Pages tagged "Attorney General and Democracy"
22 February 2024
The Hon. R.A. SIMMS (11:44): I rise to speak on behalf of the Greens on the Controlled Substances (Destruction of Seized Property) Amendment Bill 2024. In doing so, I indicate from the outset that the Greens are not supportive of this bill. It appears to be driven by a desire to minimise inconvenience for the government and, indeed, the courts, and that is not a good reason to infringe the rights of defendants.
It is a very important principle, actually, in our justice system, that we do not junk the rights of individual defendants simply because it is inconvenient or because there is a significant administrative burden that is associated with the maintenance of justice in our system. I think the Hon. Connie Bonaros has detailed those concerns. I do not intend to reventilate those arguments, but I think the points she has made are very sound, and, indeed, the Greens would associate ourselves with those remarks.
The bill allows the police to destroy hydroponic equipment that has been used for illegal purposes at the time when they would typically seize it. It provides for cost recovery of collection, transportation and dismantling of equipment without exceeding a maximum set by regulations. I understand it contains transitional provisions that cost recovery is only for cases after the bill commences. However, it does allow the police to destroy equipment that they already have in storage. I think this is one of the key issues that the Hon. Connie Bonaros has touched upon and which does concern us in the Greens as well: the impact on potential evidence.
We are concerned, also, about the cost-recovery provisions. Indeed, I refer to correspondence from the Law Society addressed to the Attorney-General where they note that:
The Society notes some concern as to a convicted person being required to meet these costs given the difficulty in ascertaining whether the costs incurred are indeed reasonable. As you may be aware, the Society raised similar concerns at the costs recovery aspects in amendments to section 58 of the Summary Offences Act…effected by the Summary Offences (Obstruction of Public Places) Amendment Act 2023 (SA).
I will not reopen that festering sore on our democracy, Mr President. You know my views on that draconian piece of legislation. Suffice to say the Greens are persuaded by the concerns of the Law Society, and that is why we are putting forward an amendment that would remove those particular provisions. I look forward to the discussion in the committee stage, but, as I say, we are not supportive of the bill for the reasons I have outlined.
20 February 2024
The Hon. R.A. SIMMS (15:01): I seek leave to make a brief explanation before addressing a question without notice to the Attorney-General on the topic of community legal services.
The Hon. R.A. SIMMS: On 8 February this year, Community Legal Centres Australia wrote to federal Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus KC seeking urgent additional investment of at least $125 million nationally to prevent the current funding crisis for 164 local legal services from worsening further. Their analysis reveals that Community Legal Centres are being forced to turn away over 200,000 people nationally each year. Community Legal Centres provide free assistance to people who need legal services information or education. My question to the Attorney-General is:
1. What is the government doing to ensure that people who need legal services in South Australia are able to access them?
2. Will the Attorney-General be advocating for more funding for the Legal Services Commission in the next state budget?
The Hon. K.J. MAHER (Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, Attorney-General, Minister for Industrial Relations and Public Sector) (15:02): I thank the honourable member for his important question. The provision of legal services to those in our community who need them is a very important issue. It is certainly something I have been very interested in since coming to government. I regularly meet with the body that provides an overarching voice for Community Legal Centres, as well as individual Community Legal Centres.
Very regularly, when I am on visits in regional South Australia, it is a great pleasure—and I have talked about this a number times in this chamber—to meet with Community Legal Centres. Only in the last week I met with a community service that provides legal advice and services to Aboriginal people in relation to family violence and other matters in the regions. When I was recently in the Riverland I had the benefit of dropping into the Community Legal Centre in Berri.
A very substantial review has been conducted by Dr Warren Mundy, the NLAP Review, which is looking at the provision of funding to community legal services right across Australia, including to ATSILS (Aboriginal Torres Strait Islander Legal Services) as well. That review, if not published, is due to be published soon, and I look forward to working with my federal colleagues, particularly the federal Attorney-General, in relation to recommendations made in that review.
8 February 2024
The Hon. R.A. SIMMS (11:07): I rise to speak in favour of the Electoral (Control of Corflutes) Amendment Bill 2023. The Greens have long advocated for a ban on corflutes on public spaces. We have done so for a range of reasons. We recognise, as the honourable member has identified, that corflutes are single-use plastics. Indeed, as my colleague the Hon. Tammy Franks remarked the other day, this parliament has banned the use of single-use plastics except, of course, when it features the images of politicians.
I think that is a point of rank hypocrisy that rankles members of the community as they go about their daily business and face the visual pollution that comes from these corflutes, as well as the impact that it has on the environment in terms of them ending up in landfill. That is not the case with a candidate like myself, who has run for office many times and dusts off corflutes over and over—I am all for recycling—but there are candidates who change their corflutes every time and that is not a good thing in terms of the environmental impact.
I think it is worth looking at the history of this reform. I think it is true to say that this parliament has dealt with this matter many times over many years, but we might finally be on the cusp of actually getting something through. The two major parties have often had different positions on this. Indeed, the Rann Labor government tried to ban corflutes under the leadership of the then Attorney-General, Michael Atkinson, but that push tanked with opposition from the Liberal Party.
Then when the Liberals were in government, they tried to ban corflutes. That effort tanked with the opposition of the Labor Party and, I should point out, the Hon. John Darley, who originally I think at one point pointed out that he was in favour of banning corflutes and then performed a miraculous backflip and voted quite a different way for reasons that are still not clear to me or, potentially, the Hon. Mr Darley some could say.
I am pleased that we have finally reached a point where we are going to actually deal with this matter. I think what really has been the catalyst for this renewed push is a letter that I sent to the Premier on behalf of the Greens on Tuesday of this week, urging him to finally take action on this issue, recognising that we were heading into another by-election—yet another election—where the people of Dunstan were going to not only face another election in two years but were also going to face the spectre of more corflutes. I said, 'Look, we've got this by-election coming down the line. Let's finally deal with this. I recognise that the opposition has a bill. Why don't you dust it off and make it happen?'
Well, pressure works: pressure from the Greens works, and we welcome the fact that the government has taken this issue up and made it a priority. We made it very clear that we were happy to cooperate with the government to get this done and the Hon. Tammy Franks and I welcome the opportunity for this reform.
The features of the bill have been identified by the Hon. Heidi Girolamo, so I will not go through all of those, but I might just briefly speak to some of the amendments that the Greens will be moving to save time in the committee stage. Back when the Hon. Vickie Chapman, then Attorney-General, proposed this reform in the last parliament, I had negotiated a number of amendments with her that we saw as being quite important safeguards against unintended consequences.
Some of those amendments related to putting into the act the provisions of the Public Assemblies Act to make it clear that members of the community could still carry signage and posters at public rallies and events. For instance, despite the Labor Party's best efforts to prevent them, we do still have protests happen on the steps of our parliament and we wanted to make it clear that members of the community can still carry signs, so we are putting that into the bill.
We are also making it clear that candidates or indeed politicians can still have A-frames out in public space and that signage would be permitted. Our amendments would also allow for the practice of wobble boarding, which I see from social media some members of this chamber are very keen on, so I expect them to support these sensible amendments as I have seen on social media they have been very active out wobble boarding in recent days. I am sure they do not want to see that activity being prohibited.
The other elements of the Greens' amendments speak to what constitutes an advertising poster. Under the previous Vickie Chapman bill, which I think the Hon. David Speirs' bill has been modelled on, the legislation was to prohibit the corflute material, which is in effect single-use plastics, but I think it was always the intention of the minister—at least by my understanding, the intention of the minister at that time—to prohibit election posters being on public space. It was about the single-use plastics, but it was also about the poster material.
The way the legislation was written meant that people could circumvent that. These provisions were applied to the Local Government Act and so what we saw was some local government candidates using cardboard cutouts and cardboard posters to try to circumvent the rules. This amendment tidies that up, because whilst the Greens have a concern about the environmental impact of corflutes, our concern is also about the equity element and the arms race that this sets off.
If you are a small player and you are wanting to compete in an election, you could be having to spend a fortune on getting these posters designed and getting them up and about. They cost about $7 a pop, so we wanted to close that loophole as well, and stop what is, in effect, a pollution of our public space. We are also wanting to make it very clear that you cannot hold a street-corner meeting outside of a polling place on election day.
One of the other elements that we have sought to deal with is this issue that comes through in the act around posters or signs being placed on behalf of candidates. We could foresee a scenario where maybe an overzealous volunteer is putting up posters or a scenario perhaps where another party puts up posters that are masquerading as another political party's materials, and that could therefore take up the permissible number of posters for a party or candidate. We did not think that was fair, so our amendment is to make it clear that the consent of the candidate is required in relation to that.
We note that, where this occurs in relation to the Legislative Council candidates, the requirement of the lead candidate on the ticket, the candidate whose name appears at the top of the ballot paper, would be required. There are a number of amendments that flow through from that general principle which are consequential.
Another amendment we deal with is to increase the number of corflutes that a candidate can display on election day. The previous proposal from the Liberal Party was six. In the Greens we felt that was maybe a little bit too restrictive on election day. If you had a situation where you had lots of polling entrance points, we wanted to make sure people could still get their message out, so we propose to double it to twelve.
I have spoken a bit about the issue around consent. We also wanted to recognise this issue around authorisation of materials. The current rules provide that a candidate would only be liable for an offence of placing additional corflutes where they gave consent for this to occur. That is certainly what we are proposing through our amendment, but we did not want a situation where political parties could try to circumvent the offence provisions by maybe using a campaign manager or a surrogate to permit the placing of the corflutes. We have added in a new provision under amendment No. 15, and I will talk a little bit more about that when we get to it, but in effect it is also making it an offence for a party director or party manager to authorise those materials and have them displayed on their behalf.
To that point, the bill as it currently stands makes the candidate or the lead candidate, in the case of a Legislative Council group, responsible for all corflutes that are distributed in their seat. As I understand it, that is to ensure that there is someone who is ultimately responsible, and that individual volunteers are not being fined for following orders from campaign HQ. I get that, but I do not believe that when we know that a candidate has not consented to the distribution of materials on their behalf they would still be liable, and that is, I think, particularly true where another political party might be pulling out posters as some sort of tactic.
I cannot imagine why another political party would do such a thing, why it would masquerade as another political party, but sometimes these things happen, so it is an important loophole to close. In order to address that issue and ensure there is some accountability the amendment would create a new offence applicable to the person who authorised the material. In most cases that would be the registered officer of a political party, understanding for our party, the Greens, it is the state director. I think it is the same for the Liberal Party. I understand that would be the state secretary of the Labor Party. So that would ensure that there is somebody who is ultimately responsible for the materials that are being put out by the political party, and that occurs under the bill as it currently stands.
I note that there is a scenario that has not been addressed in the bill where unauthorised posters are being displayed, but we also recognise that that is already an offence under the Electoral Act. The bill also gives the power to the presiding officer at the polling place to remove those materials, and we think that is important, so that if someone is doing the wrong thing that material can be taken down.
I suspect that in practical terms, when you are looking the election day itself, the power to remove those materials would be very important. Nonetheless, I think the offence provisions included in the bill, which we are seeking to amend, are also really important in terms of trying to deter parties from intentionally breaking the rules and trying to gain political advantage, so we are trying to close that loophole.
To that end, one of the other issues we are proposing to include is giving the Electoral Commissioner the power to issue a formal written warning to a person who commits an offence under the bill relating to too many corflutes on election day. Again, what we did not want was a situation where you might have a really overzealous volunteer who turns up and puts too many posters in the wrong spot. It is a genuine mistake. Under the wording of the act as it currently stands, the lead candidate would face a significant fine, and it reads as if there is no opportunity to try to caution them and remedy the behaviour.
Under what we are proposing the commissioner would be given the power to give the candidate a caution and say, 'You need to take that down.' If they do not do so, they could issue the fine or they could go straight to a fine in the case of a serious breach, but it is giving a little more discretion to the commissioner so that we are not seeing people being pinged if there has been a genuine mistake or error.
That is a good summary of the amendments the Greens are seeking to advance. I will talk more about those at the committee stage, but that gives a good summary of the key general principles. It is fair to say that we have approached this in terms of wanting to make sure there are commonsense protections for all people who participate in our political process—candidates and members of the community more broadly. We are proposing some powers be given to the Attorney-General as well to make regulations as necessary. That is because there might be some particular exemptions required that we have not thought of.
A scenario mentioned to me is: if someone has a bumper sticker on the back of their car and has it parked on the side of the road, could they be captured under the provisions? It does not seem that they should be, but that is not really clear. We wanted to give the minister the power to make some regulations for those sorts of scenarios. It would be my hope that in crafting those regulations the minister would look at what works in other jurisdictions in terms of coming up with some of those carve-outs.
In crafting these amendments, I engaged with the current opposition, the Liberal Party, at the time under the leadership of then Minister Chapman, but we have also engaged with the Attorney-General's office in relation to some of the other elements as well. I want to apologise to members that the amendments were sent out very late last night. I am genuinely very sorry about that. I would like to have given people more time to consider them, but we were waiting for some of them to come back from the drafters. I did, however, contact the Hon. Heidi Girolamo to give her a general overview of some of the things we were seeking to address. I recognise that some of these will not be new to the Liberal Party, given that they were dealt with during the last period of parliament.
In closing, the Greens welcome this. We have been pushing this for a long time. The community will be breathing a sigh of relief if the parliament finally does away with corflutes. Our political parties' candidates should be judged on the merits of their policies and we should have a political system that puts the focus on that. I was on the FIVEaa Matthew Pantelis program the other day talking about this, and I said that politics is not a beauty pageant. He said, 'You've got that right.' I was not sure what he was meaning by that, but really we should be, I think, judged on our policies, not simple slogans and the like. This brings South Australia into line with other jurisdictions and is something that will be welcomed by most people in the community.
7 February 2024
PARLIAMENTARY COMMITTEES (RESPONSE TO REPORTS) AMENDMENT BILL
Introduction and First Reading
The Hon. R.A. SIMMS (16:26): Obtained leave and introduced a bill for an act to amend the Parliamentary Committees Act 1991. Read a first time.
The Hon. R.A. SIMMS (16:27): I move:
That this bill be now read a second time.
This bill seeks to amend the Parliamentary Committees Act to require that the relevant minister provide a response to any parliamentary inquiry's recommendations within four months of the report being tabled in the parliament. Currently, there is a requirement that, if a matter is referred to the Legislative Review Committee via a petition that is signed by 10,000 people, the relevant minister is automatically required to respond, but of course we know that there is no requirement for ministers to respond to the recommendations of select committees.
Ordinarily, you would say that we could operate in a trust model in this place. We would assume that the relevant minister would, of course, respond to the recommendations of a select committee. Sadly, that is not the case when it comes to some of the ministers in this Labor government and, in particular, I refer to the Hon. Tom Koutsantonis.
As I highlighted in question time today, 12 months ago to the day I tabled the report of the Public and Active Transport Committee that made a series of recommendations. We had more than 100 people make submissions to that inquiry and more than 50 people gave evidence to the inquiry and I really appreciated the participation of members of a vast array of political parties at that committee table.
When the committee tabled the report, I contacted the minister's office on 7 February and requested a meeting and I did not hear back. I followed up again on 13 April and again I did not hear back. Prior to starting in this place, I never had a problem getting guys to call me back, but for some reason the minister seems to be ghosting me.
I do not know what is going on. I do not know why the minister will not pick up the phone and call me back, why he does not want to talk hydrogen with the Greens, why he does not want to talk transport policy with the Greens, but it seems that the minister's view is that, when the parliamentary committee hands down a report, his job is simply to take the report, pop it in a drawer, never read it again and let it sit there for months and months, gathering dust.
I think that is very insulting. It is an insult not just to us as members of this chamber and members of parliament who engage in select committees in goodwill to identify potential policy solutions for the government of the day; it is also a slap in the face to those members of the community who have gone to the effort to put pen to paper and make a submission to an inquiry or who have gone to the effort to come and speak, as 50 people did to that inquiry, to members of parliament and address them and share their concerns.
What does the government do? In the case of the Hon. Tom Koutsantonis he has done nothing in terms of engaging with the recommendations. I fear, to quote Sam Smith, who I know the Labor government love, he is not the only one. We know that the Hon. Clare Scriven, while she did admit today that she has actually read the report, has not engaged with the contents of the report and has refused to do so. Despite being asked on many, many occasions, she uses the Scott Morrison defence: 'That's not my job.' Ms Scriven says, 'That's not my job'. It is not the Hon. Tom Koutsantonis's job either.
This bill would ensure that actually the relevant minister is required to respond and respond in a timely fashion. Under this Greens proposal the minister would be required to indicate which of the recommendations of a committee report they will implement, which ones they will not implement and the reason for their decision. That seems very, very reasonable.
Normally, it would not be required, but when we have a minister that is ghosting members of parliament and refusing to respond to their queries and efforts to engage, then the parliament needs to step up and take action, and that is what we are proposing in this instance.
Debate adjourned on motion of Hon. I.K. Hunter.
7 February 2024
The Hon. R.A. SIMMS (15:38): I rise to speak on a matter that will be of importance to all people in our state but in particular to those living in the seat of Dunstan, and that is the upcoming by-election and the opportunity that is presented to people living in that seat. In doing so, I do also want to acknowledge the service of the Hon. Steven Marshall, a former Premier of our state and someone who was Premier of our state during a very challenging period, in particular during COVID. I do recognise his leadership during that time, and I wish him all the best for this next chapter.
The Greens are of course participating in this by-election campaign. Our candidate is Katie McCusker, who is a local, someone who has lived in the Dunstan electorate for many years. She has lived in the areas of Payneham, Norwood, Felixstow and Toorak Gardens. She went to school at Rose Park Primary School and attended high school in Kensington Park and Marryatville.
She graduated from Flinders University with a Bachelor of Arts, with majors in psychology and political science. As a uni student, she worked in the area at the Kensington cricket club. She volunteered at the Adelaide Central School of Art, when it was located on Osmond Terrace in Norwood, and she frequented the Kent Town Hotel, so she is someone who has been active in that community. Indeed, she was a member and volunteer of the Kensington Residents' Association and a lifetime supporter of the Norwood Redlegs football club.
But aside from her credentials as a local person, Katie McCusker is someone who has progressive values. She is not someone who is a member of a right-wing faction of a political party. She is not someone who is a member of a right-wing political party. She is someone who supports progressive issues, such as of course banning conversion therapy, and someone who has campaigned for the issues that the people in the community care about.
Indeed, she was a strong campaigner for the Voice to Parliament, which a majority of people in the seat of Dunstan supported, and which, to their great discredit, the Liberal Party did everything in their power to wreck and destroy. Opposing a State Voice to Parliament in this chamber, under the appalling leadership of Peter Dutton, they did everything they could to poison the well against that reform. Well, they are not the values that the people of Dunstan seek from their candidate.
The Greens have a clear platform that I think will be of interest to the people of Dunstan. We have been very outspoken in terms of campaigning for investment in public transport and in improved cycling infrastructure and better services that would benefit people living in that seat. We have been really active in pushing to ramp up heritage protections and prevent the practice of demolition by neglect that is causing real problems in the Norwood area.
We have been campaigning to protect our Parklands and add them to the state heritage list, campaigning to protect our green space and campaigning to move the car race that causes so much disruption to residents in that area out of the CBD.
The Greens performed very well in the last state election in the seat of Sturt, which includes the state seat of Dunstan. Indeed, we got 16.4 per cent of the primary vote and Katie, as the candidate during that election, secured a 5.21 per cent swing to the Greens. She also contested the 2010 state election for the seat of Norwood, which is now Dunstan, and she got a 3 per cent swing to the Greens at that election.
Katie has been out there campaigning over the last two years, talking to residents about the issues that matter to them, and one of the things that is clear is that the Greens message, in terms of tackling the cost-of-living crisis and dealing with the issues that are important to the people of Dunstan, is being well received and I look forward to joining her out on the hustings, along with my colleague the Hon. Tammy Franks. We are excited about the potential of this by-election for the people of Dunstan and the opportunity it presents them to finally have a progressive voice in this place.
30 November 2023
The Hon. R.A. SIMMS (17:57): Briefly, on behalf of the Greens, I want to wish everybody a safe and happy Christmas. For me, Christmas has always been a time to celebrate the good things in life; that is, friends and family. As the Hon. Nicola Centofanti has alluded to, it can also be a very sad time for many in our community, particularly those who have lost loved ones during the year, and my thoughts are going to be with those South Australians who are struggling at the moment—those who are struggling with loneliness but also those who are struggling with the cost-of-living crisis.
I know I also speak for all of us in the chamber when I say that our thoughts will be with people in the Middle East as well, as they deal with the profound loss and sadness that comes from war and conflict at this time of year. It is certainly my hope that in the new year, we finally see some peace for our troubled world and, in particular, that troubled region where there is so much profound sadness.
Reflecting a bit on this year, there have been some pretty significant bills and reforms that have come to this parliament for consideration. Certainly, from a crossbench perspective, we have found ourselves often playing quite a key role, and that has led to sometimes moments of agreement and sometimes stoushes. One of the things that I really appreciate, however, about this parliament and in particular this chamber is the respectful and collegial way that we are able to work. Whilst we do have disagreements, I think it speaks to the strength of our democracy that we are able to come together and work together, and long may that tradition continue, particularly when one reflects on some of the terrible things that are unfolding around the world.
I sincerely thank all members of this place who we have had an opportunity to work with this year, and all the staff across the building who keep things moving. Thank you, Mr President, for your leadership and fair and balanced approach to adjudicating often some challenging debates, so thank you for that. I also in particular want to thank my staff. I often joke and say that as politicians we are the lead singers of the band, but it is the staff who do all the work in terms of writing the music and all the work behind the scenes.
I know everybody in this building works hard, but it is particularly true of crossbench staff, because often we have such a large legislative load, and our staff play a really important role in getting us across all the detail. With that, I wish everybody a safe and happy Christmas and look forward to working with you all next year in what I hope is a happy and productive year for the South Australian parliament.
30 November 2023
The Hon. R.A. SIMMS (16:35): I move:
That this bill be now read a second time.
I rise to speak in relation to the Public Assemblies (Miscellaneous) Bill 2023. This bill comes in response to the antiprotest laws that were introduced by the Malinauskas government in partnership with the Liberal opposition earlier this year and rushed through as part of a pact between the two major parties. You will remember that I spoke at length on that bill, and I thought I might revisit that speech now. That was a joke, Mr President.
The PRESIDENT: Funny joke, the Hon. Mr Simms, very funny joke.
The Hon. R.A. SIMMS: Just testing, Mr President. I just wanted to see if everybody was listening. There was a look of great alarm that swept across everyone's faces. Don't worry, my speech will be very short.
Peaceful assembly is a key part of a democratic society. It is how citizens hold public institutions to account. When the Dunstan government introduced the Public Assemblies Act in 1972 it set South Australia apart as a best practice in protecting the right to protest. It came after a Vietnam moratorium protest was met with force and there was an attempt to manage that protest. A royal commission into the protest found that 130 protesters were arrested and dragged into paddy wagons. The Dunstan government moved swiftly to introduce an act to ensure that the right to protest was protected, and I commend them for doing so.
While the new obstruction laws did not technically touch the Public Assemblies Act, the influence of that change could have ripple effects, and there are potential unintended consequences that need to be addressed.
The Human Rights Law Centre has recently released the 'Declaration of our right to protest', which has already been signed by over 60 civil society organisations. These include Amnesty International, SACOSS, the Australian Democracy Network, the Conservation Council and many more. The declaration states, and I quote from the document:
The right to peaceful protest is a fundamental human right that allows us to express our views, shape our societies and press for social and legal change. Participating in peaceful protest is a way for all of us to have our voices heard and be active in public debate, no matter our bank balance or our political connections.
The declaration contains 10 fundamental principles for protecting protest in our democracy:
- We must protect the right to protest.
- Governments must accept that public protest involves some level of disruption.
- Laws affecting the right to protest must be clear.
- Limitations on the right to protest must be properly justified.
- Protesters must have all their human rights protected.
- Participating in a protest is not an invitation to surveillance.
- Independent monitoring of protests must be facilitated.
- Protests should not be restricted based on their message except where that message could harm others.
- Police must not interfere with the right to protest unless it is absolutely necessary.
- Giving prior notice to authorities about a protest must be optional.
The Greens believe that protecting protest is vital in a healthy democracy, and that is the genesis of this bill. This proposed legislation would provide clarity around the right to protest and clarity for organisers of peaceful protests and plug some of the gaping holes in the government's obstruction legislation that was rushed through this parliament with such poor consideration of the implications for our human rights.
Firstly, the Greens bill would insert a positive obligation to protect assemblies. That is a provision that already exists in other jurisdictions, places like Finland and New Zealand. In addition to the declaration, the United Nations has also issued 10 principles for proper management of assemblies. I quote from their document:
The State's obligation to facilitate and protect assemblies includes spontaneous assemblies, simultaneous assemblies and counter-protests. Assemblies, including spontaneous assemblies and counter-protests, should, as far as possible, be facilitated to take place within sight and sound of their target.
The State's obligation to facilitate extends to taking measures to protect those exercising their rights from violence or interference.
The Law Society has also indicated their support for this right and have considered this bill. As part of their consideration of the bill, they state:
The inclusion of this provision was welcomed by the Committee, which considered it to be more cognisant with international obligations under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
Clause 4 of the bill reduces the time frame for giving notice of assembly from four days to 48 hours. That is consistent with the standard issued by the United Nations, which states that the ideal time for notification is 48 hours, allowing for assembly organisers to oppose issues in a timely manner. With modern methods of communication being more immediate, 48 hours is a reasonable time frame and much more workable in the modern age.
Clause 5 of the bill addresses a concern that was raised by a number of organisations during the passage of the new penalties for the obstruction offences back in May. Many organisations expressed concerns that even if they went through all of the required steps to have an approved protest they may be held responsible for actions of their participants who stepped outside of the limits of the approved assembly. That is a concerning development for our democracy—a really concerning development—and it has the potential to have a chilling effect for protest in this state. That is why the Greens are seeking to clear up any ambiguity.
The provision in the Greens bill would provide absolute clarity that organisers are not liable for the acts of participants of their assembly if they act outside of the approved proposal. This will give comfort to many organisers who are currently unclear about how the new obstruction penalties interact with the Public Assemblies Act. Those interactions have not yet been tested by the courts, and we want to make sure that any loopholes are closed before we get to that point. This bill is in line with the international standards of protecting the right to protest. The least we can do is to provide clarity to protest organisers and protect the right to protest. This bill does just that and it would ensure that our democracy is protected and enhanced.
I know that we are at the time of year when people start to set New Year's resolutions and to think about the future. As our Premier prepares to sing Auld Lang Syne and celebrate the New Year and sets his New Year's resolutions, I hope that one that he sets is that he will never go down this path again, of working in lockstep with the opposition to rush through draconian laws such as this that so fundamentally infringe on South Australians' civil and political rights.
His New Year's resolution should be 'Don't go down that dark road again. Don't take your marching orders from David Speirs and the right wing Liberal Party. Listen to community organisations, civic and political groups. Listen to their collective wisdom rather than the talkback shock jocks and David Speirs and Alex Antic and others on the side of the Liberal Party.'
The ACTING PRESIDENT (The Hon. T.A. Franks): Member, it is the member for Black or the Leader of the Opposition.
The Hon. R.A. SIMMS: Apologies, Acting President.
The ACTING PRESIDENT (The Hon. T.A. Franks): The Liberal opposition was not going to do it; I have to.
The Hon. R.A. SIMMS: The Hon. David Speirs, Leader of the Opposition, and right wing shock jocks and others were really fanning the flames of division and disquiet, whipping up some sort of moral panic in relation to people who were belling the cat on the climate emergency. It was a dark chapter for our state. It was an embarrassing chapter for our state.
The Hon. J.M.A. Lensink: David Penberthy is so right wing, isn't he?
The Hon. R.A. SIMMS: The Hon. Michelle Lensink says David Penberthy is right wing. I would argue he is—I would argue he is very right wing. I refer to the number of attacks that Mr Penberthy has made on me and the Greens over the years to prove my point.
This is a chance for a fresh start in the new year, for the government to turn over a new leaf and to positively embrace the opportunity that the Greens have presented to them with this bill. With that, I conclude my remarks.
30 November 2023
The Hon. R.A. SIMMS (15:18): I seek leave to make a brief explanation before addressing a question without notice to the Attorney-General on the topic of ministerial diaries.
The Hon. R.A. SIMMS: Yesterday, in this place, we debated a motion from the Hon. Frank Pangallo regarding the release of ministerial diaries. The motion sought to require the release of details of diary entries from ministers. In that debate the Attorney-General stated, and I quote from Hansard:
It is the government's view that, if this sort of scheme were to be established by the parliament, it ought to be done by legislation, not solely by a motion of one house. For example, that is what the Hon. Sarah Game, as has been discussed, has sought to do with her Public Sector (Ministerial Travel Reports) Amendment Bill. For these reasons, we will not be supporting the motion.
On 7 July 2022, the Legislative Council passed a bill introduced by the Greens titled Freedom of Information (Ministerial Diaries) Amendment Bill. That bill aimed to bring South Australia into line with other jurisdictions such as New South Wales, Queensland and the ACT, where ministers are already required to disclose their diaries.
The government at that time did not support the bill; however, yesterday it supported the passage of a bill introduced by One Nation, which dealt with a similar transparency matter related to the disclosure of travel expenses. My question to the Attorney-General therefore is: given the government's conversion on transparency, will it now commit to supporting the Freedom of Information (Ministerial Diaries) Amendment Bill in the new year and, if not, why not?
The PRESIDENT: Order!
The Hon. K.J. MAHER (Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, Attorney-General, Minister for Industrial Relations and Public Sector) (15:20): I thank the honourable member for his very keen interest in these areas, and I am very happy to say we will continue to do what we have always done: when we have a bill before us the government will consider the detail of the bill, how it is written, what it proposes to do, how it will propose to operate, and make a decision accordingly.
The PRESIDENT: Order! I want to listen to the supplementary question to see if I can possibly find some relevance.
The Hon. R.A. SIMMS (15:20): Supplementary: given the bill has been sitting there for over 12 months, when can we expect an answer?
The Hon. K.J. MAHER (Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, Attorney-General, Minister for Industrial Relations and Public Sector) (15:20): We will, of course, as always consider the merits of each bill as it is put before us.
29 November 2023
The Hon. R.A. SIMMS: I rise to indicate the Greens will support the amendments and the passage of the bill through the upper house, as we did previously. But I do wish to highlight for the chamber the breathtaking about-face of the government, who just moments ago opposed a very sensible proposal from the Hon. Frank Pangallo relating to the publication of ministerial diaries. They have allowed a very reasonable proposal from me that passed this chamber—a bill which they keep referencing as the Rolls-Royce model; it is a bill that has actually passed this chamber—that would bring South Australia into line with other jurisdictions, and they have not passed it.
I challenge the government in the new year, now that they have supported this and made it a priority—and obviously they have judged this on its merits; this is a proposal that is more meritorious, and the Hon. Sarah Game has been much more pleasant to deal with than me—and I urge the government, having made that decision, to fast-track the Greens bill for the publication of ministerial diaries in the new year to plug the gap that they are so concerned about.
They indicated they would not support the motion of the Hon. Frank Pangallo just minutes ago because it was a motion. There is a very good bill that has passed this chamber that they should prioritise in the new year. If they do not do so, then people will start to ask why. Why? They really have a lot of explaining to do in this regard, and they need to explain to the people of South Australia why they are letting one transparency measure languish while another has been fast-tracked. What is going on here?
29 November 2023
The Hon. R.A. SIMMS (18:16): Firstly, I speak in favour of the motion on behalf of the Hon. Frank Pangallo and indicate that the Greens will be supporting this. I know a lot of speakers have alluded to the fact that the government will not be supporting this motion, but given the position that they have adopted on the Hon. Sarah Game's bill in the lower house, I can only assume that they would be supporting this motion, great fans of transparency that they are.
I would be very shocked if they were to favour a bill of the Hon. Sarah Game over a bill put forward by myself dealing with transparency that has been languishing in the lower house for some time. I cannot imagine why they would not support my bill, yet they are so attracted to the bill of the Hon. Sarah Game. I cannot imagine why that would be. I have been very pleasant to deal with this week and every week. I cannot imagine why they would be so attracted to the bill of the Hon. Sarah Game that they opposed so vociferously when it was first announced.
Indeed, I remember hearing a number of Labor ministers lining up in the media to indicate that the bill was not needed and that it was a bridge too far. This week, they have enthusiastically supported it. I know it is Christmas season and we talk a lot about Secret Santa, but what about secret deals? Has there been a secret deal done? I asked the government about this back in November when we were talking about the Hydrogen and Renewable Energy Bill. I read from Hansard. I said at that time:
I am advised that in the other place a bill from the Hon. Sarah Game relating to ministerial travel has now been moved up for debate for the next sitting week. Earlier, the government advised that there had been no deal done with the Hon. Sarah Game. Is that still the government's position?
The honourable Minister Scriven replied:
…the crossbench in this place made statements to the effect that they had not engaged in any deals. I think the line of questioning is quite offensive.
I do not mean to cause offence to the minister, but the community has a right to know. If there has not been a secret deal, then it is incumbent on the government in their remarks to indicate why they are so attracted to the Hon. Sarah Game bill and why they are so lukewarm on, so repulsed by, the Greens bill that they would leave it to languish there for 12 months.
I note the comments made by the Hon. Connie Bonaros and the Hon. Sarah Game that a motion is not the appropriate measure. Well, motions are a statement of intent. Motions indicate the views of this chamber, and my understanding is that this would have the potential to compel members of this chamber, ministers, to reveal their diaries.
It would, as a result, put more pressure, I think, on the government in the other place, and that is the role of the opposition and the crossbench. It is not simply to say, 'Oh, well, it's all too hard, and we're not going to go there.' So I am disappointed in the position that the Hon. Connie Bonaros and the Hon. Sarah Game have taken in this regard.
In terms of the substance of the motion, this has been a long-term priority for the Greens. As indicated, we have a bill that has passed this chamber, calling for ministerial diaries to be made available, bringing South Australia into line with Queensland, with New South Wales and others.
For me, personally, this has been a long-term campaign. Indeed, back in town hall I initiated a developer contact register so the community could see who local councillors were meeting with. Unfortunately, that move was opposed by the Hon. Sandy Verschoor, Lord Mayor at the time, and the co-leader of the Team Adelaide faction, Alex Hyde. They prevented that transparency measure, but I kept pushing, also trying to get access to diaries from the Lord Mayor, and we have continued that fight here in state parliament.
I commend the Hon. Frank Pangallo for the position he has taken on this and really urge members to get on board. That said, I am optimistic the government will support it, because not to support it would be so inconsistent with the position they have taken on the other bill on a similar related matter that I think it would be very disingenuous for them to oppose this move by the Hon. Frank Pangallo, and they could leave themselves open to charges of hypocrisy were they to do so.