Second reading of the Boards and Committees – Abolition and Reform Bill Amendments.

12 May 2015 newsspeechparliament

Second reading of the Boards and Committees – Abolition and Reform Bill Amendments. 

The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK ( 15:47 :03 ): I rise to make some remarks in relation to this piece of legislation, which had its origins following last year's election. I think possibly it was a surprise outcome for many, including members of the Australian Labor Party who found themselves back in government without much of an agenda—and this is one of the things that was pulled out of a hat to keep the punters busy.

It was mooted probably in mid-2014. It is, as the preceding speaker noted, a useful exercise to go through and review boards and committees periodically, and so every board and committee was written to and asked to justify its existence and respond to their relevant minister, who would then provide a report to the Premier. The final report was tabled on 30 October 2014, the bill was introduced in November last year and now we have it before us. The final report proposes to abolish some 107 of the 429; merge 17; subject others to reform and further investigation—that is 95; reclassify 120; and retain 90.

A large number of these boards and committees are within the environment portfolio and so were obviously of particular interest to myself. As shadow ministers we wrote to all of those boards. Most of them, because they are administered by the government, could not provide a formal response to us. All of those have now been made publicly available on the website.

The number of animal ethics committees which exist—and I note that a fairly standard response from some of the committees would be to say that they might not see reason for continued existence; in fact, the non-government schools animal ethics committee wrote back and I think quite rightly said that it is inconceivable that any instance of animal cruelty would go unreported in a school. If staff did not proactively report any such occurrence, the students certainly would. Given the above, it would appear that the committee's function can be made redundant.

A number of others did fight for their existence, including the NRM boards. Beyond those, there are four boards and committees that the Liberal Party determined were particularly important. Those have been re-included through amendments which were passed by the House of Assembly, so I will just speak briefly to those and cover a couple of other issues.

First of all, there is the Animal Welfare Advisory Committee, which provides independent advice on a range of issues. Stakeholders who are particularly interested in this committee include the RSPCA, which is in favour of its retention, and Livestock SA, which is also represented on it. It provides a number of useful functions, and we are pleased that the government has seen fit to agree to continue to support that committee. I do note that all other states have some form of animal welfare advisory committee of some description, and I think that makes sense. Given the interest in this issue and that there are ongoing issues that crop up from time to time, I think it certainly has an ongoing role.

The Pastoral Board: the advocacy for that particular board has certainly been taken up by the member for Stuart, who has by proportion the largest number of constituents affected by that. Their concern was that pastoralists would lose their independent voice to government. Livestock SA was also very concerned about the proposed abolition of that board, and I note that the conservation sector supported its continuation, so that particular board will continue. Then we have the Tourism Board and the Health Performance Council, which have been covered by other speakers. My colleague the Hon. David Ridgway in particular has spoken about the Tourism Board in some detail.

I think into the future there is a bit of uncertainty about what actual form some of these boards and committees will take. I am not certain what reclassification means in some instances, whether for the Dog Fence Board, for instance—I will put this as a formal question to the minister—reclassification means that DEWNR or the relevant department is going to try to get the local NRM board to manage that. I also understand that NRM boards are being asked to take on responsibility for marine parks management and would appreciate if the minister could respond to that as well.

The Border Groundwaters Agreement Review Committee: this is an area that is obviously very important to the people of the South-East, who are impacted by decisions that that may make in relation to reductions in water allocations, so that is seen as a very important board to those particular constituents and I think that some better coordination with the South-East NRM Board would be quite useful.

I note that we have some amendments from honourable members in this place in relation to other boards and committees, and those will be considered. I thank the Conservation Council and the Wilderness Society for the very detailed response that they provided to the government; that is dated 21 October 2014. They had concerns about a number of boards, including the ones that the Hon. Mr Mark Parnell has mentioned. I think the Coast Protection Board, the Native Vegetation Council and the State Aboriginal Heritage Committee, which they were concerned about, the government has decided to retain, but there are still those two boards that the honourable member has mentioned that we will consider prior to the debate in the committee stage. With those remarks, I commend the bill to the house.