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Question: Age of Criminal Responsibility

4 May 2022

The Hon. R.A. SIMMS: I seek leave to make a brief explanation before addressing a question without notice to the Attorney-General on the topic of raising the age of criminal responsibility.


Leave granted.


The Hon. R.A. SIMMS: A national campaign to raise the age of criminal responsibility to at least 14, in line with other jurisdictions around the world, has been backed by a coalition of legal, medical and social justice organisations, including the Law Council of Australia, the Australian Medical Association and Indigenous-led groups. Here in South Australia we still charge children at the age of 10. According to the Law Society of South Australia, and I quote from them:


The majority of children that come face to face with the criminal justice system have a background of disadvantage and trauma.


This is a system that is punishing the most vulnerable. Over 50 per cent of children incarcerated are from Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander background, further adding to the disadvantage that is already faced by these communities. In November 2020, the ACT Labor government committed to raising the criminal age of responsibility to 14. My question to the Attorney-General therefore is: will the Malinauskas Labor government follow the lead of the ACT Labor government and commit to finally raising the age of criminal responsibility in South Australia to 14?


The Hon. K.J. MAHER (Attorney-General, Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, Minister for Industrial Relations and Public Sector): I thank the honourable member for his question. It is an area that I know the Hon. Robert Simms certainly has a passion for and an interest in. I have been at events and had discussions with Robert Simms as part of that. Raising the age of criminal responsibility is an important issue. I will talk in a moment a bit more about how it intersects not just with my Attorney-General portfolio but, really importantly, with my Aboriginal affairs portfolio.


In South Australia under section 5 of the Young Offenders Act 1993, the minimum age of criminal responsibility as identified by the honourable member is 10 years old. Under that age, a child cannot be held to commit an offence, meaning they cannot be held criminally liable for their actions. The minimum age of criminal responsibility is the age at which a child can be held criminally responsible and therefore charged and convicted of criminal offences. As the member said, it is higher in many other places around the world. The United Nations had previously recommended a minimum age of criminal responsibility of 12 years old, which it has now revised to the age of 14.


While the age of criminal responsibility in SA is 10 years, between the age of 10 and 14 the common law rebuttal presumption is that the child does not understand the full consequence of their actions and is incapable of forming the mental element of the offence, but that is a rebuttable presumption. At 14 years and after a child can be held criminally responsible for their actions without that rebuttable presumption, meaning that they are considered capable of committing the crime and of forming the necessary mental element that goes into proving the commission of the crime.


There was a working group set up in 2018 under the auspices of the Council of Attorneys-General to examine this particular issue. The Meeting of Attorneys-General, which replaced the former council, was last held I am advised on 12 November 2021. At that meeting in November last year, state attorneys-general supported the development of a proposal to increase the minimum age of criminal responsibility from 10 to 12, including with regard to any exceptions, timing and discussion of implementation requirements.


The Northern Territory, as I am aware, has previously committed to raising the age to 12 years and will continue to work on their reforms and what diversion and programs and services may be in place. As the honourable member pointed out, the Australian Capital Territory has said that they are committed to raising the age to 14 years and are starting work on their own reforms outside of that council of attorneys-general.


One part, as I have been advised, that is a consideration of this group is the reforms of individual states and discussions about those threshold levels of 12 or 14 years of age. As I have said, the council of attorneys-general has agreed to look at reforms to 12, but one jurisdiction, the ACT, is moving towards 14.


I know that there has been commentary from the United Nations, other bodies and human rights organisations, some of which the Hon. Robert Simms has outlined today, for not raising this age yet. This is something that I have certainly had a number of discussions about with a wide range of people, led by Cheryl Axelby, who will be known to many as the former head of the Aboriginal Legal Rights Movement and who is now the head of an organisation called Change the Record, which advocates for raising the age. I certainly had discussions before the last election and I will continue those discussions with Cheryl and others in relation to this issue. It is an important issue.


We know that in both adult prisons and in youth detention there is a massive over-representation of Aboriginal people. A couple of years ago, I was told of a statistic that on occasions the entire population of the youth detention centre in South Australia is made up of Aboriginal people. There have been occasions when that is the case. Now that we are in government, I will be keen to test some of the things that I have been told. In any event, I don't think there is any doubt whatsoever that Aboriginal children, as a percentage, make up far too big a portion of our youth detention.


Raising the age, with appropriate other programs, could go some way to meeting that. Certainly, we see from some of the big national statements, whether it's the Uluru Statement from the Heart or the Closing the Gap targets, that this is an important issue. It is something that we will be turning our mind to and it is discussions I have been involved in and I will be pleased to keep the honourable member up to date with where we go and what we do on this issue.

The Hon. R.A. SIMMS: Supplementary: noting the minister's reply, has the minister had the opportunity to talk to the ACT Attorney-General about the approach taken there and if he hasn't done so, is that something that he will be doing?


The Hon. K.J. MAHER (Attorney-General, Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, Minister for Industrial Relations and Public Sector): I thank the honourable member for his supplementary question. I haven't done so yet, but very keen to do so.


Raising the Age of Criminal Responsibility

01 December 2021

The Hon. R.A. SIMMS: The Young Offenders (Age of Criminal Responsibility) Amendment Bill was introduced by my predecessor, the Hon. Mark Parnell, early last year. The bill raises the age of criminal responsibility to 14 and requires that children in prison under that age be released from custody within a month of the commencement of the legislation. Since that introduction of the bill last year, South Australian children between the ages of 10 and 13 were incarcerated over 133 times in 2020—133 times.


At the Kurlana Tapa youth justice centre at Cavan, 21 per cent of detainees were aged 10 to 14. Those children returned to the centre an average of four times the same year—that is, 21 per cent of the detainees aged 10 to 14. These are children. Most 10 to 13 year olds in that group had disabilities, identified as First Nations people and/or were under the guardianship of the child protection department. An inspection of the facility revealed more than 60 per cent of young people in the facility were First Nations people.


A study from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare revealed that South Australia detains children at a higher rate than the national average. As it is with almost every stage of contact within the criminal justice system, First Nations people are over-represented. These facts clearly demonstrate the conclusions that many legal, medical, scientific and social justice organisations have come to, not only in South Australia but around the world; that is, holding children as young as 10 criminally responsible for their actions not only is medically unsound but is inhumane and a violation of the basic human rights of children.


That it disproportionally affects children from disadvantaged backgrounds, racial and ethnic minorities and those with disabilities is also appalling. And it increases the risk of reoffending into the future, locking children into a cycle of repeated contact with the criminal justice system, which they may struggle their whole lives to break away from.


The Royal Australasian College of Physicians is of the view that children under the age of 14 may not have the required capacity to be criminally responsible for their actions. This is based on a vast body of neurological evidence, which has shown that the brain of a child between the ages of 10 and 14 is not fully developed.


The Australian Medical Association has confirmed the effects of incarceration and isolation at such an early age to be severe. The impacts include worse health, lowered education and employment outcomes, even the likelihood of premature death. These are the consequences that endure far beyond any time a child may spend behind bars. We do lifelong damage to these children by allowing their incarceration. Prison is no place for a child.


The damages that flow from this practice disproportionally affect First Nations children in South Australia, who make up 65 per cent of the young children behind bars nationwide. In SA, youth diversion by police in relation to Indigenous youth is at its lowest rate since records began, with only 23 per cent of First Nations offenders being diverted away from court. This is a travesty.


It is no secret that there is a serious problem with the incarceration rates of First Nations people in Australia, particularly with young people, who we are allowing to fall into the quicksand of our criminal justice system, a criminal justice system that is failing these children. These children do not need incarceration and isolation. Our efforts need to be directed towards keeping them safe and supported within their communities through a focus on rehabilitation, in line with recommendations from First Nations groups, social justice organisations and the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander youth justice principle.


Raising the age is a meaningful step towards stopping the acceleration of First Nations incarceration rates and presents a pathway to reverse the growth in prison populations in our state. This is particularly pressing, given we have reached the 30th anniversary of the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody this year.


Australia has faced international condemnation for its records on juvenile detention, and rightly so. Thirty-one countries of the United Nations called on Australia to raise the age of criminal responsibility to the global average of 14. This is encouraged by the Convention on the Rights of the Child committee, a convention to which Australia is a party. Sadly, Australia is failing to meet its obligations under this convention—and that is a national shame.


The attorneys-general at a national level recently announced their support of the development of a proposal to raise the age to 12. This is inadequate. It is insufficient. If the age were lifted to 12, as suggested, over 81 per cent of children aged under 14 in detention would still remain there. A national campaign to raise the age of criminal responsibility has been supported by over 90 organisations, including the Law Council of Australia and the Australian Medical Association, and First Nations-led groups have revealed not only the urgency of this issue but the incredible consensus that exists around it. Raising the criminal age to 14 is simply the right thing to do. It is the moral thing to do.


We have seen the Greens in New South Wales, Victoria and Queensland table bills to raise the age of criminal responsibility. WA, Victoria and Queensland all have successful programs in place which could serve as alternatives to incarceration for children, and they could be a model implemented here in South Australia. These programs have a focus on therapeutic responses to offending behaviour, and many have a strong element of First Nations control and directorship. These programs are suggested as more appropriate solutions for children who need intervention and guidance, and are at risk of involvement with the criminal justice system.


The Greens in the ACT secured a commitment from the government last year to raise the age to 14 and, following the 2020 election, ACT Labor and the Greens have set a reform agenda which places it as a priority. The ACT Attorney-General, Shane Rattenbury, hopes to have legislation before the assembly by early next year. The discussion paper released this year expresses their intention to pursue responses outside the traditional justice system and to develop an alternative model. I quote from the report, which states:


Raising the age provides the opportunity to redesign the approach we take to understanding and responding to the harmful behaviour of children and young people. Decriminalising responses to this behaviour will shift the focus of the response from the deeds of the child to what the child needs to have a safe, stable and supportive environment.


Surely that should be our primary responsibility when we are dealing with children. Surely we should be looking at what we can do to help and support them and ensure that they can reach their full potential, rather than condemning them to a life of interaction with our criminal justice system.


Our age of criminal responsibility is an international disgrace, it is an international shame and it should be one that causes great humiliation for the Australian government and the government of this state. We are out of step on this issue by practically every measure. We are out of step internationally, we are out of step with medical and mental health experts and we are out of step with what is the ethical consensus with what we know to be the right thing to do. We cannot allow ourselves to come out of step with what other jurisdictions are doing in our own country as well.


Next year, when parliament resumes, the Greens will be reintroducing this bill. I am hopeful that we will be able to work with whoever is in government to resolve this urgent issue and to do the right thing by the children of South Australia. I urge the Liberal Party to commit to supporting this reform if they are in government, and I urge the Labor Party to make a similar commitment that, if they are in government, they will take action on this because it is simply an injustice that has been allowed to continue for far too long. It is a national disgrace, it is an international disgrace, and it is incumbent on this parliament and all sides of politics to come to the table to deal with this reform and to stop the cruel treatment of vulnerable children—children who do not belong in our prison system.


Disclosure of Ministerial Diaries

01 December 2021

The Hon. R.A. SIMMS:


I rise to speak in relation to the bill requiring the disclosure of ministerial diaries. This bill is a basic transparency measure to allow the proactive disclosure of ministerial diaries. Similar legislation already exists in the ACT, while mechanisms in Queensland and New South Wales require ministers to make copies of their diaries publicly available. This practice of disclosure will help to illuminate lobbying influence, as it did in Queensland last year during their state election.


The function of this bill is straightforward. Every month, a minister would make publicly available all meetings, events and functions which relate to their professional responsibilities. These would be published on the internet.


The bill does not require disclosure of personal meetings and would permit the emission of information deemed by the minister to be contrary to the public interest. I want to assure the ministers in this place that I have no intention of wanting to read their personal diaries or to pry into their personal affairs or personal meetings. Rather, this relates simply to the meetings that relate to their professional responsibilities. The minister would have the power to deem disclosure of a meeting to be contrary to the public interest. This decision would then be subject to review by the Ombudsman or by the SACAT should a member of the public wish to contest that.


In 2019, research from the ANU revealed that the Australian public's trust in politicians has been on a downward trajectory since 2007. A report from Griffith University and Transparency International Australia revealed the number of Australians who view corruption as a big problem as being 66 per cent; so 66 per cent of Australians view corruption as being a big problem. That is two-thirds of the Australian population.


Encouraging greater levels of transparency is an important step in restoring trust. Raising the bar of political transparency has been a long-term project of the Greens. We have been at the forefront of campaigns and advocacy for anticorruption commissions, lobbying reform, caps on political donations and accountability federally, and at a state level. Nobody should be above scrutiny in our democracy. Sunlight is the best disinfectant. We should let the sunlight in.


This measure when used in combination with a lobbyist register, which we have in place in South Australia, will help South Australians see very clearly who is lobbying members of parliament, who is seeking to exert influence over government ministers, and what interest groups do they represent. The public has a right to know who has the ear of those in power and this bill would ensure that that information is freely available to them.


This is not some sort of test dummy that I am proposing. This is an approach that has already been taken in the ACT, and in Queensland and in New South Wales they also have mandated disclosure regimes of this nature. This would really bring South Australia into line. My hope is that, no matter which party is in government from March next year, they will support this sensible reform. If we have the opportunity to sit again in the new year, and if the Liberals do not succeed in their plan to shut down our parliament as they attempted to do during the last sitting period—


The Hon. T.J. Stephens interjecting


The Hon. R.A. SIMMS: I hear the Hon. Terry Stephens laughing. He knows it is true.


The PRESIDENT: The Hon. Terry Stephens is out of order!


The Hon. R.A. SIMMS: We all saw what they tried to do to avoid scrutiny in this place. If they fail in that effort and if we return in the new year, then I do plan to bring this bill to a vote, because it is an important transparency measure and it is one that I think the people of South Australia will support. If I do not have the opportunity to deal with this matter before the election, should I have the honour of being returned to this place, I will certainly move on this again in the new parliament. With that, I conclude my remarks.


Code of Conduct Amendment

18 November 2021

The Hon. R.A. SIMMS: I move to amend proposed new standing order 455B:


After 'Code of Conduct', first appearing, insert 'and should a Member wilfully contravene the Code, the Council may require the Member to apologise; or pay a fine; or may suspend the Member from the service of the Council.'


This is a straightforward inclusion. It is modelled on the code of conduct that operates in the state of Victoria. I understand the points the honourable Treasurer has made in terms of wanting to ensure uniformity between the houses, but at the same time I think we have a responsibility to ensure that any code we put in place is effective and has real teeth.


I think the people of South Australia expect that if you do the wrong thing in a workplace you face consequences, that you face potential sanction or penalty. It would send the wrong message if we supported a range of laudable principles today, but we did not actually stipulate what consequences may flow for members of parliament who do the wrong thing. I think it is appropriate that we put some of those things in the standing orders.


Members may well ask how great would a fine be, or how long would a suspension last. The Victorian legislation provides some clarity on this and so if we were to establish this principle in the parliament today then we could certainly finesse that down the track. I think this is an important principle for us to establish. It is one that the community will expect of us and I am hoping that this chamber will support the amendment being advanced by the Greens.


Voting Age Amendment

18 November 2021

The Hon. R.A. SIMMS: I move:


Amendment No 1 [Simms–1]—

  • Page 3, after line 11 [clause 4, before subclause (1)]—Insert:
    • (a1) Section 4(1), definition of elector—delete '18 years' and substitute '16 years'


This is an amendment that seeks to change the definition of elector from the age of 18 to 16. Currently, as we know, voters go on the roll at the age of 18 in South Australia. This would make voting optional for people who are 16 and 17 in state elections. We in the Greens think that is entirely appropriate. If someone is old enough to pay taxes, old enough to work, old enough to drive, then they should be old enough to vote and have a say on the direction of our state.


We also face some big challenges at the moment. Those challenges are multigenerational. Issues like climate change—the impact of an issue like that will be felt across the generations. We know that young people, particularly of school age, have been leading the charge for climate action. They should have a say on the direction of their state and their country, and the best way we can do that is by giving them an opportunity to vote. We also see this as being an exciting way to engage people more in civics and improve understanding of our politics as well.


Harassment in the Parliament Workplace: Equal Opportunity Commissioner's Independent Review

16 November 2021

The Hon. R.A. SIMMS: The Greens are also supportive of this report and the recommendations. In particular, I want to put on record our support for the code of conduct that has been proposed. I recognise, as the Leader of the Government and the Leader of the Opposition have done, that this has come out of a multiparty committee process, but it should be noted that it was not a committee that involved active participation from the Greens.


It has always been our view that when you are developing a code of conduct it is important to include penalties to ensure that we have something in place that has real teeth, that the community can have faith in, that members of this place can have faith in, and that the staff who work in this building can have faith in.


With all due respect to the Hon. Mr Lucas, I am not sure that this Liberal government has the best track record when it comes to enforcing the behaviour of their members of parliament. This is the party that said, 'Let's not progress any investigation into the alleged conduct of Sam Duluk, let's just let that slide.'


The PRESIDENT: The member should be referred to by his seat, the member for Waite.


The Hon. R.A. SIMMS: I apologise, the member the Waite. 'Let's just let that slide and let's instead exhibit such a failure of leadership that it's over to the member for Waite to announce that he is going to run as an Independent,' because nobody in the Liberal Party hierarchy had the courage to move to disendorse him. So I am not sure that the argument, 'Well, the political parties will take care of their business and the government will discipline people who do the wrong thing,' really carries much weight.


I also refer to the conduct of the former SA minister, Stephan Knoll, who was found to have engaged in misconduct over his interactions with the cemeteries board by the Ombudsman. I am not sure what action has been taken by the government in relation to that behaviour. It is important that there are some clear consequences that flow if people do the wrong thing. That is the case in any other workplace in the state of South Australia and that is what the community expects of this workplace.


In terms of the amendment, I will talk to that later when I have the opportunity to do so, but in general terms what it does is imposes or provides the opportunity for the parliament to impose fines, compel a member to apologise or suspend a member from the service of this council. Members may well ask—and the honourable Treasurer has made this point—how long would the suspension last, what is the fine, and so on? These are matters that are dealt with in the Victorian model from which this language has been drawn, and were this to be implemented we could certainly finesse some of those issues through further changes to the standing orders.


It is not the desire of the Greens to hold up this process in any way. We are absolutely supportive of a code of conduct. It has taken a very long time for us to get here and with that in mind we do think it is appropriate that we ensure that any code of conduct we put in place has real teeth and ensures that there are real consequences that flow to those few bad apples who do the wrong thing.


Question: Raising the Age of Criminal Responsibility

16 November 2021

The Hon. R.A. SIMMS: A national campaign to raise the age of criminal responsibility to at least 14, in line with other jurisdictions around the world, has been backed by a coalition of legal, medical and social justice organisations, including the Law Council of Australia, the Australian Medical Association and Aboriginal-led groups.


In a statement released late on Monday, the meeting of attorneys-general agreed to support a development of a 'proposal to increase the minimum age of criminal responsibility from 10 to 12, including with regard to any carve outs, timing and discussion of implementation requirements.' That's a quote from the statement.


My question to the Treasurer is: given advocates have said that raising the age of criminal responsibility to 12 would make little difference to the number of children imprisoned, estimating that it would only reduce the number of under 14s imprisoned from 499 to 456, will the government consider raising the age to 14 instead?


The Hon. R.I. LUCAS (Treasurer): I will refer the honourable member's question to the Attorney-General, but if he is quoting from a statement from all attorneys-general, I assume it includes our Attorney-General. I will, nevertheless, refer the question to the Attorney and bring back a reply.


Government Advertising

26 October 2021

 

Mr Chairman, before commenting on the detail of the amendment that is before you, I will respond to the tabling of the letter from the Auditor-General by the Treasurer. I welcome that information. It would have been helpful to have had that provided to us a little bit earlier than it being tabled in parliament. I do want to point out, Chair, that when we were last here together, and I moved to insert this amendment and we were going to progress this to a vote, the Treasurer spoke quite passionately about how unfair it was for the matter to be sprung on him and he talked about the lack of engagement with the government around my amendment.


I was persuaded by that, as I think the crossbenchers were, and more time was provided to the government. We adjourned the debate and now we have come back two weeks later. It is disappointing to see a letter relating to the amendment being tabled in this fashion without giving anybody the opportunity to take that into consideration as part of the debate.


I will point out, though, that there is an opportunity for amendments to be made should this pass this chamber, for further amendments and finessing to occur between the houses. If there is a significant issue that needs to be addressed, there will be an opportunity to do that.


This is a fairly straightforward amendment. It is what I consider to be a very important transparency measure and really what it does is ensure that the Auditor-General is required to provide approval for advertising in certain circumstances. It adds a really important transparency measure, I think, in terms of ensuring that the Auditor-General is required to approve certain government advertising, and that is advertising in particular circumstances and during the election period.


The government may be concerned that this is going to impact on advertising that they consider to be essential. The amendment makes it very clear that government advertising will be taken to be necessary for the proper functions of government if the Auditor-General is satisfied that the primary purpose of the government advertising is to communicate information relating to the following, and these things are stipulated.


I will not read them all, but they relate to public health and public safety, road and public transport, emergencies, legal or statutory matters, electoral material published under the authority of the Electoral Commissioner, and a range of other things. If anything has been missed that is considered essential, I am sure that that can be added in as part of the engagement between the two houses.


It is important to understand why this is so vitally important, and I think the Treasurer has talked a lot about his concerns around the spending of taxpayers' money in terms of setting up an independent budget office. He must then be aghast at the eye-watering advertising bill of his Liberal government, because it has been really quite outrageous.


It is worth remembering that, back in 2019, the Government Communications Advisory Committee was formed in July and it scaled back its public reporting on communication campaigns cost and effectiveness by the year 2020. As of June 2020, that body had published just one evaluation report for the financial year and in the previous financial year the government had reported monthly on campaigns on their costs and their effectiveness.


On 1 September 2020, this group changed its official guidelines and in addition to the rules requiring public reporting of the total cost and evaluation summary for each approved communications initiative, which was usually done after completion, the GCAC would now publish the cost of each campaign as it begins. Well, that was what was meant to happen, but the new guidelines did not specify a time frame for the reporting campaigns and therefore there was a significant lag in reporting.


Indeed, InDaily reported on this last year and it was noted that, despite numerous reporting campaigns being approved in September, there had been no reporting on the Department of the Premier and Cabinet website as required by the new guidelines. That is very disappointing.


The GCAC report for September 2020, made available at the end of October 2020, contains some information which I think is relevant to highlight here. There were at least six campaigns approved, worth a total of more than $8.8 million. The bulk of spending, more than $5 million, was for interstate and intrastate tourism campaigns, and $1.5 million was approved on 1 September for a campaign to attract New Zealand tourists.


Controversially, the government launched a $1.195 million taxpayer-funded campaign called Building What Matters, which was across various media platforms, promoting an infrastructure program in the wake of last year's state budget. That was scheduled to run until June 2021. This campaign does not explicitly include politicians, but in interviews and media politicians have referenced the campaign, a campaign that is paid for by the South Australian taxpayer.


The campaign promotes the government's infrastructure spend rather than giving direct information about individual projects. There have even been reports of cold marketing campaigns. This was reported by the ABC back on 26 March, indeed my birthday. I can tell you, it would not have been a welcome birthday present for me to receive one of these calls. According to this media report, members of the South Australian community were receiving phone calls promoting this Building What Matters campaign, a campaign funded by the South Australian taxpayer. The ABC has included an example of one of the voicemails which was left, and I will read it to you:


Good evening…I'm calling on behalf of the Premier, Steven Marshall—


it is like Amway—


and the state Liberal team to get your thoughts about the $16.7 billion infrastructure spend which will deliver safer roads, ensure that you have access to better healthcare closer to home and will deliver world-class schools for our kids.


That sounds like an ad to me. Despite the caller saying they were representing the Premier—and I am reading from the ABC here—the Premier denied any knowledge of the calls when asked by the ABC. He said:


I'm not aware of that…there's nothing wrong with going out and promoting the great work of [our] government.


That [could] be something you could take up with the Liberal Party.


It is unclear whether the call was made by a third party, who was paying for it or how the information was obtained. When asked whether or not the Liberal Party was paying for it or the taxpayer, Mr Marshall said, 'It's hard to comment because I haven't heard or seen the campaign that you're referring to.'


Quite frankly, that is simply not good enough. It is not good enough for the hard-earned money of South Australians to be wasted on PR for this state government. I can understand why they would want to be undertaking PR given the scandalous period they have faced, but it is not an appropriate use of taxpayer money and it is appropriate that this money is administered in an independent way and that there is some form of independent arbiter who can make a call on what is appropriate and what is not.


I am not suggesting the Governor-General take carriage of that—that is a step too far—but the Auditor-General is an appropriate body to take carriage of that. As I say, I note the concerns that they have expressed and that is something that can be worked through within the houses. I think this is a really important transparency measure. It is one that South Australians will welcome heading into this election and I commend it.


Local Government Review Amendments

10 June 2021

The Hon. R.A. SIMMS: I just want to very briefly speak in favour of these amendments. I think this has been an example of what this house of parliament does very well—that is, reviewing and improving government legislation. From the perspective of the Greens, we welcome some of the transparency measures that have been included in the bill, obviously those relating to disclosure of donations but also the undertaking that has been given by the government around the disclosure of political party memberships. We welcome that that is going to be done through regulation.

I want to recognise the work of all the players here. Obviously, my predecessor Mark Parnell worked on this bill, and I want to acknowledge his contribution. In particular, I want to acknowledge the work of the Hon. Emily Bourke, with whom I had the opportunity to work on this reform; the Hon. Mr Frank Pangallo; and, of course, the work of the government in the other place as well.

I am sure many people will be relieved to see this legislation finally come to pass. I recognise the work and patience of the LGA and their long-term advocacy on this and look forward to a new local government regime.

9 June 2021

(Continued debate from 8 June 2021.)

 

 

 

 


Question: SkyCity Adelaide

8 June 2021

The Hon. R.A. SIMMS (14:43): I seek leave to make a brief explanation before addressing a question without notice to the Treasurer on the topic of SkyCity Adelaide.

Leave granted.

The Hon. R.A. SIMMS: Yesterday, it came to light that Australia's financial regulator, AUSTRAC, had launched an investigation into potential serious noncompliance by SkyCity Adelaide with anti-money laundering and counterterror financial rules. Seven years ago, SkyCity Adelaide signed an agreement with the state government to vary the approved licensing agreement to allow for the massive expansion of its operations that we currently see, which included a requirement to make an up-front payment of $20 million to the SA government when the agreement became binding.

My question to the Treasurer is: in light of the potential serious noncompliance of SkyCity Adelaide with anti-money laundering and counterterror financing rules, is the government concerned about the source of the $20 million up-front payment that was made seven years ago?

The Hon. R.I. LUCAS (Treasurer) (14:44): That question is probably more appropriately addressed to the Leader of the Opposition in the Labor Party because, as I'm sure the member knows, sadly, seven years ago we were languishing in opposition—a long history of 16 years of being in opposition.

Members interjecting:

The PRESIDENT: Order!

The Hon. R.I. LUCAS: The Hon. Mr Hunter, the Hon. Mr Maher and former treasurers would be people who subscribed to those particular arrangements with the Casino, so I think the question is probably best directed to them in relation to the detail of that particular arrangement or deal to which the honourable member refers.

In relation to the overriding important aspect to the member's question, that is, that there have clearly been serious claims made—not claims, I should say—there is now an indication that AUSTRAC, which is the appropriate agency with responsibility for investigating anti-money laundering and counterterrorism financing breaches, is conducting an investigation into aspects of SkyCity's operations, and I know that other honourable members have raised this issue before.

Certainly, from the state's viewpoint, the commissioner for business and consumer affairs has made it clear that he has now put his review on hold after discussions with AUSTRAC on the basis that they are the appropriate agency with the appropriate capacity, because these are obviously quite complex investigations that AUSTRAC has the capacity to monitor.

The commissioner's view is that they are the appropriate agency to continue and finalise those investigations and then, ultimately, to report on them. Until the commissioner sees a final report, he has decided, after discussion with AUSTRAC, to put his review on hold until AUSTRAC have completed their negotiations.

Coming back to the issue of that deal seven years ago, I can't offer any more detail because I had no direct knowledge of the discussions.

The PRESIDENT: The Hon. Mr Simms has a supplementary.

The Hon. R.A. SIMMS (14:46): Noting the Treasurer's response, will the Treasurer be making inquiries to satisfy this parliament that the relevant rules were complied with by SkyCity Adelaide and, in particular, to ensure that no laundered money was involved with that payment?

The Hon. R.I. LUCAS (Treasurer) (14:47): I can certainly seek advice from those who were around seven years ago—those who had the responsibility for monitoring whatever arrangement was entered into. That would obviously be the commissioner, potentially. I will seek advice and bring back any answer that they might be able to provide.

In relation to the source of any money that was paid under the former Labor government, as to whether that was laundered money or not, I'm not sure. I'm sure the commissioner is not in a position to be able to answer that. I think what he's saying is that the appropriate agency to continue the investigation into this is AUSTRAC. They have the capacity to do it. I think they have listed two specific time periods. I think one of them was under the former government and one might have been in the first year of the current government that they were investigating in relation to SkyCity's operations.

I don't think the time periods they referred to go back seven years; that is, the nature of their investigation. I don't know whether that's because they have looked at it and don't believe there were issues of concern at that particular time, which might be possible, or whether there is some other restriction. I can certainly seek to ascertain as to whether there is any restriction on what AUSTRAC can do.

My broad understanding is there is not; that is, if they had concerns about a period of seven years ago when this deal was done with the former Labor government, I don't believe they are restricted from investigating that, but I can certainly take advice on that. Maybe the Hon. Mr Hunter or the Hon. Mr Maher might be able to throw some light on the arrangements that occurred at that particular time.