Regional Impact Statements | SPEECH


Mr VAN HOLST PELLEKAAN ( Stuart ) ( 11:18 :35 ): I rise to support the member for Goyder in this important motion that this house supports the referral to the Economic and Finance Committee of all regional impact statements with the ability to call witnesses and, two, that this house urges the Minister for Regional Development to ensure the state government guarantees full compliance by all state government departments, agencies and statutory authorities of the regional impact assessment statement policy and process to ensure the government undertakes effective consultation with regional communities before decisions which impact community services and standards are implemented and makes public the results of all regional impact assessment statements undertaken prior to any change to a service or services in regional South Australia.

The reason this is so important is because we are now in the midst of a government that has been trying to tell us for about a year or more that it is genuinely interested in regions, and we would love to believe them. We would love to believe them, but the reality is that back in 2003 the government told us that they were seriously, genuinely and really interested in regions and that they would try to prove that to us by doing regional impact assessment statements any time there was anything of great significance that would affect the regions. We thought that was fantastic, as a Liberal opposition team. Unfortunately, they just have not done it.

They said they were interested and they said they would set up a system, but they did not follow through. Here we are again 12 years later and they are telling us that they are seriously interested, but we have no grounds upon which to believe them. Why would we have any faith in a government that does not even follow its own rules? Unfortunately, after much prodding and much effort on behalf of the opposition, and particularly the member for Goyder, to get the government to follow its own rules—and they have said they will, they still have not done it.

There still have not been regional impact assessment statements done and they certainly have not been provided to the regions, to the opposition, to the government or to anybody else, because they just have not been done. That is why this is such an important motion. Apart from the very obvious fact that what goes on in regional South Australia is so important to our regions, the government said they would look at these things and they did not.

This is not about just trying to give the government a hard time; this is actually about trying to highlight what the government needs to do. I am happily on the record as welcoming the government when they do their regional community cabinet visits with the government cabinet and with the senior executives from all the government departments. I think it is fantastic.

I wrote to the Premier and asked, ‘Would you please bring your community cabinet and all your key staff to Peterborough and that district within Stuart?’ and the Premier did it. I wrote to the Premier and asked, ‘Would you please bring your community cabinet to Port Augusta?’ and the Premier has said, yes, he will do it. We are not here trying to exclude the government, keep them out of regions or pretend that the government cannot help or cannot have some sort of really positive influence, because we know they can.

What this is about is trying to force the government to take all the opportunities it has to support regional South Australia. We do not want the government to do that because it is us versus them or the regions versus metro; it is nothing to do with that whatsoever. In this state, we are all permanently interwoven—metropolitan and regional South Australia. Adelaide needs the regions to be successful. Adelaide needs the regions to thrive.

We need people to want to live in the regions so that they can work there and create business and production opportunities that metropolitan Adelaide will benefit from. In the regions, we know that we need a bright, vibrant and successful Adelaide as well. In the regions, we understand that Adelaide is the heart of South Australia from a population and services perspective, but the heart cannot live without the rest of the body thriving: we need both to be working together and interacting very well.

One of the reasons I take this issue so personally is the Cadell ferry. The Cadell ferry was a very important regional piece of infrastructure that provided an incredibly important service that the government decided a few years ago it was just going to get rid of. I know that the most important factor in getting the government to back down and leave the Cadell ferry in place was the incredible work the Cadell and surrounding district community did to make its voice heard, together with the support up and down the river and from other parts of regional South Australia that the Cadell community received.

The member for Chaffey, the member for Bragg and I were very involved with that campaign, but the Cadell community gets the lion’s share of the credit for forcing the government to back down. The very capable people from that community, including Danny McGurgan, who was subsequently a police officer of the year for his important community work, led that charge.

Second in my mind on the list of reasons the Cadell ferry was not taken away by the government, as they wanted to do, is that, unfortunately for the government, the issue came up just before estimates. At estimates committee after estimates committee I fronted up and asked the relevant minister whether a regional impact assessment study was done on the removal of this piece of important regional infrastructure. To their credit, those ministers had to answer honestly and say, ‘No. No, it wasn’t done.’

I would have asked about a dozen different ministers and they all said that no regional impact assessment study was done, and we all know that was the case in spite of the government’s own rules stating that one should have been done. Having to answer those questions as honestly as they did would also have been a significant factor. Why did the government not just make it easy on itself? Why did the government not just do the study? Why did the government not just do the assessment? Do you know what? If the assessment had said, ‘This is a terribly important piece of regional infrastructure; we cannot get rid of it,’ the government presumably would not have proceeded and they would have saved themselves an enormous amount of headache and heartache.

If the assessment had come up somehow—and I do not believe this would have happened in this case—with a clear, strong and reasonable argument that the impact of removing the ferry on the regions was negligible or even positive, we would have had to look at that piece of work, consider it seriously and take it on its merits. Again, the government would have saved itself a whole lot of bother. I suggest to the government as earnestly as I possibly can: follow the process. The government should follow the process it has imposed upon itself. It may well have just imposed it upon itself so that it could look as though it was interested in the regions, but why not just follow the process anyway?

At least it will look like you mean what you say and, more importantly, the regions will know that they are being taken seriously, and you will save yourself a whole lot of grief by just doing the study properly. The member for Goyder touched on a wide range of different issues where this would be very important, and I know that other colleagues from this side of the chamber will do the same. I would like to touch on two.

In relation to health, we know that the government would like to pare back health services in regional South Australia primarily because of budgetary constraints. We do not think that you hate regional people (it is nothing as silly as that), but we know that your budget and your handling of the economy in general is in all sorts of dreadful situations, so we know that is a target. Let me put really loudly and clearly on the record that the government must not consider touching any regional health services without doing a full, frank and open regional assessment of what that would do.

Secondly, in the time remaining to me I will touch on Yorkeys Crossing, a very important piece of dirt road that circumnavigates Port Augusta so that there is a release valve for the bridge which has one single lane in each direction and carries all the heavy freight from Sydney to Perth and Adelaide to Darwin, let alone intrastate, let alone intra Port Augusta. Regularly, that bridge is out of action for whatever reason, and Monday this week was the most recent time. Yorkeys Crossing needs to be upgraded so that we have an all-weather road to support transport for Port Augusta, South Australia and Australia regardless of the weather, because right now, with five or six millimetres of rain, Yorkeys Crossing is out of action. The government should do an original impact assessment study on the potential benefits to Port Augusta, the state and the nation for upgrading that road.