Adjourned debate on motion for adoption (resumed on motion).
Mr VAN HOLST PELLEKAAN ( Stuart ) ( 16:12 :12 ): Thank you very much, Deputy Speaker. I appreciate the opportunity to give my Address in Reply, and I am pleased to see you in the Deputy Speaker’s chair. I can tell that you are enjoying the role, and I wish you very well in it. Of course, I am pleased for Speaker Atkinson to be re-elected as well because, while we are not always happy with every single thing he does, I think most people in this chamber would accept that he is doing a good job. So, congratulations to him as well.
As well as congratulating him on his job in opening parliament, and reading the speech on behalf of the Premier and the government, I would also like to congratulate him on his nearly seven years as Governor. He has done an outstanding job. I wish him and Liz Scarce well in their life after their current role, which I think ends in August this year. They both do a tremendous job, and I am particularly grateful for the time they spend in regional South Australia.
In regard to the election, I will start by congratulating Steven Marshall. To be really blunt, regardless of what side of the chamber you sit on or what political affiliation you might have, I do not think there is anybody who does not admire the enormous work, skill and contribution he has made to this place and to this state since becoming leader as a first-term member of parliament. Every single person here can imagine very well how hard it would be and what a gigantic job it would be. I do not think he could have done it any better and I do not think anybody else could have done it any better. Congratulations to him.
I would also like to say thank you to all the Liberal candidates who stood at the election, whether they were successful or unsuccessful. We really did have an outstanding group of candidates representing us at this election, some of whom were not successful but who would have made very good members of parliament, and I thank them enormously for their contribution to the Liberal Party and also to democracy in South Australia.
I would like to welcome all new members on both sides of the house. No doubt you will all bring talents, capacities and abilities. It will not surprise anybody to know that I think that the new members on this side will bring slightly more talent, capacity and ability, but I do genuinely and warmly welcome all of you here today. It was only four years ago that I was in your situation, and I have not forgotten exactly what a big step it is and I congratulate you on being elected. I think you have each achieved enormously by being elected.
I would also like to congratulate the new ministers as well. To be quite frank, that is not to say that I am going to agree with everything they say or everything they do but, again, that is something to be proud of. If you become a minister in parliament, you deserve to be congratulated. So, well done to those people for that.
In regard to the electorate of Stuart and the election, the candidates against whom I competed were Josh Vines from the Labor Party, Brendan Fitzgerald from The Greens, and Sylvia Holland from Family First. I am not aware of any dirty tricks and I am not aware of any skulduggery or of anything underhand that happened in our electorate, by them or me, and I thank them for the spirit in which they went about competing in that election.
I would also like to thank, enormously, the people who supported our Liberal campaign in the electorate of Stuart. I would like to highlight for this house that the vast majority of them were not Liberal members. Liberal members were certainly there, front and centre, as they have been year in and year out, and I thank them from the bottom of my heart. Some of the people have been members of the Liberal Party much longer than I have, which is really not a lot more than four years. I joined the Liberal Party shortly before putting my hand up as a candidate. I had always been a Liberal voter.
People who have been committed to the Liberal cause much longer than I have been supported our effort in Stuart, but an enormous number of people who were not Liberal members did as well, and I thank them all very deeply for that. I am grateful to the electors in Stuart. I cannot pretend that I am not happy with the swing that we achieved. A 13 per cent swing is fantastic. I will not be churlish or shy about it. We worked incredibly hard, and within our electorate we achieved a very good result. I thank everybody who contributed to that.
At the top of the list are my staff members and my wife. Chris Hanna, my longest serving staff member, started with me immediately after being elected in 2010; and Sandra Spaeth, my next longest serving staff member, is an absolutely outstanding part-time staff member and really knows the electorate very well. Tracey Freeman is our senior leader within the group and came along perhaps two years and four months ago. She leads and contributes to our team within the electorate offices exceptionally well. Anyone would be glad to have her as their office manager/staff leader for all the things that I am not directly involved in.
Stacey Davidson, who works in our Kapunda office, is a recent arrival and, I have to say, has done an outstanding job with no experience in this sort of work but a lot of experience in a range of different areas throughout the electorate, and she really does an outstanding job.
And Paige Bowshire, our outstanding trainee, will come to the end of her 12-month term in June this year I think. She has faced and overcome an enormous number of challenges in her life, and that is clearly evident in the way she goes about her work and tackles the tasks that are given to her, and I am sure she has a big future in whatever she chooses to go on to when we are finished.
So, thank you to that core team of people and, of course, thank you to my wife, Rebecca. I would never have been preselected if it were not for her support. I would never have been elected and I would never have been re-elected without her support. One of the most wonderful things about Rebecca with regard to my work is that she is actually not very interested in politics.
To be quite frank, she is interested in the world, she is interested in where we live, she is interested in communities and she is interested in our home. She is interested in all of the things that are at the foundation of what we should all work towards, but she is not actually very interested in politics. That means that she supports me gigantically, but our relationship is not dragged down, if you like, by talking about the nitty-gritty of work and the sorts of things that we do in this chamber all the time, so I thank her very, very sincerely as well.
The electorate of Stuart is a pretty big place. If you look at a map of South Australia and imagine Oodnadatta to Innamincka to Cockburn to Truro, that is a big part of the state, so there are a lot of different issues. There are approximately 30 different towns, 42 schools and nine hospitals. Nine different council areas overlap with Stuart, including the Outback Communities Authority.
There is a gigantic range of issues. The issues that affect people in the Riverland part of Stuart are different to those that affect people in Port Augusta, are different to those in the Flinders Ranges or the outback, are different to those in the Mid North and are different to those at the edge of the Barossa, even.
Stuart starts 75 kilometres away from Parliament House and finishes at the Northern Territory/Queensland/New South Wales borders, so it is a large electorate. It is hard to get around, but I think the best way to go about your work, whether you have a small electorate like Morphett or a large one like Stuart or Giles, is just to be incredibly genuine about what you do. Just get out there and do everything that you possibly can to help people.
I can say that, occasionally, I feel a little bit embarrassed that I do not know all of the political history that has gone on in this place or with the different political parties. People talk about things or people that I do not really know much about. Occasionally, there are terms and phrases I do not understand. The member for Light, a few minutes ago, was talking about neoliberalism and natural socialism and a whole range of different things.
To be quite honest, I have got a bit of an idea, but I do not know exactly where the borders start and stop. To be honest, I do not actually care too much about that stuff. What I care about is doing the very best I can for my electorate. Whether people vote for me or do not vote for me, whether they are going to be Greens voters for the rest of their life or they are rusted on Liberal voters, they get the very best that I and my staff can possibly do for them.
I think that that is probably one of the reasons why we have had such a good swing, because we largely take the politics out of the work that we do in the electorate of Stuart. We certainly cannot take it out of the work that we do in this chamber, we cannot take it out of all of the media that we do but, when it comes to actually helping people, there is not a lot politics in what we do in Stuart, and I would recommend that approach to any colleagues here.
Turning to the outcome of the election, much has been said about that. I am disappointed we did not win. Flat out, there is no reason to say it any other way. I am disappointed that we did not win the election. It could actually be said that, really, no-one won. No party won the election. There was not a good enough outcome either way, so the government that was here before is still here, and that is largely because of the good work of many incumbent members who, I think, do the sorts of things that I was talking about just a few minutes ago.
For example, we had an excellent candidate in the electorate of Ashford. Terina Monteagle would make a wonderful member of parliament, but the current member of Ashford did not give up, works hard, has a foundation in the electorate and was, on this occasion, not able to be beaten.
I think that is the sort of thing that has actually created the outcome of the election. We can go through all of what both teams would have considered to be the marginal seats and, by and large, it actually came down to the local members who really did the work and had been working hard throughout the whole term.
There are, of course, some other things that led to the outcome. I will not dwell on the electoral boundaries issue or the need for electoral reform. Many of my colleagues have spoken about that, and I agree with what they say. I will not go back over all of that, but you cannot have a situation where 53 per cent of the vote is won by one party but they do not form government. At the same time, 54 per cent of the vote was won federally at the last election and that was considered a landslide. That in itself says that something needs to be done. I will not go over all of that, but I do encourage people to consider what the member for MacKillop and the member for Davenport have put forward in their contributions, because they have done a lot of homework, seen a lot of things, and I think they have a lot to offer.
I would like to touch on something that the Deputy Premier, the member for Enfield, said in his contribution earlier this morning, which I think included some mistakes. He made the point: why would the Liberal Party put any effort into supporting the member for Flinders when he is, according to the Deputy Premier, a laydown misère? Well, I can tell you, the member for Flinders works his guts out; he absolutely works his guts out. That is why he has been so successful. Sure, it is traditionally a good, strong Liberal voting area, but it was once a National seat. It is not a place that he takes for granted.
For the Deputy Premier to ask why the Liberal Party would waste money in that seat I think is misguided too. I do not know what the Flinders election budget was but I will bet you it was absolutely minimum. The member for Flinders increased his margin in an extremely safe seat because of all of the work that he has done over the last four years. The Deputy Premier also spoke about his own seat of Enfield which would be considered a very safe Labor seat. He said: why would you waste any time, why would you spend any money attacking him in that seat?
I think what he does not understand is that Scott Roberts worked his guts out, was an excellent candidate, but he raised that money almost exclusively of his own back. He rallied supporters, he brought people together, he did everything that was necessary to encourage people to contribute to his campaign. It was not as if some central fund just said, ‘Oh well, take X dollars out of the bank and we’ll just throw it away in Enfield.’ It was nothing like that whatsoever, and to try and paint it that way is very, very misguided. Scott Roberts threw absolutely everything he possibly could at that campaign, and he did the legwork and he did the grunt work to do the fund raising.
It is not the Liberal way to say to somebody, ‘You don’t have a chance’, or ‘Just go easy,’ or ‘Don’t try hard’. Scott Roberts was an excellent candidate who made a significant dent, who did have a real chance, and he gave it everything he had. So I think that the Deputy Premier has missed the point when it comes to where we put our resources. It is not as if we have spent oodles of money to make safe seats safer, and it is not as if we wasted money. We did actually fight very hard in a very genuine and concerted way in those marginal seats. Some we won and some we did not win, and it really is as simple as that. Of course, I wish we had won more, but to attack the party and say it is a waste of resources, time, effort or strategy is incorrect.
What really happened, what really made the difference, of course, was what happened with the two Independents. I will not dwell on this issue particularly because I know that for everybody in this house it is a fairly emotional issue. Dr Bob Such’s illness is something that everyone here is incredibly unhappy about. Everybody is very sad, and everybody, myself included, wish him well and a speedy and healthy recovery and the best possible outcome that anybody could ever have with the illness that he faces.
Of course, once that was known, it fell onto the shoulders of the member for Frome to decide what he wanted to do. I consider the member for Frome to be a friend. We knew each other before we were in politics. He is a good and decent person with genuine morals. He decided to support the government. I say very clearly, and I have said it to him, ‘I think you made a mistake.’ I am disappointed in his decision. We remain friends, we work well together.
He said, when he found himself unexpectedly in the position of having to make difficult choices, that he would do what was best for his electorate, what the majority of second preferences said (did most of the people who voted for him choose Liberal or Labor second?), what was best for regional South Australia and what his counsels thought was the best thing to do. By any of those standards, he has made the wrong decision.
I do understand that he felt he was in a predicament with regard to numbers in the house. I do understand that he felt that, with the member for Fisher being on leave due to illness, he had to go the only way that would give an immediate answer for the people of South Australia. But I do think he jumped to that decision far too quickly; I think he jumped to it before even knowing what was actually really wrong with the member for Fisher. I think he jumped to that because the Premier and the Labor Party led him to believe that that would give stability for our state. Unfortunately, we know in the very short life of this returned government that that is not the case. We know that there is no stability within the government in South Australia at the moment.
We also know that, if you wanted to bring the discussion just down to pure dollars, the member for Frome managed to get $116 million over four years through negotiation with the government, which is $29 million per year specifically for regional South Australia. The Liberal Party’s election commitment before negotiating anything extra was $139 million over three years, so $46 million per year dedicated to regional South Australia compared to $29 million per year dedicated to regional South Australia. He had to actually drag the Premier kicking and screaming for the $29 million; the $46 million was already on the table for us. I think he really did jump too soon, but as I said, he has made his decision and we will do everything that we possibly can to work with him.
I think that it was probably a bit akin to a shotgun wedding, that he really felt he had no choice, but I think, as is often the case, a lot of other people looking in from the outside thought actually that he did have a choice. So, that is what we have got, and that is what we will work with. He has made his decision, and I will do everything that I possibly can to work with him to advantage regional South Australia. The electorate of Stuart and all of the rest of regional South Australia deserve to see very quick benefits from his decision which must outweigh the benefits they would have got if he had decided to join the Liberals.
With regard to the portfolios that I represent as a shadow minister—police, corrections, emergency services, road safety, recreation and sport, and racing—I am privileged to represent people who work in those areas and people who depend upon those areas for the services that they provide. I think most people here would know that I am very happy to work collaboratively with the government when that is possible, when that is appropriate and when the government is on the right track, but when they are not I will certainly say so, as well. If you give credit where credit is due, when you have a different opinion, it is far more likely that people are going to listen to you.
There are certainly issues with regard to all of those portfolios where the government needs to lift its game significantly. With regard to police, less than 50 per cent of the government’s 2010 election promises—less than half—were fulfilled by 2014, and that is a pretty poor track record. With regard to corrections, our prisons are bursting at the seams. The Minister for Correctional Services told ABC regional radio in the South-East that, yes, our prisons are operating over capacity. Good on him for having the courage to say it. The former minister and the Attorney-General have certainly never admitted to that before, but good on the current minister for saying: it is a fact. He agrees with the opposition that they are bursting at the seams and they are operating over capacity. I also do not think the government gives nearly enough focus or credence to the people who work in the community corrections side of the Department for Correctional Services.
With emergency services, it might interest you to know that, while funding over the last decade or so has increased to the emergency services sector, it has increased less quickly than the additional costs that the government has put onto the emergency services sector, so the money that the emergency services workers—whether they be professionals or volunteers—get to access to do their job has actually decreased under this government.
Regarding road safety, two weeks ago we had a pretty significant debate in this place about quotas and benchmarks. It is a fact, and police officers tell people, myself included, that they have quotas and benchmarks. The police commissioner said to the Budget and Finance Committee last year that, yes, nothing has changed, the policy is the same, we have benchmarks. The government can continue to try to publicly deny it, but the public knows better. What is so wrong about that is that it takes the focus off genuine road safety where police want it to be, and puts it onto revenue raising.
It is a great shame to see that the government has reduced funding in recreation and sport, and it is interesting to see the article in today’s Advertiser about, very sadly, reduced levels of fitness among our youth. Recreation and sport are vitally important for many reasons but, if nothing else, because they contribute to the future health of our community through the current health and fitness of our younger generation.
Regarding racing, and this is quite curious, the government shamelessly contributes nothing to the racing industry and does not even pretend to do otherwise—and it never, ever even looks like it is trying to pretend that it does otherwise, and I think that is a great shame. The racing industry is second only to Australian Rules football with regard to spectator numbers in our state—an incredibly popular industry.
It is a gigantic employer, and it is something that people can enjoy—whether they are seriously interested in racing, whether that be in thoroughbreds, harness racing or greyhounds or whether they would just like to have a good social occasion, whether they want to bet, do not want to bet, they are old or young, they get dressed up, do not get dressed up, want to drink alcohol, do not want to drink alcohol, male, female, Aboriginal, non-Aboriginal—anybody can enjoy the racing industry, and that creates employment, so I think the government should contribute to it and should make a very significant contribution to that industry.
Much has been said this week about the federal budget, and there are things in the federal budget which the state opposition finds difficult because they are not moving forward in the way we would like. We would all love to see extra spending everywhere, but the reality is that the federal government has had to make some exceptionally hard decisions, and it would not matter where they made those decisions; it would be difficult, it would be unpopular, and the government would try to say that all Liberals are terrible because that is what they have done.
But the state government understands, and the Labor Party, state and federal, understands that the federal government had no choice. Ten years ago our national income through all sources was much higher than it is today. The national income—the revenue to the federal government—has dropped significantly, but the spending of the federal government under Labor did not drop significantly. It has to be corrected, and the current federal Liberal government are the ones having to make the hard decisions.
What I really want to say on that issue is that we refuse as state Liberals, and we refuse as the South Australian opposition to allow the state government to use the federal budget as an excuse for its own problems. Before the federal government handed down its budget, the state government had already announced that it was going to take a billion dollars out of health spending, had already announced that it was going to take $230 million out of education spending, had already announced that it was going to take $150 million out of police spending, and there were many other cuts. So, when we come around to our state budget in June, it will not be true for the government to say that the difficult decisions they have made at a state level are all the federal Liberal government’s fault. It will just not be true.
The things the state government was going to do are well and truly on the record; the public will not buy it, and the media will not buy it. Everybody knows the position of the South Australian state budget and it cannot be blamed on the federal government. They will not fool anybody if they try to do that. Those problems already existed in South Australia after 12 years of Labor government.
After 12 years of Labor government, we are dealing with rising unemployment, rising cost of living, and deterioration of our state’s finances and economy. We are dealing with more and more red tape—the highest taxed state in the nation. We are dealing with an interstate drift of people which takes knowledge, money, opportunity and many other strengths out of our state and into other states.
What the government does not understand is that it is vitally important to support small business to turn our state around. Big government departments and big Labor bureaucracy will not be the trick that turns our state around. Small and medium-sized business is the largest employer in our state and our nation by miles, and we support policies that support small and medium business to be successful—not because we want those business owners to be rich fat cats, or any crazy idea like that. It is nothing like that whatsoever; that is ridiculous. If they are successful in business and they earn well, good luck to them—that is fine and there is nothing wrong with that. We support small business first and foremost because small business and medium-sized businesses employ people.
We want people to have secure employment. You do not have secure employment if you work for a marginally successful business; you have secure employment if you work for a genuinely successful business. We want businesses to be successful. We want businesses to grow so that they can employ more people, so that regular mums and dads, married, unmarried, younger and older people can have secure income and secure employment so that they can pay their mortgages, so that they can pay their car loans, and so that they can get ahead in life.
We need businesses to succeed so that average, everyday South Australians can have successful, meaningful, productive lives, and that is the stark contrast between the state Liberal opposition and the state Labor government.