Local Government Planning Days

17 May 2012 questionsarchive

I seek leave to make a brief explanation before directing a question to the Minister for State/Local Government Relations on the subject of a South-East local government planning day.

The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK: Early last month the South-East local government planning day, due to be held on 19 April in the Coonawarra, was scrapped because too many government agencies deemed the date unsuitable. This was despite councils' repeated calls for proper consultation promised under the new and improved Weatherill government. My questions for the minister are:

1. Has a new date been set for the planning day and, if not, why not?

2. Will the planning day, when it happens, provide actual policy and direction for the regions, unlike the one he attended in the Mid North?

3. Is the minister simply avoiding fronting up to these councils ahead of the state budget because the government has run out of money?

The Hon. R.P. WORTLEY (Minister for Industrial Relations, Minister for State/Local Government Relations) (14:37): First of all, I am not responsible for arranging these planning days; I imagine it would be the Minister for Planning or the Local Government Association, but I am not sure. I will make sure that my department looks up who is responsible and try to get that information.

In regard to being frightened of going out there to speak to local government regional associations at planning days, I have actually attended two in the last five or six weeks. I announced only the other day that my department will sponsor the next six strategic planning days, because we find it so important that the various local governments get together with our agencies and formulate a direction for the future. What comes out of these meetings very often is a vision; something which the opposition failed to give them for 10 years in government.

I work very well with local councils. This morning I attended with the Premier to the executive meeting of the LGA. That was attended by very senior leaders from the local governments of South Australia. We signed a memorandum of understanding about future cooperation. There is a great relationship between the South Australian government and the local councils, and that does annoy the opposition.

What I have noticed, as I am going around these councils for these regional meetings, is that there is almost no-one from the opposition. They have basically abandoned their regional councils, and it has been left up to myself as local government minister, which is a task that I relish, because I have a good understanding of how local government works.

It is interesting to see that this chamber used to be the bastion; it used to be where the regions used to have their representation within the opposition. Now when you look at the bench, they all live in the eastern suburbs or the foothills of Adelaide. None of them live in the regions and it is left to our state and myself as minister—

The Hon. R.L. Brokenshire interjecting:

The Hon. R.P. WORTLEY: Help them out; they actually need a bit of help. They must rue the day they denied you preselection for Mawson, because what a valuable contribution you have made in this chamber. This government works well with local government. We are going to be funding the next six strategic planning days because we value the contribution of councils, and the councils value the contribution that the state is making with local government.

The PRESIDENT: The Hon. Ms Lensink has a supplementary.

The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK (14:40): Arising from the answer, given that the minister said that his department will be sponsoring upcoming meetings in the regions, can he name which ones they will be?

The Hon. R.P. WORTLEY (Minister for Industrial Relations, Minister for State/Local Government Relations) (14:41): This is a very serious topic. There are six regions. There will be six strategic plans, and I am not going to cheapen our contribution by answering such silly questions as this.