on the solar water rebate scheme, resisted the sensible amendments proposed by the Liberal Party and cross-benchers to extend the electricity tariff feed-in scheme and, while it likes to take credit for wind farms, these have actually been driven by the Howard government's MRET scheme.
There is also a lot of discussion about three million trees, which refers to the planting of seedlings as a photo opportunity. The question has been put: what about the trees that we already have? A good example of that is the way that ETSA loves to butcher our street trees. The member for Fisher and I recently attended a conference known as the TREENET Symposium. TREENET is an organisation that was established by a fellow by the name of David Lawry who is recognised in this year's Queen's honours, and he has written this letter which he calls 'An Inconvenient Truth'. He says that trees will not deliver on the Premier's carbon target, and I quote from that as follows:
Here is what the Premier could do to set an example to the world:
1. Tell ETSA to immediately increase their power line clearances in the metropolitan non bushfire area in line with the recent TREENET submission currently before the Technical Regulator. They would immediately avoid releasing 1.8 tonne CO2 for every tonne of branches currently removed in the tree butchering process that ETSA conduct. In an average fortnight that would achieve his 3,000 tonne target for nix. In fact, it would save money on the pruning contract and expend less energy on trucks, chainsaws and roadblocks. Also the residents of Adelaide would welcome it...
2. Review the frequent requests from the Waite Arboretum to allow watering of new trees in the research collection. Since 1928, it has been trialling trees for Adelaide that grow without irrigation and as such it is an invaluable resource for all South Australians and is already responsible for the wide use of 'water wise trees' by councils and gardeners;
3. Send someone from the government up to the Waite other than an SA Water cop to seriously discuss research proposals for maintaining Adelaide's street and park trees in a carbon neutral state during water restrictions. We can't determine the threshold limits that will inform SA Water on how to ration water without being able to use a little water for the trial, but the SA Water cop doesn't get science and has even suggested we plant our trees in pots!
I note that comments have been made about SA Water already in this chamber today that I think are germane to this discussion. The letter continues:
4. Put some money into the proposed TREENET storm water trials. We have street trees thriving under a regime where storm water is being put to good use sequestering CO2 whilst their nearby neighbours are releasing CO2 under the current restrictions. In fact if he squeezed the home garden lemon a little less hard and allowed twice weekly waterings, he could be guaranteed to be reducing the CO2 loss from Adelaide way more than he could hope from his gain from 'million tree' projects;
5. Seriously review his commitment to Urban tree research and spend a little more than the $5k annually he puts into TREENET via DTEI sponsorship.
I have also put out a press release this week in relation to Mundulla Yellows, which many members would be familiar with as an issue for some other eucalyptus species, particularly in the South-East, which is where it was first identified, I think, in 1970. It has come to our attention that this particular disease, which is not very well understood, is a problem in the metropolitan area in places such as Athelstone, the golf course at North Adelaide, the Mitcham council area, and the Yorke Peninsula, as well as other areas. The research programs that have been looking into the origins of this particular disease have not been properly funded, and to date no tree has ever recovered after contracting the disease. Obviously, it kills a number of trees as well as reducing their health, and we believe that is an area towards which, if the Premier were fair dinkum (to use the Prime Minister's language), the government would actually put some commitment.
In terms of environmental issues, there is also the matter of natural resource management. I note that the federal government has been cutting the two programs which were funded under the previous Howard government and which had been heavily relied upon to fund natural resource management programs at a state level. There is a mere $28 million for Landcare projects across Australia, compared to some $112 million over three years that the coalition committed to Landcare in the 2007 budget—an average of $37 million a year. So, I think for either of these Labor governments to pretend that they have any commitment to the environment is very shortsighted.
There is also the reference to the plastic bag ban, which I believe is a tokenistic piece of nonsense. This government says that plastic bags are a symbol of our wastefulness as a society, yet there are many other parts of the waste stream that remain unaddressed: mercury from compact fluorescent light globes; a huge amount of electronic waste via computers and television screens, which all contribute to contaminating our waterways; and car tyres.
Yet we pick on the humble plastic bag. It defies belief that anyone should not understand that they are reused, and the anecdotal advice is that many people are stockpiling plastic bags as we speak, because they get reused for all sorts of purposes. There is the often quoted bin liners, and I have previously referred to my sister's child-care centre that asks parents to bring them in for use in disposing of nappies and so forth. That is a typical example of this government claiming to be doing something for the sake of doing something when, in fact, it ignores the real issues.
There was also a reference to the Glenside redevelopment and the new forensic mental health facility. I have stated many times on the public record, and I will do so again, that the vast body of experts in this field say that what this government is planning is verging on the criminal in that it is reducing the capacity of Glenside, as a specialist mental health service, or James Nash House, as a forensic mental health facility, to cope with future demand—or even to cope with the demand we currently have.
There were references in the Governor's speech to the overseas universities of Carnegie Mellon, Cranfield and the University College of London. These are iconic references, yet we have three very well credentialled universities in South Australia that are well able to provide comparable courses. I believe some of them are irritated (some have been on the public record, but some of them have not spoken out), particularly with Carnegie Mellon. That particular institution in South Australia has been propped up by taxpayers dollars through the provision of scholarships to allow people in public sector employment to go through its particular courses. So it makes a neat headline for the Premier to be able to laud these particular institutions coming to South Australia, but at a huge and an unnecessary cost to the taxpayer.
We had a reference to the State Strategic Plan, and I will just refer to the targets which relate to my current portfolio responsibilities. We have a target of 'no species lost'. We actually had an increase in the number of species identified as threatened, that is, from 1,041 in 2000 to 1,143 in 2008. Rather than report this in what I would say was a transparent way, in relation to the proportion of threatened species over this period of 10 per cent, the government has compared the threatened species to the total number of recognised species.
When you break down the species into types it reveals some fairly alarming trends. In the domain of plants it is nearly 4 per cent; mammals, 13.6 per cent; birds, 28 per cent; and reptiles, 36 per cent. The government, rather speciously, blames loss of habitat and the threat to species on the 'cumulative impact of previous actions'.
In terms of land biodiversity, the report recommends that the biodiversity corridors are so far behind as to be unachievable by 2010 and that the target, therefore, needs to be modified. We have a reference to an ecological footprint, which is a fairly ambiguous comment. The target is to reduce South Australia's ecological footprint by 30 per cent by 2050. The report states that no new data has become available since 2006. This, to my mind, indicates that there is a lack of any measuring tool altogether.
For Zero Waste SA there is a target to reduce waste to landfill by 25 per cent by 2014. However, there is no acknowledgment that 50 per cent of the current reduction in landfill is due to local government initiatives. The system that this government has set up is to tax councils so that Zero Waste can redistribute grants to councils by some sort of inefficient means of pretending to drive behavioural change
There are also references to board and committee representation of women. The target has failed twice. The 50 per cent target was not reached in 2006, so the target was revised in the 2007 plan to 2008. In its most recent report the government admits that it is unlikely to achieve the target by the end of 2008, and the rate of growth slowed in 2007. There are a number of these sorts of pretences at doing things which is all rather tokenistic.
I will briefly turn to the issue of finances, and I note, for the record, that the former Liberal government reduced the State Bank debt from $11.6 billion in 1993 to $3.2 billion in 2001. Under Labor this debt has blown out by nearly 60 per cent and is still growing. In the meantime, revenues have increased by nearly 70 per cent.
There are a number of these iconic announcements but they are so far off as to be laughable. We have 'The Marj', Mobilong and transport. In the case of the latter, most transport projects will not even start until 2010-11. One wonders where the government's priorities are when it has a tram project going to the Entertainment Centre. It is hard to imagine how many patrons will be desperate to get to the Entertainment Centre from Glenelg, South Terrace or the city!
There is a note for our country cousins that this government has sought to gut country hospitals in order to be able to fund the Marjorie Jackson-Nelson hospital. That was one of its lovely little headlines which was very cleverly put out there. There still remains a $200 million backlog of country road funding that is just not being addressed at all.
In making those comments, I reiterate that it is no reflection upon our Governor, as he was given this piece of drivel, which he was forced to read out. As I have said, we listened intently for some morsel of inspirational new information we had not heard before, and we were sadly disappointed, which I think was the case for all South Australians. This government, despite its record revenues and record taxation revenues, is a disappointment. It has failed to deliver for the aspirations and needs of the people of South Australia.