Remarks in relation to the Address in Reply

20 May 2014 archivespeech

 I rise to make some remarks in relation to the Address in Reply.

The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK (16:03): At the outset, I would like to commend the Governor and Mrs Scarce for the work that they do in serving our communities and the friendly manner in which they welcome all people both to their residence and when they are moving about in the public domain. I would like to congratulate the Governor on the delivery of his speech on 6 May for the opening of parliament.

I would also like to welcome our two new members to this chamber, Mr Andrew McLachlan and Mr Tung Ngo. I congratulate them on their maiden speeches. I will not go through all the names in the House of Assembly, but I would like to congratulate the new Liberal MPs, Mr David Speirs, Mr Corey Wingard, Mr Stephan Knoll, Mr Vincent Tarzia and Mr Troy Bell. I had the pleasure of hearing Mr Bell's maiden speech this morning.

I also congratulate our new President, the Hon. Russell Wortley. However, it was disappointing the manner in which he was selected and the unseemly behaviour of the Australian Labor Party in government, having just won—or I think the correct term would be that they formed government again, to their own surprise as much as to anyone else's—very quickly went back to business as usual, dividing over the spoils.

I also join with a number of members who have made comments in relation to the Governor's speech in that it certainly lacked an agenda. At the outset we had the repetition of the seven points which the Premier, when he first came to that position, had developed. Not a lot is new in the address, and there are a couple of things I would like to remark on in that there is a fairly tokenistic reference to protecting the pristine environment from which our premium food is sourced—there is no reference as to how—and also references to regional South Australia.

Yes, wake up South Australian government: regional South Australia accounts for 20 per cent of the state's population but contributes more than half of our overseas exports. That is the sort of thing members of the Liberal Party have been saying for many years, and it will be interesting to see whether or not this government takes a different approach, but it has certainly neglected and, in many cases, abused regional South Australia in its cynical focus on metropolitan South Australia, in the knowledge that it only ever has the chance of winning one seat outside metropolitan South Australia.

I was also bemused at the comment in the speech that our economy depends heavily on our capacity to retain our brightest minds, and that is true and they need a job. There is a jobs crisis in South Australia—it has been going on for quite some time. I do not see that this government has any agenda to address that, and we have seen Business SA come out just this week commenting on that issue, that there is a distinct lack of appetite from this government to reduce any of its taxation measures. It certainly seems like it is business as usual.

Indeed, on the day the Governor delivered his speech, I was quite surprised that the newly re-formed government did not seem to be particularly interested, particularly the Premier. You would almost have thought that a relative of his might have died as he sat there slumped in his chair not looking bemused. I recall when we would have the opening of parliament under his predecessor, the Hon. Mike Rann, that he would always appear jovial and would be commenting to people sitting either side of him—they would be cracking jokes and looking pretty pleased—but I have a sense that this government is not all beer and skittles, which is quite surprising. Looking at the ministers here in question time, one could be forgiven for thinking they had had a breakfast of lemons and three-corner jacks the way they carry on.

Also, the Notice Paper is looking noticeably thin, and that is a reflection of the lack of policy substance that the Labor Party took to the election. We have one bill in relation to pastoral lands, which we will debate fairly soon. I note that our colleague in this place, the Hon. Mr Brokenshire, has suggested that there be reviews of the NRM Act and the Native Vegetation Act, and that certainly was contained in the Liberal Party policy and we would wholeheartedly support those reviews and urge the government to get on with it posthaste.

We are also awaiting the reintroduction of the third-party access bill, which is quite critical to providing third-party providers with access to our water assets and being able to provide those at more competitive prices. The bill, which was tabled very late in the piece, did not allow for debate of it prior to the election and was described to me by people who work within that industry as not worth the paper it was written on. ESCOSA was particularly critical of that bill. We will be waiting with interest to see whether or not this government reintroduces it quickly; that is something that I think is quite critical and should be one of their important commitments.

Just going back to the issue of jobs, we have had net interstate migration within this state of some 33,000. Most of those people, Graeme Hugo will tell you, are of working age. They are younger people and they keep leaving the state in large numbers because the opportunities just are not here, so we certainly need a jobs strategy here.

We need a proper focus on the regions. I am concerned about the committee that has been set up under this current government because I think that it is probably a way of trying to squeeze out the voice of our regional development minister, the Hon. Geoff Brock. We are certainly keen to provide him with as much information as possible from our regional members about the issues that are happening in South Australia.

We have established our own regional affairs committee of the Liberal Party which will be looking at a number of those issues as well. Certainly, we have a very strong history of representing the regions. We have a number of primary producers who have entered the parliament and, certainly, in my roles of having responsibility for the environment, water and the River Murray, they regularly raise those issues. They raise issues to do with natural resource management, native vegetation and marine parks.

I think there has been a very strong disconnect under this government. Decisions which are made in Adelaide, particularly in relation to water allocation plans and the marine parks, are felt very severely by our regional cousins. There are a lot of opportunities to expand production in regional South Australia, but those are hampered by very centralised departments which are not good at listening and taking those issues on board. I think that some of the current policies of this government are going to lead to job losses, loss of production and loss of export income for this state.

In relation to the election policies, I could go through them in great detail, but from our point of view on the Liberal side, we had a very strong emphasis on biodiversity and enhancing the current legislation in seeking to link the areas of natural resource management, native vegetation and national parks and wildlife together because a lot of biodiversity exists on private land as well as in national parks. We think that they should be managed in a much more joined up, cohesive manner, so I was disappointed that the Labor policies did not address any of that. There was a commitment to an international bird sanctuary at the old salt fields, which is to be commended, but, as far as other areas go, there was very, very little.

This government has not been keen to establish trigger points for the use of the desalination plant which is, of course, going to have an impact on our Riverland food and fibre growers. We were also very keen, if we were to be elected, to look at the engineering works, in conjunction with the federal government, which would assist to droughtproof the Murray.

We hear all the time from Labor members in this place that they save the Murray, but that is just such a load of rubbish. This government has played a disgraceful game of politics with the River Murray. When we had the drought and the money was on the table from the Howard Liberal government, in those days, Mike Rann refused to sign up to that agreement. He played a disgraceful game of politics. We have since had the signing of the Murray-Darling Basin Agreement with all the states. This government was quite slow to sign up, and it has now halved its contribution to the Murray-Darling Basin Association. I suspect that was based on its own internal polling which showed that, since the breaking of the drought, the issue of the Murray River environment had slipped off the list of priorities in the South Australian public's mind. So it has really just allowed that to slip.

One of the areas I think it should be commended on is its adoption of Nature Play, which is about reconnecting children, particularly with the natural environment. As we hear and read about regularly, kids are spending far too much time these days in front of screens and not getting out and about exploring their world. However, I do note that is also in contravention of its approach to the remaining life tenure shacks. If you talk to people who spend time in shacks over Christmas, it is a very important way of connecting kids with beaches or rivers, and gaining a love and understanding of the natural world around them. So I think there are a lot of contradictions that come from this government, and we will be holding them to account—as we should, as Her Majesty's Loyal Opposition.

In closing, I would like to thank the people of South Australia for re-electing my two colleagues the Hon. Rob Lucas and the Hon. John Dawkins, as well as myself, and also a new member, the Hon. Andrew McLachlan. I do note, following on from the Hon. Kelly Vincent's speech, that she referred to the lack of female representation. Unfortunately I was the only woman elected into the Legislative Council out of the 11 candidates on this cycle. Women's representation is something about which I am very passionate. I think we often find that women deselect themselves from the process because they see the argy-bargy and, particularly if they have young children, are not keen to enter the fray.

I would have to say that the treatment of the Liberal candidate for Elder, Ms Carolyn Habib, was one of the most disgraceful lows in the campaign, and this contributes to women not wanting to stand for parliament. They see that sort of behaviour and say, 'That's not for me; I do not want to expose myself or my family to that level of gutter politics.' So while this Labor Party is in government it should reflect upon itself. If the minister is ever to raise any issues about women in the Liberal Party, as long as that stain remains she does not have a leg to stand on.

I note that the people of South Australia overwhelmingly wanted a Liberal government, but did not get one because of the system we have. I think we have to examine our systems and have some fairly rigorous debates in here about what is the best and fairest outcome. There are a lot of angry people in South Australia who were very hopeful there would be a change. If nothing else, the people of Australia and the people of South Australia think that every couple of elections you ought to give the other mob a go; that is the general attitude. Sadly, that was not the outcome.

Those who occupy the Treasury bench have a duty to do a good job, to come up with a fresh agenda and stop squabbling over positions. That is letting down the people of South Australia, who in their majority did not vote for them in any case. With those remarks I endorse the Address in Reply