Pages tagged "Primary Industries and Regional Development"
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
18 May 2023
The Hon. R.A. SIMMS (15:45): I rise to indicate the Greens' support for the Rail Safety National Law (South Australia) (Fees) Amendment Bill. The Greens believe that high-quality national freight and passenger rail is essential to our modern economy and our society. Many in this place know of my ongoing interest in rail as a mode of transport, particularly in regional areas. Rail transport is accessible, it is low emission and safe.
This bill establishes a new cost-recovery method to fund the Office of the National Rail Safety Regulator. This model will align accreditation fees with the risk profile and regulatory effort expended by the regulator. These provisions will create a more equitable fee structure for rail operators. Furthermore, heritage and tourist rail operators will be exempt from accreditation and registration fees.
Currently, these operators are charged an annual fee of $2,000, which is sometimes covered by the government as a community service and usually only covers less than 5 per cent of regulating the sector. There are a number of these heritage and tourism operators in South Australia, including the mostly volunteer-run Pichi Richi Railway and the SteamRanger.
I actually went on the Pichi Richi Railway many times as a kid and I was surprised to know that they were paying a fee. These organisations are preserving the heritage of our rail networks and it is welcome news that they will now be exempt from these fees. The Greens support these changes, which will create a model with equitable fees as agreed by the Council of Australian Governments and the transport ministers. The introduction of a more proportionate fee structure to fund the Office of the National Safety Regulator is a positive step forward.
I want to use this opportunity to urge the government to look seriously at rail, particularly rail in the regions. As you would know, Acting President, I was chair of the parliamentary inquiry into public and active transport. I have not yet had an opportunity to meet with the transport minister. He has not responded to any of my requests to meet. I would welcome the opportunity to talk to him about the myriad issues in the transport portfolio, particularly relating to rail.
This bill plays an important role in addressing one issue but there are a whole heap of other issues that could be addressed. Of course, the Hon. Connie Bonaros asked questions today about the end of Rex in some of the regions. There are regional communities that are at risk of being cut off and they really rely on rail as a way of connecting them with the broader South Australian community. I urge the government to dust off that report and to meet with me so that we can discuss what might be done.
16 May 2023
The Hon. R.A. SIMMS: 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 bank closures.
The Hon. R.A. SIMMS: Supplementary: in addition to making a submission, has the minister written to Westpac and, if not, why not?
The Hon. R.A. SIMMS: Supplementary: why hasn't the minister taken action following the resolution of this council? Why hasn't she written to Westpac? That was what this council directed.
16 May 2023
Regional Development Minister Clare Scriven still hasn’t raised the issue of regional bank closures with Westpac, despite a motion calling on the State Government to do so passing the Upper House unanimously in March, the Greens have today revealed.
The motion by Greens MLC Robert Simms noted that Westpac has decided to close their branch in Coober Pedy, leaving the community without a bank, and called on the Malinauskas Government to formally raise the matter with Westpac and advocate for the retention of bank branches in the regions.
In Question Time today, Mr Simms asked the Minister whether she had written to Westpac. Her answer revealed that she had not.
“I’m stunned that more than two months after this motion passed the Upper House with the support of all parties, the Minister for Regional Development still hasn’t put pen to paper to advocate to Westpac for a bank in Coober Pedy.”
“Local bank branches are essential to regional businesses and community life. I think regional communities would expect that the Minister would act promptly to ensure that they are not denied access to this basic service.”
“It seems the Minister for Regional Development really is missing in action on regional banks.”