Pages tagged "Planning and Heritage"
31 October 2023
The Hon. R.A. SIMMS (27 September 2023).
1. What self-referrals have the state government made to the federal Minister for the Environment for National Heritage Places within the last two years?
2. Has the new Women's and Children's Hospital development been referred to the federal Minister for the Environment for its potential impact on the National Heritage listed Adelaide Park Lands?
3. On what date was the referral made for the new Women's and Children's Hospital, or if it has not yet been made, what is the anticipated date for referral?
The Hon. K.J. MAHER (Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, Attorney-General, Minister for Industrial Relations and Public Sector): The Minister for Climate, Environment and Water has advised:
1. Under the provisions of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act), the state government has made one self-referral to the federal Minister for the Environment for National Heritage Places within the last two years. This related to the proposed new Women's and Children's Hospital. The referral for the New Women's and Children's Hospital was released for comment by the Australian government Department of Climate Change, Energy, the Environment and Water on 17 October 2023.
2. The new Women's and Children's Hospital project team have advised me that a referral to the federal Minister for the Environment, under the provisions of the Environment Protection Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999, has been made.
This EPBC Act referral is for assessment as to whether the new Women's and Children's Hospital project will be a controlled action as it is proposed within the National Heritage listed Adelaide Park Lands and City Layout.
3. The new Women's and Children's Hospital project team have further advised this EPBC Act referral was made on 21 July 2023.
14 September 2023
The Hon. R.A. SIMMS (14:58): I seek leave to make a brief explanation before addressing a question without notice to the minister representing everybody, the Attorney-General, on the topic of the West End Brewery site.
The Hon. R.A. SIMMS: It was reported in the Adelaide Advertiser online this morning that Renewal SA is the preferred bidder for the prime 8.4-hectare West End Brewery site, and the government's intention is now to engage private developers to construct housing to increase supply to help address our state's housing crisis. My question to the minister is: what percentage of the new dwellings on this site does the government intend to be for affordable housing and what percentage is intended for social housing, and will the government commit to building more than the 15 per cent currently required?
The Hon. K.J. MAHER (Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, Attorney-General, Minister for Industrial Relations and Public Sector) (14:58): I thank the honourable member for his question. I don't think it will surprise him to know that I don't have an answer for him right now. I will refer it to the appropriate minister, which I am pretty sure will be the Hon. Nick Champion, and bring back a reply, to the extent that one can be brought back. I am not sure what stage of planning it is up to with Renewal SA's bid for that site. I think they are the preferred bidder and, as I understand it, I don't think negotiations have been completed yet, so it might be that I have nothing to bring back, but if there is anything at this stage, I am happy to do so.
12 September 2023
The Hon. R.A. SIMMS (15:12): I seek leave to make a brief explanation before addressing a question without notice to the Minister for Regional Development on the topic of the Hahndorf bypass.
The CHAIR: Order!
The Hon. R.A. SIMMS: The 2021 Hahndorf Strategic Planning Study commissioned by the state and federal governments found that the lack of connectivity to and from the South Eastern Freeway is causing additional traffic and freight in the township, primarily due to there being no convenient alternative route between the east (Mount Barker) and the north (Balhannah and Woodside) without travelling through the main street of Hahndorf, and there being no convenient alternative route between the south (Echunga) the west (Adelaide) or the east (Murray Bridge) without travelling through the main street of Hahndorf.
The study also found that the current traffic on the Hahndorf main street, Mount Barker Road, is limiting the economy, function and amenity of the township. There are approximately 11,000 vehicles, including 480 heavy vehicles, per day on the main street and a very high number of pedestrians.
In response to three options released for public consultation by the department to resolve the issue, the Hahndorf community canvassed their own option to reduce the impact which involved much less property acquisition and footprint. The option put involved creating a bypass between Echunga Road and the South Eastern Freeway with a half interchange, not the full interchange, with a road running through Beerenberg Farm, put forward by the previous Marshall government.
The Malinauskas government has instead decided to completely scrap the bypass project, diverting all heavy traffic along Strathalbyn and River roads. My questions to the minister therefore are:
1. Is the Minister for Regional Development concerned about the lack of consultation with people living in the region of the Adelaide Hills regarding the government's decision to divert heavy freight traffic along River and Strathalbyn roads?
2. Why isn't the government listening to the community and proceeding with its preferred option of a half interchange?
The Hon. C.M. SCRIVEN (Minister for Primary Industries and Regional Development, Minister for Forest Industries): I thank the honourable member for his question. I think it is interesting that those opposite are shouting out and heckling while the member was asking his question. When you see what the difference, the flip-flopping and the changes between those opposite have been—
The PRESIDENT: Order!
The Hon. C.M. SCRIVEN: —in terms of what they have supported, and then what they have changed, and in terms of their support, and now they are happy to try to score political points over what they are currently doing.
The PRESIDENT: Order!
The Hon. C.M. SCRIVEN: It is really quite interesting when we look at some of the history as to what the opposition has proposed in regard to this. On 29 April 2021, then transport minister Corey Wingard said:
A full interchange at River Road, a half interchange at River Road in one of the options and a full interchange at Verdun so there's three options that the community will be able to look over and see which ones they think will work best for them.
Then Vincent Tarzia—
The PRESIDENT: Order!
The Hon. K.J. Maher: I can't hear, sir.
The PRESIDENT: Yes, I can't hear.
The PRESIDENT: Order!
The Hon. C.M. SCRIVEN: Then Vincent Tarzia, on 4 April this year—
The PRESIDENT: Order! Sit down. I can't hear the minister. To be fair, she is actually under some difficulty with her voice today, so I would like to be able to hear her, and I would like some silence while she is trying to answer the question.
The Hon. C.M. SCRIVEN: On 4 April this year, Vincent Tarzia, shadow transport minister, said:
The Government has just got to listen to locals because at the end of the day there's no point really doing anything unless you take those trucks that don't need to be there from the main street of Hahndorf.
Interesting, it sounds like what is actually being proposed. He continues:
We’ve all been there on a Sunday afternoon, David, we know what it's like, it's bedlam, it's dangerous at the moment and so we're not going to stop…
So it seems that those opposite don't actually know how to communicate with each other. They have been at odds. In terms of their solutions, those opposite don't seem to have one. However, in terms of any further information, I am happy to refer those further questions to the relevant minister in the other place.
The Hon. R.A. SIMMS: Supplementary: the minister spoke a lot about the record of the previous government, but why isn't the Labor government listening to the community and proceeding with its preferred option of a half interchange?
The Hon. C.M. SCRIVEN (Minister for Primary Industries and Regional Development, Minister for Forest Industries): I have already said that I will refer those questions to the minister in the other place.
The Hon. N.J. Centofanti: Come on, Mr President.
The PRESIDENT: No, she said she is going to refer it.
22 November 2023
In reply to the Hon. R.A. SIMMS
The Hon. C.M. SCRIVEN (Minister for Primary Industries and Regional Development, Minister for Forest Industries): The Minister for Infrastructure and Transport has advised:
The government is not diverting freight traffic down River and Strathalbyn roads–we are banning through traffic by heavy vehicles over 15m in length from the main street of Hahndorf.
This will require the approximately 130 affected vehicles to amend their standard routes, which will be determined individually by each operator based on the origin and destination of the freight carried. A portion of this traffic is likely to use River and Strathalbyn roads–but equally it is expected that other routes will also be utilised.
River Road is classified as a general access route, permitting the safe operation of freight vehicles up to semitrailer size (19m, 42.5t). According to a 2019 traffic count, 130 heavy vehicles safely traverse this route every day, with no heavy vehicle related crash recorded in the past decade. Additional enhancements to River Road are also planned–intersection upgrades, tree trimming and shoulder sealing that will enhance the travel experience for all users, including locals.
The government will not be building a half or full interchange at Paechtown, which would involve significant acquisition of homes and land from the iconic Beerenburg Farm. The local community was consulted extensively through the Hahndorf project and was resolute in its opposition to this option.
30 August 2023
The Hon. R.A. SIMMS (21:13): I thank all honourable members for their contributions: the Hon. Michelle Lensink, the Hon. Frank Pangallo, and the Hon. Mr Hanson. In responding to the comments made primarily by the government, it is important to consider the genesis of this bill. This is the second time that I have introduced this bill; I did so in the previous parliament, and in fact the catalyst for that was a proposal from the then Liberal government for a redevelopment along the Riverbank, which would have potentially allowed for some commercial development along the Riverbank.
It was possible for the minister to give that the green light, to make a code amendment without approval of the parliament. That had the potential to significantly change the character of the Parklands. As we often see though with the Labor Party, they talked a big game on the issue, but did not do a thing about it when they had an opportunity to support this bill in the parliament at the time. As I often say about the Labor Party when it comes to the Parklands, do not look at what comes out of their mouths, look at what they do with their feet. Look at how they vote and they never vote in favour of enhanced protections for the Parklands. They never take the action that is necessary to protect the Parklands.
This is the party of John Rau; the party that has a terrible track record when it comes to the management of the Adelaide Parklands. We are seeing that tradition continue, unfortunately, under the Malinauskas government. We saw earlier today the passage of a bill that would prevent the Minister for Police from seizing the Parklands for a new police barracks. That has passed this chamber and I hope that the government will support it in the other place, and I hope that this bill will win the support of this chamber also.
I welcome the support of the Liberal opposition and, of course, SA-Best. SA-Best have had a long-term position on this. I recognise that the Liberal Party have reflected on their position and have now changed course. I think there will be a lot of support for the position that the Liberals have now taken in the community, the recognition they now have that there should be additional safeguards when it comes to our Parklands and that they should have a particular status that is protected throughout our planning laws.
My challenge to the Labor Party is: get on board and support this in the other place. There is already a bill that has passed, or two bills now that have passed this chamber. The other relates to state heritage listing of the Parklands. This is potentially going to be a third. Get out of the way and support these bills and demonstrate your commitment to Parklands protection.
30 August 2023
The Hon. R.A. SIMMS (20:18): I thank the Hon. Michelle Lensink and the Hon. Connie Bonaros for their remarks and I thank them for their support of this bill. The arguments have been well ventilated. Just to make clear, this bill does not compromise the hospital in any way. I recognise the position of the respective parties on the hospital. What it does do is ensure that the police minister does not have the power to allocate a slab of the Parklands for a new Mounted Operations Unit. That should be non-controversial because the government has indicated that they do not intend to proceed with plans for the police barracks on the Parklands, but this just makes that really clear.
There has been some conjecture about the future locations of the police barracks. Indeed, there has been talk about SAPOL not wanting the Gepps Cross location and pressure falling on the government again to find alternative locations. Well, the Parklands need to be ruled out. It is my hope that this bill is passed through this chamber and then is expedited in the other place to give people in the South Australian community confidence that the Parklands are not going to be handed over to SAPOL. Once this bill passes this chamber, it is over to the Labor Party in the other place to make this a priority to send that clear message to the people of South Australia.
30 August 2023
PLANNING, DEVELOPMENT AND INFRASTRUCTURE (AFFORDABLE HOUSING) AMENDMENT BILL
Introduction and First Reading
The Hon. R.A. SIMMS (17:35): obtained leave and introduced a bill for an act to amend the Planning, Development and Infrastructure Act, 2016. Read a first time.
The Hon. R.A. SIMMS (17:36): I move:
That this bill be now read a second time.
The Planning, Development and Infrastructure (Affordable Housing) Amendment Bill addresses a critical issue when it comes to new housing developments in our state, that is, the lack of affordable housing for people on low incomes. Housing is a fundamental human right, and everybody deserves a roof over their head and a place to call home. The Australian government's Institute of Health and Welfare states:
Access to good quality, affordable housing is fundamental to wellbeing. It can help reduce poverty and enhance equality of opportunity, social inclusion and mobility.
In 2021, Adelaide was ranked the 13th most unaffordable metro area out of 92 major international housing markets, according to the Demographia International Housing Affordability report. This meant that Adelaide's housing was less affordable than Brisbane, Perth and even New York and Seattle.
According to the Beyond the Housing Crisis report from Believe Housing and UniSA in 2022, Adelaide has the tightest rental market anywhere in the country since 2017, with just 0.2 per cent of properties remaining vacant. This is an example of a serious lack of supply in our housing market and a lack of affordable housing options. I have spoken many times in this place about the housing crisis.
The Malinauskas government have acknowledged the lack of supply of affordable housing in their plan titled 'A better housing future', released in February this year, and I quote from that paper:
The government recognises that our—
that is, their, the government's—
plan provides a response to the current housing challenges, however more needs to be done to continue to support increased and well located affordable and appropriate housing in the state.
The bill the Greens are proposing here today—
There being a disturbance in the gallery:
The Hon. R.A. SIMMS: It sounds like it is very popular in the gallery as well.
The PRESIDENT: The Hon. Mr Simms, everybody in the gallery is in raptures.
The Hon. R.A. SIMMS: The bill the Greens are proposing here today aims to ensure that affordable housing is considered for all major developments, not just those within the affordable housing overlay.
Currently in South Australia, developments within the affordable housing overlay that are for 20 or more dwellings or residential allotments are required to include 15 per cent of affordable housing. Well, 15 per cent just simply is not enough, and that is why the Greens are proposing 30 per cent, that is, 10 per cent affordable to buy, 10 per cent affordable to rent and 10 per cent that is social housing.
When one considers the maps of the Affordable Housing Overlay available on PlanSA's Property and Planning Atlas, it is clear that many areas of future growth are not currently captured by the overlay. Members will be aware that earlier this year the Malinauskas government announced that new land would be released in Hackham, Dry Creek, Concordia and Sellicks Beach. Of course, we welcome that—recognising that we are in the middle of a housing crisis—but we must ensure that this is not a land release that only serves developers. We must ensure that we do not see Mount Barker 2.0 where there is a lack of appropriate planning. Part of that planning is to ensure that there is appropriate return to the community by way of increased social housing and increased affordable housing.
I recognise the government's commitment to including 15 per cent affordable housing in these new developments. We welcome that, but the reality is, it is simply not enough. What is in place to stop future governments from releasing land that sits outside of the overlay and not ensuring that there is a 15 per cent return? What the Greens are proposing is increasing that return and abolishing the applications simply to the overlay.
The Greens' bill is consistent with calls from advocacy groups such as National Shelter. They have been calling for a mandatory 30 per cent affordable housing in developments. These calls are supported by research undertaken by Shelter, who in 2019 found that 97 per cent of their survey respondents agreed that action was needed to address housing affordability, and that mandatory inclusionary zoning of the kind that the Greens are proposing was the preferred mechanism for that action.
The bill progresses those recommendations and establishes a minimum 30 per cent affordable housing requirement. For the current proposed developments earlier this year, this would double the number of affordable houses to be delivered: from just 3,405 under the Malinauskas government's plan, to 6,810 under the plan of the Greens. That would help another 3,000 households access housing that is affordable for them.
National Shelter has also asked participants of that survey to rate the types of housing options, with the result showing that affordable housing to purchase was the least favoured option, and that build-to-rent products should also be included. Their policy recommendation is that one-third of affordable homes be for rent, one-third for purchase and one-third be made available for social housing, and that is precisely what the Greens are proposing.
I note that two weeks ago the Malinauskas government released the discussion paper for the new Greater Adelaide Regional Plan. The paper claims that with current growth trends we will need an additional 300,000 homes over the next 30 years. Supply is important for ensuring that we address our state's housing crisis. But, as we have this discussion about development, we need to ensure that developers are providing an appropriate return to the community, and that means beefing up our investment in affordable housing and beefing up the investment in social housing.
The Greens' proposal for a minimum requirement of 10 per cent affordable to buy, 10 per cent affordable to own and 10 per cent social public housing is really worthwhile. I intend to write to the Minister for Planning, the Hon. Nick Champion MP, and of course his shadow, the Hon. Michelle Lensink, with whom I have had an opportunity to have a brief conversation in this regard. I intend to write to both of these members and urge them to back this sensible proposal from the Greens, because there is an opportunity for us to work together in the parliament to tackle the state's housing crisis head-on. With that, I conclude my remarks.
Debate adjourned on motion of Hon. I.K. Hunter.
30 August 2023
HERITAGE PLACES (PROTECTION OF STATE HERITAGE PLACES) AMENDMENT BILL
Introduction and First Reading
The Hon. R.A. SIMMS (16:03): Obtained leave and introduced a bill for an act to amend the Heritage Places Act 1993. Read a first time.
The Hon. R.A. SIMMS (16:04): I move:
That this bill be now read a second time.
The bill I introduce today is to address an issue that threatens the preservation of our cultural heritage, that is, the principle of demolition by neglect. Before I delve into the detail of the bill, I want to note that, of course, when we talk about heritage, for us as Greens we also recognise the importance of promoting and protecting Aboriginal heritage and in particular cultural heritage sites. It is vitally important that that is front and centre of all the discussions we have about heritage here in our state.
This bill relates in particular, however, to our built heritage, and that is the principle of demolition by neglect, which refers to the deliberate acts of neglecting the maintenance and care of our state's historic buildings, ultimately leading to their deterioration and their eventual demolition. It is a known concept. It has been around since the 1990s, at least that is when the term was coined. Sadly, this practice has become all too common in South Australia. It has been endangering our heritage buildings.
In the context of South Australia, we have a wealth of historic buildings that must be protected to ensure that their cultural value exists going into the future. Certainly, we have seen some examples of destruction of our heritage here in this parliament. Who could forget the decision to demolish the police barracks to make way for a new hospital? A worthy endeavour, of course, to support a new hospital but a shame that the Malinauskas government set up a dichotomy between our heritage and an important public service like a hospital. We know there are many places around the world that are able to reconcile public services with ongoing respect and protection of heritage.
Let me give you some examples of what I am talking about when I talk about these buildings falling into disrepair. Romilly House, also known as Hackney Lodge, at 1 North Terrace, Hackney, has been vacant since 2017. It is now falling into disrepair and is a target for graffiti and vandalism. Edmund Wright House is an absolutely stunning building, built in 1878. It has a ballroom, it has high ceilings and balconies that overlook King William Street, it is on prime land in the CBD and it has been looking for a tenant since 2015.
North Terrace is also home to the Gawler Chambers and Newmarket Hotel, both beautiful heritage buildings that sit there empty without the love and care that they require. In April 2022, a group of historic houses in Glenelg fell into disrepair and were then demolished in order to build a 13-storey apartment tower. Heritage buildings hold intrinsic cultural, historical and architectural value for our state. They provide a tangible connection to our ancestors, who tell stories of the past, and they shape our understanding of who we are today.
When these structures are allowed to fall into decay, we lose an essential part of our state's story and we erase some valuable chapters of our history books. Heritage buildings also contribute significantly to the tourism industry and local economies. Visitors are drawn to visit historic sites, generating revenue and boosting local businesses. When these buildings are neglected, we not only compromise their preservation but we lose opportunities for economic growth and cultural exchange.
It is, of course, absurd that we have half of North Terrace vacant while we have people sleeping on the street. There is something seriously wrong about that. This bill aims to incentivise property owners to activate their buildings, either to renovate them or to make them available to the government for public good, and that could very well include housing. Back in 2015, the then planning minister, John Rau, told InDaily that:
We're concerned generally about owners of buildings in the city who just sit on those buildings, especially if they're sitting on vacant buildings, that don't invest, don't upgrade, don't make them attractive to tenants…
I'm seriously thinking about the issue of whether or not we should have some sort of disincentive built into the system for people who do that.
I agree with the minister. It is a shame that the Labor Party, which has been in power for 20 years of the last 30 years, has not dealt with this issue, but this bill is aiming to do that.
Preserving heritage buildings requires a collaborative effort between government bodies, heritage organisations and private owners. By implementing stricter deterrents we could prevent demolition by neglect and ensure that our architectural heritage is protected. State heritage listing under the Heritage Places Act has been a valuable way to protect our State Heritage Places and demonstrates that a place is worth conserving and celebrating.
Unfortunately, provisions under the act have not been enough and it is a shame that we are not seeing them being appropriately enforced because there were not the powers given to compel owners to do the right thing by these properties, and of course by the people of our state. We are still seeing owners sitting on buildings and not maintaining them to a sufficient standard.
Under section 36 of the Heritage Places Act there is a penalty of $50,000 for a person who fails to take reasonable care of a State Heritage Place, but this penalty is not enough and it is not enough of a disincentive for property owners. In 2015, the National Trust of Victoria made recommendations for dealing with demolition by neglect and one of those recommendations was to increase enforcement and penalties for allowing a heritage place to fall into disrepair.
Other jurisdictions have also started to take action on this issue. In Victoria, reforms were introduced back in 2021 that prohibit development for 10 years if owners are charged with demolition by neglect or for allowing a building to fall into disrepair. In Oregon, privately owned properties can be ceded to government or public management for preservation purposes while proprietors still retain ownership—and it is that model that we are proposing here in South Australia. In San Francisco, a $500 per day penalty applies to owners who neglect historic structures.
This bill aims to address the problem of demolition by neglect in three ways. Firstly, the bill makes clear that a heritage agreement can provide for the management, occupation or future use of the heritage site. This would allow for the government to activate the site, if it is left vacant and neglected.
Secondly, the bill imposes a much more significant penalty for intentional or reckless damage or neglect. The bill more than doubles the penalty from $120,000 to $250,000 for an individual or $500,000. It is important that the penalties for neglect are not just considered the cost of doing business for corporations who want to develop a site and make huge profits. The reality is, at the moment a large corporation could purchase a heritage building, let it be run down, knock it down and make a motza. We need to change the law so that there is actually a deterrent. In addition to increasing the penalty, the bill also includes the provision to charge a penalty per day where a property owner is not complying with a protection order. This will provide timely maintenance of heritage places.
Beyond this bill, we call on the government to make a commitment to improve heritage protection through existing legislative provisions. The government must commit to increasing the number of authorised officers to monitor and police demolition by neglect. We call on the government to introduce incentives to maintain heritage sites, which would be more of a carrot rather than a stick approach. Coupled with the provisions of this bill, there is a real opportunity for us to protect our cultural and built heritage.
Of course, it is relevant I think to refer to the Labor government's own heritage policy in the lead-up to the 2022 state election. Indeed, they say:
A large part of what makes Adelaide such a desirable city to live is the heritage and character of our suburbs.
That is a direct quote from the Labor Party's policy document in the lead-up to the 2022 election. The document goes on, and I quote again:
To ensure that demolition cannot occur at the whim of a future government, Labor will legislate to better protect State Heritage Places, including requiring a public report by the SA Heritage Council being prepared and laid in the parliament before any consideration of a demolition approval and full public consultation so that all South Australians can have their views heard.
Let's look at that again:
…Labor will legislate to better protect State Heritage Places, including requiring a public report by the SA Heritage Council being prepared and laid in the parliament before any consideration of a demolition approval and full…consultation so that all South Australians can have their views heard.
That sits in stark contrast to the approach they took in relation to the hospital where they did not bother to require a public report of the SA Heritage Council. That was jettisoned.
I would suggest referring this on to the Premier's Delivery Unit but we know what will happen if it disappears into that black hole: we will never get a report, it will disappear into the ether, there would be no minutes, no-one will know what happened and we will never hear of it again.
It is very disappointing that it has fallen on the Greens to try to enact the policy commitments of the Labor government, rather than the Labor Party themselves taking the action that is necessary to fulfil the commitments they made to the people of South Australia. It is very disappointing, very disappointing indeed. We wait eagerly for legislation from the Malinauskas government to come that fulfils the commitment they made to the people of our state at the last election to do better when it comes to management of heritage.
The principle of demolition by neglect causes issues for the protection of our state's culture and our heritage, and we need to act to ensure that there are deterrents to demolition by neglect that closely reflect the value we place on these buildings. We also need to ensure that we end this madness where we see buildings being left vacant while we have people sleeping on the street. Something has to be done, and that is what the Greens are proposing.
Debate adjourned on motion of Hon. I.K. Hunter.
30 August 2023
South Australia is one step closer to safeguarding the Adelaide Park Lands from development after two Greens Private Member’s Bills to protect the city’s iconic green space passed the Upper House last night.
The bills introduced by Greens MLC Robert Simms strip the Police Minister of their power to seize Park Lands for any new SAPOL barracks and prevent the Government from rezoning the Parklands without the approval of both Houses of Parliament.
“The Upper House has sent a clear message that the Park Lands belong to all South Australians and shouldn’t be used by the Government of the day as a land bank. This is a big win for all those who have been advocating for protecting this unique part of South Australia,” said Robert Simms.
“Labor should now rule out further Park Lands land grabs and back the bills in the Lower House to ensure that our city’s iconic green space is given the protection it deserves.”
The New Women's and Children's Hospital (Relocation of SA Police Facilities) Amendment Bill 2023 and Planning, Development and Infrastructure (Adelaide Park Lands) Amendment Bill 2023 passed with the support of the Liberal Opposition and SA-Best.
28 June 2023
Introduction and First Reading
The Hon. R.A. SIMMS: I move:
That this bill be now read a second time.
Today is the day for closing loopholes. This bill is closing another loophole that exists within the New Women's and Children's Hospital Act. Members may recall, during the debate in relation to that legislation, the Greens highlighted concerns around a provision that gave the Minister for Police the opportunity to essentially allocate a slab of the Parklands to SAPOL for a new Mounted Operations Unit, for a new police barracks.
The Greens were very concerned about that at the time, and we moved an amendment that would have taken that provision out of the bill. That was opposed, unfortunately, by every other party in this place, and so the bill went through without that amendment. Then what we saw in March was the state Labor government proposing an enormous land grab by SAPOL of our Adelaide Parklands—an enormous land grab that would have taken up a huge slab of our public green space.
There was some real concern about that in the community. What happened was that the government announced that it would be finding an alternative site for the SAPOL barracks. We appreciate that and we welcomed that change of heart. There was a big campaign run across the community and one that featured a number of different sides of politics. I recognise the contribution of the Liberal Party to that campaign, in particular Jack Batty in the other place, who I know was campaigning hard on that issue. But there were a number of people in the community—the Parklands Association, the Conservation Council, Trees for Life and others—who were very concerned about SAPOL seizing our public land.
The government backed down and they announced that they were going to be finding another site for the barracks. We welcome that. However, the threat remains because the government still has power under this act to make the Parklands available for SAPOL for a future land grab. What this bill seeks to do is to close that loophole once and for all, to make it very clear that the government cannot go down that path again and that even if they change their mind or if SAPOL fights back and decides it wants another go at our green space, the minister would not have the power to allocate the Parklands for that purpose.
This should not be a controversial bill because the Labor Party has found another site for SAPOL's barracks, so if they are fair dinkum about that, then they will support this bill. If they do not support the bill, though, then the community will conclude that they are not bona fide in the commitment that they have made, and the community will be very concerned, heading into the next election, that they may not make good on the promise they made in terms of quarantining the Parklands from any police barracks in the future. This is an important test of resolve of the Malinauskas government and also the Liberal opposition, who have talked about this issue. Now is an opportunity for all parties to put on record their support for the Parklands and to close off that potential avenue for a future land grab by SAPOL.
I want to put members on notice that I will bring this bill to a vote after the midwinter break, so that there is an opportunity for members of parliament to consult with their communities, but I hope members seize this opportunity to resolve this particular debate once and for all and to ensure that our Parklands are safeguarded from any potential land grabs from SAPOL in the future. This government does not have a good track record when it comes to our Parklands. They do not have a good track record. Now is the opportunity for them to step up and try to make things right.
Debate adjourned on motion of Hon. J.E. Hanson.
28 June 2023
The Hon. R.A. SIMMS: I move:
That this bill be now read a second time.
The bill that I am introducing today aims to address one of the issues that has been faced in the City of Adelaide over a number of years; that is, the way in which rate exemptions are applied. I should note that I am a City of Adelaide resident, so I have an interest in what occurs in the City of Adelaide, but this issue is much broader than simply the City of Adelaide. The principle extends to other council jurisdictions and is of interest to all South Australians who are facing an increase in their council rates at this time.
Our skyline has witnessed significant transformations in recent years. Buildings such as the Festival Tower now loom over our Riverbank Precinct. While these buildings have been erected on Parklands, they are not contributing their fair share to the people of Adelaide.
This bill would empower the Adelaide City Council to levy rates on the area where the Hajek Plaza used to be and where the Walker Corporation's Festival Tower is now under construction. Rate income is valuable to contribute to the upkeep and development of our city, and organisations such as corporations and casinos should not be exempt.
Rates are the lifeblood of local government, enabling the provision of essential services, maintaining infrastructure and enhancing the quality of life for residents and businesses. While ratepayers across the state are seeing their rates rise due to the current economic crisis and high CPI, it is only fair that large corporations pay their fair share. Why is one of Australia's richest people, a multibillionaire, being given a rate exemption?
In 2020, The Advertiser reported on the Walker Corporation's rate status in an article titled 'Walker Corp building on Festival Plaza could become test case on council rate exemptions'. At that time the article claimed that the Walker Corporation being exempt from rates was costing the City of Adelaide $150,000 in lost revenue each year. Given the increases in rates since that time, there is the potential for that revenue to be much higher.
At that time, The Advertiser also reported that SkyCity Adelaide was not paying any rates. However, we have been advised that that situation has been remedied, and I understand that SkyCity is now paying rates to the City of Adelaide as the land title has been transferred. However, how was it that we had a casino being built on Crown land that was not paying any rates? How did that occur? This private member's bill will close that loophole, make it very clear that casinos should not be granted any rate exemption, and make it very clear that the Walker Corporation will not be granted any rate exemption.
It is really important that we establish this principle, particularly if we are going to see a second tower blighting our city landscape, as I understand is under contemplation by the Malinauskas government. I must say what an outrageous deal this is that the Walker Corporation has been granted over our public space. A bucketload of taxpayer money is being poured into that project, if media reports are to be believed—a huge amount of taxpayer money being spent on that Festival Plaza.
You have a private corporation seizing our public land, which could have been returned to Parklands and, to add insult to injury, they are not even paying rates. What an amazing deal for the Walker Corporation; what a dud deal for the people of South Australia. It is outrageous and, quite frankly, I find it disgusting that the Labor and Liberal parties could allow such an appalling exploitation of the people of South Australia and our public land to occur. It is a disgrace, an absolute disgrace and this bill seeks to remedy that.
It is worth noting, too, that the City of Adelaide does forfeit a significant amount of rates through exemptions. A workshop was conducted back in November 2021 by the City of Adelaide, which was reported in The Advertiser. Whilst I was on the city council at that time, I was not present at that workshop—I was away—but I have read the papers of the workshop. They are publicly available and available to members of this place on the City of Adelaide website.
That report notes that 27.4 per cent of rates income is forfeited through exemptions and rebates. The report claims that the impact of this is disproportionately allocated across the community. Well, 22.7 per cent of rates income is forfeited through exemptions in Adelaide. It should be noted this is very high when compared with the City of Melbourne, which only forfeits 12.2 per cent of their rates through exemptions, and again that is according to that report.
The report goes on to include a map, which highlights areas where rate exemptions apply. I would encourage members of this place to have a look at that. While some of those areas where rates are not applied are council-owned buildings or recreational reserves, there are some that are businesses operating for private profit, like the Walker Corporation and, as I understand, previously the Casino.
By holding profit-making corporations accountable through rates we can ensure that our community resources are equitably distributed, fostering a sustainable environment for all residents and businesses to thrive. The community requires shared responsibility, not a system where big business does not have to contribute to the running of the city or the maintenance of our public realm. An interesting debate has been occurring at the moment around the state of our public streets and, in particular, around the state of North Terrace. Why should not one of Australia's richest people have to contribute to maintenance of the public realm? Why should the Walker Corporation be given a free pass? This bill is closing off that loophole, and with that I conclude my remarks.