(Continued from 23 July 2019.)
The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK: When parliament last considered this legislation before us at clause 1, the honourable Leader of the Opposition posed a number of questions to the government, which I would like to provide responses to, if I may. I have been advised that, firstly, in relation to stakeholder consultation, an extensive engagement process was undertaken across the state between July and October 2018, with more than 1,000 people taking part to help shape the future of natural resources management (NRM) in South Australia and 250 submissions received from community and stakeholders.
The consultations aimed to seek feedback on how the government's commitment to reforming the NRM system should best be achieved in practice. A discussion paper, Managing Our Landscapes: Conversations for Change, was released to support the engagement. Twenty-three stakeholder engagement sessions were held with key stakeholders such as Primary Producers SA, the Conservation Council of SA, the Local Government Association of SA, NRM board presiding members, the South Australian Native Title Services, First Nations (Native Title Prescribed Bodies Corporate), and the South Australian Regional Organisation of Councils.
Twenty-six community forums were held across metropolitan Adelaide, regional and outback locations. The forums were attended by land managers, volunteer groups, industry experts, Aboriginal people, primary producers, other tiers of government and advocacy organisations. Fifteen regional staff sessions were held with employees from the Department for Environment and Water. During this period, there was also online engagement through YourSAy where we heard from 64 interested stakeholders via online discussions.
Key stakeholders included peak bodies from the conservation, primary production and local government sectors. NRM boards and government agencies were subsequently provided with a draft of the Landscape South Australia Bill for comment. Engagement facilitation arrangements: Becky Hirst Consulting was engaged by the department to design and implement an extensive and contemporary stakeholder and community engagement process to inform development of the bill for the period 7 June 2018 to 5 November 2018.
This included a comprehensive statewide engagement plan supported by tailored engagement tools and products, a series of face-to-face meetings and forums with key stakeholders that helped to inform the engagement process, a series of community meetings and forums in Adelaide and key regional centres, summary reports on stakeholder and community meetings, and a final consultation report that summarised all feedback received. The final cost was $270,832. The total includes costs associated with facilitating community forums throughout the state.
Engagement with Aboriginal communities: Aboriginal people, representative Aboriginal bodies and landholding authorities took part in engagement sessions or made submissions during the engagement process undertaken between July and October 2018. The minister wrote to First Nations of South Australia prior to the engagement sessions.
The letter highlighted that from 6 August until 20 September 2018 there would be a series of facilitated stakeholder workshops and regional community forums. Advertising was placed in local newspapers as well as tailored advertisements in The Courier Mail and Aboriginal Way publications and the SA Native Title Newsletter. An Aboriginal engagement section on the YourSAy consultation page was also created, where people could ask to speak to a local Aboriginal engagement officer and provide feedback through that officer.
In addition, forums were held in regions and towns, including Scotdesco, Umuwa in the APY lands, Marree in Coober Pedy, and with Kaurna and the four nations—Kaurna, Peramangk, Ngadjuri and Ngarrindjeri—near Adelaide. A meeting was held with representatives of the Aboriginal Lands Trust, and additional sessions were held on request, including for residents at Point Pearce.
A separate engagement session was also held with representatives from South Australian Native Title Prescribed Bodies Corporate on 11 October 2018, supported by South Australian Native Title Services, to share with them what had been said during the engagement process to enable deeper conversations to occur. South Australian Native Title Services and the South Australian Aboriginal Advisory Council were then consulted in late 2018 on the draft Landscape SA Bill.
Relationship to election commitments: the bill is the result of the government's pre-election commitments and feedback received during extensive consultation. One of the government's commitments in reforming NRM is that all levies—land and water—collected in a region will be spent in that region.
During consultation on the reforms, there was overwhelming support for distributing some levy funding from the metropolitan area to regional South Australia. In light of this, the bill provides for a proportion of Green Adelaide's land and water levies to be dedicated to a new statewide landscape priorities fund. The fund will enable investment in large-scale integrated landscape restoration projects and statewide priorities.
The government also committed to a cap, and in the Empowered Communities document advised this would be set by an independent body. Shortly after, in July 2018, on release of the Managing Our Landscapes: Conversations for Change discussion paper, which informed the community consultations, the government sought direction as to whether this should occur by an independent body or according to the consumer price index.
The bill provides for capping by the CPI as a cost-neutral capping mechanism that uses an independent rate determined by the Australian Bureau of Statistics. In exceptional circumstances, the minister will be able to approve increases to the land levy above CPI. Increases to the water levy above CPI will also need to be approved by the minister.
It was envisaged that each region, including Green Adelaide, will have an annual grassroots program. Each region's program will access funds from the regional landscape board fund rather than just one centrally operated fund. The bill provides for Green Adelaide to be a regional landscape board, with seven legislative priorities and up to 10 members appointed by the minister. As a result of amendments passed in the House of Assembly, Green Adelaide's seven priorities now include biodiversity sensitive urban design.
In line with the government's commitment, the general managers of boards will be responsible to the board for managing the board's business and supervising staff engaged in board work. Boards will recommend the general manager for appointment, with the mechanism of manager appointment being to ensure staff remain employed under state public sector arrangements.
In line with the government's commitment, the bill provides for landscape boards in regional areas to have three elected and four minister-appointed members. In response to feedback, the bill also provides for alternative arrangements to be made where issues specific to a particular region mean that community elections are not practical or desirable at a given point in time.
The proposal to establish a separate plains and valleys region was consulted on during the engagement on the landscape reforms in 2018. Noting that the regional landscape boundaries remain a proposal at this stage, following consultation on the reforms in 2018, the intent is not to proceed with this proposal. The minister has stated publicly that this is due to feedback received during consultation. In response to feedback on the reforms, the proposed names and boundaries of some regions have been adjusted to better align with how local communities identify their region.
Partnerships with Aboriginal people: the bill provides far stronger foundational elements for partnerships with Aboriginal communities and a stronger emphasis on Aboriginal cultural values and knowledge in natural resources management relative to the Natural Resources Management Act 2004. For the first time, supporting the interests of Aboriginal people is an object of the bill. Currently, the NRM Act only requires Aboriginal heritage to be considered under a principle of ecologically sustainable development. The significance of landscape to Aboriginal people is expressly recognised in the bill as a principle of ecologically sustainable development.
The importance of decision-making being informed by Aboriginal traditional knowledge is also recognised in the bill's principles of ecologically sustainable development. The bill provides that boards should seek to work collaboratively with Aboriginal communities on regional priorities. Each region's grassroots grants program will provide funding opportunities for local community groups, including Aboriginal organisations. Partnerships between boards and local organisations through the landscape priorities fund are also an opportunity for partnerships with Aboriginal people to deliver large-scale landscape restoration projects.
NRM levies: I am not aware of any advice from the Local Government Association as to the annual amount of unpaid levies. I understand the Local Government Association recently quoted $690,000 in total unpaid levies across the state's 68 local councils. This amount would have progressively accrued over the 24 years since catchment levies were first introduced in 1995.
The Hon. M.C. PARNELL: For my benefit, and it may assist other members, as a fairly pedestrian administrative arrangement I thought I would put on the record the amendments that I have filed and the ones that I will be moving. I will give an indication of what I believe other members are doing, and they can correct me if I am wrong because, as the committee would know, many sets of amendments have been filed.
In terms of my amendments, I filed three sets. Sets 2 and 3 relate to the issue of levy collection. I will not be moving those amendments. In discussions with other members, in particular the Hon. Frank Pangallo, and the Local Government Association, I prefer his amendments to my own, so I will not be moving mine in relation to that.
In relation to the Hon. Frank Pangallo's amendments, of the seven sets that have been filed my understanding is that only sets 3, 6 and 7 survive. The member can tell us whether he thinks that is the case. The Hon. Kyam Maher has two sets, both of which are still alive, and I believe the minister has one set. For other members' benefit, that is my understanding of what we will be doing as we go through committee.
The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK: The advice I have received is that that is correct.
The Hon. F. PANGALLO: To avoid it becoming a rather complicated thing, I will not be moving amendment sets 2, 4 or 5. I will be moving set 6 and the consequential amendments in set 3 and set 7. When we get to set 6, I will clarify that set 6 is a substitute for set 2 and is an amalgamation of sets 4 and 5, if you can follow that.
The Hon. K.J. MAHER: While we are pouring out what we are going to do, we will be moving the amendments that are filed in my name. Can I just check, and this is a useful process to do this efficiently: the Hon. Frank Pangallo, are you moving amendment set No. 1, or not moving that instead of moving amendment set No. 6?
The Hon. F. PANGALLO: I will only move No. 1 if [Pangello-6] and [Pangello-3] and [Pangello-7] are not passed. Amendment No. 1 [Pangello-1] is a suggested amendment, I understand, because it is a money clause but I will only move that if [Pangello-6] and [Pangello-3] and [Pangello-7] are not passed.
The Hon. K.J. MAHER: It may be of some assistance for the conduct of this to indicate that the Labor opposition will be supporting amendment sets 3 and 6. I just have to check on 7 but that might give some indication. For completeness, I think amendment set 7 is consequential on the previous ones which I have suggested that we, as the Labor opposition, are going to be supporting and, in that case, we will not be supporting [Pangello-1] in favour of the other ones.
The CHAIR: For the benefit of the committee, amendment No. 1 [Pangello-3] seeks to delete a definition which refers to the levy, so that will be a test vote.
The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK: On clause 3?
The CHAIR: Yes, clause 3. From there, if the clause survives the council, then that will obviously have an impact on further amendments. Any substantive debate members were intending to have regarding the levy we are going to have to have at amendment No. 1 [Pangello-3]. Is everyone clear on that? Does anyone object to that course of action? I think that is the fairest way to go about it. Does anyone have any contributions on clauses 1 or 2?
Clause 2 passed.
The Hon. M.C. PARNELL: I move:
Amendment No 1 [Parnell–1]—
Page 20, after line 26 [clause 3(1)]—Insert:
peak body means—
(a) the LGA; and
(b) Primary Producers SA Incorporated; and
(c) Conservation Council of South Australia Incorporated;
This is a very simple amendment. It inserts a new definition into the definitions clause, clause 3. That definition is the term 'peak body' which is defined as meaning the Local Government Association, Primary Producers SA Incorporated and the Conservation Council of South Australia Incorporated.
This amendment was drafted at the request of the Local Government Association and supported by the Conservation Council. I understand that whenever an amendment like this is moved the government would point out that, of course, it was always the intention that these bodies be consulted, but I think those of us who have been around the block a few times would note that it does not always work out that way.
Inserting this definition, which has work to do in subsequent amendments, basically ensures that those three peak bodies that have the most interest in natural resources management will, in fact, be consulted at various stages of the process.
The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK: The government opposes this amendment which reinserts what is in the existing legislation. A large part of the vibe, if you like, of the consultations and the intent of this legislation is for delivery of a simpler system and therefore removing prescriptive requirements to consult in certain instances. As the honourable member has identified in moving, it would be not just highly unusual but almost unimaginable that these particular bodies would not be consulted.
I do not think that I necessarily agree with him that the peak bodies have more interest than others. Having been around the block—I might have been in parliament before the honourable member—I am certainly aware through other pieces of legislation, most notably all the health legislation that we dealt with under the previous government when I think the Hon. John Hill was the health minister, a lot of those prescriptive requirements to consult with peak bodies were removed from legislation, so this would be consistent with parliament's approach to that.
Going forward, the new arrangements will focus on delivery and collaborative government in practice where consultation is tailored to the circumstances rather than being prescribed through legislative processes. That is something we have heard in opposition long and hard about the overly prescriptive nature of the existing NRM legislation and, therefore, we are not supportive of this particular approach.
The Hon. K.J. MAHER: I rise to indicate that the opposition will be supporting this amendment. Although it is not in relation to this amendment, I might flag here that, once this amendment is put before the clause is put, we will be asking the minister to give a bit of time for this answer to be given. What are the changes in the definitions from the existing NRM act? In this new bill, what are the changes as to what things are or are not in there from the old act? But I will put that question formally when we get to putting the clause.
The Hon. J.A. DARLEY: I indicate that I will be supporting this amendment.
The Hon. F. PANGALLO: I will be supporting it on behalf of SA-Best.
The Hon. K.J. MAHER: I put that question now on clause 3 on the definition sections. Can the minister advise whether any of the definitions in this clause of the bill differ from the NRM act definitions?
The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK: The advice that I have received is that a number of the existing definitions do remain. There is a change of terminology from natural resources management to landscapes, so those are reflected in changes to definitions. Furthermore, changes to the water resources management—as I indicated in my summing-up speech—were not anticipated to be part of this legislation, so those remain largely unchanged. Plus, there are language supports and new measures in the bill such as the landscape administration fund and priorities. It is a bit difficult on the run to provide a comprehensive list.
The Hon. K.J. MAHER: A specific question: my understanding is there is no definition of pest plant or animal under this clause nor under clause 183 where those issues are addressed. Can the minister outline what is the rationale behind the decision not to define those terms for the purpose of the bill?
The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK: I will start to answer the question to say that the advice is that the definition of 'animal' and the definition of 'plant' remain unchanged from the existing legislation. We are just doing further examination of the matter of pests.
In relation to the matter of pest plants and animals, that is at clause 183 of the Landscape South Australia Bill, and I am advised it is not changed from the definition in the existing legislation.
The Hon. K.J. MAHER: The answer to that question is that pest plants and animals are not defined under the NRM bill so are not defined under the new one; is that the answer?
The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK: That is correct.
The CHAIR: We now come to amendment No. 1 [Pangallo-3], so I give the call to the Hon. Mr Pangallo to move his amendment and then speak to it.
The Hon. F. PANGALLO: I move:
Amendment No 1 [Pangallo–3]—
Page 21, line 15 [clause 3(1), definition of regional landscape levy]—Delete the definition and substitute:
regional landscape levy means a levy declared under Part 5 Division 1 Subdivision 1;
As I have pointed out, this amendment seeks to change the definition. These are all consequential on [Pangallo-6], but we are considering them now so shall we speak to [Pangallo-6], Chair?
The CHAIR: Because this is sort of a test clause, it is appropriate to have the debate in relation to your further amendments now. Rather than just restricting your comments on the definitions as such, I think members would be served by having the debate now.
The Hon. F. PANGALLO: Thank you, Chair. In amendment No. 1 [Pangallo-6], where we are seeking to delete clauses 64 to 68 and substitute, in this these are standard definitions. The landscape board sets out and declares the levy in its annual business plan, and the parameters are what the levy amount can be. It sets that out, and also the boards set it but the minister approves it. CPI is capped and increases as per the government's bill, and there can be higher levies if the minister approves, but in exceptional circumstances. There are also criteria outlining what these exceptional circumstances can be in the event that the levy needs to be increased.
If the board does not set a levy and declare it then the minister may set that amount. Section 66, basis of the levy, deals with how the levy can be collected, and section 67 provides who has liability for the levy, which is a standard practice. If there is more than one ratepayer they are jointly and severally liable. A subsequent ratepayer is liable for the original ratepayer's debt, and this can be recovered by the subsequent ratepayer. In terms of regulation powers with the Governor, the Governor may also make discounts for pensioners in regard to that levy, for example. It also covers that if the subsequent ratepayer or a second ratepayer then also sells the land, the first ratepayer is still liable if the first did not pay the levy.
In section 68, the constituent councils are to provide information. The councils have to provide the Landscape SA boards with the information, the assessment record and any other information as per the regulations. The landscape board will need to serve the levy. The councils will give the landscape board their database with the assessment records. The Landscape SA board is liable to the council to pay a fee for the council providing this information to them. This is done after consultation with the LGA, but the minister sets this fee. Regulations will control the detail of the information to be provided by the council so that, for example, privacy can be maintained.
In 68A—Notice and collection of levy, the Landscape SA board prepares the levy notice and it also lays out what must be in the levy notice: the amount that is payable; the factor on which the levy is based, if it is a differential levy; and the date on or before which the levy must be paid or, if the regional landscape board is prepared to accept payments by instalments, etc., the amount of each instalment and the date on or before which it must be paid.
The landscape board must also give levy notices to the Commissioner of State Taxation. The Commissioner of State Taxation serves the levy notices and collects the taxes. The levy notice may go out with the emergency services levy notices. The Commissioner of State Taxation is responsible for the costs of serving the levy notices and collecting the levy fees, and serving one of two or more owners is still regarded as being served. It can be changed by the Governor or by regulation so that there is some flexibility.
Proposed section 68B—Funds may be expended in subsequent years is standard as per the current NRM Act. Proposed section 68C—Regulations gives the regulating power to the Governor should the need arise. I think that covers it all. Amendment No. 2 [Pangallo-6] is also consequential to that, but that is it.
The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK: The government opposes this amendment. I will speak first to clause 3 and then I will go into more detail, given that we are debating 64 to 68 in cognate. We also oppose related suggested amendments that would see councils no longer being responsible for collecting the land levy inside council areas.
The government's position remains that councils should continue to collect the land levy as this is the most cost-effective model. This position is based on successive reviews, including one initiated in 2003 by a joint state and local government working group to identify the most cost-effective option for collecting the levy. That group concluded that local government was the most cost-effective option for collecting the levy.
I am advised that when the idea of RevenueSA collecting the levy was explored in 2003 a number of alternative options for RevenueSA collecting the levy were considered. The advice of the Department for Environment and Water, based on that review with the model that is proposed by Mr Pangallo, is that it could cost, in set-up costs, over a million dollars, with ongoing costs in the order of several million dollars.
Sending a separate invoice is likely to be more expensive again, as this would involve standalone printing and postage costs rather than it just being printed on somebody's rates notice. The postage costs associated with sending a separate invoice to over 800,000 ratepayers are significant. At $1 per letter, that is almost $1 million on postage alone. If invoices were sent quarterly, as they currently are, this would equate to over $3.2 million per annum in postage, so add all that up and have a good think about it. By way of comparison, in the 2019-20 financial year, around $400,000 will be paid to councils to reimburse them for collection costs.
I note that the Hon. Frank Pangallo stated during his second reading speech on the bill that he wants to see better regional outcomes and more bang for our buck. I also note the honourable member's support for the CPI cap. The additional costs he is proposing through these amendments would need to be met somehow, either by passing this cost onto households or reducing ongoing delivery of activities to manage our natural resources.
I also note the honourable member's objection in principle to councils collecting the levy. This matter was ventilated during numerous community consultation sessions in 2018 when the preferred model of levy collection proposed by government was that being under current local government processes. The facilitator of the reform engagement sessions held throughout the state in 2018 considered it was not an issue of real concern for community participants; rather, it was considered part of what is working well.
The bill provides for council cost recovery arrangements to be provided by regulations that are to be subject to consultation with the LGA. This provides an opportunity to review the existing cost recovery arrangements that have applied under the NRM Act to see if they remain appropriate or if the councils are being left out of pocket, and to address this through new cost recovery arrangements. I suggest that this is the best course of action to address the concerns that have been raised.
If I can pursue some of the matters that are consequential amendments. The bill currently provides for the landscape levy to appear as a separate line on council rate notices. Councils will be liable to pay a contribution to the relevant board, set out in the board's business plan. Councils will then be able to set a rate under existing local government rating arrangements to reimburse themselves for the amount that they are liable to pay the regional landscape board. This model is a simplification of the existing model that is applied under the NRM Act and its predecessors since land levies were introduced in 1995 by the Catchment Water Management Act.
The substitute clauses proposed would replace this model with new arrangements that introduce double handling at each stage of the levy collection process. Instead of councils charging the levy based on their data and invoicing ratepayers through council rate notices, regional landscape boards would be responsible for preparing an invoice for each rateable property in their region.
To generate the invoice, boards would first need to obtain the assessment record held by each council in their region and pay each council a fee for accessing that record, which I know from experience is quite high. Boards would then need to pass this invoice on to the Commissioner of State Taxation, who would then be responsible, in practice through RevenueSA, for serving the notices on people who are liable to pay the levy.
This would not then be a simple matter of RevenueSA putting two invoices into the one envelope: not everyone who is liable to pay the emergency services levy is liable to pay the land levy. This is because the land levy is only charged on land that is considered rateable under the Local Government Act, whereas the emergency services levy is charged against all land in the state.
Under current administrative frameworks, land levy invoices would need to be sent separately or an information technology solution found to enable matching of those properties that attract both the ESL and the land levy. Both scenarios would represent additional administrative costs and processes. It is apparent that a cost-effective model of collection exists and has been in operation since 1995, well accepted by the community. Imposing a further administrative task upon the community already familiar with paying one account merely adds an unnecessary layer of red tape for no apparent benefit.
I am advised that when the idea of RevenueSA collecting the levy was explored in 2003, the cost of including a separate invoice with the emergency services levy was considered. Paying significant additional costs will significantly reduce the ongoing capacity of regional landscape boards to deliver on ground. The alternative is to recoup these costs through increases to levies, undermining the commitment to a CPI cap. Sending a separate invoice is likely to be more expensive again, as this would involve standalone printing and postage costs.
The substitute clauses proposed provide for the commissioner to recover the levy on behalf of the regional landscape boards. If the levy debt is unpaid, the minister responsible for administering the act would be able to sell the property. This, again, introduces duplication. Councils are currently responsible for recovering unpaid levies. In practice, this debt recovery occurs as part of the process for recovering unpaid council rates.
Forced sale of property to recover unpaid council rates, while relatively rare in practice, can be used to recover unpaid council rates and unpaid levies at the same time. Forced sale of property to recover levies as a standalone measure would be unlikely in practice, given the relatively small monetary amounts involved. Given that levy collection by councils still remains the most viable option, I suggest that the way forward on this issue is to continue to work with councils to address their concerns around ensuring they are being reimbursed for the true cost of collecting the levy.
If the amendments were to be adopted, transitional arrangements to manage these changes would need to be provided for in the bill. I would also like to pose a question to the honourable member while I am on my feet and invite anybody who is supporting these amendments to advise who they think should pay: whether they think it should be the households themselves or whether the money should come from environmental programs.
The Hon. F. PANGALLO: Just to respond to that, this is another example of state government wanting to cost shift onto local government and create an extra burden on local government to collect what is essentially a state government levy. The money is all going back to the state government, so why should local government be responsible for that? The view we have is that if the state is going to benefit from this levy, they should be paying for it.
I note the minister pointed out the cost to the government could be around $2 million. If the councils are getting only $400,000 as a result of that, they are going to be left quite short. With all that, I just think the government needs to take responsibility for it rather than cost shift again. The suggestion of a review really gives them no comfort.
The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK: Could I just respond to those? All of those suggestions I completely reject. In relation to cost shifting, it is a levy which is collected on behalf of the state government and councils can cost recover the costs that are incurred by them in collecting it. The money goes to natural resources management boards for their activities. Who benefits from it? It is not the state government. It is the environment. It is the community. So I just make those points.
I would once again invite the honourable member—if I can tally up some of the costs that are known: we have $1 million in set-up costs; $3.2 million in postage, if it is to be done quarterly; and upwards of $2 million, potentially a lot more, in terms of the ongoing costs. Where do the honourable member and any of the parties who are supporting this proposal suggest that money should come from? Should that be levied to ratepayers to cover the costs of this collection scheme, or should it be money that is not paid to NRM boards for environmental programs?
The Hon. F. PANGALLO: Again I will suggest that that is something that the government—
The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK: Oh, that's nice.
The Hon. F. PANGALLO: Well, precisely. I mean, you are about to introduce a land tax into the state, so how are you going to collect that? That is going to cost upwards of $8 million. Who pays for that? No. As I pointed out, this is a levy that the government is going to benefit from in terms of collecting it all; local government does not. They will be left with the debt from trying to collect it. Particularly after the 40 per cent hike with the waste levy that has been inflicted upon them, they should not have to be burdened with additional costs in collecting that levy.
The Hon. M.C. PARNELL: The simplest answer to the question the minister posed is that the punters always pay. Whether they pay through this levy or that levy, the punters always pay, and if the government is so anxious that not enough money is being spent on the environment, here is a hint: there is a thing called the state budget; it comes out every year. If you think we are not spending enough on biodiversity, on pest plants and animals, then you spend more money. The punters will ultimately pay, the citizens of South Australia.
Ultimately, the government's argument seems to be that because local councils are so efficient at collecting money from their ratepayers, and because RevenueSA and the Commissioner of State Taxation are so hopeless at it, we have to put it back onto councils to do this job. Their argument that councils are the most effective appears, from what the minister has said, to be based on a 16-year-old review, probably conducted on a Commodore 64 computer. It predates so many innovations in relation to public administration and taxation in particular.
The idea suggested is that you calculate the costs on a snail mail letter sent every quarter, yet I reckon every single bill I have got in the last year has exhorted me to go paperless, and many people are doing that. You do not base your system on old-fashioned technology.
The other thing the minister has said is that because the emergency services levy database, which, if you tapped into it would save you a fair bit of postage, is not 100 per cent overlapped with the liability for the landscape levy database, that is therefore a complete disaster. I tell you what: it is about a 95 to 99 per cent overlap. They are the same. The ability of computers to work out the difference quite quickly has advanced a fair bit since the year 2003.
Ultimately, what has convinced me to support these sets of amendments has been the representations of the Local Government Association. They point out that because the existing levy and proposed future levy is included with council rates, many community members mistake the NRM levy for an increase in council revenue and then they contact their local council to complain about the cost of the levy.
The Local Government Association also points out that local government revenue data, included in the Australian Bureau of Statistics' figures, includes this state government tax and as a result there is inaccurate reporting of changes to council rates and revenue from year to year. So if the Australian Bureau of Statistics does not quite understand whose tax it is, what chance does an ordinary member of the public have? The Local Government Association points out that they have undertaken significant consultation with their member councils and the result has been that councils agree that it is untenable for them to continue to act as levy collection agents for the state government.
The Local Government Association has made this point many times but it has not been heeded. They do point out, of course, that within the existing bill is the mechanism for the state government to directly collect the levy and that is because not everyone lives in a council area. So there is already a mechanism for directly collecting the levy from people who live outside the area, and there is no reason why that same arrangement cannot be applied across the state.
Whilst the state government wishes to hide its own levy within a local government regime and relies on the fact that local government has been quite efficient in collecting council rates, I think that the honest and fair thing to do is for the state government to effectively collect its own taxes. I do not accept the figures that the minister has provided, based on a 2003 review in relation to the cost of the state government collecting its own taxes, are valid.
I point out that, ultimately, RevenueSA is going to have to get its act together if the state government and other parties finally come to the position that the Property Council has come to, and ACOSS and SACOSS have come to, that is, that we need a broad-based land tax as an alternative to inefficient transactional taxes such as stamp duty. I know that is an entirely different issue, but what I am saying is that RevenueSA is eventually going to have to get its house in order and it is not hard, there are things called computers that will do most of the work. For the reasons propounded by the Local Government Association, the Greens will be supporting the Hon. Frank Pangallo's amendments.
The Hon. J.A. DARLEY: I rise to indicate my position on the raft of amendments that have been moved on this matter. There have been a number of amendments moved by the opposition, SA-Best and the Greens to address the issue of councils collecting the landscape levy. The Local Government Association have lobbied me, and I imagine they have lobbied other parties as well, to have this provision removed or altered.
I understand their position is that because this is a state government tax then it should be the state government that should collect it rather than farming off the responsibility to local government. I would agree with this if the state government had a mechanism to collect the levy; however, in my opinion and experience, local government are by far the most efficient and cost-effective mechanism to collect these levies.
Amendments have been filed that suggest that RevenueSA should be charged with the task of collecting the levies. I was involved in the development and implementation of RevenueSA's revenue collection system and I know how complex it is. The system is simply not designed to be able to collect the levies due to a number of reasons. RevenueSA's system works on the basis of issuing accounts based on ownerships. This means that if you own five properties then you will receive one account with all properties on it.
I see this being problematic because at the moment there is only one multiple that needs to apply to calculate the emergency services levy; however, the multiplier to determine the landscape levy may differ from region to region. The system is not set up to cope with this and I expect it will be costly and time consuming to change the system to be able to manage this.
The Commissioner of State Taxation, as the head of RevenueSA, would be charged with the responsibility to change the system or collect the levy if the Hon. Frank Pangallo's amendments are successful, and I wonder if the Hon. Frank Pangallo, or any others, have consulted with her to find out what tasking her with this responsibility would mean and whether it is possible.
I want to put on the record that I am wholeheartedly in support of the Local Government Association's position that they should not be lumped with a debt if ratepayers refuse to pay their levies. I understand that the boards will ask councils to collect a certain amount of money, say $3 million. Councils have to give the boards $3 million regardless of whether they collect this money from ratepayers or not. This results in councils being out of pocket if not all ratepayers pay their levy, and they are faced with the choice of either writing the debt off or chasing the ratepayer for payment.
The Local Government Association did provide me with details of how much it costs councils to chase these debts. I do not recall at the moment what it is, but I remember thinking at the time that it was an extraordinary amount each year and most likely was more than what they were seeking to recover. In any case, I do not believe that councils should be out of pocket because of the landscape levy, and I believe this is the position of the minister and the government too.
Because of the above, I am supportive of the Hon. Frank Pangallo's set 1 amendments. However, I understand he will not be moving these. If he does not, then I will not be supporting any of these alternatives and would look to the government to address this issue between the houses.
The Hon. K.J. MAHER: Very briefly, I indicate that we will be supporting this amendment, which is consequential on ones that are to come, so this is an indication that we will be supporting this raft of amendments.
The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK: I have long heard the complaints from the Local Government Association in relation to this matter. I think their position is largely political, that the matter is on the rates notice. I think they ought to examine the costs to the alternative arrangements that are before us today.
The Hon. Mr Parnell, in relation to his comments, talked about people going paperless. SA Water has been undertaking a process to try to encourage its customers to go paperless. There is not a lot of uptake for that. I think local government is also doing that. I would be interested to know what their take-up is, but I suspect it is not very high.
What we are talking about here are two different sets of data, new IT systems, new staff. In response to my question put to the mover of this about who should pay for the costs, I think he just indicated that it is not his problem, which I do not think is a particularly useful position to have. If you are going to suggest an entire new system that is going to cost millions of dollars, there ought to be some idea about who ought to pay.
The Greens, in effect, have belled the cat by saying that the punter always pays. Perhaps they are indicating that if they are supportive of this system that is going to cost millions of dollars more they therefore also support that householders' rates notices will be going up significantly and they accept that position in favour of this particular matter. The Leader of the Opposition has not indicated at all who he thinks should pay. I think that is a disappointing position. I have outlined how complicated and expensive this process will be, and I would urge honourable members to reflect on that as they cast their vote.
The committee divided on the amendment:
|Bourke, E.S.||Franks, T.A.||Hanson, J.E.|
|Hunter, I.K.||Maher, K.J.||Ngo, T.T.|
|Pangallo, F. (teller)||Parnell, M.C.||Pnevmatikos, I.|
|Scriven, C.M.||Wortley, R.P.|
|Darley, J.A.||Dawkins, J.S.L.||Hood, D.G.E.|
|Lensink, J.M.A. (teller)||Lucas, R.I.||Ridgway, D.W.|
|Stephens, T.J.||Wade, S.G.|
|Bonaros, C.||Lee, J.S.|
Amendment thus carried; clause as amended passed.
Clauses 4 to 6 passed.
The Hon. K.J. MAHER: I move:
Amendment No 1 [Maher–1]—
Page 27, lines 31 to 33 [clause 7(1)]—
Delete 'the ecologically sustainable development of the natural resources that make up or contribute to our State's landscape' and substitute:
ecologically sustainable development by establishing an integrated scheme to promote the use and management of the natural resources that make up or contribute to our State's landscape
At the outset, I would like to acknowledge that many of these amendments were moved in some form by the shadow minister for environment and water in the other place, Dr Susan Close, the member for Port Adelaide. During the committee debate in the other place the Minister for Environment and Water put on record his willingness to consider some of these amendments and adopt some of them in some form, and I would like to thank the minister for his cooperation in that way.
Turning back to this specific amendment, natural resources management has always been a process of integrating many different approaches and balancing many different needs. We believe that it is important that this be reflected in the objects of the bill. The bill should promote an integrated approach dealing with the many challenges facing the state's landscape and natural resources. This amendment also seeks to clarify language to emphasise that not all natural resources need to be developed, even in an ecologically sustainable way. To remedy this, this amendment borrows some of the wording from the equivalent provision that is in the NRM Act.
The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK: The government supports this amendment which is consistent with the overall aims of the bill to provide an integrated framework for managing the natural resources that make our state's landscapes.
The Hon. F. PANGALLO: We will be supporting it.
The Hon. M.C. PARNELL: If we are going to go through a roll call, the Greens will be supporting this. We note that it is also something that conservation groups have recommended and we are pleased that the government has seen fit to support it as well.
The Hon. K.J. MAHER: I move:
Amendment No 2 [Maher–1]—
Page 28, lines 1 to 3 [clause 7(1)(c)]—Delete paragraph (c) and substitute:
(c) provides for the protection, enhancement, restoration and sustainable management of—
(i) land, soil and water resources; and
(ii) native fauna and flora,
especially so that they are resilient in the face of change; and
In the opposition's view, the clause as it currently stands does not adequately address many of the current issues facing natural resources management in this state; particularly issues relating to native flora and fauna are omitted from the current clause. Many of the opposition's amendments seek to restore an ecosystem-wide approach to the bill, and to address the issues facing our state's environment. This amendment forms a key part of that process by amending the objects of the bill to make sure that that ecosystem-wide approach is there.
The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK: The government opposes this amendment. This amendment would expand the object of the bill to include providing for the protection, enhancement, restoration and sustainable management of native fauna and flora. I want to be clear that biodiversity outcomes remain a very important objective of this legislation. However, the amendment greatly expands the role of the legislation and, by extension, that of regional boards relative to the current provisions of the NRM Act.
While boards can and should play a role in delivering biodiversity outcomes, biodiversity outcomes are also delivered through other legislation, namely the Native Vegetation Act and the National Parks and Wildlife Act. The very concept of integrated landscape management is about managing our landscapes to deliver on multiple outcomes, including the natural values.
The United Nations-backed report on biodiversity and ecosystem services released earlier this year identified integrated landscape management as being one of the policy tools required to address the current decline in nature. The report identifies integrated landscape management as being a way to simultaneously provide food security, livelihood opportunities, maintenance of species and ecological functions. The concept of integrated landscape management reflected in this bill emphasises that recommended approach.
Boards will continue to be able to undertake nature-focused programs and will have a continued role in delivering commonwealth-funded programs. Over $30 million in commonwealth-funded biodiversity programs are being delivered through boards over five years to 2022-23. The bill does not limit the ability of boards to continue this work or to seek further funding in the future. The new grassroots grants program and the landscape priorities fund will also support biodiversity outcomes through investment and partnerships.
The Hon. M.C. PARNELL: The Greens will be supporting this amendment. I note the minister's observations in relation to what we really mean by integrated landscape management, but it strikes me that opposing a clause like this—and I will just say that I have some similar amendments that I will move later on—is more reflective of a silo approach to the way we manage our environment. It is a silo approach; in other words, 'Let's not put it in here because there are other bits of legislation that might deal with it.'
If we are serious about integrated management, then biodiversity has to be in everything. This planet is facing an extinction crisis. We are in a climate emergency. The idea that, 'Let's not talk about biodiversity too much in this bill because people might take it more seriously and might think they need to do something about it,' I find quite remarkable.
The silo approach, you would like to think, is disappearing from our policy regime and our statute book but, in fact, just to give an example, there is a parliamentary committee tomorrow morning that will be considering the issue of when we zone the outback—the vast bulk of South Australia—should national parks be included in a conservation zone? Currently, they are not. They created a conservation zone and left out all the national parks. I mean, really?
This silo approach has not served us well. It has resulted in more species being added to the endangered species list. It has resulted in declining environmental indicators, as shown in the government's own State of the Environment report. So the Greens are pleased to be supporting the inclusion of this and a number of other measures into the bill to make sure that issues such as biodiversity and climate change are at the heart of all decisions that relate to the management of natural resources.
The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK: I will just say in response that promoting healthy and resilient biological diversity and ecosystems is already an object of the bill. We have at clause 7(1)(d):
promotes healthy native fauna and flora, biological diversity and ecosystems that are resilient in the face of change;
Honourable members may be seeking to add definitions so that they can go back to their constituent organisations and say that they added things, but we do not believe that it is necessary to keep adding, particularly given that we want to see an integrated approach to this, not the silo approach described by the previous speaker.
The Hon. F. PANGALLO: We will be supporting the amendment of the honourable Leader of the Opposition.
The Hon. J.A. DARLEY: I indicate that I will be supporting this amendment, also.
The Hon. K.J. MAHER: I move:
Amendment No 3 [Maher–1]—
Page 28, lines 4 and 5 [clause 7(1)(d)]—Delete paragraph (d) and substitute:
(d) promotes, protects and conserves biodiversity, and insofar as is reasonably practicable, supports and encourages the restoration or rehabilitation of ecological systems and processes that have been lost or degraded, and promotes the health of ecosystems so that they are resilient in the face of change; and
This amendment is again on clause 7. It deletes paragraph (d) and substitutes a fresh paragraph that goes to a lot that I spoke of before. This amendment seeks to ensure that the promotion, protection and conservation of biodiversity is central to this legislation. As honourable members would be aware, there are further amendments to be moved by the opposition to ensure that biodiversity is put back at the heart of this regime.
As the Hon. Mark Parnell just spoke about, it is almost inconceivable that, in an act that seeks to protect the environment, this is not at its heart and that the government deliberately does not want this to be at its heart. It is almost inconceivable that they do not want this to be at the heart of the regime.
While the government has contended in the other place that the bill already sufficiently addresses issues of biodiversity, it is clear that the government does not believe that by their strident opposition to these amendments. This, quite frankly, is not the view that was taken by many stakeholders during consultation undertaken on this bill. They did not buy it either that the government actually thinks that biodiversity is sufficiently addressed in this bill. As a result, this is one of the many amendments to restore references to biodiversity in this bill to strengthen the language and to ensure this issue is given the priority that it needs. Similarly, this issue addresses the overall health of ecosystems and the need to take a wide view when assessing the health of the environment.
The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK: The government opposes this amendment, and I oppose the assertions made by the mover of this particular amendment. These matters are already addressed by the bill. Perhaps the Labor Party has not actually been through the legislation to examine where they are touched on.
I read from the objects clause in relation to my last contribution, where promoting healthy and resilient biological diversity in ecosystems is an object of the bill. Safeguarding ecological systems and processes is fundamental to the concept of ecologically sustainable development, and this reflects an integrated landscape management that focuses on health and resilience to support a range of outcomes. Sometimes this will involve restoring or rehabilitating systems as well as supporting adaptation, which are all important management practices going forward.
In addition, the bill addresses the top driver for biodiversity decline, being the enormous changes in land use through agricultural practices. It does this by ensuring that regional landscape boards are engaged in integrated landscape management planning when dealing with land now in productive use, which the United Nations-backed report identifies as a way to a simultaneously provide food security, livelihood opportunities, maintenance of species and ecological functions.
Critically, integrated planning will form part of the new landscape boards' functions. This bill also supports many of the recommended policy tools, going forward, by the United Nations. Promoting good agricultural and sustainable agricultural practices will form part of the new landscape board functions. Effective water resources management and promoting good land management practices will, again, be priorities for the new boards. Reducing land degradation through improved practices remains as a key measure in the bill.
This summary report identifies a healthy urban environment for low-income communities and improved access to green spaces and ecological connectivity within urban spaces. This is, effectively, part of the vision of Green Adelaide, and is reflected in a number of Green Adelaide's priorities.
The summary report further identifies the importance of including different value systems and diverse interests and world views in formulating policies and actions, including the participation of Indigenous people. Unlike the NRM act, the value of Aboriginal traditional knowledge is embedded in the principles of ecologically sustainable development that underpins the bill.
The emphasis that the summary report highlights as necessary, going forward, is for, 'a wide range of illustrative actions for sustainability and pathways for achieving them,' critically, to adopt an integrated management and cross-sectoral approach. This necessarily involves a wide range of legislation.
Addressing widespread habitat loss through changes in land and sea use being the number one threat to nature is identified as a much broader issue that transcends private land management practices under the Landscape SA Bill, although it plays a critical part. Habitat loss is regulated through a large number of legislative frameworks, those relating to local government and planning laws, linear park legislation, native vegetation, national parks, animal management, fisheries management and marine parks frameworks, with the bill largely preserving existing statutory relationships. Further, point source and ambient pollution control is regulated under a series of other legislative frameworks including environment protection laws.
The committee divided on the amendment:
|Bourke, E.S.||Darley, J.A.||Franks, T.A.|
|Hanson, J.E.||Hunter, I.K.||Maher, K.J. (teller)|
|Ngo, T.T.||Pangallo, F.||Parnell, M.C.|
|Pnevmatikos, I.||Scriven, C.M.||Wortley, R.P.|
|Dawkins, J.S.L.||Hood, D.G.E.||Lee, J.S.|
|Lensink, J.M.A. (teller)||Lucas, R.I.||Stephens, T.J.|
|Bonaros, C.||Ridgway, D.W.|
Amendment thus carried.
The Hon. K.J. MAHER: I move:
Amendment No 4 [Maher–1]—
Page 28, line 6 [clause 7(1)(e)]—After 'environment' insert:
(including a recognition of the need for mitigation and adaptation)
While the opposition is supportive of efforts to ensure this bill places greater emphasis on tackling climate change than the 15-year-old legislation it seeks to replace, we do not, as an opposition, believe it goes far enough. This particular amendment seeks to ensure that the key actions the landscape boards will need to undertake, works that mitigate climate change and ensure our state's natural resources are adapting to a changing climate, are enshrined in the objects of this legislation. Again, this is one of a number of amendments the opposition will be moving to the bill to ensure that this issue is given sufficient prominence and attention in the legislation.
Climate change poses an enormous threat to our state's environment and natural resources. In determining the framework for managing our natural resources in years to come it is incumbent on us to ensure that that threat is adequately addressed.
The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK: The government supports the proposed amendment. This amendment builds on the current object of the bill, recognising the significance of climate change so as to reflect the need for mitigation and adaptation.
The Hon. M.C. PARNELL: The Greens also support the amendment. I want to remind members of a study that was done sometime ago by the CSIRO and the Goyder Institute, which basically suggested that, unless we address climate change, Goyder's line of reliable rainfall will be marching south and could reach as far south as Clare. So that is a very sobering thought, when we look at one of the areas that is one of our premier wine growing areas, to think that will be at the margin of reliable rainfall and that agricultural properties north of that line would effectively be regarded as marginal country. I think we do need to make sure that this legislation fully reflects the challenges posed by climate change.
The Hon. F. PANGALLO: We will be supporting the amendment. I reflect on the Hon. Mark Parnell's comments: I was talking to a wine grower from Clare the other day and he was telling me how precarious the situation is already. It is quite important that we are readying ourselves for climate change, particularly in our regional areas. With that, we will support the amendment.
The Hon. J.A. DARLEY: I will be supporting this amendment.
The Hon. K.J. MAHER: I move:
Amendment No 5 [Maher–1]—
Page 28, after line 41 [clause 7(3)]—Insert:
(ca) environmental factors should be taken into account when valuing or assessing assets or services;
This amendment amends the objects of the act and specifically inserts a new principle. As I said, this will be taken into account with achieving ecological sustainability development for the purposes of the bill. In advancing the environmental objectives of the bill and of the opposition's amendment, this amendment seeks to ensure environmental factors are being considered in valuing or assessing assets or services. It is the opposition's view that these factors should be considered in addition to other considerations, such as, for example, productive value of land.
The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK: The government supports the proposed amendment, noting that the bill provides for a simplified set of principles of ecologically sustainable development informed by community feedback. The amendment makes it clear that environmental factors should be considered in valuing or assessing assets or services.
The Hon. M.C. PARNELL: The Greens support the amendment.
The Hon. F. PANGALLO: We will be supporting it.
The Hon. K.J. MAHER: I move:
Amendment No 6 [Maher–1]—
Page 29, after line 4 [clause 7(3)]—Insert:
(da) consideration should be given to the conservation of biological diversity and ecological integrity;
Again, this amendment seeks to restore references to biodiversity and ecological integrity to the bill; in particular, a similar provision appears in the same section of the NRM Act. In opposing this amendment in the other place, the minister stated his belief that the legislation should be accessible and workable and that he felt the issues were already addressed elsewhere in the legislation.
The opposition's clear view is that if the legislation needs to be one line longer to adequately ensure these important outcomes are considered throughout the process of managing our landscapes, that is a fair trade off. We do not believe the bill as it stands adequately addresses the declining biodiversity in this state. To achieve those issues needs to be central to this legislation.
The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK: This is a very similar argument to the one that we prosecuted several clauses previously. The government opposes this amendment. Promoting healthy native fauna and flora, biological diversity and ecosystems is an object of the bill, as is the need to recognise and protect the intrinsic values of landscapes. The bill requires that the minister and boards consider and promote these objects in making their decisions.
The Hon. M.C. PARNELL: The Greens support the amendment.
The Hon. F. PANGALLO: We are supporting it.
The Hon. J.A. DARLEY: I will be supporting it.
Amendment carried; clause as amended passed.
The CHAIR: We now come to clause 8, and the first amendment we have is amendment No. 2 [Parnell-1].
The Hon. M.C. PARNELL: If the committee agrees, I could move amendments Nos 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6. Just as we have been debating in relation to the previous clause, the objects and principles clause, the next clause, clause 8, is in relation to the actual obligations of people when making decisions that are covered by the act. The heading is 'General statutory duties' and clause 8, over two pages, lists the expectations that the parliament has of people when making decisions. So just as we did when including biodiversity into the objects of the act, my amendments seek to include a requirement to take biodiversity into account when people are actually making decisions that are covered by the act.
Really, I think that, whilst they are not consequential to the earlier debate, they cover the same ground. In other words, the question before us is: to what extent should biodiversity be an integral part of decision-making under the act? The Greens believe that this act is improved by including references in a number of places in clause 8, starting with my amendment No. 2 and including amendments Nos 3, 4, 5 and 6. I move the amendments—if I can move them all standing in my name, that would be even easier.
The CHAIR: You move them all standing in your name, fine.
The Hon. M.C. PARNELL: I move:
Amendment No 2 [Parnell–1]—
Page 29, line 27 [clause 8(2)(a)]—After 'resources,' insert:
including the protection of biodiversity,
Amendment No 3 [Parnell–1]—
Page 29, line 30 [clause 8(2)(b)]—After 'including' insert:
in relation to the state of matters regarding biodiversity and
Amendment No 4 [Parnell–1]—
Page 29, line 36 [clause 8(2)(e)]—After 'resources' insert:
including in relation to the environment and its biodiversity
Amendment No 5 [Parnell–1]—
Page 29, line 38 [clause 8(2)(f)]—After 'environment' insert:
and its biodiversity
Amendment No 6 [Parnell–1]—
Page 29, line 40 [clause 8(2)(g)]—After 'resources' insert:
including the environment and its biodiversity
The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK: The government opposes this amendment. The definition of 'natural resources' actually includes native organisms and ecosystems and therefore encompasses biodiversity. The bill's objects expressly recognise biodiversity, meaning this will underpin all decision-making.
While boards will be able to play a role in delivering biodiversity outcomes through their activities and investments, as is the case currently, biodiversity outcomes are also delivered through regulatory arrangements under other legislation, as I have mentioned previously. The bill operates alongside these other pieces of legislation and will not change the important role that they play. As part of the government's ongoing considerations for reform, the exploration of improved interactions with other state legislation that intersects with landscape management will occur.
The Hon. F. PANGALLO: We will be supporting the amendment.
The Hon. J.A. DARLEY: I will be supporting the amendment.
The CHAIR: Leader of the Opposition, just your position on these amendments would be great.
The Hon. K.J. MAHER: I rise to indicate, just to give some clarity, that we will be supporting the Parnell amendment and the rest of the amendments that go to the same thing; I think there are another four on clause 8, if I am counting correctly. So we will be supporting this one and, for the sake of efficiency, the rest of them.
The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK: I can advise that the government opposes them all.
The CHAIR: On sound advice, I am going to put amendment No. 2 [Parnell-1] first, just in case someone feels the need to call 'division', and we can use that as a test.
The CHAIR: Given that it was not the mood of the council to divide, I intend, unless any honourable member objects, to put amendments Nos 3, 4 ,5 and 6 [Parnell-1] in the same question.
The CHAIR: I understand that is all the amendments for clause 8. Does any honourable member have a further contribution?
The Hon. K.J. MAHER: I have a quick question for the government on clause 8 as it was drafted in the bill. I wonder if the minister could briefly outline why the changes were made to this clause compared with the previous NRM Act and the reasons that these changes were made? What is the rationale behind it?
The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK: I thank the honourable member for the question. This clause requires a person to act reasonably in relation to natural resources management. It is a general duty which applies to all. It is acknowledged that, in line with other statutory duties, the means for ensuring compliance with the duty are found elsewhere in the bill. The clause sets out the factors to be taken into account in determining what is reasonable. These factors now include a requirement to take local circumstances into account.
The clause provides that a person acting consistently with the bill, a plan or policy under the bill or the regulations, will be taken not to be in breach of the duty. A person who can demonstrate they followed best practice methods, standards or guidelines will also not be in breach. Going forward, local circumstances will be relevant to determining what constitutes best practice for land management.
Taking local circumstances into account reflects the value of landholders' understanding of the landscape. For example, there are times when practices that would normally be considered as not being a best practice actually need to be used to save the soil from erosion. An example of this is after the Pinery fires where tillage was used in places to stabilise drifting soils where all of the stubble had been burnt and there was nothing holding the soil together. In these areas, accepted best practice is usually no-till farming and has been for many decades.
Clause as amended passed.
The Hon. K.J. MAHER: On clause 9, I note there is no explicit reference to climate change in this section, meaning the bill does not take the opportunity to require action of the minister to consider climate change. I am wondering what was the rationale behind the government's decision to omit a climate change reference in this clause?
The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK: If I could point the honourable member to clause 7 of the bill, which we have now passed, at subclause (4):
The Minister, the Court and all other persons or bodies involved in the administration of this Act, or performing, exercising or discharging a function, power or duty under this Act, must have regard to, and seek to further, the objects of this Act.
The objects of the act are outlined in subclause (1), which includes climate change, at paragraph (e).
The Hon. K.J. MAHER: The bill also removes references to the River Murray and the Murray-Darling Basin, which appear in the equivalent provision in the NRM Act—I think that is section 10 of the NRM Act. What was the government's rationale for omitting that in this bill?
The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK: I thank the honourable member for that question. The advice I have received is that references to Murray-Darling Basin arrangements form part of other sections of this legislation before that, specifically in areas such as water resources management, so those relevant sections reference River Murray management issues.
Clause 10 passed.
The Hon. K.J. MAHER: I move:
Amendment No 7 [Maher–1]—
Page 32, line 30 [clause 11(2)(a)]—After 'environment' insert:
and give particular attention to water catchment areas
Under the current NRM Act, the minister is required to give particular attention to water catchment areas. This requirement was removed by the government in drafting this bill and in turn this amendment seeks to restore that requirement. Water management is a particularly significant issue for our state, for reasons members will be well aware of. We lie at the bottom of a river system that we rely on. We are an incredibly dry and drought-prone state, and many South Australians have lived through the impact of severe water shortages.
It is our view that in a decision as fundamental as the establishment of regions within which our natural resources will be governed, water catchment should be a driving consideration. During debate in the House of Assembly, the Minister for Environment and Water said he would like to think that water boards would pay attention to water catchment areas, as the deputy leader's amendment suggests, as part of their good governance. We agree, and in turn we suggest that the minister should be required to have regard to water catchment areas when establishing regional boundaries.
In speaking against this amendment in the lower house, the minister outlined his view that communities of interest trumped water catchments and gave examples of such communities of interest. It is important to note that this amendment does not choose one over the other. It seeks to incorporate both in legislation and points out that in such an environment as South Australia the minister should give particular attention to water catchment areas when making a recommendation to the Governor on regional boundaries.
The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK: Some of what the Leader of the Opposition has said we agree with, and that is the primacy of the importance of water catchment areas. We just disagree on how it should be expressed in legislation. That water catchment areas are an aspect of nature and form part of the natural environment goes without saying. In recommending regional boundaries to the Governor, the minister will still be required to consider the nature and form of the natural environment, alongside other factors.
Feedback during consultation on the reforms indicated support for greater weight being given to community and other factors in setting regional boundaries, reflecting the role of boards in providing a service to communities in their region. For this reason, the government opposes this amendment.
The Hon. M.C. PARNELL: The Greens will be supporting this amendment. In doing so, at the risk of having a competition about who has the longest memories around these things, I am reminded of the Catchment Water Management Act 1995, now ceased. It was basically the predecessor of the Water Resources Act 1997, which was the predecessor of the Natural Resources Management Act.
In some ways, this amendment goes back to where we started; that is, when you are drawing lines on a map to come up with administrative boundaries, the catchment boundary is a pretty good place to start if your objective relates to environmental management. As has been said, there are a range of considerations. This amendment seeks to make sure that particular attention is given to water catchment areas when deciding where these lines on maps should be drawn. In my view, it is a sensible amendment, as it was back in 1995.
The Hon. J.A. DARLEY: I will be supporting this amendment.
The Hon. F. PANGALLO: I will be supporting it.
The Hon. M.C. PARNELL: I move:
Amendment No 7 [Parnell–1]—
Page 33, after line 7 [clause 11]—Insert:
(4a) The Minister must, before a proclamation is made under subsection (3), give each peak body notice of the proposed proclamation under that subsection and give consideration to any submission made by any peak body within a period (being at least 21 days) specified in the notice.
Again, depending on the will of the committee, I would like to think that this is consequential on an earlier amendment. If members cast their minds back to the definitions section, clause 3, we inserted a definition of 'peak bodies'. This is the first substantial reference to peak bodies, basically requiring consultation with peak bodies when regions are established. I will not say any more about it now, if members can accept that it is consequential on the amendment we passed earlier.
The CHAIR: This is not a technical problem, but it has been drawn to my attention that later, in clause 13, amendment No. 8 [Parnell-1] is virtually identical. It competes with the Leader of the Opposition's amendment No. 8 [Maher-1]. I am providing an opportunity if members want to give some clarity around whether the debate on this amendment may indirectly flow into subsequent—
The Hon. K.J. MAHER: On [Maher-1]?
The CHAIR: Yes.
The Hon. K.J. MAHER: Perhaps I can give some clarity here. If it is the case that the committee is minded to support the Parnell amendment, I can indicate that I will not move my amendment No. 8 [Maher-1]. In talking generally to this clause, I can indicate that we think it is important and we are concerned about the extent to which the minister has cut consultation requirements in this bill and attempted to make them less prescriptive.
As a general proposition, we are supportive of the Parnell amendment. Should the committee support the Parnell amendment, it is our intention not to move the Maher amendment. Talking generally to this clause, it might give some clarification if members indicate whether they are supportive of the Parnell amendment, then I can indicate that I will not be moving the Maher amendment.
The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK: The government can indicate that we do not like either of them but regard the Parnell amendment as the least worst.
The Hon. F. PANGALLO: We will be supporting the amendment of the Hon. Mark Parnell.
The Hon. J.A. DARLEY: I will be supporting the Hon. Mark Parnell's amendment.
The CHAIR: Leader of the Opposition, I assume the government is going to vote against this. Can I ask what you are voting on this one because you did not make it entirely clear.
The Hon. K.J. MAHER: The opposition will be voting for the Parnell amendment and, given the support the committee has shown for the Parnell amendment, I will foreshadow that I will not be moving my amendment.
The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK: Mr Chairman, are we still on Parnell 7?
The CHAIR: We are on Parnell amendment No. 7, yes, but I just needed clarity around what the opposition was doing.
The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK: I would have to say that this is one of the worst examples of reintroduction of red tape because the proclamation matter is one that comes fairly late in the piece in terms of the process. There is a whole lot of consultation that takes place prior to this and then the proclamation is made at the end of it. This is an example of one of the many invidious things that has tied NRM up in red tape for years and years, and we would urge people not to support this particular amendment.
Indeed, I point out that one of the peak bodies is the Local Government Association, which must be consulted, and yet it will apply to out of council areas where they do not have jurisdiction. There is consultation in practice that will take place well prior to this process and prescribing these sorts of matters, we believe, is just going to frustrate the regional landscape boards and the entire process.
The Hon. M.C. PARNELL: I am afraid, Mr Chairman, that I cannot let that go through to the wicketkeeper. The logic of the minister's response is, effectively, 'Of course we're going to consult with all these people but if you write it into the act it becomes red tape.' The second thing she said was that there are some areas of South Australia that are not within local councils and the Local Government Association has to be consulted. Well, yes, there are some areas of South Australia that do not have any farms on them and the primary producers are going to be consulted. It does not undermine the importance of having these peak bodies written into the legislation as bodies that must be consulted.
There is real red tape and there is imaginary red tape. It makes no sense at all for the minister to say, 'Of course we are going to go through a comprehensive consultation process and all these people will be engaged, just don't write it into the act.' It makes no sense at all. The only other thing is that this does at least put in a pretty minimal 21-day time frame just as an added level of security. If the government fully intends to properly consult with all of these bodies it has absolutely nothing to fear from putting it in the legislation.
The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK: I must respond, Mr Chairman.
The CHAIR: You can do as you please.
The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK: I would really encourage honourable members in this chamber to go and talk to people who have been engaged in the natural resources management process. We have debated that in this place endlessly. Go and talk to the people on the ground who are involved in the board process, talk to them about all of these processes that have been prescribed in legislation which has meant that there is a specific way to do the things they were going to do that has been prescribed, they have to do it, and it does not allow them flexibility, it does not respect local community wishes and it does not respect the way that people would do things if they were allowed, indeed, respected to go about and do in the best way they see fit.
This chamber seems to think that it knows best, and I find that quite objectionable. I would urge members to reflect on that and also to reflect on the comprehensive consultation that I outlined in response to the Leader of the Opposition's comments about the extensive consultation, the feedback that the government has taken in good faith, which has been effectively ignored by a number of members of this chamber.
The committee divided on the amendment:
|Bourke, E.S.||Darley, J.A.||Franks, T.A.|
|Hanson, J.E.||Hunter, I.K.||Maher, K.J.|
|Ngo, T.T.||Pangallo, F.||Parnell, M.C. (teller)|
|Pnevmatikos, I.||Scriven, C.M.||Wortley, R.P.|
|Dawkins, J.S.L.||Hood, D.G.E.||Lee, J.S.|
|Lensink, J.M.A. (teller)||Lucas, R.I.||Stephens, T.J.|
|Bonaros, C.||Ridgway, D.W.|
Amendment thus carried; clause as amended passed.
Progress reported; committee to sit again.
Sitting suspended from 13:04 to 14:15.