Pages tagged "Transport and Infrastructure"
01 June 2022
Adjourned debate on motion of Hon. R.A. Simms:
1. That a select committee of the Legislative Council be established to inquire into and report on public and active transport with particular reference to—
- (a) the availability and quality of public transport, including:
(i) infrastructure and services in metropolitan and regional areas;
(ii) the impact of fares and frequency; and
(iii) the efficacy and impacts of on-demand public transport.
- (b) the role of government in enabling and encouraging active transport, including:
(i) measures to enable more participation;
(ii) the effect on community health and wellbeing;
(iii) the effect on climate change mitigation; and
(iv) measures to improve safety for pedestrians and cyclists.
- (c) the use of e-scooters and potential opportunities for expansion or further regulation;
- (d) any other related matters.
2. That this council permits the select committee to authorise the disclosure or publication, as it sees fit, of any evidence or documents presented to the committee prior to such evidence being presented to the council.
The Hon. R.A. SIMMS: I am quite baffled to hear that the government are opposed to this. That is the first I have heard of it. It would have been—
The PRESIDENT: Order!
The Hon. R.A. SIMMS: —appropriate, I think, to have advised me of that prior to this being discussed. I will be bringing it to a vote, as indicated, and I will be seeking a division. It is pretty shocking, a day after supporting the declaration of a climate emergency, that the Labor government would seek to oppose establishing a committee to look at active transport and to look at public transport and the role of government in trying to encourage those things.
I find it extraordinary that the Labor Party would seek to do that and would break what I consider to be a convention in this place, that is that members wanting to establish select committees have the opportunity to do so, within reason. It is pretty extraordinary that a committee such as this would be opposed and pretty extraordinary that no-one in the government had the courtesy to advise the mover of their position. It is a very disappointing turn of events and a very bad omen for how things might operate in this chamber, I suggest.
From my perspective, this is a really important inquiry. We have seen public transport infrastructure neglected over many terms of parliament and by governments, of a range of persuasions. But we also have not seen an appropriate focus on active transport. We have not seen an examination of policies looking at what we can do to encourage walking, what we can do to encourage cycling. We know that is really important because motor vehicles are one the most significant sources of carbon emissions in our state. If we are serious about reducing carbon emissions, we need to look at alternative transport options.
This inquiry is simply going to come up with some suggestions and ideas and recommendations to government. I hope that this parliament will vote to establish such an important committee.
01 June 2022
The Hon. R.A. SIMMS: I rise today to talk about the Malinauskas government's first budget. Budgets are a statement of priorities. They reflect what a government wants to achieve over the next four years and they reflect the values of the government. We are hoping that this new government will take some real action to reduce skyrocketing inequality in our state. We are hoping that this first budget will be one that is focused on increasing the wellbeing of all South Australians and addressing our climate crisis.
To that end, it is very disappointing to see the announcement of the Malinauskas government today, via the Minister for Energy, Tom Koutsantonis, that they will be axing renewable energy programs in tomorrow's budget. That is a decision to scrap the Home Battery Scheme and to dump the Switch for Solar program in order to save $19 million. That might deliver a quick cash injection into the budget, it might improve the budget bottom line, but it is going to come at a significant cost to the South Australian community and to our environment. It is really disappointing to see those cuts being foreshadowed in the budget today.
The Greens are calling for the Malinauskas government to take some real action in terms of reducing cost-of-living pressures being faced by families. They could do this by putting more money into public housing. We know that South Australia is in the middle of a housing affordability crisis. Adelaide is the second least affordable city in Australia and has a vacancy rate of just 0.2 per cent.
Every week, my office is inundated with calls from South Australians who cannot find a place to live, who cannot break into the housing market in terms of being able to afford to buy a home, who cannot access a rental and who cannot find affordable accommodation. The government needs to take action to address that by building more housing. We know that a meagre investment of 400 new homes is just not going to cut it.
We need to see the government introduce rent capping as a way of keeping rents low. We can look at what has happened in other jurisdictions around the world—places like Ireland, Spain and the US—they have done this and it is time for Adelaide to do the same. But we also need to see this government invest in our education system. We need to see a scrapping of public school fees in recognition of the fact that public education should be free for all South Australians. We know that South Australian public schools are significantly underfunded by millions of dollars each year and it is parents who are forced to pick up the slack through exorbitant school fees. That needs to change.
We need to see an emphasis on the cost of living and bringing that down. That means also trying to increase public sector wages. It is concerning that the government has foreshadowed public sector cuts in this budget. We hope that does not mean we are going to see job losses. We hope that does not mean we are going to see a reduction in salaries for our public sector workers.
The government should also be putting money into our public transport system. That has been neglected by the Liberal Party during their brief period in government, but it was also significantly neglected by the previous Labor government during their 16-year reign. The new government needs to take some action to address that: make it free and improve the infrastructure.
I talked about education. In a state like South Australia, no child should go hungry. That is why in the recent election we called for the government to provide free breakfast and free school lunches. That is something we could do if we ensured that the big end of town paid their fair share of tax. We know that there are 23,000 South Australian children who live in poverty. This state budget should take efforts to address that.
The government was elected on a platform of wanting to create a better future for all South Australians. Tomorrow will be an opportunity for them to demonstrate their commitment to do just that. I hope that they consider some of the ideas that the Greens have put on the table today.
18 May 2022
The Hon. R.A. SIMMS: I rise to speak in relation to the State Assets (Privatisation Restrictions) Bill. This bill seeks to prevent the sale, disposal or lease of certain state-owned assets unless reviewed and recommended by a parliamentary committee and approved by both houses of parliament. Privatisation has had a disastrous impact on South Australia and it has been a bipartisan sport here in SA, a joint project of the Labor and Liberal parties. Both have an appalling record when it comes to selling off our state assets.
We have seen the negative outcomes of privatisation on South Australia's rail network, on our housing and our energy providers. Privatisation has resulted in degradation of infrastructure and a reduction in services. These things are well known and they are well documented. Past governments have seen privatisation as a measure to boost proceeds and to reduce spending, while the public have suffered the consequences.
In 2001, SA Unions argued that publicly owned assets and public services are funded by South Australians to meet the needs of the community, not to generate profits for corporations. We in the Greens agree. Last year, the ACCC chair, Rod Sims (spelt S-i-m-s, not a relation) said that privatising assets without allowing for competition or regulation creates private monopolies that raise prices, that reduce efficiency and harm the economy.
The privatisation of ETSA is one of the worst examples we have seen in South Australia. We all know the devastating impacts that privatisation project had on our state. It has delivered higher electricity prices and the public know it. Research from the Australian Institute back in 2019 found that 40 per cent of South Australians blame privatisation of our state-owned electricity provider as the single biggest reason for power price increases, while three out of five people (60 per cent) consider it to be one of the main sources of upward pressure on prices. That makes sense because we know that once you sell off a key asset you lose government control and you allow private corporations that are focused on making money to hike up prices.
In the 1990s, the Public Service Association warned that increased privatisation would result in profits being put before services, higher costs for taxpayers, less efficient services and a diminished revenue base for the state. These outcomes have been seen in the years that have followed. It is our most vulnerable people who bear the burden of increased costs and diminished services.
As the cost of living continues to skyrocket as a result of inflation, we have a responsibility to consider in this place the impact of privatisation on public utilities that are relied on by all members of our community. This bill would act as an important safeguard for our public assets. It would ensure that governments cannot conduct future sell-offs without appropriate parliamentary oversight. We want to see community services being put before private profits.
Last year, the Select Committee on the Privatisation of Public Services in South Australia, which I had the honour to chair, heard from witnesses that there was a need for improved transparency measures in relation to current and future privatisations. Under this bill, any future attempts of privatisation of state assets would require the government of the day, whether it be Labor or whether it be Liberal, to convince both houses of parliament on the merits of the case and that would increase transparency and accountability.
I must acknowledge that this is not a new concept. A very similar bill was introduced in New South Wales by the Labor MP Daniel Mookhey and it passed the upper house in late 2021. As a result of that reform, New South Wales has seen greater parliamentary oversight over privatisation and that is considered a really important safeguard in that state.
I hope that we in this place will follow their lead. It is certainly my hope—hope springs eternal—that the Labor government will see merit in this proposal, given it has been advocated for by the Labor opposition in New South Wales, but that the Liberal opposition will see the merits of this proposal as well, because it is a safeguard that would operate irrespective of who is in government.
I do want to put the old parties on notice that we will be bringing this to a vote, not today obviously, but in the fullness of time I will bring it to a vote to test support for this very important proposition so that the people of South Australia can see who is in favour of stopping privatisation, who is in favour of more safeguards and who is supportive of the fire sale that we have seen over the last several decades.
Under previous governments, trams, trains, medical administration, the Remand Centre and service centres have all been privatised. We need to protect our state-owned assets from future cost-saving cash grabs. This bill enables future privatisations not to proceed without parliamentary approval. It ensures that there is more transparency, and that can only be good for the people of our state. I commend the bill to the Legislative Council.
18 May 2022
The Hon. R.A. SIMMS:
The motion that I am moving today is to establish a select committee of this council to inquire into and report on public and active transport in South Australia. What I am proposing is for this committee to have a fairly broad remit; that is, look at the availability and quality of public transport, including looking at infrastructure and services in the cities but also in regional areas, the impact of fares and frequency, and the efficacy and impacts of on-demand public transport services.
I am also proposing that this committee look at the role of government in enabling and encouraging active transport, including measures that enable more participation, the effect on community health and wellbeing, the effect on climate change mitigation, and measures to improve safety for pedestrians and cyclists. I am also proposing that the committee look at the use of e-scooters and potential opportunities for their expansion or further regulation.
This is a timely committee because we have seen a change of government, and it is an opportunity therefore to put on the new government's radar, and indeed on the radar of this parliament, active transport. 'Why is that important?' you might ask. We are in the middle of a climate change crisis, and we know that one of the major contributors to carbon emissions here in South Australia is road vehicles—motor vehicles. They are a significant cause of carbon emissions. If we are going to reduce those emissions, we need to look at what we can do to encourage active transport; that is, the use of bicycles but also pedestrianisation.
There are also some really important benefits that flow in terms of community health and wellbeing. We know that, if you walk and if you cycle, there are lots of important health benefits that flow. Really, these transport options are good for people and they are good for our environment, and we need to look at what we can do to incentivise and enable those alternatives to car travel.
We have had in South Australia, I think it is fair to say, a fairly unhealthy battle between cars and bicycles. Often we see this conflict between the two, between cyclists and between motorists. That is not helpful. It is not advancing good policy here in our state. Members might recall that in the last parliament I introduced a private member's bill to establish an active transport commissioner, who would encourage walking and cycling and advocate good policy based on a model that was implemented quite successfully by the government in the United Kingdom. These are the sorts of ideas that this committee might well consider as a way of encouraging more active transport, getting people to look at public transport and what some of the barriers might be to them using it.
The other point that I want to draw members' attention to is also the inclusion of e-scooters. I do think e-scooters have been a very positive addition to our transport offerings here in South Australia, but there are some challenges there as well. Obviously from the perspective of the Greens, people using e-scooters is a welcome development because it reduces, again, carbon emissions. It reduces congestion on our roads and it provides opportunities for people to move around quickly.
However, there have also been challenges. One of the issues that is regularly raised with me, for instance, is the role of e-scooters on footpaths and what that means for pedestrian safety. There are also some significant regulations placed on these scooters at the moment: for instance, people cannot purchase them for private use, and can only use them through a ride-hiring arrangement. I am hoping this committee, if it is established, will address all these issues and come up with some really good ideas that could form the basis for further work here in this parliament. With that, I conclude my remarks.
17 November 2021
The Hon. R.A. SIMMS: I move:
That the report of the select committee be noted.
Very briefly, the privatisation committee was established back in May and handed down its report earlier this week. I would like to take this opportunity to thank the members of the committee for their efforts: the Hon. John Darley, the Hon. Heidi Girolamo, the Hon. Frank Pangallo and the Hon. Irene Pnevmatikos. I also acknowledge the contribution of the former member, the Hon. David Ridgway, who departed the committee in June. I acknowledge the work of Leslie Guy in the Secretariat and I want to thank her for all of her efforts in ensuring that the committee ran so smoothly and that we were able to provide a timely report to this chamber.
In terms of a brief summary, we received 22 submissions and there were six public hearings. The committee heard a range of evidence. In particular, it is clear that privatisation has had adverse impacts on services in South Australia and also on the experience of many staff working in public services that have been privatised.
The report made a range of recommendations for the future that would improve the accountability of private corporations that run public services and safeguard them against the sell-offs of our public services without due consideration of the impact. In terms of some of the key recommendations from the majority report, these include:
- the establishment of an independent regulatory body to provide oversight over services that have been privatised;
- the establishment of a standing parliamentary committee to review existing privatisations and make recommendations on any proposed privatisations prior to government approval;
- subsidiaries of multinationals awarded contracts for delivering public services to publicly report on their domestic and international revenues and tax payments;
- protections of employment standards for those working in government services that are privatised; and
- a moratorium on further privatisations on government services until all recommendations are actioned.
That is just a snapshot of the recommendations. There were 13 recommendations in total, and I certainly think that if these were implemented they would greatly improve the transparency around privatisations in our state. With that, I conclude my remarks.
28 October 2021
The Hon. R.A. SIMMS (11:34): The lively debate has begun. I am bitterly disappointed to see that it appears the government have cobbled together the numbers to put this tax on electric vehicles. It is really disappointing that the climate denialism that seems to have infected the Liberal Party over in Canberra—and we have seen evidence of that over the last few weeks with the dud of a climate policy that the Prime Minister is going to be prosecuting in the lead-up to the next election—has now infected the Liberal Party in South Australia. It makes us one of the few jurisdictions in the world to be putting a tax on electric vehicles at a time of climate crisis. It is a disgrace.
Make no mistake, the battleground is clearly drawn, the battle lines are clearly drawn for the next election, and the choice of voters will be clear. The choice of voters will be very clear because the Liberal Party is the party that is putting a tax on electric vehicles and adding a disincentive to people who want to do the right thing by our planet during this period of climate crisis. Some of the crossbenchers, it appears, are going to be supporting them and they need to think very carefully about that.
It is not enough to say, 'Let's have an inquiry once we have put this tax in place.' You do not act now and inquire later; the time to have the inquiry is before you support the legislation. This really is the wrong track for South Australia and I think a very alarming development. I should say the Greens have been against this from the outset. We have been opposed to this legislation on the basis that it really undermines our efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. It is a missed opportunity to bolster electric vehicles in South Australia by removing their roadblocks to car purchasers. That is why the Greens have always been on the public record opposing this tax.
In other parts of the world, this is not controversial. Electric vehicles are seen as part of the future and they receive public support to encourage consumer purchases. They are not sabotaged by the government of the day. Last time I spoke in this chamber about electric vehicles, I stated that taxing electric vehicle drivers for not burning petrol is like taxing non-smokers for not smoking. It is laughable. It is an example of failed leadership from this Marshall Liberal government.
That remains true whether you are going to be a taxing electric vehicles in 2022 or in 2027. That remains true, even with a $3,000 one-off payment that would be made available to just 6,000 motorists. It is not enough to make what is a harmful bill only less harmful. It is not enough for some on the crossbench to just try to sugar-coat the government's bitter pill here; they need to spit it out and reject it entirely.
At a time when we face a gathering climate crisis, a time when transport emissions are our most rapidly growing emissions—in fact, they are almost 25 per cent of emissions—we should be using this opportunity to make it easy for people to do the right thing. We should be trying to make it as affordable as possible for people to purchase electric vehicles.
It is not just me saying this, it is not just the Greens saying this. Let's look at what governments around the world are doing. Let's consider what governments around the world are doing. The UK government will be banning the sale of petrol cars by 2030. In the ACT, the Greens-Labor government is offering electric vehicle buyers free registrations and $15,000 loans. In Norway, the electric vehicle users are rewarded for their environmentally beneficial decisions through no registration charges, no parking fees, no road tolls and the use of free bus lanes. So they get rewards for doing the right thing.
In New Hampshire there is strong investment in highly accessible 24/7 charging stations that make it as affordable as possible and convenient as possible to drive an electric vehicle. The New South Wales government has committed $171 million for new electric vehicle charging infrastructure and $33 million to help transition the government's passenger fleet. That is the Liberals over in New South Wales.
We know from the Australia Institute that almost three in four SA residents believe that electric vehicles are good for the environment, and seven in 10 SA residents support reducing the cost of electric vehicles through subsidies and stamp duty waivers, and so do manufacturers. In late August, after the state government announced it was postponing, not scrapping, the electric vehicle tax, 12 manufacturers, industry associations and policy and research groups published an open letter on Monday calling on the state government to scrap its stamp duty for electric vehicles.
Among these signatories was Mitsubishi Motors Australia, whose director of marketing and operations, Rob Nazzari, said at the time that it was important to get things right from the start. 'We remain concerned about the impact of the proposed tax on our customers,' he said. Seven in 10 SA residents, according to that same Australia Institute poll, said they would be less likely to purchase an electric vehicle, because of an electric vehicle tax.
Seven out of 10 said they would be less likely to purchase an electric vehicle, because of this Liberal government's new tax. It is outrageous that the government are introducing such a disincentive into the market at this time of climate crisis. What on earth are they thinking? They are on the wrong track. Why is the Marshall government not listening?
This flawed Victorian approach—its reckless, highly unfair tax on electric vehicles, on people who are just trying to do the right thing—has been opposed by 25 organisations, including global auto manufacturers Volkswagen and Hyundai, and policy experts the Electric Vehicle Council have called it 'the worst electric vehicle policy in the world'. This is the policy that the Liberals are going to be taking to the next state election. This is the policy that the Liberal Party are taking to the next state election, and I urge the crossbench not to get in the car with them. Think very carefully about what you are doing, members of the crossbench.
The worst electric vehicle policy in the world does not deserve to be pushed back; it deserves to be scrapped, taken off the road for good. Mr Lucas said that we need an electric vehicle tax to help pay for road maintenance and upgrades. Well, that is a furphy, with respect to the honourable member. Richie Merzian from the Australia Institute has pointed out that fuel excise taxes do not directly pay for road construction or repair. He says:
The fuel excise does not pay for roads. It stopped doing that in the fifties.
We pay for roads like how we pay for hospitals, defence and schools: it comes out of the consolidated funds. Consolidated revenue that comes from GST, income tax, a whole variety of sources, which electric vehicle drivers already contribute to.
If the Hon. Rob Lucas needs some suggestions for how he could fund roads rather than taxing electric vehicles, the Greens are happy to come up with some ideas. Instead of penalising those who are choosing to reduce their carbon footprint by investing in electric vehicles, perhaps the state government could take steps to make electric vehicles more accessible to more people.
Electric vehicles are no longer seen as expensive or out of reach of ordinary people. There is a growing awareness of the much lower running costs, but this trend, this growth in the industry, must continue, not just in the short term but indefinitely and well into the future. If we are going to see that trend continue, we need a government who are committed to playing their part in reducing emissions, and that means reducing emissions from road vehicles. That is why putting a tax on electric vehicles is such a disastrous thing.
Where is the consideration of things like interest-free loans? Where is the waiving of stamp duty? Imagine if instead of putting a tax on electric vehicles we were talking about how South Australia could play a role in manufacturing electric vehicles here in our state. This is a missed opportunity. It is a missed opportunity and it is a dark day for South Australia when, in the middle of a climate crisis, we have a government going to the next election putting a tax on electric vehicles. They are on the wrong track and they need to change course very, very quickly.
27 October 2021
The Hon. R.A. SIMMS: I rise to speak on the escalating damage that inappropriate off-road vehicle usage is doing to our coastal environment and our ecosystems in South Australia. Our beaches are the busiest they have ever been, but our presence is starting to have an environmental impact on the landscape that should not be ignored. Off-road four-wheel driving is a popular recreational activity and one that has only grown more popular as these vehicles have become more powerful and more widely accessible.
Unmanaged off-road vehicle uses cause significant long-term damage to our environment. In coastal dune environments, four-wheel driving can contribute to physical changes in the structure of the beaches, the destruction of dune vegetation and to the introduction and spread of pest species and diseases into the coastal environment, leading to a significant loss of biodiversity. A healthy dune system is also an important buffer, acting to protect the mainland from erosion and storm events.
This loss of habitat and native vegetation has profound impacts on our animal life. Macroinvertebrates, macrofauna and shorebirds are particularly affected by this disruption. South Australia has four species of resident shorebirds and all except for one species are listed as vulnerable or rare. The most critically endangered of these is the hooded plover. The hooded plover preferences high-energy beaches and breeds exclusively on ocean beaches in South Australia. They, among other species, are utterly dependent on these beaches and do not have the option of going elsewhere. The birds lay their eggs in the summer, coinciding with the peak period of beach use.
In addition to loss of habitat and food supply, vehicles can impact coastal bird communities directly by crushing their nests and their chicks. Indeed, studies along the Coorong ocean beaches showed 81 per cent of hooded plover nests had been crushed by vehicles—81 per cent. The disturbance caused by vehicles can also lead to distress for the nests to the point of abandonment by the birds. Recent surveys in the Fleurieu Peninsula only counted 29 breeding pairs, and beach nesting bird population numbers are subject to rapid decline. If we do not provide a helping hand, it will not be long before these species face extinction. We cannot allow that to happen.
We must strike a better balance between our enjoyment of the beach and the health of our coastal ecosystems. All signs would indicate that we are getting that balance wrong. The right to access beach areas must depend on keeping the environmental impacts of vehicles within acceptable limits. If we do not do this, we then risk permanent degradation of our unique habitat and the destruction of our animal life.
Other states have been able to recognise that unrestricted vehicle use on beaches is a significant threat. Let's look at what is occurring interstate. New South Wales and Queensland maintain permit systems whereby four-wheel drives require permits to access and drive on the beaches, thereby introducing greater accountability and protections. In Victoria, off-road and recreational vehicles are prohibited from driving on public beaches entirely. Sadly, that is not the case in South Australia.
The brunt of the work done to combat this coastal damage has fallen upon the shoulders of community groups who have spent their time rehabilitating damaged beach areas, and groups such as Birds SA are working very hard to protect our resident shorebirds in peak seasons. The negative effect of unmanaged beach vehicle use is mounting, and it is well past time for the government to show some leadership here. It needs to work to bring us up to speed with other jurisdictions in Australia.
Recently, I had the opportunity to host a screening of the film On the Right Track, looking at the fate of the plover and the impact of unregulated practices on our beaches on our native birdlife. We need to do something about this, particularly as we head into our summer months. We cannot afford to put our beautiful native birds at risk during this summer season. Really, it is time for the government to step up and to show some leadership.
14 October 2021
The Hon. R.A. SIMMS: I seek leave to make a brief explanation before addressing a question without notice to the Treasurer on the topic of the feasibility study into the major cycling trail connecting Adelaide to Melbourne.
The Hon. R.A. SIMMS: Ahead of the 2018 state election, the Marshall government, while in opposition, promised to build the 'Great Southern Bike Trail', describing the proposal as a premier tourist attraction that would inject millions of dollars into our economy. Today, reports in InDaily suggest that this plan has been scrapped, despite the government undertaking a feasibility study into the proposal in 2019. My question to the Treasurer is: will the government make the feasibility study into the proposal, and the reasoning behind scrapping it, public and will the government commit to redirecting the funds promised to the development of a cycling network throughout the regions?
The Hon. R.I. LUCAS (Treasurer): It is appropriate that that question is raised today, because we farewelled in a speech the Hon. David Ridgway, and this was a real passion of the Hon. David Ridgway. Not that I ever saw him on a bike, but it was a real passion for him. I don't know whether that would be an attractive sight, but this was a real passion for him as the shadow minister.
The PRESIDENT: I remind the Treasurer about injurious reflections, but once again he is a former member.
The Hon. R.I. LUCAS: Exactly, I can be as injurious as I wish now, within the standing orders. As I said, he certainly pursued this in opposition. He had discussions on it, I recall, with the Victorian either shadow or tourism minister at the time and also the federal minister at the time. That portfolio has obviously now been passed on to the Premier, who is now the Minister for Tourism. It was as the tourism shadow and then the tourism minister that he was pursuing the issue, not as the recreation and sport minister, which he was not. I am happy to take that particular part of the question on notice to see whether there is a business case, or whatever it was the Hon. Mr Simms referred to, and what might be made available.
I can certainly recall, however, because I put the costings together, that the wording of the commitments in opposition was very careful, and there were certainly no specific elements of funding put aside in our publicly released costings documents in relation to anything other than exploration of the particular issue. We are always very careful in terms of what we put on the public record, and I can assure the Hon. Mr Simms there were no specific large lumps of money committed by the then Liberal opposition in relation to this issue. It was an issue we were prepared to continue to explore. My recollection was—and again I will take advice—that the minister, when he was the Minister for Tourism—
An honourable member interjecting:
The PRESIDENT: Order!
The Hon. R.I. LUCAS: —did pursue some elements of the project or the proposal, clearly the elements that were closer to Adelaide, I think, and there was some early discussion about the near-Adelaide part of the trails. But, again, I will seek some clarification and advice from the Premier or the Minister for Tourism, who has now inherited that particular portfolio area, and see what information, if any, I can bring back to the chamber.
The Hon. R.A. SIMMS: Supplementary: noting the Treasurer's response, will he commit to redirecting needed funds to cycling infrastructure in the regions? That was the other part of the question that wasn't answered.
The Hon. R.I. LUCAS (Treasurer): Well, I'm happy to answer that question, because I don't believe there were any funds that were committed to this particular project. That's the point that I made: in opposition we made no commitment. Perhaps I should have extended that by saying in our first budget we made no specific commitment of funds. To my knowledge, other than funding for the exploration of the proposal—there might have been business case funding—in terms of actual dollars for projects, there was no, 'Here's $50 million or $100 million' towards this particular project.
As I said, the minister might have been able to get funds either from tourism or rec and sport or somewhere else to start elements of what might have been his proposal, but there was no separate bucket of money promised in opposition or indeed implemented in government for this particular project that can be redirected to the worthy cause that the member is espousing.
8th September 2021
The Hon. R.A. SIMMS (15:30): I rise to speak on the government's #GoToTown campaign, which was announced last week. In the Premier's own words:
South Australians are being invited to get behind the many businesses which help make Adelaide the most liveable city in Australia. Whether it’s date night, mate’s night, a lazy morning or a family weekend, your city needs you to #GoToTown.
As part of this initiative there is a series of events and activities that are being organised as part of a FOMO program, and the City of Adelaide is also offering free car parking at selected UParks and discounted parking at Wilson Parking for FOMO Fridays.
Of course, we in the Greens welcome any initiatives that are going to encourage more people to come into the city and that will support local businesses, particularly during this economic crisis, but what is really, profoundly disappointing is the focus once again from the City of Adelaide—the city council—and the state government on car travel as the only form of travel that is being incentivised and encouraged. Why on earth has the state government not considered putting on free public transport to bring more people into the city, to encourage more people to attend these events?
It makes sense for the government to say, 'Let's put the resources in to provide free bus services,' for instance, 'so that people are more likely to stay in town, have a few drinks at local restaurants and pubs and can get home safely.' Instead, we have seen a continuation of the car-centric vision that has really defined this government. We know, of course, that they have failed to roll out any more bikeways or indeed invest in cycling infrastructure at all.
It is not just me or the Greens that are making these comments. I think it is instructive to hear from the experts here. I quote from an article in CityMag and a lecturer from Flinders University in urban geography and urban and regional planning, Gerti Szili, who told CityMag that although the CBD suffered immensely in the wake of COVID-19 and recent restrictions:
'I’m not really convinced that offering free parking is the way to [bring people back].'
They’ve tried this in other cities in Australia and certainly overseas, and I don’t think it’s actually proven to bring revenue that’s been lost back to the city.'
She also says the move flouts the City of Adelaide's own ambitious plan to become one of the world's first carbon neutral cities.
'We know that emissions from transport are one of the biggest contributors to GHG (greenhouse gas) emissions,' Szili says.
'So to meet the targets that the council had set for themselves, I don’t think it’s a particularly smart idea to encourage people to drive to the city and then take up that free parking offer.'
It is not just Dr Szili who says this. The urban and regional planning senior lecturer at the University of Adelaide, Andrew Allan, also expressed cynicism about the plan. He says he is surprised that the council thinks that it will work:
'I don’t know if it’s going to make a huge difference. Doubling of patronage is not likely,' he says.
I can only agree with those sentiments. This initiative is costing the council around $300,000 in lost revenue, according to those media reports. Imagine what the city council could have done, or the state government for that matter, if they had put that money into pop-up bikeways during the pandemic in terms of trying to encourage more visitation to the city. You have Berlin, you have Paris, you have Sydney and Melbourne—so many cities around the world and in our own nation that have invested in pop-up cycling infrastructure as a way of encouraging healthy communities and as a way of encouraging clean and green transport.
What has the City of Adelaide done? It has knocked back money from the state government to roll out a separated bikeway, the east-west bikeway. Why has it done so? I can only assume that has been at the behest of the factional leader Alex Hyde, who works for Nicolle Flint and is a senior figure in the Liberal Party's right-wing faction. I can only assume that the climate scepticism of Nicolle Flint and the hard right of the Liberal Party has poisoned the well in Town Hall and also led them down the folly of rejecting sensible policy.
This Go to Town campaign is a missed opportunity. I do not mean to go to town on the idea, but it is a missed opportunity and more money could have been put into alternatives.
25 August 2021
The Hon. R.A. SIMMS (16:18): I move:
That this council—
- Notes the announcement from the NSW government that they will waive stamp duty and provide rebates on electric vehicles;
- Notes that Australian state governments were warned a road user tax on clean cars introduced without other support for the technology could discourage their uptake and impede greenhouse gas cuts;
- Further notes this advice was received before South Australia and Victoria announced plans to introduce a charge on driving electric vehicles;
- Recognises that the flawed Victorian approach to implementing a tax on electric vehicles has been described by 25 organisations, including global auto manufacturers Volkswagen and Hyundai and policy experts the Electric Vehicle Council and The Australia Institute, as 'the worst electric vehicle policy in the world'; and
- 5. Calls on the Marshall Government to support electric vehicles in South Australia by instead offering real incentives to increase the uptake of electric vehicles to combat climate change.
Right now, governments around the world are seeing the benefits of making electric vehicles cheaper by encouraging their uptake. The UK government recently announced that it would be banning the sale of petrol cars by 2030—banning their sale—and the Greens Labor government in the ACT is even offering electric car buyers free registration and $15,000 loans to encourage uptake.
With transport emissions currently sitting at around 20 per cent to 25 per cent of total emissions in Australia, we need to do what we can to support electric vehicles and to create the jobs that would flow here in our state. Offering incentives to increase the uptake of electric vehicles is essential if we are serious about combating climate change.
That is why the Greens continue to oppose the Liberal government's electric vehicle tax. This is a tax that will make our state an international pariah when it comes to fighting climate change, and this is a tax that will expose our state to international condemnation and ridicule. The future of cars is electric mobility, alternative fuels and public transport and it is time for the state government to recognise that reality and to actually invest, not penalise people who are doing the right thing.
Investment in truly innovative car manufacturing in Australia would see a shift towards electric cars instead of paying companies to make less efficient six-cylinder petrol cars. When you consider that the electric and sustainable car industry is set to be worth $1,200 billion globally by 2027, proper government support could help Australia play a really key role and, in particular, obviously assist us in South Australia. Of course, the federal government are dragging their heels. We know this federal government is useless in virtually every regard, but South Australia needs to step up and position itself as a world leader.
South Australia should be showing some leadership here. We have huge skills and experience in our state manufacturing industries and we need to be looking at what we can do to harness them. That is why it is absolutely ludicrous that this government, in last month's budget, confirmed that it is going to be proceeding with this standalone tax on electric vehicles—a bill that is coming at a time of climate crisis when transport is the fastest growing source of emissions in South Australia and when South Australia and Australia are lagging behind the rest of the world when it comes to our uptake of electric vehicles.
What on earth are the Liberals thinking? What on earth is this Marshall government thinking when it comes to its absurd electric vehicle tax? Instead of penalising those who are trying to reduce their carbon footprint, the government should be taking steps to make electric vehicles more accessible to more people. Let's expand the use of electric vehicles in our community. EVs are no longer seen as an expensive vehicle that is out of the reach of most people, but to ensure that trend continues we need a government to actually show leadership and play their role in taking on the climate crisis.
There are lots of examples of what they could be doing here. We can look at what has happened interstate where there are interest-free loans of two years or free registration. These are the sorts of things that could be done to try to encourage the uptake of electric cars. Once you remove some of those obstacles, the running costs are significantly cheaper than diesel vehicles. A recent comparison of four ACT government vehicles—two EVs, two petrol—showed that the EVs saved about $1,800 per vehicle in running and maintenance costs over an 18-month period. That is significant.
Research from the Australia Institute back in 2019 showed that South Australians strongly support electric vehicles and they want governments at all levels to implement policies that encourage their use. That same report found that 70 per cent of people want the government to build a network of charging stations for electric cars, two-thirds want to see the luxury car tax removed from imported electric vehicles and more than half want to see the government offering loans for electric cars. When you consider that Tesla have indicated interest in building cars right here in South Australia, it is absurd that the government are putting up more barriers to increasing the uptake of electric vehicles.
In May of this year, the Victorian government passed legislation, which will be effective from 1 July 2021, which will require road users driving electric vehicles to pay 2.5¢ per kilometre driven. This equates to around $375 annually, based on the national average of 15,000 kilometres per year. These laws also place a cost on plug-in hybrid vehicle owners to pay 2¢ per kilometre driven. That equates to $300 for every 15,000 kilometres.
Owners of these vehicles will be required to submit vehicle odometer readings and face vehicle registration suspension for noncompliance. Hybrid cars that are not able to be charged externally are exempt from this tax. The Victorian government explained that, as EV owners do not pay the national fuel excise of 42.7¢ per litre, this is the way of that government recouping costs they claim are associated with road upkeep.
The question remains, why on earth is South Australia following the flawed Victorian approach to implementing a tax on electric vehicles such as this when 25 organisations, including global auto manufacturers Volkswagen and Hyundai and policy experts the Electric Vehicle Council and The Australia Institute, have called it the worst electric vehicle policy in the world? The worst electric vehicle policy in the world is being exported from Victoria and brought over to South Australia.
Prominent signatories of the open letter against the tax include Hyundai, Volkswagen, Uber, JET Charge, the Electric Vehicle Council, Solar Citizens, Environment Victoria, Doctors for the Environment Australia and The Australia Institute. Instead of looking to the absurd approach that has been taken in Victoria, why has the state Liberal government not considered the New South Wales approach, which properly supports the electric vehicle industry and delays the introduction of any EV tax until 2027? Taxing EV drivers for not burning petrol is like taxing non-smokers for not smoking. It is a laughable proposition. It is an example of failed leadership from this Marshall Liberal government.
Quite frankly, I think the community expects a level of inaction and incompetence in Canberra because we know we have a Prime Minister who loves to kiss pieces of coal and does not care about the climate crisis, but they expect better from the South Australian Liberal government. This really is an appalling lack of leadership. It is an irresponsible decision at a time when real action on climate change is essential. We need to shift our focus to 21st century technologies. We need to utilise manufacturing skills that exist in our state by building a world-leading electric car industry that will get our state economy back on track, so really it is time for the Liberals to change course.