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Cross Border Commissioner for SA

31 May 2022

The Hon. R.A. SIMMS: I rise in support of this bill on behalf of the Greens. I recognise that the opposition have amendments and will certainly consider those and look into the detail of those over the next few days. Broadly, we do support this bill, and I want to commend the government and the minister, the Hon. Clare Scriven, for putting this forward because it is an important innovation and something that the Greens have been advocating for and something that many in the community have been advocating for as well. We certainly welcome the commitment that the new government has made in this regard.

As has been stated, we recognise that cross-border communities face complex issues. People and businesses in those communities can often fall through the gaps in terms of living on the edge of different jurisdictions. Many people in these communities live in one state and can go to school in another. They face challenges in terms of medical appointments. It might be that they go to see a specialist who is based in another state.

We saw some of the complexities emerge during the bushfires in 2019-20. There were significant issues in terms of jurisdictions that were confronted by the CFS and emergency services. These things were problematic and they need to be addressed. I think that is an area where this new commissioner could play an important role.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, we saw real challenges for people in these communities where they were forced to interact between complex rules in different states. That created a lot of uncertainty and anxiety in those communities. Again, I see the commissioner being able to play a really important role in terms of addressing some of those issues and ensuring that communities are not falling through the gaps in terms of the laws of different jurisdictions.

It is worth noting that the lives of many people who are in cross-border communities are lived in more than one state. The Greens believe that there should not be barriers to them being able to access the public services that so many of us take for granted in metropolitan South Australia. They should not be discriminated against on the basis of the community in which they reside. They should not be discriminated against simply because they fall between different jurisdictions.

Under this bill, a new cross-border commissioner would be established. This commissioner would look at a number of these issues as presented to them by the parliament. We see this as being a real opportunity to improve the lives of those living in cross-border areas and a real opportunity to reduce the barriers that can result from these multijurisdictional issues.

Both New South Wales and Victoria have cross-border commissioners already in place. According to the Victorian Cross Border Commissioner, residents, businesses, local governments and other organisations bring hundreds of issues to them, demonstrating a need for such an institution for South Australian communities. A South Australian cross-border commissioner could work collaboratively with their counterparts in other states to ensure that these communities have equitable access and opportunities and to ensure that there is seamless service delivery, and we certainly welcome that.

I note the honourable opposition leader's comments regarding ensuring that this role is not a paper tiger. We certainly agree with that, but we want to make sure that they are not just a paper pusher either. We do not want them to be caught up in red tape and confined by too much complexity in terms of the legislative framework as well. It is certainly in that spirit that we will consider the opposition's amendments. As I say, we are supportive of the bill. I commend the government for putting it forward and we look forward to the committee stage.