The Hon. J.S.L. DAWKINS(16:55:24): I am pleased to contribute to this debate, the address in reply to the speech of the Governor in opening the parliament. I acknowledge the fact that His Excellency Hieu Van Le opened the parliament for the first time since he took on that important role in the democracy of our state. I congratulate once again His Excellency on taking up that position, after, as was mentioned by the Hon. Mr Parnell, having served very well in the position of Lieutenant‑Governor for some time.
I have known the Governor for many years. I first came into contact with him when he was giving back to the community. When he first came to this country a number of people in Gawler and surrounding areas gave him and his family great support and, in subsequent years, he often went back to that community to provide the Gawler branch of the then Indo-Chinese Refugee Association great support in assisting the more recent arrivals from South-East Asia. I know the regard that he is held in is very high by what is now known as the Gawler branch of the Australian Refugee Association and the broader association across South Australia.
I also note the number and range of events where I have bumped into the Governor and his wife, Mrs Lan Le, since he has taken on that position. I think it is a great credit to them both that they have involved themselves in such a wide variety of events in this state.
Firstly, I acknowledge that in the Governor's speech he mentioned the passing of a number of former members of this parliament. Of course, one was the Hon. Dr Such who passed away while still in the service of the parliament. We have had condolence motions in this place for the Hon. Don Banfield, the Hon. Cecil Creedon, the Hon. Dr Such, Mrs Heather Southcott AM and only in the last sitting the Hon. Arthur Mornington Whyte AM, former president of this chamber. I have spoken to most of those condolence motions, but I certainly add now my acknowledgement of the service to this state by all of those people.
Before making some comment on a number of the matters raised in His Excellency's speech, I want to relay a conversation I had with a constituent recently who I think is very well informed, well educated, and someone who is a student generally of our democracy. They asked me the question, 'Can you confirm when the last opening of parliament was held? Was it held just after the election of last year?' I said that it was, and that person then said, 'When was it?' I replied that it was in May last year, and this person then said, 'Well, can you justify why we need another opening of parliament nine months later?'
As much as, I think, most members of parliament here can stick up for our democratic Westminster system and the right of the government of the day to do that, it is very hard to find a reason to justify why a newly re-elected government felt it had to prorogue the parliament barely six months after it had actually established the parliament. That is something this current government needs to explain to people; why we prorogued the parliament, and why many items of business have now had to be reintroduced. That is something for the government to explain. As someone who has been here for as long as I have, I found it very difficult to give that person something that they could feel justified the government's decision.
In relation to aspects of the Governor's speech, the first one I would like to refer to is his reference to the fact that 'Our Motor Vehicles Act was written when the FB model Holden was being released to the market in 1959, and our Road Traffic Act two years later.' The role of ferries in the South Australian community—obviously, in the river and lakes communities—is as important and relevant today as it was in 1959. Unfortunately, I think there has been a number of events and actions in recent times that have probably put a lot of doubt in the minds of the community, particularly in a number of localities along the River Murray and in lakes communities, as to whether this current government sees the role of ferries in our road traffic system as important as it should be.
I recently attended a meeting of the Murray Mallee Local Government Association at Tailem Bend. There was a presentation made there by the Department of Planning, Transport and Infrastructure (which I will refer to a little more shortly) which was largely to give some explanation for a meeting that had been held earlier at Cadell regarding the fact that significant load limit restrictions were being placed on two of the timber-based ferries that remain in the system. I understand that another one will quite possibly have similar restrictions placed upon it in the near future.
The presentation was made to the Murray Mallee Local Government Association and, as a result, the following motion was moved by the Mid Murray council. That motion was:
That Rebecca Timmin g s, Manager Traffic Solutions, DPTI, and Joseph Rositano, Mechanical Services Manager, DPTI be thanked for their informative presentation to the MMLGA and
1) That the Murray and Mallee Local Government Association write to the Premier, Treasurer and State Minister for Transport highlighting the importance of the ferry services to the Murray River and Lakes communities and request ed funding be allocated in the 2015 / 16 budget for the replacement of the remaining three timber hull ed ferries.
2) That a copy of that letter be sent to the State Opposition Leader, State Shadow Tr easurer, State Shadow Minister f or Transport and State Members for Chaffey, Stuart, Schubert, Hammond, Local Government Association of SA, John Dawkins MLC and other relevant State and Federal Members , and
3) T hat concern over ferry services be referred to the Chief Executive Officer of the Murray and Mallee Local Government Association to re - activate the Ferry Working Party with the Department of Planning, Transport and Infrastructure.
Of course, the background to the ferry working party goes back to 2012 (I think it was June 2012), when the state government, the Department of Planning, Transport and Infrastructure, held a public meeting in Cadell to give that community 16 days' notice that it was going to close the Cadell ferry. I think most members in this place would understand the great concern that caused the people of Cadell but also, of course, so many other communities.
As a result of that, the decision was reversed by the Premier, the Hon. Jay Weatherill, and a ferry working party was established, a joint state/local government working party, to meet and prepare an options paper on the sustainability of Murray River ferries. The working party consisted of representatives from the Department of Planning, Transport and Infrastructure and the Renmark, Paringa, Coorong and Mid Murray councils.
The fact that this working party has been suggested to be reactivated shows that the communities who rely so heavily on the ferries as part of the road network are very concerned. Certainly, the motion would indicate that, currently, the state of the timber hulled ferries is of such concern that there is a great threat that one of those ferries could go out of action and there is no spare ferry ready to go. So, I think that is why the motion indicates that it is really important that the government does find the money to make sure that we do have the timber hulled ferry replacements, the steel hulled ferries, in the system as soon as is absolutely possible.
I will change tack a little bit in getting to the reference in the Governor's speech on health. It will not surprise anybody that I would like to start in relation to mental health and suicide prevention. I would firstly like to read a letter that I wrote to the Hon. Jack Snelling on 2 February. It reads as follows:
Dear Minister, I refer to your response to questions on Friday , 18 th July 2014 during Estimates Committee A ( pages 148 and 149 of the Committee Hansard ) regarding the appointment of another 1.0 FTE position to assist with the rollout of the State Suicide Prevention Strategy. During the Committee you stated in a response to a question from the Member for Morphett ;
Dr Mc FETRIDGE : On the same budget reference, [Budget Paper 6, page 72, suicide prevention] is there funding in the forward estimates for a salary for the dedicated officer rolling out these programs or the government's suicide prevention strategy, more particularly?
The Hon. J.J. SNELLING : I am advised, yes.
Dr McFETRIDGE: In the suicide prevention programs. In the community grants area, I understand there is only [one] staff member who is organising the rollout of these programs. Is there any intent to increase that?'
The Hon. J.J. SNELLING: That one FTE is actually an additional position on top of what we have currently got.
I will continue with my letter:
As it has been some six months since the E stimates C ommittee process, I am writing to seek clarification of when this position will be filled.
Thank you in anticipation of your swift response .
That letter was written on 2 February and, at this stage, I have had no response. I think it is important that that position be provided. I have given great encouragement to the government to continue to show its support, the support that it has demonstrated through the development of its Suicide Prevention Strategy and the support for the growing number of community groups that I think have evolved in South Australia around suicide prevention and broader mental health issues.
I see all the time a great number of people who respond to suicide and self harm and to mental health issues generally across communities, whether they be in small country communities or in quite densely settled urban areas where people can be even more lonely than in a country community. I think there is a great searching for assistance. The government has shown already with the limited amount of resources that have been available to the Suicide Prevention Strategy that great steps can be taken, and certainly those steps have been taken by many suicide prevention networks.
I note that a large number of other areas want to go in that direction, and I think that can only be assisted by the investment in that other position which, as I have said, was promised during the estimates last year. So, I urge the government to do that. In his speech, the Governor specifically mentioned domestic violence. I think it is a reference that echoes community concern, and I was very pleased that that reference was made in Hieu Van Le's speech. He said:
My government will strengthen responses to violence against women.
New initiatives include a court assistance service and an early warning system to provide an escalation point if there have been flaws in the response of a government agency to a report of violence.
My government, as the largest employer in the state, will lead by example by ensuring all departments obtain White R ibbon W orkplace accreditation.
I commend those efforts and acknowledge the White Ribbon movement and the number of ambassadors that are in this council. As I have said in this place before, anybody who is now nominated to be a White Ribbon Ambassador has to go through an induction. They have to actually be approved. The Hon. Mr Gazzola and I did not have to go through that.
He would have passed it with flying colours and I may not have, but the reality is that there is a great scrutiny of those who put their hands up to be White Ribbon ambassadors and there is also a lot of training that goes with it in relation to how those ambassadors can best advance the cause, most particularly amongst young men in the community, to stamp out what is a blight on our society. So I give great credit to the Governor for mentioning that in his speech to open the parliament.
Further to matters relating to health, I must mention my concern about the government's plans to end the existence of the emergency department at the Modbury Hospital. I think it is interesting to note that in early 2013, the government spent $17.4 million on increasing the emergency treatment and assessment spaces at Modbury from 23 to 40 after already completing the first stage of the project which included installing more modern facilities like a security room and a discharge transit lounge.
In fact, in February 2013, the health minister, the Hon. Jack Snelling, put out a press release on 22 February, and that included quotes from the member for Florey in another place and the member for Newland in another place who, of course, have their electorates served very well by Modbury Hospital. The member for Florey said, and I quote:
'It will provide state- o f- the art facilities for staff and the almost 40,000 patients who attend the E mergency D epartment each year at Modbury Hospital, ' Ms Bedford said.
Member for Newland Tom Kenyon welcomed work starting on the final stage of the re-development.
'This will be a bigger and better emergency department that the people of the north-eastern suburbs deserve,' Mr Kenyon said.
It is just remarkable that in that short space of time the government has abandoned the emergency department at Modbury. I note a document that is on the website of the Modbury Hospital Foundation—and the foundation actually does great work to promote that hospital—but the document called 'Fast Facts Modbury Hospital' indicated a number of facts about the history of the hospital and the way in which it serves the north-eastern suburbs of Adelaide and, of course, well up into the Adelaide Hills region.
One of those items on that fast facts bulletin is called 'The changing face of Modbury Hospital'. I think that is very appropriate because obviously members of the Labor Party for years have criticised the previous Liberal government's decision to allow Modbury to be run by private operators. There will always be opinions in that part of Adelaide as to the level of success of that move or otherwise. There were a number of Labor members in the area who were elected on a great promise to bring Modbury back into the control of the actual government health system and, of course, that was achieved a number of years ago.
Can I say, and I have said this quite openly to the members concerned, particularly the member for Florey, that ever since that has happened, the direction of that hospital has changed so many times, and the member for Florey, I think, has to apologise for so many of the things that have happened at the Modbury Hospital that she said would never happen when it returned to administration by the government.
It is just extraordinary that, having said those things about the upgrade of the emergency department at Modbury only two years ago, in February 2013, those people are out there trying to defend the decision of the government to close emergency at Modbury and send people, largely, to the Lyell McEwin Hospital, which is already overworked all the time, that I am aware of. Most people in this place would understand the stress that the Lyell McEwin Hospital is already under.
In conclusion, in relation to the references in the Governor's speech to economic development, I wanted to put something on the record about the work done by Defence SA, which probably has not had as much publicity as references to submarines. The Department of Defence is currently looking to replace a number of land combat system vehicles in its fleet. As part of this project, Defence SA has worked to provide two precinct concept plans, one at Techport on the Le Fevre Peninsula and the second at Edinburgh, which of course is a very crucial part of the defence department's Australian assets but also is very important to South Australia's economy. Those two plans will encourage industry to construct and maintain these vehicles here in South Australia.
A request for tender by the Department of Defence was due this month. However, it has not yet been released, but the state government is hoping the project will be put out to tender soon. Initially, the Department of Defence is looking to acquire approximately 250 vehicles in a first batch purchase, with a view to purchasing up to 700 vehicles in the future.
Defence SA is working with the Department of Defence to have local manufacturing content as a key requirement of the tender. It is also working with key bidders to try to ensure they base their manufacturing here in Adelaide. Defence SA is also working to ensure the federal government includes as part of the tender a 15-year performance-based through-life support program for the vehicles. I certainly would encourage the strong consideration of those vehicles to be built here in South Australia.
Again, I thank His Excellency for the manner in which he addressed the parliament on the opening of our new session and also for the dignified, respectful way that he encompasses his work across all the community of South Australia, and I very much look forward, as one of my colleagues said earlier, to his ongoing service as Governor of South Australia and his work with not only the whole parliament but also, very importantly, the Legislative Council.
Debate adjourned on motion of Hon. J.M. Gazzola.