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Pages tagged "Primary Industries and Regional Development"

Question: Regional Bank Closures

5 June 2024

The Hon. R.A. SIMMS (15:10): I seek leave to make a brief explanation before addressing a question without notice to the Minister for Regional Development on the topic of regional banks.

Leave granted.

The Hon. R.A. SIMMS: Last week, the federal inquiry into the impact of bank closures in regional communities delivered its final report. The report contained eight recommendations, including a feasibility study into publicly owned banks and adding a supplement to the federal major bank levy to fund a program to support community bank branches in regional areas.

In 2017, the then Labor government proposed a state-based major bank levy, which at the time would have raised $370 million of revenue over four years. Bank closures have impacted a number of regional towns in South Australia and also suburban areas such as Golden Grove, with Rhiannon Pearce MP organising a petition to reverse the closure of that local branch.

My question to the Minister for Regional Development therefore is: is the minister advocating for the federal government to implement the recommendations of the Senate inquiry into bank closures in regional Australia, and has the minister or her department considered which, if any, of the recommendations could be implemented at a local state level?

The Hon. C.M. SCRIVEN (Minister for Primary Industries and Regional Development, Minister for Forest Industries) (15:11): I thank the honourable member for his question. He is correct that in May 2024, the Senate Rural and Regional Affairs and Transport references committee delivered its report on an inquiry into bank closures in regional Australia. I am advised the inquiry received 609 public submissions, and a total of 13 public hearings were held across a number of regional centres, including in Kingston South-East, that one being on 21 February.

The report provided a list of eight recommendations made by the committee. A chapter was included on possible solutions to the regional banking crisis, listing the following, which have been extracted from the report: alternatives to bank branches, such as better remote service options; co-location of banks; community hubs; local council banks; mobile banking; more community and customer owned banks; increasing the role of bank at post; a national public bank; options for regulatory reforms, such as imposing a universal service obligation on banks; increasing regulation and oversight in relation to branch closures; and options to address issues around loyalty of bank customers.

In terms of the recommendations, we are expecting, as I am sure many are, some further communication from the federal government in terms of their intentions. Members may recall that the state government made a submission to the inquiry. I think we were alone in that in the chamber. I do not think the asker of the question, nor the opposition, made a submission, but I guess that is up to them of whether they just want to come in here and make statements or whether they actually want to take some action. However, our submission emphasised the scale of the 71 per cent reduction in South Australian bank branches from a peak of 228 in 1975 to only 67 in 2021, and the impact this reduction has had on services available to regional banking customers. Those impacts include:

  • reduced customer access to detailed face-to-face advice on banking products which suit their particular circumstances. That, of course, includes businesses operating in agriculture, fishing and forestry, among others;
  • increased inconvenience and security risks in customers transporting large sums of cash and, in some cases, several hundred kilometres to the nearest deposit-taking institution;
  • reduced financial inclusion of remote First Nations people, as well as older people, people with cognitive impairment, and those with lower levels of English language or financial literacy;
  • reduced local economic activity, which results from banks reducing local sponsorships; and
  • bank employees leaving regional towns.

Our government submission concluded that, while decisions around bank branch closures are commercial decisions taken by the banks, the impact of these decisions could be alleviated in a number of ways. Our government submission also recommended that the Australian Prudential Regulation Authority be asked to investigate ways in which more tailored information about banking products and services could be provided to people in regions, including through the use, for example, of virtual meetings with bank staff, which could be facilitated by using technology hosted in Australia Post offices or other government offices located in regional towns.

We look forward to seeing what the federal government's plan is in terms of implementation of recommendations that are within their scope, and that will inform any future actions that we might be able to take.

The Hon. R.A. SIMMS (15:15): Supplementary: has the minister conducted any preliminary work on recommendations that could be implemented at a state level, or is she simply passing the buck?

The Hon. C.M. SCRIVEN (Minister for Primary Industries and Regional Development, Minister for Forest Industries) (15:15): I thank the honourable member for his question. However, to start looking at what the state could potentially do when we don't yet know what the federal government is doing would seem to be unwise.

Members interjecting:

The PRESIDENT: Order!

The Hon. T.A. FRANKS (15:16): Supplementary: how many submissions have been made to the minister in her portfolio that she hasn't acted on?

The PRESIDENT: You can answer it, but I would think it was a bit naughty.

The Hon. C.M. SCRIVEN (Minister for Primary Industries and Regional Development, Minister for Forest Industries) (15:16): I don't think it arises from the original answer, but I am happy to answer. Submissions that come to me are always considered appropriately, and where action is appropriate action is taken.


Question: Regional Rail Funding

16 May 2024

The Hon. R.A. SIMMS (15:04): I seek leave to make a brief explanation before addressing a question without notice to the Minister for Regional Development on the topic of regional rail.

Leave granted.

The Hon. R.A. SIMMS: The federal budget this week included an announcement of $16 billion for road and rail infrastructure across the country. Western Australia received $1.7 billion for their rail projects and Queensland received $1.7 billion for a rail line to the Sunshine Coast, but South Australia received funding for road interchanges and the South Eastern Freeway, but nothing for rail.

Recommendation 3 from the Select Committee on Public and Active Transport, which I chaired, is that state government 'considers reactivation of regional rail for freight (particularly grain) and passenger services'. Recommendation 4 is that the state government 'incentivises passenger rail between Adelaide and Melbourne stopping at regional towns in South Australia'.

My question to the Minister for Regional Development therefore is: is the minister concerned about the lack of funding for regional rail in the federal budget, and what action has the minister taken to advocate for regional rail for South Australia?

The Hon. C.M. SCRIVEN (Minister for Primary Industries and Regional Development, Minister for Forest Industries) (15:05): I thank the honourable member for his question. I think it's fair to say that there is a lot of connection, I guess, or desire to be able to utilise rail in ways that will suit both passengers and freight. In terms of that discussion, there are multiple factors that are involved, including, for example, on Eyre Peninsula. This was a discussion that came up at country cabinet in regard to freight, not in regard to passenger rail, last week.

There were discussions around the impacts on ports if regional rail was reinstated for freight, and whether a monopoly which could ensue would necessarily be in the interests of our farmers and in the interests of the region more broadly. It's certainly fair to say that all aspects of rail have multiple factors to be taken into account. In terms of what the minister in the other place may have advocated for to the federal government, that is something I can certainly ask him and bring back a response.

The Hon. R.A. SIMMS (15:07): Supplementary: has the minister herself raised this matter with the Minister for Transport or with her federal counterparts, given the importance of regional rail for development in the regions?

The Hon. C.M. SCRIVEN (Minister for Primary Industries and Regional Development, Minister for Forest Industries) (15:07): I thank the honourable member for his supplementary question. Certainly, I have frequent conversations on many matters to do with regional areas, including transport and rail transport, with my colleague in the other place. It is obviously within his portfolio area in a direct sense.


Question: Regional Bank Closures

7 March 2024

The Hon. R.A. SIMMS (14:34): I seek leave to make a brief explanation before addressing a question without notice to the Minister for Regional Development on the topic of regional banks.

Leave granted.

The Hon. R.A. SIMMS: Last month, the Senate inquiry examining bank closures in rural areas visited Kingston here in South Australia to hear evidence about how the bank closures have impacted on local communities. BankSA, which is part of the Westpac Group, has paused the closure of its Kingston branch while the Senate inquiry is underway, but the future of that branch remains unclear.

This time last year, on 8 March 2023—in fact almost a year to the day—this chamber passed a Greens motion calling on the government to formally raise the closure of the Coober Pedy bank with Westpac and to advocate for the retention of bank branches in the regions. My question to the Minister for Regional Development therefore is: what action has the minister taken in relation to regional bank closures following the passage of that motion here in this place, and what is the Malinauskas government doing to prevent the closure of any more regional banks?

The Hon. C.M. SCRIVEN (Minister for Primary Industries and Regional Development, Minister for Forest Industries) (14:36): I think the issue of regional banks is something certainly not only that we have discussed on a number of occasions here but is of great concern to regional communities. The Senate's Rural and Regional Affairs and Transport References Committee's inquiry into bank closures in regional Australia I understand did have reopened submissions.

I am not sure whether the member who asked the question did put in a submission for this inquiry with it being reopened. I would have thought that if he had felt strongly, as I would have thought he would—I know he doesn't get out to the regions very often, but I know he still cares about them—

Members interjecting:

The Hon. C.M. SCRIVEN: —I know he still cares about them. Look, I am being fair to the honourable member.

Members interjecting:

The PRESIDENT: Order!

The Hon. C.M. SCRIVEN: I would have thought he would have put in a submission. I hear a lot of squealing from those opposite as well, and yet I am not sure that they put in a submission either.

Members interjecting:

The PRESIDENT: Interjections are out of order.

The Hon. C.M. SCRIVEN: Did they put in a submission to the inquiry?

Members interjecting:

The PRESIDENT: Order!

The Hon. C.M. SCRIVEN: If they didn't, it really does beggar belief that they are now making such comments, as they are attempting to do, contrary to standing orders, by these interjections. I have previously written to the big four banks' CEOs: Mr Peter King from the Westpac Group, Mr Matt Comyn from the Commonwealth Bank of Australia, Mr Ross McEwan from National Australia Bank, and Mr Shayne Elliott from Australia and New Zealand Banking Group.

In that correspondence I outlined the state government's disappointment and concern at their continuing and alarming trend of regional bank closures, and I forwarded with those letters to the CEOs the government of South Australia's submission to the Senate Rural and Regional Affairs and Transport References Committee inquiry into bank closures in regional South Australia.

I haven't had an update in the last week or two, but I think it is most unfortunate when we see private entities not living up to what should be their community responsibilities to provide essential services such as banking in regional areas.

The Hon. R.A. SIMMS (14:38): Supplementary: I understand the power of a persuasive letter. I have written a few in my time; they are very powerful. But what else has the minister done? Has she actually requested a face-to-face meeting, given this motion was passed 12 months ago? What more has she done other than being pen pals with the CEOs?

The PRESIDENT: I will allow the supplementary question, but gratuitous self-praise, the Hon. Mr Simms, is out of order.

The Hon. C.M. SCRIVEN (Minister for Primary Industries and Regional Development, Minister for Forest Industries) (14:39): I suggest it is a bit gratuitous, given the honourable member didn't bother to make a submission to the inquiry. Writing a letter is good and useful, but I suggest that when there is a Senate inquiry open that a submission to that Senate inquiry might be a good action to take, as indeed the state government did.


Question: Public and Active Transport Committee Report

7 February 2024

The Hon. R.A. SIMMS (14:46): I seek leave to make a brief explanation before addressing a question without notice to the Minister for Regional Development on the topic of regional transport.

Leave granted.

The Hon. R.A. SIMMS: Today is one year to the day since the Public and Active Transport Committee tabled its report containing a series of recommendations relating to the regions. These include:

better bus connectivity between regional centres, ensuring regional communities have access to health services;

a trial of passenger services from Mount Barker to Adelaide, with a view to adopting similar trials at Roseworthy to Gawler, Aldinga to Seaford, and Adelaide to Port Augusta; and

incentivising passenger rail between Adelaide and Melbourne stopping at regional townships.

Since the report was released one year ago, there has been no formal response from the Minister for Transport and, indeed, my efforts to contact his office have gone unanswered. The Minister for Regional Development has also not directly responded to the recommendations. My question to the Minister for Regional Development therefore is: has the minister now read the report, one year on, and has she understood the needs of the regions with respect to public transport infrastructure? What action has she taken in relation to those recommendations?

The Hon. C.M. SCRIVEN (Minister for Primary Industries and Regional Development, Minister for Forest Industries) (14:47): I thank the honourable member for his question. At least he is not attributing to me responsibility for the weather, as some others might, but he does want me to be responsible for the portfolio of transport, which I think the Minister for Transport is doing a fine job on.

Whilst I think I have said in this place previously—some months ago and well before other questions on this topic from the honourable member—that, yes, I had read the report, in terms of responding to the recommendations, that is the role of the Minister for Transport. I will refer the question to him and bring back a response.

The Hon. R.A. SIMMS (14:48): Supplementary: given the Minister for Regional Development hasn't responded to the report, and the Minister for Transport hasn't responded to the report, whose job is it? When will I get a response?


Question: Power Outages

28 November 2023

The Hon. R.A. SIMMS (15:29): I seek leave to make a brief explanation before addressing a question without notice to the Minister for Regional Development on the topic of power outages.

Leave granted.

The Hon. R.A. SIMMS: At the height of the storm that hit South Australia last night, 14,000 people were left without power and over 5,000 South Australians were still without power at 10am this morning, mostly in regional areas. Some of the worst hit regions were the Barossa, the Lower Murraylands, the Mid North and the Flinders. Last year, the secretary of SA Unions, Dale Beasley, wrote an open letter to the Premier, the Hon. Peter Malinauskas, calling for a reversal of the privatisation of our energy network. In the letter he stated that, 'This model has seen under investment in maintenance and replacement of electricity distribution infrastructure.'

I asked the Minister for Regional Development about this matter back in September, and in the response to my question without notice that she has tabled today she stated:

The government believes that privatising the network by the then Liberal administration was a foolish decision which has resulted in sub-optimal outcomes for consumers. However, restoring the electricity network to public ownership would be a complex and expensive undertaking.

She goes on to state:

Any consideration of such a change would require thorough analysis rather than superficial thinking.

My question to the minister therefore is:

1. In light of her remarks, would she consider the Greens' push for a commission of inquiry into bringing electricity back into public hands?

2. What action has the minister taken to ensure that people in the regions have access to power during this storm?

The Hon. C.M. SCRIVEN (Minister for Primary Industries and Regional Development, Minister for Forest Industries) (15:31): I thank the honourable member for his question. In terms of one part of that question, it is certainly the case that in the answer I provided to the honourable member, where I alluded to the advice received from the Minister for Energy in the other place, I stated there would indeed need to be a thorough analysis of any proposal to bring electricity back into government hands. We all remember of course how many problems have eventuated due to ill-conceived privatisation by a former Liberal government in this state. In terms of those sorts of steps, I am happy to refer that to the Minister for Energy in the other place.

In terms of the storm power outages, I am advised that, as the honourable member referred to, the storms did cause widespread power outages in addition to localised flooding. I am advised that approximately 155,000 lightning strikes were recorded, some 26,000 of those hitting the ground. Some of the lightning strikes hit electrical infrastructure, which caused damage. There was also damage from trees and vegetation falling on powerlines, and I am advised that this led to about 30,000 SA Power Networks customers being affected by an outage.

I am advised that SAPN mobilised additional crews and have been restoring power to most customers, and as of 10am today there remained approximately 5,000 out of those 14,000 customers who were still without power. SAPN prioritises work to protect public safety first, and then targets outages from the biggest through to single affected customers. I am further advised that the storm also affected some ElectraNet assets, but the transmission provider expected all lines to be in service by mid-morning, which is the most up-to-date information I have in that regard. Further, there was no loss of load from the transmission network.

The Hon. R.A. SIMMS (15:33): Supplementary: does the minister accept the analysis of SA Unions that privatisation has seen underinvestment in maintenance and replacement of electricity distribution infrastructure that has contributed to the power failure we have seen overnight?

The Hon. C.M. SCRIVEN (Minister for Primary Industries and Regional Development, Minister for Forest Industries) (15:33): I think the privatisation of the state's electricity assets by a former Liberal government was a disaster.

 

In reply to the Hon. R.A. SIMMS (28 November 2023).

1. In light of her remarks, would she consider the Greens' push for a commission of inquiry into bringing electricity back into public hands?

2. What action has the minister taken to ensure that people in the regions have access to power during this storm?

The Hon. C.M. SCRIVEN (Minister for Primary Industries and Regional Development, Minister for Forest Industries): Response by Hon. A. Koutsantonis:

The record shows that the minister provided a detailed answer to the second of the Hon. Robert Simms' questions at the time it was asked.

In answer to the first question, as previously advised, the Malinauskas Labor government believes that the privatisation of the electricity system by the then Liberal government in 1999 was a mistake which has not delivered optimal outcomes for consumers. However, also as previously advised, to reverse the privatisation would be complex and costly. It would raise issues of sovereign risk which could deter investors from funding projects in South Australia. Reversing privatisation would require compensation to be paid by taxpayers to the companies which now operate the electricity system.

The Australian Energy Regulator (AER) assesses the regulated asset bases of the network businesses in South Australia—distributor SA Power Networks (SAPN) and transmission provider ElectraNet. In the current determination period, the AER estimated SAPN's regulated asset base would be $4.9 billion as at June 2025. For ElectraNet, the AER determined the asset base at $3.9 billion on 1 July 2023, rising to $4.4 billion by June 2028. As well as their asset bases, the network providers might have a claim to other value elements of their businesses in the eventuality of a privatisation reversal.

In generation, any proposed compulsory acquisition would be even more complex. There are more than 40 major generation plants in the state and a significant number more of commercial scale while not being market participants in their own right. These vary in technology, scale, plant age and condition, ownership structure and other factors.

With South Australia already linked to Victoria for transmission and soon to be linked to New South Wales, there would be further complexity as some companies operate portfolio generation across multiple plants, influencing the value of an individual asset.

Generation assets would amount to billions of dollars of invested capital. These identified costs would be the minimum burden on taxpayers from a privatisation reversal.

At this point in time, the Malinauskas government does not agree that a commission of inquiry into returning the electricity system to public hands would be a prudent use of taxpayer funds and government resources. Therefore, we will not be supporting the Greens' proposal.

Rather the Malinauskas government is focused on delivering a state-owned enterprise to run the Hydrogen Jobs Plan assets and business.

We are also developing a comprehensive suite of policies on the energy transition to ensure initiatives act in concert across sectors. The Department for Energy and Mining published a green paper to stimulate discussion, held discussions with stakeholders and invited comment and submissions. That work is well advanced.

The government is focused on regulatory and structural reforms to deliver cleaner, affordable, and reliable energy to all South Australians, including the most financially vulnerable.


Question: Equality in the Regions

14 November 2023

The Hon. R.A. SIMMS (15:10): I seek leave to make a brief explanation before asking a question of the Minister for Regional Development on the topic of LGBTIQ equality in the regions.

Leave granted.

The Hon. R.A. SIMMS: In 2016 and 2017, the government of Victoria began a roadshow in rural and regional areas in their state as part of their LGBTIQ Equality Rural and Regional Program. The program is focused on, and I quote from the government of Victoria website:

…improving mental health outcomes, boosting population retention and economic inclusion, building capacity for communities to empower themselves, developing lasting networks between LGBTI communities, services providers and government agencies and improving broader community support for inclusion and identity.

The government of Victoria advises that the:

…roadshow visited more than 29 towns…engaging with local LGBTIQ+ communities, allies, business leaders, representatives of local service providers and local government.

An evaluation of the program found it had a positive impact on LGBTI people in regional Victoria with, and I quote from the website, 'LGBTI people reporting greater acceptance and displays of support in their communities.'

The government of Victoria is now developing a Rainbow Ready road map to respond to the needs of LGBTI people in the regions who were identified during the roadshow. My question to the minister therefore is: does she have plans to hold a similar roadshow to engage with LGBTI people in regional South Australia and, if not why not?

The Hon. C.M. SCRIVEN (Minister for Primary Industries and Regional Development, Minister for Forest Industries) (15:12): I thank the honourable member for his question. I am not aware of any government proposals to have such a roadshow. Certainly, as a government we have done a wide range of measures in terms of increasing the opportunities for communication and collaboration with various groups within the community. I am happy to check with the Minister for Human Services in the other place to see if there are any such plans.

The Hon. R.A. SIMMS (15:12): Supplementary: will the minister consider the idea of a roadshow herself and, in particular, will she consider developing an LGBTIQ equality rural and regional program like her Victorian counterparts?

The Hon. C.M. SCRIVEN (Minister for Primary Industries and Regional Development, Minister for Forest Industries) (15:13): Such a roadshow or policy or strategy would fall within the remit of the Minister for Human Services in the other place. She has certainly been very open to giving particular consideration to the needs of the community who are located in regional areas, for which I commend her. I will ask whether she has considered such a proposal to which the honourable member refers.

 

23 January 2024

In reply to the Hon. R.A. SIMMS (14 November 2023).

The Hon. C.M. SCRIVEN (Minister for Primary Industries and Regional Development, Minister for Forest Industries): The Minister for Human Services has advised:

The Equality Project, a national LGBTIQA+ organisation, is currently conducting interviews with LGBTIQA+ South Australians with a goal of understanding people's experiences, connections to community, and identifying possible changes to better support LGBTIQA+ people. This project, which is funded by the Fay Fuller Foundation, has a particular focus on engaging with LGBTIQA+ people in regional South Australia.

The LGBTIQA+ Minister's Advisory Council recently had an update on the findings from the peer-to-peer interviews conducted to date as part of this initiative, including the unique needs emerging from LGBTIQA+ people living in regional and rural South Australia.

The findings of this project will be used to inform a potential roadshow like the ones that have occurred in Victoria and future actions the government can take to better support LGBTIQA+ people in regional South Australia.


Regional Rail

17 October 2023

 

In reply to the Hon. R.A. SIMMS (14 June 2023).

 

The Hon. C.M. SCRIVEN (Minister for Primary Industries and Regional Development, Minister for Forest Industries): The Minister for Infrastructure and Transport has advised:

1.   The state government is aware of the recommendations outlined in the February 2023 report of the Public and Active Transport Select Committee (the committee).

The Malinauskas government has been in discussions with Viterra and Aurizon since April 2022 on their proposal for regional rail in Eyre Peninsula. Recently, Minister Koutsantonis wrote a letter to the Hon. Catherine King MP, federal Minister for Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Local Government asking that the Australian government considers this proposal in light of the national benefits it will provide.

2.   The Department for Infrastructure and Transport has been provided a copy of the committee's report and recommendations for its consideration.


Regional Schools

17 August 2023

 

In reply to the Hon. R.A. SIMMS (27 June 2023):

My questions to the minister are:

1. Is the minister concerned about the impacts of teacher shortages on development in the regions, and educational opportunities for regional people?

2. What actions has the minister taken to address the problem?

3. Has she made representations to the Minister for Education in relation to the matter?

 

Response by the Hon. C.M. SCRIVEN MLC: 

The Minister for Education, Training and Skills has advised:

1. A teacher supply shortage is being experienced across Australia, with teacher supply and retention being a focus for all jurisdictions. The Malinauskas Labor government is acutely aware of this issue and has been taking action since coming to government to address teacher shortages in country South Australia.

2. The Malinauskas Labor government made important election commitments to tackle teacher shortages, particularly in the country. We are delivering on our election commitment to make the country incentive zone allowance ongoing for all teachers who are eligible to receive it in the 2024 school year, rather than it cease after 5 or 8 years. This will help attract teachers to work in the country, and support teacher retention in regional areas.

To build the teacher pipeline for country schools and preschools the Department for Education has also developed two new initiatives aimed at pre-service teachers.

Firstly, they are being supported to undertake funded professional experience placements in country sites to increase their visibility of career opportunities and the lifestyle of these locations. This initiative aims to remove a major barrier for pre-service teachers to participate in country professional experiences by providing financial support recognising the need to relocate for a period.

Secondly, the department has developed an employment program to support pre-service teachers who move to country locations in their first teaching appointment. This initiative is designed to support their transition from study to employment, and to support their induction into the local community and teaching.

To support these initiatives we have developed a country campaign to profile what it looks like to live and teach in regional South Australia

This campaign includes the inspiring personal stories of teachers from across the state

https://www.education.sa.gov.au/working-us/careers-education/opportunities-country-south-australia/teaching-opportunities-country-south-australia.'

The government is also delivering the Country Education Strategy, which aims to provide quality leadership and expert teaching in every country school and preschool; better access to digital infrastructure, student support services and business administration systems for country schools and preschools; and access to quality learning and career, study and training opportunities for country children and young people. A key intent of this strategy is to make our country schools more attractive for staff to work in.

Alongside specific actions targeting country teachers, the Malinauskas Labor government has joined with other jurisdictions in developing the National Teacher Workforce Plan, which sets 27 priority actions the commonwealth, state and territory government are taking to improve teacher supply and keep teachers in the profession.

Our government will continue to make the important investments needed to address teacher shortages, including in the country.

3. I am in frequent discussion with my cabinet colleagues about regional issues.


Question: Regional Teacher Shortages

27 June 2023

The Hon. R.A. SIMMS (15:28): I seek leave to make a brief explanation before addressing a question without notice to the Minister for Primary Industries and Regional Development on the topic of teacher shortages at regional schools.

Leave granted.

The Hon. R.A. SIMMS: On 4 April, The Advertiser reported that our four regional schools were struggling to fill teacher vacancies for any longer than 19 days, which is the maximum length of a relief teaching contract, and that one of those schools, Lucindale Area School, has been unable to find a permanent replacement to teach its year 8 to year 10 maths and science since the start of the year. My office has also been advised that Whyalla secondary school has been carrying three unfilled vacancies in 2022 and that there have been as many as eight unfilled vacancies during 2023.

The problem is not limited to Whyalla. I understand some reports have been heard from Port Augusta and the broader country regions. Across the state there are between 40 and 50 unfilled teacher vacancies, according to the Department for Education.

The Advertiser quoted the Australian Education Union of South Australia's President, Andrew Gohl, who said finding qualified educators was a widespread problem and that 'most country schools will be experiencing this now or have experienced it in the last 12 months'. He went on to say that short-term solutions such as offering $10,000 extra as an incentive to find a qualified maths or science teacher are proving ineffective, and that the excessive workload for teaching needs to be addressed.

He has also added that there needs to be additional country incentives, such as access to quality housing, as some teachers are starting their teaching career living in a caravan or in a motel room. I note that the official government of South Australia Department of Primary Industries and Regions website states that the minister is committed to regional development, improving educational opportunities, along with supporting small business and promoting the importance of primary industry sectors. My question therefore to the minister is:

1. Is the minister concerned about the impacts of teacher shortages on development in the regions and educational opportunities for regional people?

2. What action has the minister taken to address the problem?

3. Has she made representations to the Minister for Education in relation to the matter?

The Hon. C.M. SCRIVEN (Minister for Primary Industries and Regional Development, Minister for Forest Industries) (15:30): I thank the honourable member for his question, and certainly I echo some of the quotes that he made in there that attracting qualified educators is a widespread problem, and in common with other professional occupations in regional areas it is a widespread problem. It is something that we have been acutely aware of and have been working in a number of ways to address.

Specifically in terms of the teacher workforce, one of the initiatives that I know that our government has done was make the country teachers retention allowance—forgive me if that is not the correct name—permanent. Previously, as I understand it, it was only available for the first five years of someone's tenure in a country area, teaching in a country school, so that was one step that was an important part of encouraging those teachers who had been in regional areas for five years to continue their stay, and hopefully to actually become permanent.

Secondly, housing, as the honourable member mentioned, can be a limiting factor, and certainly I have told in this place stories of schools that have attracted teachers and have unfortunately then seen those teachers living in a caravan park for two terms, resulting in them returning to Adelaide. That type of experience is one of the reasons the Malinauskas Labor government has implemented the program for regional housing for essential workers, which we announced last year and then alluded to also in this year's budget.

The importance of that can't be underestimated. That is about ensuring that regional professions, be they healthcare workers, be they police, be they teachers, or a number of others, can access housing. The program has been established in such a way as to hopefully make it self-sustaining in the sense of long-term leases being taken on, which gives confidence in building housing in some of those regional areas where perhaps the market by itself would not provide that. In terms of other issues, I am happy to refer to the Minister for Education in the other place and bring back a response.


Question: Regional Rail

14 June 2023

The Hon. R.A. SIMMS (14:35): It is hard to follow that, but I will try. I seek leave to make a brief explanation before addressing a question without notice to the Minister for Regional Development on the topic of regional rail.

Leave granted.

The Hon. R.A. SIMMS: I am sorry the Leader of the Opposition is missing it; she would be very interested. In February, the parliamentary inquiry into public and active transport handed down its report. This contains several recommendations related to regional rail, including the incentivisation of passenger rail between Adelaide and Melbourne and the reactivation of rail for passengers and freight in the regions.

The Australian Labor Party recently released its draft National Platform for members ahead of their national conference. In chapter 1 of the document, which is published on the Labor Party's publicly accessible website, it states under sections 54 and 55:

Labor will…continue to invest in faster rail and upgraded rail corridors across the nation. Labor will work with state governments to address regional rail infrastructure needs and will ensure more trains are built in Australia to create skilled manufacturing jobs.

The document also goes on to state that:

Labor will work to ensure the resilience of our supply chain and freight networks, including considering the importance of rail in the movement of freight across Australia.

Given the synergies between the recommendations of this council's committee on public and active transport and the draft ALP National Platform, my questions to the minister are:

1. Has the minister yet read the report of the public and active transport committee, and has she raised the potential for regional rail with her Labor colleagues in the Albanese government in Canberra?

2, What action has she taken to progress the recommendations contained in the select committee report?

The Hon. C.M. SCRIVEN (Minister for Primary Industries and Regional Development, Minister for Forest Industries) (14:37): I thank the honourable member for his question. I can see that there is a media release imminent from the honourable member, where he will try to get some coverage on the fact that, as Minister for Regional Development, I should be reading the reports of every other portfolio.

It kind of links in a little bit with the question we had from the opposition yesterday, and my comments that there are some who seem to think that, as minister, I should be minister for all the portfolios here. As one of my colleagues said in jest earlier today, perhaps I should be flattered. Perhaps those opposite and perhaps some on the crossbench think that I am so capable that I can actually be across every other minister's portfolio.

That was a light-hearted quip from one of my colleagues. I certainly don't expect or even hold myself out to be able to be across every single other portfolio. If the honourable member and those opposite are interested in the Labor government's response to reports, I am very happy to refer that to the relevant minister in the other place, the Minister for Transport, and bring back a response.

The Hon. R.A. SIMMS: Supplementary.

The Hon. H.M. Girolamo interjecting:

The PRESIDENT: We will have a supplementary from the Hon. Mr Simms when the Hon. Ms Girolamo is silent.

The Hon. R.A. SIMMS (14:39): Why hasn't the minister read the recommendations relating to the regions contained within the report of the select committee of this chamber, and when will she undertake to read it? How many times have I asked about this?

The Hon. C.M. SCRIVEN (Minister for Primary Industries and Regional Development, Minister for Forest Industries) (14:39): I again reiterate: we have a collegial team on this side of the chamber. We have portfolio responsibilities. The Minister for Transport is responsible for transport.

The Hon. R.A. SIMMS (14:42): Supplementary: has the minister discussed the recommendations of the select committee report with the transport minister in the other place?

The PRESIDENT: Minister, you did talk about the transport minister in the other place in your original answer.

The Hon. C.M. SCRIVEN (Minister for Primary Industries and Regional Development, Minister for Forest Industries) (14:42): Certainly. I am pleased to be able to say that I have frequent discussions with the transport minister across a range of matters, all of which are always very fruitful.