Pages tagged "Transport and Infrastructure"
Question: Regional Rail
8 March 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 rail.
The Hon. R.A. SIMMS: Last month, the Select Committee on Public and Active Transport handed down its report. Two of the recommendations contained in the report, recommendations 2 and 3, relate to regional rail. Under recommendation 2, the committee recommended that the state government—and I quote from the report:
…as a high priority conducts a trial of passenger train services from Mount Barker to Adelaide, with a view to adopting similar trials of services from Roseworthy to Gawler, Aldinga to Seaford and Adelaide to Port Augusta.
Under recommendation 3 the committee recommended that the state government:
(a) considers reactivation of regional rail for freight (particularly grain) and passenger services;
(b) in regards to regional rail, considers the environmental, health and wellbeing benefits of rail versus roads; and
(c) reports on expenditure on public transport in regional versus metropolitan areas per capita.
A story in yesterday's Stock Journal reports that grain producer Viterra is pushing for reinstatement of rail freight in Eyre Peninsula. Over the last five years, groups such as the South Australian Regional Rail Alliance have been calling for investment in rail infrastructure in areas including the Limestone Coast for passengers and freight. My question to the minister therefore is:
1. Has the minister read the report of the Select Committee on Public and Active Transport?
2. Does the minister support the reactivation of regional rail?
The Hon. C.M. SCRIVEN (Minister for Primary Industries and Regional Development, Minister for Forest Industries): I thank the honourable member for his question. I haven't read the report that the member refers to. In terms of supporting regional rail, I think what is needed when we look at any infrastructure is a cost-benefit analysis.
The benefits to industry, the benefits to passengers, the economic impacts—both positive and also the costs—all of those things are appropriate before any decision is made. I am happy to refer details to the Minister for Transport and Infrastructure in the other place and if he has further information to add I am happy to bring that back to the chamber.
The Hon. R.A. SIMMS: Supplementary: given the focus on the regions, why hasn't the minister read the report of the committee and will she do so?
The Hon. C.M. SCRIVEN (Minister for Primary Industries and Regional Development, Minister for Forest Industries): The Minister for Infrastructure and Transport is the minister who is responsible for that type of matter—transport, funnily enough—so I am sure that he is being briefed by his department on all appropriate literature that is available on the subject.
The Hon. R.A. SIMMS: Supplementary: does the minister not consider regional rail—and in particular regional freight—to be relevant to regional development?
The PRESIDENT: Order!
The Hon. C.M. SCRIVEN (Minister for Primary Industries and Regional Development, Minister for Forest Industries): Of course, every aspect of regional living is relevant to regional development, but that is different from being directly responsible for that. If I was to take a different view then I would potentially become minister for regional health, minister for regional transport, minister for regional education, the list would go on.
I am very fortunate that, as a regional member, I am able to have input when those discussions come up around the cabinet table as well as, of course, other discussions with my cabinet colleagues and my caucus around so much of this. Stakeholders who I meet with—which I do of course on a very regular basis, both here in Adelaide but importantly out in their own areas as well—do bring up issues which intersect with all areas of regional life. I am very fortunate to be able to have input into those discussions, but in terms of direct responsibility we of course have appropriate ministers for that.
The Hon. R.A. SIMMS: Supplementary: as part of the input into these discussions that the minister has, will she be advocating for regional rail?
The Hon. C.M. SCRIVEN (Minister for Primary Industries and Regional Development, Minister for Forest Industries): I advocate for a wide range of issues. As I mentioned in my original answer, a cost-benefit analysis has to be appropriate for any type of decision that is made.
Rail Safety National Law (South Australia) Amendment Bill
9 February 2023
The Hon. R.A. SIMMS: I rise to indicate that the Greens also support the Rail Safety National Law (South Australia) (Miscellaneous) Amendment Bill 2022. Hearing all of the speeches, one thing is very clear: Labor loves to talk about rail. But talk is cheap. Whether or not they will put their money where their mouth is remains to be seen in terms of investing in the infrastructure upgrades that are required for our state's railway network.
I spoke recently in this chamber about the push for regional rail. My colleague, the Hon. Frank Pangallo, has spoken at considerable length about that. I do not intend to reventilate the arguments that he made—they are very compelling. I note that the chamber is full of Labor members. I hope that they were taking notes and will be following up on the important issues that the Hon. Mr Pangallo has raised because I am supportive of those concerns around regional rail and recognise, as does the community, how important that would be in terms of getting our rail network back on track.
The bill before us today is not talking specifically about regional rail; rather, it is looking at the issues of certificates of competence for rail workers and seeking to ensure that rail operations can continue under a state of emergency. The measures in this bill are valuable in ensuring the safe and continuous operation of rail networks across the state and, indeed, across the country. The first is to make it an offence to falsify a certificate of competence. We have been advised that there are instances where this has occurred, and this is a significant risk to public safety.
Secondly, the bill seeks to allow an exemption to health and fitness requirements in the case of a declared emergency. The COVID-19 pandemic, as my colleagues have noted, has taught us lessons about circumstances where activities under an emergency or a disaster could be hindered by an existing law or regulation. This part of the bill provides some flexibility in cases where an emergency has been declared and will enable the rail workforce to continue their important work.
The Greens are always supportive of rail as a mode of transport. We recognise rail as being safe, reliable and accessible. Indeed, we have been calling for new and extended rail networks across South Australia, particularly into regional areas. We are satisfied that the provisions in the legislation will enable the continuous safe operation of rail. With those very brief remarks, I commend the bill.
Report from the Public and Active Transport Committee
8 February 2023
The Hon. R.A. SIMMS: I move:
That the report of the select committee be noted.
I want to speak briefly on this report and firstly begin by thanking the members of the committee for the valuable role that they have played. The members of this select committee were the Hon. Justin Hanson; the Hon. Dennis Hood, who was later replaced by the Hon. Nicola Centofanti; the Hon. Frank Pangallo; and the Hon. Tung Ngo. I also want to thank the secretariat for the committee, Ms Emma Johnston and Dr Merry Brown, for all of their work in ensuring the committee ran smoothly.
We had over 100 submissions from a broad cross-section of the community and we heard from 50 witnesses. One of the things that struck me, as Chair of the committee, was the consistency in the themes that came through, not only in the submissions that were received but also in the verbal evidence—and we had a number of groups that came to speak to us.
One of the things that was really clear is that there has not been an appropriate investment in public transport infrastructure over many years, particularly in the regions. There was a broad consensus from community groups that that needed to be remedied but also that there has not been enough of a focus on active transport.
We have seen successive governments focus almost exclusively on the car and that has been a big part of government messaging from both sides of politics, but there has not been enough of a focus on trying to encourage people to cycle, to walk and the like. In that regard, the committee made a number of recommendations. I will not obviously go through them all—there were 13 recommendations—but I will in speaking to the report just highlight a few of the key recommendations.
Not surprisingly to anybody who has taken a bus in South Australia, one of the key recommendations from the committee was that we need to increase the frequency of buses in metropolitan Adelaide and in regional centres. We also need to look at better bus connectivity between metropolitan suburbs, looking at integrating different forms of transport and also ensure that there is some fairness and equity in fares and, in particular, we need to review concessions to streamline the process.
The committee also recommended that the state government as a high priority conduct a trial of passenger train services from Mount Barker to Adelaide. It is clear that there is significant community support for getting rail moving to the Adelaide Hills, but also the committee suggested the government should consider similar trials looking at areas like Roseworthy to Gawler, Aldinga to Seaford and Adelaide to Port Augusta.
In terms of rail, the committee also has advocated for the reactivation of regional rail for freight and for passenger services and looking at wanting to get the rail service moving between Adelaide and Melbourne, also servicing regional towns like the Barossa. The committee has also advocated for targets around increasing the patronage of active travel, looking at things like trials of separated bike infrastructure and traffic calming measures like speed limit reductions. A number of other states are doing that at the moment and the committee was of the view that that should be done here in South Australia as well as, of course, finally developing a statewide integrated separating cycling network.
Of particular interest to members of this place may be the committee's recommendations relating to e-scooters. We heard significant evidence around e-scooters. The committee was of the view that we should allow for privately owned e-scooters and other personal mobility devices in public spaces in line with other jurisdictions. Members may be aware that at the moment you can purchase an e-scooter or a private mobility device, but you are not able to use it on public space and that is an inconsistency.
We are advocating for the government to address that but there are, of course, some important issues that need to be considered in that regard. The committee heard significant evidence around concerns for the safety of pedestrians on footpaths but also some of the issues—and this was a matter of particular concern to the Hon. Tung Ngo—relating to insurance and the protections that are afforded to the users of these devices. These are issues the committee has advocated that the government should consider.
I understand that there is a bill that has been introduced into the other place and so I am sure the committee's findings will be useful in that regard. The committee also advocated for a removal of messaging that promotes cars over other forms of travel and also for there to be better transparency in consultation when the government is dealing with major road projects.
Finally, one of the key themes that came through from a number of the groups that gave evidence to the committee was the need for an overarching plan for transport in South Australia that looked at active travel, that looked at public transport and tied all of these things together. It would seem that that has been a long-term gap.
In closing, my thanks to everybody who was involved with the committee: all the members of the committee, the secretariat and members of the community who engaged with us. I hope that the government considers the recommendations, and I look forward to their response.
Debate adjourned on motion of Hon. I.K. Hunter.
Electric Vehicle Levy Amendment Repeal Bill
1 December 2022
The Hon. R.A. SIMMS: I rise to speak in support of repealing the Motor Vehicle (Electric Vehicle Levy) Amendment Act 2021. It is no surprise to anybody in this chamber that the Greens were very disappointed when the electric vehicle levy legislation was passed in this place last year. At that time, I reflected on what an embarrassing moment that was for our parliament and indeed for our state, as the Liberal Party, with the support of the SA-Best political party, set to trash our reputation as a clean, green state, set to trash what had been a reputation built over many years across all sides of politics in terms of working together to take climate action.
What we saw was, I think, a really embarrassing blemish on that proud record, where South Australia joined Victoria in becoming one of the only states in the country to have a tax being placed on electric vehicles, one that was actually going to disincentivise people from using electric vehicles during this time of climate crisis.
At that time, the Greens indicated that we would oppose these changes, this tax, tooth and nail. We took that commitment to the election and we welcomed, of course, the Labor Party campaigning strongly on this issue at the election as well. I am excited to now be returned to the parliament and to be in a position to make good on that commitment.
Electric vehicles are the way of the future. They have been shown to reduce greenhouse gas emissions while also reducing the costs for households. In this time of climate crisis and a cost-of-living crisis, having a tax on electric vehicles is absurd. Just last year, the RAA survey of South Australian drivers found that 78 per cent of people would consider purchasing an electric car. However, in this state we have a tax that dissuades electric vehicle ownership, and we have seen a real failure, I think, of government to look at what can be done to incentivise electric vehicles.
Australia, and indeed South Australia, has been lagging behind the world in the uptake of electric vehicles. The list of other jurisdictions that have set a date on the end of petrol vehicles continues to grow. China, Costa Rica, Denmark, France, Germany, India, Ireland, Israel, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, South Korea, Spain, Taiwan and the UK have all made commitments to eliminate internal combustion engine vehicles. Here in South Australia, where we have a rich source of renewable energy, we are unfortunately not seizing the opportunity to use that energy to power our vehicles.
When the electric vehicle levy was being discussed in this place last year, I spoke of the need to remove roadblocks to purchasing these vehicles. While uptake of non-combustible engine vehicles is increasing, it is vital for us to do what we can to motivate the move towards a future without petrol cars. The Greens-Labor government in the ACT are moving to waive stamp duty, providing two years' free registration and $15,000 no interest loans for people who purchase electric vehicles. These are the actions of a government that has foresight and a real commitment to taking action on climate change.
Last year, I introduced a motion in this place calling on the then Marshall government to support electric vehicles in South Australia by offering real incentives to increase the uptake of these rather than following the flawed approach that was taken by the government in Victoria. I echo the sentiments of that call of last year and now call on the new Malinauskas government to provide these incentives. I really hope that, following on from its decision to axe the Liberals' tax on electric vehicles, the new government will consider incentives in their next budget, look at things like waiving stamp duty and look at rebate programs for electric vehicles so that we can really ramp up their use in South Australia.
Even electric vehicle manufacturers and automotive bodies have publicly renounced the idea of a road user charge. At the time, Hyundai described it as a 'disappointing development'. Community expectation is that we move towards electric vehicles and, when this is matched by the views and actions of car manufacturers, there really is no excuse for us to continue with an EV tax.
I must say, one of the big failures of both of the major political parties in this parliament over many years has been the failure to really invest in a manufacturing strategy that considers electric vehicles. We could have led the world when it came to manufacturing electric vehicles, but unfortunately the previous Rann government, when it gave significant subsidies to the car industry in South Australia, never had the foresight to look at investment in electric vehicles, and the Abbott government made the appallingly short-sighted decision to axe subsidies for the automotive industry in South Australia.
I had a bill before parliament when I was in the federal parliament that would have actually reallocated the subsidies that were on the table at a federal level to support innovation and encourage electric vehicles in South Australia so that the automotive industry could have really started to manufacture EVs in SA. We could have led the world in electric vehicle manufacturing. Sadly, I could not get either of the two major political parties to support that bill, but the Greens here in this place, and indeed in Canberra, continue to advocate for electric vehicle manufacturing in states like South Australia and Victoria where we have the skills and experience and we could put those to use.
I also want to reflect on some of the positive innovations of the new government with respect to electric vehicles. I commend the announcement by the Malinauskas government that the Department for Transport are working on a business case for transitioning Adelaide's bus and train network to zero-emission vehicles. That is a really welcome innovation. Electric public transport is one of the keys to low emissions and we need that going forward.
We need to ensure that people who travel by car can also afford to buy electric vehicles without having to pay additional levies or taxes. Just last week, we saw a move by the federal government to make it cheaper to buy EVs. The Greens supported that bill in Canberra, with amendments to phase out plug-in hybrid vehicles and prioritise electric vehicles for the federal government fleet. These are really welcome developments in the move to an electrified transport system.
Electric vehicles are becoming more affordable, they are better for our planet, and they are the way of the future. We support axing the Liberals' EV tax, and we call on the government to go further in its next budget to provide real incentives so that we can speed up our state's transition to EVs. Let's be a real leader in that space. I think with the right political vision we can make that happen.
Paid Parking Bill Speech
3 November 2022
The Hon. R.A. SIMMS: I rise to speak today on behalf of the Greens in support of the Private Parking Areas (Shopping Centre Parking Areas) Amendment Bill. I do want to start my remarks by reflecting on my own journey in terms of my working life and the importance of this bill. I actually got my first-ever job when I was 17, having finished year 12, and it was working in the retail sector. Indeed, I was working for Big W at Westfield in Marion.
I remember—working night shift packing boxes and packing shelves—how difficult it was for me to get home at the end of my shift. That was over 20 years ago now, and in fact there was such an absence of transport that my dad used to come to pick me up late at night to make sure I could get back to the southern suburbs because you could not get a ride home.
It is pretty disappointing that decades on so many of our state's retail workers find themselves in the position where they are often trapped, finding it difficult to get home from work, and then being slugged increasing car parking fees. It is particularly disappointing when one considers what our retail workers have been through over the last three years of this pandemic because we know that their work really is essential.
These are the people who have been at the frontline ensuring that our society could function during the pandemic. These are the people offering critical goods and services to our community, and they were often people copping abuse, copping unfair treatment, and what they have also been copping of late is an increase in their car parking fees, and that is outrageous.
For us in the Greens, we have always recognised the need for these crucial workers to be given free car parking, and that is one of the reasons why we are supportive of this bill. We of course recognise that we should always prioritise alternative forms of transport where possible, but we do acknowledge that travelling by car is necessary for some people, and that is particularly the case for retail workers. As I mentioned, there is often insufficient public transport available for these workers, and I hope that the government will take action to address that over this term of parliament.
The Greens believe that all workers should have safe ways to get to and from work. My office has received over 530 emails in support of free car parking for retail workers at shopping centres, but we have also had a large volume of correspondence from retail groups also calling on better ways to manage car parking.
One of the issues that we have been alive to in the Greens when the government first put this bill forward was the need to find a resolution for hospital workers. Whilst we were supportive of free parking being made available to retail workers in these key shopping centres, for the reasons that I have outlined, we also felt that it was important that that principle should apply to our hospital workers—people who have also been at the frontline of this pandemic and in particular during this really tough flu season—so we have been advocating for the government over some time to deliver a better deal for those workers.
I must say, what the government have come back with is a really excellent solution. What the government are delivering is car parking for just $2.50 for hospital workers, just $2.50. That is cheaper than a cup of coffee—that is $12.50 a week—that is cheaper than a sandwich. This is going to be cheap car parking made available to these workers in the middle of a cost-of-living crisis. As a result, car parking for hospital workers will be at the lowest level it has been at for more than 10 years. That is a really good outcome for these critical workers. The other thing that the government have put on the table is they are going to provide free public transport on an ongoing level to workers who do not have access to a car parking permit. That is another terrific win.
It was the Greens who first filed amendments to provide free public transport and free car parking to these critical workers. The Greens came out very strongly on this issue months ago, and we of course welcome the Liberal Party joining the call, and we have now achieved that outcome because the government have delivered this heavily discounted car parking and free public transport, and there is therefore not a need to pursue our amendments. So, I indicate that we will not be supporting the amendments from the opposition in that regard either. The other issue—
The Hon. S.G. Wade interjecting:
The Hon. R.A. SIMMS: I hear the Hon. Stephen Wade is interjecting, screaming out 'backroom deal'. I do not make any apology for working to get good outcomes for all workers, particularly those in our hospital sector and those in our retail sector. That is why the Greens are here. The same could not be said of the Liberal Party that, as we know, served the interests of big corporations like Westfield—
The PRESIDENT: Order!
The Hon. R.A. SIMMS: But the other—
The Hon. S.G. Wade interjecting:
The PRESIDENT: Order, the Hon. Mr Wade!
The PRESIDENT: Order!
The Hon. R.A. SIMMS: Thank you, Mr President.
The PRESIDENT: The Hon. Mr Simms, continue.
The Hon. T.A. Franks interjecting:
The PRESIDENT: Order, the Hon. Ms Franks! The Hon. Mr Simms, continue.
The Hon. R.A. SIMMS: Sorry, Mr President, I heard the Hon. Michelle Lensink interjecting with 'small family business'. She obviously has a very different definition of small family business. I would not describe Westfield as being one of the small family businesses.
Just to go on to some of the other issues in this bill, one of the other issues that we were concerned about was the fact that the bill was going to give local councils a role to play enforcing these car parking provisions. We heard from the local government sector that they did not actually want to be placed in that position and, indeed, many would have a conflict of interest because they manage car parking. That was an issue that we raised with the government, and I understand the government has taken that issue up and will be moving amendments to address that.
Given that all of those concerns have been addressed, we are delighted to be supporting the bill today. I think this is a breakthrough that will be welcomed by not only our retail workers but also our hospital workers as it brings to a close what has been a bit of a saga. It means that heading into the Christmas period those workers will have more money in their pockets, and that is going to be really critical as they continue to deal—as all South Australians do—with this ongoing cost of living crisis. I am proud of the role that the Greens have played to bring these issues to a head.
Establishing the Public and Active Transport Committee
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.
The New State Budget
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.
Bill to Restrict the Privatisation of State Assets
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.
Motion: Inquiry into Active and Public Transport
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.
Select Committee on Privatisation in SA Hands Down Report
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.