Metropolitan, Rural and Remote Regions Relationship
Mr VAN HOLST PELLEKAAN ( Stuart ) ( 11:36 :58 ): I move:
That this house—
(a) recognises the very important interrelationship between metropolitan Adelaide and the rural and remote regions of our state ; and
(b) acknowledges that the equitable provision of resources to and the development of both are necessary for our state’s economic and social success now and into the future.
My reason for bringing this motion forward in such a non-political way is that I want all members of this house to consider this motion, to think very carefully about it, and hopefully all form the view that they support it wholeheartedly. This is not about a proud country member bashing the city or anything of the sort. It is genuinely recognising that both metropolitan Adelaide and our country and remote parts of the state are very closely interrelated, that they both need each other, that they both should be valued, and that they both should receive an equitable provision of government resources, which are actually taxpayer-funded resources.
We have approximately a quarter of our population living in regional areas and we have approximately a third of our state’s wealth generated in regional areas so, by that measure, regions are punching well above their weight with regard to contribution to our state’s prosperity. That includes the fact that much of the wealth that is generated in regional South Australia is reported as having been generated in metropolitan South Australia, and a very strong example of that is mining wealth generation.
If you have the opportunity to look at the gross state product statistics, you would be absolutely staggered to learn how much mining wealth is generated in the eastern suburbs of Adelaide. The reason for that, of course, is that is where many of the mining companies’ headquarters are based, so they report their profits, employment and a number of their very positive economic statistics within a metropolitan Adelaide context, whereas actually the true wealth is generated in regional South Australia.
Regional South Australia can be very proud of its contribution to our state’s wealth. The very important link is that it cannot continue if we do not have strong, thriving, prosperous and sustainable regional communities. As I said, this is not a debate about pitting one against the other. I can assure members that every single person who lives in regional South Australia knows how vitally important Adelaide is as well. They all know how critically important Adelaide is and how vitally important it is that services are provided in Adelaide as well.
There would not be a person living in regional South Australia who does not, even just occasionally, use a metropolitan road, who does not just occasionally shop in metropolitan Adelaide, who does not just occasionally avail themselves of some medical service, or some other service in metropolitan Adelaide, and who would not have other family members who do not do the same. We understand how vitally important Adelaide is, but it is important that government resources are handed out equitably.
As I said, it is critical that we have thriving, sustainable and successful communities in regional South Australia, because if we do not people will not live there, and if people do not live in our regions, the regions cannot continue to provide the economic contribution to our state that our state requires. That is a very important thing for all members to understand.
I thought I might just quickly go through a few of the government portfolios in no particular order. There are good situations and good examples with every single one of them, which really highlight how vitally important both regional and country South Australia are. In terms of health, as I mentioned before, country people come to Adelaide for health care—there is no doubt about it—but, if they do not have health care in their own region, then young families will not stay in small towns and older people will not be able to come to small towns, and you will not attract workers; in fact, tourists will not be able to comfortably travel from Adelaide to regional areas either if they are concerned that, if they have a car crash, get sick, or need some medication for one reason or another, they would not be able to get help in regional South Australia. If they are worried about that they would not travel to regional South Australia, so health care in regions is exceptionally important for regional people and also for city people.
Education in regions is vitally important—absolutely critically important. South Australian and interstate universities are setting up campuses in regional centres, and that is a very welcome step forward. It benefits those universities, those traditionally Adelaide-based universities, but it also benefits regional towns. There is certainly enormous proof coming from Newcastle and Wollongong in New South Wales, for example, which are both traditionally heavy industry towns where those industries have not disappeared but have subsided enormously, that having tertiary education bases in those regional centres has been one of the really critical foundations of commercial and social growth in what were dying regional centres. Universities have contributed enormously. Universities are not there just for regional people: they are there for themselves as well, and that is quite fair and quite right. There are many shining examples of marvellous South Australians, over the last 175 years, who have been educated in rural South Australia and gone on to make significant contributions to our state.
With regard to transport, I have a view that the single most important road upgrade that should take place in our state, with a view to contributing to our state’s economy, is the Strzelecki Track, with 500 kilometres of currently very poor dirt road. The people who work on that road do the very best they can with the insufficient resources they have to keep that road in as good a condition as possible, but they just cannot keep up with it due to the volume of trucks. The reason that there is a volume of trucks is primarily because of the Cooper Basin. There is bitumen from Brisbane all the way to the Queensland/New South Wales border, but people coming from Adelaide have to travel the last nearly 500 kilometres on dirt.
I have great support for the desire to upgrade all sorts of other roads—and there are many other very important roads in metropolitan Adelaide that have been discussed here—but the Strzelecki Track instantly, overnight, as soon as it is upgraded, will bring business that is currently being done in the Cooper Basin from Queensland back to South Australia. Instantly, overnight, there will be significant improvement to our state’s economy.
Usually you have to make very expensive, very significant infrastructure step outs and then, after that, business slowly establishes itself around those infrastructure step outs. Following that the state’s economy can benefit. We have a situation where our state’s economy would instantly benefit. That is not to say that metropolitan road and transport infrastructure upgrades are not warranted, because they are warranted; however, I certainly claim that the upgrading of the Strzelecki Track would be the most important one for our state with regard to immediately contributing to our state’s economy.
Disabilities is a very important government and opposition portfolio. There should be no differentiation between people with disabilities, whatever they happen to be, in country or city areas. I am sure that every member in this house—and certainly members on this side—know of families who have had to leave regional areas and come to Adelaide because they have children with disabilities but they just cannot get the support and care that they need in the regions.
An example of what is, fortunately, at the lower end of personal impact—it is still very serious, but we are not talking about a quadriplegic or something like that—are children who need speech therapy. There is a dreadful shortage of support in country schools for children who need speech therapy. I do not believe we have a shortage of speech therapists in our state; we have a shortage of funding for speech therapists in regional schools. That has a huge impact on families. I use that example because it is at the lower end. Ideally, you can still end up having a very healthy, productive and constructive life if you need speech therapy and you do not get it, but you cannot lead nearly as constructive or as positive a life, or make the same contribution, if you do not get it. Unfortunately, it can lead on to other issues.
In terms of housing, there are issues with regard to housing all over the state. I am very concerned to see that there is significant impact on regional South Australia with regard to the government’s desire to sell off Housing SA properties in regional areas, where they are greatly needed. I think that has largely been done. Former treasurer Foley is very clearly on the record as saying that he wanted to do that, basically to help fix the state’s budget, and regional areas are being adversely affected.
With water and the River Murray, I suggest (and this is not supported by anything firm that I know of, but the member for Chaffey may be able to support me) that more of the people who use the River Murray for recreation come from metropolitan Adelaide than from regional areas. So all metropolitan people should be supporting the River Murray as much as they possibly can.
It is similar with regard to the environment and to small business. One thing that regularly confounds me in this place is the government’s failure to understand that 95 per cent or more of all regional agricultural businesses are small businesses. It seems to want to differentiate farms from small businesses. We have had debates in this place and we have spoken about small businesses and farming, and the Minister for Small Business has very regularly and unfairly tried to chastise members of the opposition by saying, ‘You only ever stick up for farmers. Why don’t you think about small businesses?’ He has not realised that they are the same thing; they are almost always the same thing. Agricultural businesses in our state, from east to west and north to south, deserve as much support from the Minister for Small Business as does any other small business you would like to think of.
It is similar for fisheries and forests. By definition, all commercial forests are outside metropolitan Adelaide, but they support our state enormously, and they should not be considered as things that can just be sold off when your budget is running a bit tough. As former minister O’Brien said, they should not be used as a way of trying to get out of putting wages on the credit card. I think that was the expression that he used at the time. It is very unfortunate.
In regard to multicultural affairs, we are very proud in regional South Australia. There is not a region in regional South Australia that does not have a strong foundation from migrants who came, made their livelihood and contributed to our state in regional areas. Again, that should never be considered a ‘metropolitan only’ portfolio. Of course, tourism is vitally important for both metropolitan and regional South Australia, as is employment and training and emergency services. Every single one of these portfolios—and I have not named all of them—is equally as important, if not more on some occasions, in regional South Australia as it is in Adelaide.
We understand that on the government side there is only one Labor member who is from regional South Australia and there is an Independent member from regional South Australia, and those two are in the vast minority when contributing to this government forming decisions. I call very earnestly on the government to consider this motion and to support it and to recognise that both regional South Australia and metropolitan Adelaide are interlocked, intertwined and neither can do without each other. Investments in transport, health, recreation and sport, education, infrastructure—in anything you could think of—in regional South Australia would support our entire state’s development.
If we do not have strong regional development, and if we do not have strong regional communities, we will not have people living in regional South Australia. If we do not have people living in regional South Australia, we will not have people in regional South Australia creating the wealth that people in metropolitan Adelaide rely upon. Investment in regional South Australia is a very sound investment for all South Australians.
Mr VAN HOLST PELLEKAAN ( Stuart ) ( 12:48 :32 ): I am grateful for the support for this motion. With regard to the member for Frome’s amendment of behalf of the government, I am really a bit bewildered why the government felt the need to ask him to change ‘acknowledges that the equitable provision of resources to and the development of both are necessary for our state’s economic and social success now and into the future’ to ‘supports the balanced provision of resources that recognises the interdependence of metropolitan and rural areas of South Australia and takes into account local needs and priorities as a basis for our economic and social success now and into the future’. That smacks of exactly the same intent and so it smacks of just trying to be difficult, which is a great shame. Since the words have the same intent, we will certainly support that amendment.
Let me just finish as I started. This is about recognising both. This is not about trying to say that one is more important than the other. Regional people value Adelaide enormously and metropolitan people should value regional areas enormously. We need each other and we cannot survive without each other.
Very important industries like small business, defence industries, manufacturing, innovation, mineral resources and energy require both metropolitan and regional presence. Very important services like Aboriginal affairs, health, education, transport, disabilities and housing must be provided equitably to both regional and metropolitan people. Regions are nothing without Adelaide; Adelaide is nothing without regions. Our state needs both and our governments, now and into the future, should provide resources fairly for both.
Amendment carried; motion as amended carried.