Address in Reply 2015

24 Feb 2015 newsspeechparliament

This speech is in regards to the disappointment felt by the liberal party in regards to proposed reforms to the CFS which could result in a downgrading in the influence of the volunteer sector in favour of the MFS.

The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK ( 15:51 :00 ): I rise to make some remarks in relation to the Address in Reply, and I start by thanking our new Governor, Mr Hieu Van Le and his lovely wife Lan for the work they do. We are all very proud of this wonderful couple, who were born overseas and have such a great story to tell, and we commend them for their work and they are welcome here any time. That said, as I often say in relation to these speeches, having commended the Governor and wife who are in residence at the time, I turn to the comments within the Governor's speech, most of which I find somewhat lamentable. There are a range of issues I would like to raise.

Some of the opening remarks from the speech related to the bushfires that we saw earlier this year, and I think we are all very pleased with the spirit of South Australians in banding together to offer assistance to local residents and the community spirit that was demonstrated. There were a whole range of areas (I will not talk about them all), but being a Hills resident myself (nowhere near the fire) I noted the number of posts on social media from people offering to transport horses. I received a number of calls from people who were concerned for my safety, which I appreciated, although I was never in any danger, being south of the freeway.

I thank the CFS in particular for the wonderful work they do, bearing in mind the volunteer hours that go into their training. We have a shop in our town in Bridgewater that is constantly processing material that people have donated, and it is put out several days a week for people to purchase. There are a whole range of areas in which the CFS volunteer hours are so incredible, and they are at their best in a crisis. They handled the fires magnificently, and we are all grateful to them. I also commend the CFS chief, Mr Greg Nettleton, who really came to the fore and did a great job.

In light of that, it has been disappointing that we have seen the proposed reforms (that word should always be used in inverted commas) to CFS, which we all feel, particularly on this side of the chamber, a number of our members being members of the CFS, will downgrade the influence of the volunteer sector in favour of the MFS. We are glad that there has been an announcement today that the reform process will be slowed, but we are all still very suspicious that it is the ultimate agenda of the government to downgrade the CFS in this state at a time when we are all so aware of the job they have done.

The speech talks about protecting the environment and then turns to the nuclear industry, and I would say that the Liberal Party welcomes debate on this issue. I think things have changed a lot since people in my generation were at high school and feared a nuclear oblivion through the third world war, when the Iron Curtain was still up, and so on. Indeed, it is Liberal policy that we have a discussion on this issue, so that we can put all the facts and figures on the table and recognise that there have been changes to that particular technology over time.

Of course, the issue of this being handled by a royal commission is quite extraordinary and I think has more to do with the internal dynamics of the Labor left needing to be dragged kicking and screaming into some recognition that there might be some future for an expanded nuclear industry in South Australia. The royal commission is quite an extraordinary level to take it to.

We have inquiries in parliament all the time. We have an inquiry into unconventional gas taking place at the moment, so the issue of nuclear having to be elevated to that level, I think, really does speak to the internal problems that the Labor Party has with managing this issue in a sensible manner. And so, in effect, some of the opponents of it may well be muzzled. That is something that may take place and pretty clearly that is some of the pressure that will be brought to bear.

We also had reference to Green Industries SA, which is to be the new incarnation of Zero Waste SA, an organisation that—I will give credit where credit is due—was started by this government. I think the minister at the time might have been John Hill. It has worked collaboratively with government and industry to reduce waste significantly in South Australia. In referring to Zero Waste, I would like to commend the work of its CEO, Mr Vaughan Levitzke, who was also recognised in the Australia Day honours.

Zero Waste is a globally-recognised brand and there is a lot of concern within the sector that that will be lost in this new incarnation that the government is proposing. There is not a great deal of detail at this stage about how that will operate, so that is one issue that deserves further examination when we consider future amendments to that piece of legislation. I think we need to look at this very closely to make sure that we are not throwing out something that has played a very effective role in this state.

The speech had a fair bit of hyperbole in places, including the reference to a carbon-neutral Adelaide green zone. Indeed, it is not going to be the first carbon-neutral city. In 2008, Sydney claimed that mantle and, in 2012, the City of Yarra also claimed that mantle. We are going to have this green zone, and one wonders what that means. Labor is very good at empty symbolism. I suspect it will be another version of that. We had the carbon-neutral cabinet. Former premier Rann wrote to us all to declare that we were going to have a carbon-neutral cabinet. I think this will be one of those. Labor is also very good at running out with initiatives to get a headline and then dropping them when they hope that nobody is looking, so that is one that we will look at with interest.

I note the proposal that, within a decade—which is beyond the term of the current government—electric and hybrid vehicles will be the preferred form of transport within the Adelaide central business district. This again is empty Labor symbolism. Talk to people who do business within the Adelaide CBD about the difficulty that anyone in a vehicle has getting around the city these days thanks to all the things that the Labor Party—and the former Adelaide City Council as well, I might add—has done to restrict things.

There are some people who think that Adelaide can be turned into a walkable city, and we get comparisons with European cities. London has a congestion tax. I wonder whether that has been mooted. But what is forgotten in these sorts of debates is that countries like Australia have big distances, and Adelaide does not have a really comprehensive public transport system, so to try to make those comparisons with a city where somebody can get on an underground railway and get anywhere they want to within 20 minutes is just not realistic. We also had the driverless vehicles, which were claimed to revolutionise transportation in South Australia. I am not quite sure how the government is going to be responsible for that, but there we have it: more empty symbolism. One statement that I agree with is:

Many South Australians lack confidence in the planning process given its significant vested interests.

To that I say, 'Yes, we agree.' We hear from them on a regular basis. Honourable members of this chamber who are members of the Environment, Resources and Development Committee hear from people regularly who have no confidence that there are not secret deals done between government and certain interests. We have examples like Gillman and Newport Quays, in which the government really gets caught out badly. It is almost as if, in making that statement, they are distancing themselves from it, whereas I think they need to take full responsibility and stop having a go at learned people like the judge who made comments about the Gillman inquiry as if they do not know what they are talking about when they clearly do.

We also had references to prime agricultural land, which I would respond to by saying that this is often better protected by zoning and master planning processes. For instance, the Northern Adelaide Plains we believe needs to have a proper masterplan associated with that whole district so that we can look at the agriculture opportunities and expanding use of wastewater and groundwater resources without some areas being hived off for housing which may well be better utilised for agricultural opportunities.

Things that I put a tick next to included issues such as enabling individuals to better participate in our democracy, regardless of their gender and sexual orientation, and that gender should not be a barrier to full participation in our community. I also commend the comments in relation to the White Ribbon accreditation and note that workplaces, particularly government workplaces, really should lead by example, because they have the capacity to do so and to assist people in their workplace who may be—I have been told I am not allowed to use the word 'victims' of domestic violence—champions of domestic violence.

We also had references to health and the new Royal Adelaide Hospital. The new Royal Adelaide Hospital really was a thought bubble of I think it was the 2007 budget, and what we are seeing now is that the thought bubble and its expenses are causing the government to be forced to make expenditure cuts, which it is now doing to a number of the non-spine hospitals—that is, Modbury, Noarlunga and the Repat Hospital as well as the Hampstead Rehabilitation Centre. One wonders why the government was not upfront with these issues prior to the 2014 election. Indeed, I think the member for Elder had written to her future electorate and claimed that the Liberal Party was going to cut services at Flinders, and now we see that that is exactly what her government is doing.

We hear the health minister on the radio defending things. I have heard the Premier say things along the lines of that Transforming Health is all about quality. Well, it is just patently not. It is patently about cutting expenditure to certain hospitals and shifting services to the new Royal Adelaide Hospital and to Lyell McEwin. Clearly, there are a lot of people in government who have never actually worked in hospitals and really do not understand how they operate at all, and do not appreciate that, for instance, when you are providing rehabilitation or mental health services, you often need open space. You certainly need a lot of space for rehabilitation and equipment and providing those services, and relocating them from their current places of operation is going to downgrade the quality enormously.

We also had quite a section on ageing. South Australia has an older population than most of the rest of Australia. I think the government probably should take some of the blame for that, because a lot of our young people leave the state for opportunities for work interstate. It is a huge number of young people. It is actually the working age population which leaves South Australia the most, because this government, in particular, after 12 years, really is strangling the business opportunities. We hear weekly of businesses which are shedding significant numbers of staff, and the opportunities just do not exist.

On the other side of the coin, if we look at the opportunities, there are some, and some of those are referenced in the speech, but I note that they did not actually include anything about workplace policy for older people, volunteering opportunities and the like. There are all locational services which deal with people's immediate living environments rather than some of the social or emotional needs of older people.

We had a very poor choice of words. If there was any moment which made people gasp—which is what the Premier had been promising us—it was when the Governor said: 'My government believes that South Australia can be known as the place where you age, but you do not grow old.' It is just laughable for them to say this sort of thing. I think it was a bit of a brain snap on the part of the person who wrote it. To enter into one's mature years in a healthy manner I think requires people to ease into their retirement, and therefore I think there should be more examination of scaling down from full-time work to part-time work, with greater human interaction and roles which will keep the brain sharp as we age. With those words, I commend the motion to the house.