Dog Fence (Payments and Rates) Amendment Bill

Adjourned debate on second reading. 

(Continued from 12 April 2016.) 

The Hon. J.S.L. DAWKINS ( 15:53 ): I rise on behalf of Liberal members to support this bill. At the outset, I should highlight the fact that this bill was quite curiously introduced into the House of Assembly on 24 February this year by the Hon. Susan Close, who I think represents the Minister for Sustainability, Environment and Conservation in that chamber. Given that this is the responsibility of the Minister for Sustainability, Environment and Conservation, a person with a keen interest in the Dog Fence said to me, 'He is in your house. Why wasn't it introduced in your house?' I said, 'Well, I think it might have been all to do with the management of the parliament at the time,' because at that stage, because of the Attorney-General's driving passion to get us to push through the planning bill, they had no other plans in the other place to actually get on with legislation. 

They had nothing to do down there; they were running out of business. They were allowing private business, heaven forbid—do not tell the Hon. Gail Gago, but they were actually giving up government business time for private members' time, so they actually got minister Close to introduce this bill down there to take up a bit of their time while they had nothing to do. 

Having said that, that takes nothing away from the worth of this bill. It does aim to ensure that there are sufficient funds and resources to maintain the Dog Fence into the future. I think most South Australians, particularly those of us who have been fortunate enough to travel extensively in the pastoral regions of not only this state but further afield, know the value of the Dog Fence. 

As a member of the Natural Resources Committee of the parliament, on the recent trip we made to the AW NRM Board we crossed the Dog Fence on a couple of occasions—once on the Eyre Highway near Nundroo, and I had the pleasure of shutting the gate on the Dog Fence twice on Goog's Track. I was pleased to note that, in both cases, that fence was in very good order. Of course, that is relatively close-in territory; it is in some of the more remote areas where the fence can come under much more pressure. 

There are six local boards which sit under the Dog Fence Board. Ownership of the fence is vested in those local boards, apart from two private owners who manage sections of the fence on their properties. The boards administer the funds and are responsible for the employment of contractors who inspect and maintain sections of the fence. 

I understand that the act was last reviewed in 2005. The amendments proposed to come into fruition through this bill are: firstly, the act currently sets a cap of $250 per kilometre which goes to the local boards for maintenance. It is proposed that this is lifted to $400 per kilometre. Secondly, the rate charged to pastoralists is currently capped at $1.20 per square kilometre of rateable land. It is proposed that this is lifted to $2 per square kilometre. Thirdly (and quite importantly) a minor technical amendment to remove a reference to the South Australian Farmers Federation and replace it with Livestock SA Incorporated, because, of course, the South Australian Farmers Federation no longer exists. 

The rate has historically been increased by CPI and is collected through the sheep transaction levy. The minimum payment per property is $100. The total rates raised last year amounted to $508,000 which is matched by the state government. 

It is important to say that I think the Dog Fence Board is supported throughout the pastoral areas. It was indicative of the campaign that the Liberal Party and others supported the retention of the Dog Fence Board when it was flagged to be abolished under the program announced by the Premier some time ago. Thankfully, the work of many members of this house and the lower house actually managed to save the Dog Fence Board. 

Many of us would know that there has been pressure on some sections of the fence from camels. The federal government recently provided $400,000 to electrify the top wire along the stretch of the fence in the vicinity of Lake Frome. I understand there have been no breaches of the fence by camels in the past two years and, in that sense, the condition of the fence is continually improving. 

Certainly the Natural Resources Committee has had greater evidence on the impact of camels across the pastoral areas and Aboriginal lands. There are certainly different attitudes in different parts of the AW NRM Board, or different cultural attitudes to the method of controlling camels. That does provide some issues for the management of the fence, but we are certainly supportive of the work to control camels because they are animals that put a lot of pressure on the board. 

In concluding can I say that my understanding is that Primary Producers SA (the umbrella group in South Australia), its constituent body Livestock SA, the local dog fence boards and the South Australian Sheep Advisory Group were all supportive of these changes. Can I also indicate that anybody wishing to learn a bit more about the local responsibilities in relation to the fence should read the contributions in the lower house made by the member for Flinders, Mr Treloar, and the member for Stuart, Mr van Holst Pellekaan, who are members with significant sections of the Dog Fence (particularly the member for Stuart) in their electorates. With those words, I indicate that the Liberal Party will be supporting this bill.