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Question time: Renting in the Regions and Cost of Living Concessions

7 July 2022

 

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 renting in the regions and the Cost of Living Concession.


Leave granted.


The Hon. R.A. SIMMS: This morning, Premier Malinauskas and Minister Cook held a press conference announcing the state government's commitment to bring forward the Cost of Living Concession payments to August this year. Previously, some recipients were due to receive their payment in March 2023. In August, home owner-occupiers who are eligible to receive the Cost of Living Concession will receive $449 to assist with their cost-of-living expenses while eligible renters will receive just half of that, $224.60.


We know that more South Australians than ever before are experiencing rental stress. This is particularly acute in regional areas, where prices have surged by almost 70 per cent over the last two years. My question to the minister is: is the minister concerned that renters in regional areas are being short-changed by the Cost of Living Concession, and will she be advocating for renters to receive the same payment as home owners as part of the government's review of these concessions?


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 was also delighted to be able to hear the announcement today that effectively the Cost of Living Concession will be doubled as we go forward in this period of time. Certainly, I think there is an important need to be constantly looking at the concessions that we have in our state. They are a very important part of supporting those who need that assistance at various times throughout their lives. I will be happy to refer the substance of his question to the Minister for Human Services in the other place.

 

The Hon. R.A. SIMMS: Supplementary: will the minister be advocating for renters in the regions to get the same concession as home owners, given the crisis gripping regional South Australia?


The Hon. C.M. SCRIVEN (Minister for Primary Industries and Regional Development, Minister for Forest Industries): I am constantly in discussions with the Minister for Human Services, as are most members, I am sure, on this side of the chamber, about how we can best address the cost-of-living concerns and issues being faced by people across our state.


Tackling the Rental Crisis in SA

6 July 2022

The Hon. R.A. SIMMS:


I rise to speak on the Residential Tenancies (Rent Control) Amendment Bill. This bill seeks to limit rent in line with CPI to protect renters from unreasonable rent hikes. For far too long, high rental prices have put pressure on our most vulnerable South Australians, and it is time for us as a parliament to step in. As we know, the cost of living across our state, and indeed our nation, is skyrocketing. People are struggling with increased fuel costs, increased grocery costs and high housing costs.


Nearly 30 per cent of South Australians rent their home. According to a SACOSS report, data shows that, on average, renter households had lower incomes than homeowner households and spent proportionately more of their income on housing. Furthermore, that report showed that 39,556 renters in December 2021 were experiencing housing stress. With rising costs across the board, too many people are struggling to pay the rent and make ends meet.


According to the SA Housing Authority, the cost of renting has increased by 20 per cent over the last two years, far outstripping the rate of CPI, which currently sits at 5.1 per cent. In some locations, such as Murray Bridge, we have seen an increase in rent prices of almost 70 per cent—70 per cent. This is simply unsustainable and untenable.


Just this morning it was reported in multiple news outlets that Adelaide has overtaken Melbourne in average rental rates, with Adelaide seeing a 4.3 per cent increase in rates over the last quarter. On average, rent has increased from $350 per week to $490 per week over the last two years. So it is now cheaper to live in Melbourne than it is to live in Adelaide. Something must be done.


Data from CoreLogic has shown that rental rates are rising at a faster rate than housing values. The rapid increase of rent added to existing cost-of-living pressures is forcing people into poverty and homelessness. My office regularly hears stories about the increase of rent and the impact that this is having. The Anti-Poverty Network, which does really important work in this space, has shared stories from tenants who have been adversely impacted by rent increases, and I want to share some of those with you, for the benefit of Hansard. One has said:


Our rent went up a few months back to $250 from $190. We can't afford anywhere else and given we are two pensioners, we would never be accepted for another property. I know because we've been trying to move since before the pandemic.


Another says:


My rent just increased by $500 a month yesterday. Fortunately, it was from a low baseline and I do have a part time job, but it's still a lot of money. It's going to be rough for many of us.


Another says:


Mine is just about to go up...from $360 a week to now $500 a week for a very standard, nothing special, small three bedroom home. The stress is absolutely overwhelming…


Another:


My entire JobSeeker Payment is spent on my rent. This is the cheapest rent anywhere I could find.


Another says:


Even having a job where I work 20-30 hours per week, which is the most I can manage with my disability, I struggle to cover all expenses.


And here is a story from one renter:


I've moved house about 2 months ago to a new rental. This rental had an asking price of $410 per fortnight. We offered $420 after months of rejections without even having our application opened taught us that we have to play the price fixing game. Agent calls a few days later stating that another applicant had offered $450 and asking if we would match it. What option did we have? Stay at my parents' house for another 3 months waiting for a golden goose? What was wrong with the other applicant? Did they ever exist? So here we are paying $40 above asking price for a rental with rats living in the walls due to a huge hole in the exterior wall. Raised this with the agent and was told to buy bait.


The story is dire for people who are trying to live on the minimum wage. Anglicare's Rental Affordability Snapshot of 2022 highlighted that a single person working full time on the minimum wage could afford only two rentals in greater Adelaide or no properties in regional and rural South Australia. Nothing at all was affordable in regional South Australia. Compare this with ten years ago. In 2012, 30 per cent of properties were affordable to people on the minimum wage.


People living with a disability or on the aged pension are being left behind. As we know, the National Rental Affordability Scheme, which gave private owners and community housing organisations a subsidy to provide affordable housing, is being wound up in 2026. This is outrageous. There are fears that those owners and organisations will simply increase rents back up to the market value when the scheme ends. We are already seeing right now that the market is simply not addressing the housing crisis. We need to do something. We need to find alternative measures.


Rent control has been used to protect renters in jurisdictions right around the world but also in Australia. It really is not that radical a concept. During the Great Depression, rent control was used by the Menzies government to ease pressure on families and to keep a roof over their head. Menzies was hardly considered a Marxist, but he embraced rent control as a need to respond to this crisis. It was then continued by the states, with rent control used in New South Wales, Victoria and Western Australia.


In Victoria, rent control continued alongside public housing until the mid-1950s when policy decisions were made to instead favour home ownership. The COVID-19 pandemic is reminiscent of the postwar world. It has been the biggest global shift since the Second World War, and it has resulted in similar difficulties—people being forced into homelessness, rising costs of living and people struggling to stay afloat.


This bill limits rent increases to stay in line with inflation—the CPI. Currently in South Australia, landlords can increase their rent once every twelve months without any legislated control. That has created an uneven balance of power between landlords and tenants. This bill seeks to restore the balance. It ensures there is protection for renters. By increasing rent only in line with CPI once every 24 months, renters can be sure that they will not be pushed into housing stress through an unexpected price hike.


Ireland uses general rent control to match general inflation. Introduced back in 2017, it was used as a lever to stabilise rent in areas that were identified as being under housing pressure. In that jurisdiction, rent increases are now moderate in designated rent pressure zones. New York implemented rent control in 1994. While this has been successful in terms of regulating rent, there were some flaws with their particular rent control program and my bill addresses some of those.


The bill addresses some of those shortfalls in terms of looking at what has happened overseas in places like New York and Ireland. Ensuring that rent control is in place regardless of the tenant or the landlord means that landlords are unable to use such a mechanism as an excuse to raise the rent or to evict tenants. In the ACT and in Victoria, limits have been put on the ability to increase rents. In those places, they are also banning no-cause evictions. These are reforms that the Greens have been advocating for for some time and that we hope to see in South Australia.


We have heard from landlords that they want to be able to increase the rent when improvements are made to the property. This bill ensures that they can do just that. They can increase the rent beyond CPI if the amenity or standard of the property is improved or if they are offering additional services, facilities or goods. It also allows the landlord to apply to the tribunal to increase the rent beyond CPI in certain circumstances.


Housing is a fundamental human right. It should be the right of each and every South Australian to have a roof over their head and a place to call home. We need to think of rental properties not as commodities but as homes for our citizens. Having a secure roof over your head is one of our most basic needs. As members of parliament, it is our duty to ensure that people's housing needs are met. The Greens believe that tenants in private rental, public and community housing must be supported by legislative safeguards, and this bill would ensure that renters are not forced into homelessness or housing stress as a result of soaring rental prices.


As stated by Liam Davies of the Centre for Urban Research at RMIT, regulating rents would have a lasting positive impact on Australia. It certainly would here in South Australia. In considering this bill, I would urge members of this place to consider the plight of the people we seek to represent, those South Australians who, through no fault of their own, have found themselves during this housing crisis forced out onto the street. We see them when we spend time in our city, people literally living on the street in the middle of this cold winter, people who are forced to live in their cars, people who are being forced to live in tents, people who are being forced to live for prolonged periods in caravan parks.


Surely we can do better than that in a country like Australia? Surely we can do better than that in a state like South Australia? If members of parliament are not supportive of this bill, then I ask them to consider what they are going to do to help these people who desperately need our help, because we cannot simply say, 'Let the market decide.' We have seen what happens. This has not happened by accident.


We have seen both the Labor Party and the Liberal Party fail to do anything to deal with social housing over the last 10, 20, 30 years. As a result, the chickens have come home to roost and we are seeing the impacts being felt by vulnerable South Australians. I urge members of this parliament to act, to step up and to do something to help these desperate people, because we cannot continue to do nothing. We cannot continue collectively to sit on our hands whilst so many South Australians are in trouble. We have to help them.


What the Community Needs to See in 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.


Motion: Cost of Living

4 May 2022

The Hon. R.A. SIMMS: I move:


That this council-

 

  1. Recognises that:
    • (a) inflation in Australia is at its highest level in more than 20 years putting enormous pressure on South Australians, particularly those on low incomes; and
    • (b) the cost of living is soaring with South Australians facing price hikes on food, fuel, housing and other essentials.
  2. Notes the release of the Anglicare Australia Rental Affordability Snapshot 2022 which found:
    • (a) only two of 1,125 homes on the market in Greater Adelaide were affordable for single people living on the minimum wage;
    • (b) none of the homes on the market were affordable for single people living on pensions or income support; and
    • (c) none of the homes in regional and rural South Australia were affordable for a single person without dependents living on income support.
  3. Calls on the Malinauskas government to take steps to relieve the cost-of-living pressures faced by South Australians in its first budget by:
    • (a) making public transport free;
    • (b) introducing rent caps and rent subsidies;
    • (c) increasing the wages of public sector workers;
    • (d) abolishing materials and services charges and subject fees for public school students; and
    • (e) significantly increasing the investment in public housing.


The motion I am moving today recognises that cost-of-living pressures in South Australia are continuing to soar. Inflation in Australia is at its highest level in more than 20 years and that puts huge pressure on South Australians, particularly those on low incomes. We have the cost of living soaring, with South Australians facing price hikes on food, fuel, housing and other essentials.


This comes at a time when interest rates have been increased for the first time in 11 years and when the Anglicare Australia Rental Affordability Snapshot 2022 study found that there are only two out of 1,125 homes on the market in Greater Adelaide that are affordable for people living on the minimum wage. None of the homes on the market were affordable for single people living on pensions or income support—not one—and none of the homes in regional and rural South Australia were affordable for single people living without dependents trying to live on income support.


This is the backdrop against which the Malinauskas government will hand down its first budget. We in the Greens are calling for the new government to take action to reduce cost-of-living pressures on South Australian families. I recognise that this is not the sole responsibility of the federal government. We know our Prime Minister does not hold a hose. He has taken no action in relation to spiralling inflation and has taken no action to ensure that we see wage growth in our country or to improve the conditions facing working Australians.


It is very interesting for me to note that whilst the Liberal Party claim that they are the superior economic managers, they have been in government on both occasions over the last 12 years when interest rates have increased. It is also curious to note that they are running advertising at the moment claiming to be able to control interest rates, yet they deny any responsibility for the increase in interest rates that is occurring.


We know that interest rates are set by the Reserve Bank, and that is an independent process, but it is incumbent on governments to provide cost-of-living relief to families. It is in that spirit that the Greens are making these suggestions.


There are some really clear things that the South Australian government could do to help people who are struggling at the moment. They could make public transport free. They could introduce rent caps and rent subsidies to help people who are struggling to pay their rent. They could increase the wages of public sector workers. They could scrap public school fees because at the moment we know that parents are slugged extensive materials and services charges and subject fees. They could also increase the investment in public housing beyond the mere 400 houses that they have pledged to build in their first budget.


You may ask, Mr President, it is all very well for the Greens to put these ideas on the table but how on earth would a new government pay for them? Well, one of the things that we did in the recent election campaign is announce a suite of potential revenue measures for the new government to consider, whether that be Labor or Liberal, and we are certainly going to put those ideas back on the table in this parliament.


What we found was that we could potentially generate $7 billion of revenue by ensuring that developers pay their fair share of tax and by ensuring that they pay a tax on the benefits that flow from rezoning, as occurs in other jurisdictions like the ACT and as has been proposed in Victoria. We could generate a new revenue by finally increasing mining royalties. They have not had an increase in the last 15 years and it is high time they made more of a contribution. We could also generate more money through a levy being imposed on the big banks, banks that we know are going to be raking in record profits particularly as interest rates continue to rise.


That is not a new idea. It is an idea that the Labor Party put on the table when they were last in government and that they then abandoned following a campaign from vested interests. We hope that the new Malinauskas Labor government does have the moral strength to stand up to the vested interests, does not fall into the same trap as the failed Marshall government—and that is to capitulate to the big end of town—but instead shows the leadership we need to get our state back on track and provides relief to families who are struggling in the middle of this economic crisis.


South Australians need relief now. The ideas that the Greens are putting forward in the lead-up to this state budget are sensible. They would have an immediate effect and they reflect the kinds of priorities we would like to see from this new government. I urge Premier Malinauskas and our new Treasurer Mullighan to take note of this motion that the Greens have put forward, to listen to the debate and to consult with us. We would be very happy to give them some ideas for the kinds of actions they could take to help South Australians who are struggling at the moment.


Opposition to the Sun Tax

17 November 2021

The Hon. R.A. SIMMS: I will speak very briefly, because I am conscious that we have a lot to get through tonight. I will not reprosecute the arguments, but the Greens will not be supporting the amendment from the government. I recognise, as I have done previously, the work of all sides of politics in this place in terms of taking action on climate. However, the purpose of this motion is not a collective backslapping exercise or some sort of celebration of the virtues of the Marshall government, as the honourable Treasurer has proposed. We do not share that assessment.


Indeed, the motion does call on the government to go further, to set meaningful targets for a transition to 100 per cent renewable energy for South Australia, and also calls on the government to block the ruling by the Australian Energy Market Commission to allow networks to charge solar customers fees for exporting solar energy to the grid.


The honourable Treasurer has made the point that this issue was dealt with yesterday. My motion on notice was lodged some time ago, well before we dealt with yesterday's bill, which had been pushed back many times. This may provide an opportunity for members who perhaps made an error yesterday to think more carefully about their position and to remedy that today. That is always a positive thing.


Just to conclude, to sum up the contribution I made previously, this sun tax that is being proposed is going to allow networks the power to charge solar households in a way that was previously prohibited under the national energy rules. It has been argued that this is justified as necessary to fund required upgrades on the grid, but this is despite the fact that solar surges have been shown to occur at night and in areas of low solar uptake, and we are very concerned that these charges will unfairly impact those who in good faith have made long-term investments in renewables.


These are South Australians who are wanting to do the right thing, who are doing the right thing for our environment, and the Liberals want to stand by and allow them to be penalised. I do not wish to be divisive, as the honourable Treasurer has inferred, but when a party has got it wrong, when a government has got it wrong, we have to call it out. I urge members to support my original motion and to reject the amendment proposed by the honourable Treasurer.


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.


Motion: Stop the Sun Tax

27 October 2021

 

The Hon. R.A. SIMMS: I move:


That this council—

  1. Affirms that renewable energy is the future of South Australia;
  2. Recognises the potential of rooftop solar to lower wholesale power prices for all consumers;
  3. Calls on the Marshall government to set meaningful targets for a transition to 100 per cent renewable energy for South Australia by:
    (a.) rolling out community-scale batteries;
    (b.) subsidising solar-panel and battery installation;
    (c.) rolling out dynamic operating envelopes; and
  4. Calls on the Marshall government to block a ruling by the Australian Energy Market Commission that allows networks to charge solar customers fees for exporting solar energy to the grid.


Back in August, the Australian Energy Market Commission ruled that distribution networks can now charge fees to solar homes and businesses to export their electricity. Known as the 'sun tax', this rule change will see networks given the power to charge solar households previously prohibited under the energy rules. This has been justified as necessary to fund required upgrades on the grid resulting from an excess of solar energy—at least this is the argument that has been put. That is despite the fact that solar surges have been shown to occur at night and in areas of very low solar uptake.


These changes will unfairly impact on those who in good faith have made long-term investments into renewables. We know that energy networks make significant profits so why is it that the cost burdens of future proofing the network is being passed on to a whole solar household, those who are already leading the way in trying to reduce their carbon footprint?


The cost for the distribution network should be shared among all generators including large multinational companies and fossil fuel generators, not just households. Australia's National Electricity Market's data showed energy contribution from renewables during 2020 in South Australia was the highest on record at 53 per cent, up from 7 per cent in 2019 and 5 per cent in 2018.


We need governments to encourage the uptake of rooftop solar, not penalise those who are doing the right thing for our environment, those who have already made this change. Despite both the Victorian and Queensland energy ministers stating their strong opposition to charging solar households in their states, our minister in South Australia has refused to follow suit and protect rooftop solar. Indeed, they have remained silent and in support of this solar tax.


South Australia's abundant wind and solar resources mean we are ideally suited to lead the nation and the world to a 100 per cent renewable energy future—a renewable-led recovery that would create jobs and tackle the climate change crisis and reduce energy prices. We know that as we transition away from coal and carbon we can create new jobs of the future in green innovation and renewable energy and we should be encouraging people to continue to switch to solar, not penalising those who are doing the right thing.


I do hope that members of this place will support this motion and send the Marshall government a clear message that they should be supporting those who are supporting our environment and they should be doing everything they can to reject this unfair solar tax.


Government Advertising

26 October 2021

 

Mr Chairman, before commenting on the detail of the amendment that is before you, I will respond to the tabling of the letter from the Auditor-General by the Treasurer. I welcome that information. It would have been helpful to have had that provided to us a little bit earlier than it being tabled in parliament. I do want to point out, Chair, that when we were last here together, and I moved to insert this amendment and we were going to progress this to a vote, the Treasurer spoke quite passionately about how unfair it was for the matter to be sprung on him and he talked about the lack of engagement with the government around my amendment.


I was persuaded by that, as I think the crossbenchers were, and more time was provided to the government. We adjourned the debate and now we have come back two weeks later. It is disappointing to see a letter relating to the amendment being tabled in this fashion without giving anybody the opportunity to take that into consideration as part of the debate.


I will point out, though, that there is an opportunity for amendments to be made should this pass this chamber, for further amendments and finessing to occur between the houses. If there is a significant issue that needs to be addressed, there will be an opportunity to do that.


This is a fairly straightforward amendment. It is what I consider to be a very important transparency measure and really what it does is ensure that the Auditor-General is required to provide approval for advertising in certain circumstances. It adds a really important transparency measure, I think, in terms of ensuring that the Auditor-General is required to approve certain government advertising, and that is advertising in particular circumstances and during the election period.


The government may be concerned that this is going to impact on advertising that they consider to be essential. The amendment makes it very clear that government advertising will be taken to be necessary for the proper functions of government if the Auditor-General is satisfied that the primary purpose of the government advertising is to communicate information relating to the following, and these things are stipulated.


I will not read them all, but they relate to public health and public safety, road and public transport, emergencies, legal or statutory matters, electoral material published under the authority of the Electoral Commissioner, and a range of other things. If anything has been missed that is considered essential, I am sure that that can be added in as part of the engagement between the two houses.


It is important to understand why this is so vitally important, and I think the Treasurer has talked a lot about his concerns around the spending of taxpayers' money in terms of setting up an independent budget office. He must then be aghast at the eye-watering advertising bill of his Liberal government, because it has been really quite outrageous.


It is worth remembering that, back in 2019, the Government Communications Advisory Committee was formed in July and it scaled back its public reporting on communication campaigns cost and effectiveness by the year 2020. As of June 2020, that body had published just one evaluation report for the financial year and in the previous financial year the government had reported monthly on campaigns on their costs and their effectiveness.


On 1 September 2020, this group changed its official guidelines and in addition to the rules requiring public reporting of the total cost and evaluation summary for each approved communications initiative, which was usually done after completion, the GCAC would now publish the cost of each campaign as it begins. Well, that was what was meant to happen, but the new guidelines did not specify a time frame for the reporting campaigns and therefore there was a significant lag in reporting.


Indeed, InDaily reported on this last year and it was noted that, despite numerous reporting campaigns being approved in September, there had been no reporting on the Department of the Premier and Cabinet website as required by the new guidelines. That is very disappointing.


The GCAC report for September 2020, made available at the end of October 2020, contains some information which I think is relevant to highlight here. There were at least six campaigns approved, worth a total of more than $8.8 million. The bulk of spending, more than $5 million, was for interstate and intrastate tourism campaigns, and $1.5 million was approved on 1 September for a campaign to attract New Zealand tourists.


Controversially, the government launched a $1.195 million taxpayer-funded campaign called Building What Matters, which was across various media platforms, promoting an infrastructure program in the wake of last year's state budget. That was scheduled to run until June 2021. This campaign does not explicitly include politicians, but in interviews and media politicians have referenced the campaign, a campaign that is paid for by the South Australian taxpayer.


The campaign promotes the government's infrastructure spend rather than giving direct information about individual projects. There have even been reports of cold marketing campaigns. This was reported by the ABC back on 26 March, indeed my birthday. I can tell you, it would not have been a welcome birthday present for me to receive one of these calls. According to this media report, members of the South Australian community were receiving phone calls promoting this Building What Matters campaign, a campaign funded by the South Australian taxpayer. The ABC has included an example of one of the voicemails which was left, and I will read it to you:


Good evening…I'm calling on behalf of the Premier, Steven Marshall—


it is like Amway—


and the state Liberal team to get your thoughts about the $16.7 billion infrastructure spend which will deliver safer roads, ensure that you have access to better healthcare closer to home and will deliver world-class schools for our kids.


That sounds like an ad to me. Despite the caller saying they were representing the Premier—and I am reading from the ABC here—the Premier denied any knowledge of the calls when asked by the ABC. He said:


I'm not aware of that…there's nothing wrong with going out and promoting the great work of [our] government.


That [could] be something you could take up with the Liberal Party.


It is unclear whether the call was made by a third party, who was paying for it or how the information was obtained. When asked whether or not the Liberal Party was paying for it or the taxpayer, Mr Marshall said, 'It's hard to comment because I haven't heard or seen the campaign that you're referring to.'


Quite frankly, that is simply not good enough. It is not good enough for the hard-earned money of South Australians to be wasted on PR for this state government. I can understand why they would want to be undertaking PR given the scandalous period they have faced, but it is not an appropriate use of taxpayer money and it is appropriate that this money is administered in an independent way and that there is some form of independent arbiter who can make a call on what is appropriate and what is not.


I am not suggesting the Governor-General take carriage of that—that is a step too far—but the Auditor-General is an appropriate body to take carriage of that. As I say, I note the concerns that they have expressed and that is something that can be worked through within the houses. I think this is a really important transparency measure. It is one that South Australians will welcome heading into this election and I commend it.


Christmas Day Amendment Bill

26 October 2021

The Hon. R.A. SIMMS: I also rise in support of this bill. In doing so I want to begin by praising my colleague the Hon. Tammy Franks MLC for her leadership on this and for her long-time efforts here in this parliament advocating for the rights of working people. I also acknowledge the leadership of the union movement in running this campaign, in particular the SDA and the good work they have done in bringing this to the attention of people in this parliament.


As has been stated, over the last 18 months essential workers—that is, people working in our supermarkets, in our petrol stations, our fast food and hospitality outlets, allied health services, our medi-hotels, our aged-care homes—have been working incredibly hard to keep South Australians safe. They have been doing that during this once-in-a-century pandemic and during a once-in-a-century economic crisis.


What do they get in return for their hard work? A piece of coal from the Liberals this Christmas. I am not referring to the climate change policy, the woeful policy that Scott Morrison has announced, but rather the incredibly—


The PRESIDENT: The Prime Minister the Hon. Scott Morrison.


The Hon. R.A. SIMMS: The Hon. Prime Minister Scott Morrison.


The PRESIDENT: Thank you.


The Hon. R.A. SIMMS: I am of course referring to the Grinch-like behaviour of the state Liberal Party and the appalling way that they have approached this issue, and their refusal to recognise the rights of workers and recognise the fact that Christmas Day should be a public holiday for everybody.


There has been a lot said about the benefits of this bill. I will only speak briefly, but I want to read into Hansard some of the stories of people who will be directly affected. There have been some open letters sent to the Premier, talking about the benefits that will flow from this bill for families. I will start with one from Amber, who is a healthcare worker. She writes to the Premier:


Dear Premier,


I am an essential worker at a regional hospital. Throughout all of COVID, I and so many others have gone to work to keep normality and services open.


As life continues to be hard for all families, we essential workers still go to work on public holidays. Like Christmas day. A day when we essential workers would LOVE to be home with our families after everything Australians have endured [over] the last 18 months. But we have jobs to do, and part of what makes our lives a little more worth going to work [for], is the public holiday pay.


That pay helps alleviate a little of the financial burden with the extra pay from working the public holiday. But you don't want to give SA families that. You don't want to help out those families. You don't offer any incentive to hard working people who have gone to work still.


No reward for medical workers, or any workers. No thanks, we know you can't be with your families here is compensation in your pay.


The writer asks:


[Mr Premier] Will you go to work on Christmas Day, while thousands of us do? No, you won't. Will you stand up for the SA people you serve, and give them the public holiday pay they deserve, while you sit at home?


Beth, a Kmart worker, has written:


Dear Premier,


I would…like to know your reasoning for not declaring Christmas Day public holiday, as it should be. Thousands of workers are going to be working that day, and missing out on valuable family time on what is one of the most special days of the year. At a time when we should be at home with our loved ones, and showing them what they truly mean to us, you're more than happy to allow workers to miss out on that time with no compensation.


No amount of money can…compensate for lost family time, but having to go to work and get paid like it's [just another] day of the year is [an absolute] disgrace.


I cannot help but agree with those sentiments; it is a disgrace and it is one that the parliament should put right and we have an opportunity to do that today. It is really disappointing that we are in this position. The Liberals are creating a nightmare before Christmas for South Australian workers and it is time for this parliament to put that right.


Retail Trading Hours

26 August 2021

The Hon. R.A. SIMMS (15:48): I welcome the opportunity to also put on the public record my opposition to this push to deregulate shop trading hours in South Australia. As has been stated, this is something that will have a terrible impact on small businesses in our state. It is a free kick for Coles and Woolies and it is a kick in the guts for the small business sector in South Australia. But do not just take my word for it, do not just take the word of the Greens for it, or the word of the Labor Party or the other crossbenchers. What does the peak lobby group representing the business sector in South Australia have to say about it? What do they have to say?


I had a look in today's paper—and it should be noted that Business SA is the go-to group for the Liberal Party when it comes to business policy. That is the group from which they seek their counsel, and the CEO of Business SA is a leading businessperson in his own right, a highly respected South Australian, indeed the former Lord Mayor of the City of Adelaide, with whom I had the pleasure of working many years ago. He is a highly respected person and somebody who has run many successful businesses in his own right. What does he have to say about it on behalf of Business SA, the peak body representing the business sector in this state, from whom the Liberal Party seek political counsel? He has said:


What got the board over the line—


in terms of their new position in opposition to the Liberals' policy—


was the somewhat unsung impact that total deregulation would have on the supply chains of the shopfronts.


There are thousands of businesses that get a start through independent retailers and if they lose the ability to get that start, it’s quite a significant impact.


What else does the Business SA charter say in this regard? They have released this today via an article in The Advertiser, and I am quoting from that. They said that with further liberalisation in the current environment there would need:


…to be a balance to ensure local independent retailers and their local supply chains can remain viable against national and multinational players which are better placed to absorb the higher costs of weekend and public holiday penalty rates.


In other words, this is going to have a terrible impact on the small players, and it really is a free kick for the big end of town, which we know the Liberal Party are all about.


So why on earth are they putting this forward when Business SA, the peak body from whom the Liberals take all their advice on business policy, has disavowed this toxic policy? I can only assume the last ones standing will be the Property Council and Daniel Gannon; I am sure he will be singing its praises. There is not anyone out there—


The Hon. K.J. Maher: No, he will be turning too.


The Hon. R.A. SIMMS: He is going to dump it.


The Hon. K.J. Maher: He will be the next one to turn.


The Hon. R.A. SIMMS: He will be dumping it next. There is no-one out there in the community who actually supports this. It is opposed by the union movement. It is opposed by the business sector. Maybe the Property Council are the last ones standing, but they will be the next ones to dump it. So why on earth would the Liberals be putting this forward? Could it be that after just 3½ years they have already run out of ideas? Could it be that after 3½ years they are already running on empty when it comes to a vision for this state?


Back in a previous life, I remember being in the Senate on the days prior to the double dissolution election, that ill-fated double dissolution election that was called by Malcolm Turnbull, one of the many duds that the Liberal Party have sent to The Lodge over the last decade. Well, he had no vision for our country either, and I remember turning up to the Senate each day and looking at the Notice Paper, and what did I see? A blank sheet when it came to government business.


I am feeling a groundhog day here, as I look at the threadbare agenda of the Marshall government. After just 3½ years, what have they done? They have gone back to the cupboard and thought, 'What have we got sitting around? What's the frozen pizza we can pull out?' And it is this old chestnut that we have tried time and time again, a policy that has been knocked back by this parliament in the past, a policy that has been opposed by business leaders, union leaders, members of the community. What do we do when we are out of ideas? We go back to that old frozen pizza, we stick it in the microwave and out it comes. That is what we have seen here today with this old chestnut, the deeply unpopular and unsuccessful policy that has been promoted by the Treasurer.


I do want to make a few comments about the Liberal Party's obsession with referendums. They are very fond of referendums. Indeed, the last time the Liberals were pushing one—and, again, I mentioned the great dud that was Malcolm Turnbull; he loved referendums, particularly when it came to the rights of marginal people in our community. Of course, he subjected us to the pointless and highly divisive plebiscite on marriage equality.


Now it seems workers' rights are going to be subject to an opinion poll on behalf of the Liberals, such is the contempt with which they hold working people. It is a disgrace, it is a waste of this council's time, and it is, I think, treating working people with complete contempt. This is the party, supposedly, of small business, yet it is happy to kick small South Australian businesses in the guts in the middle of this pandemic.


This is the party that supposedly stands for families, yet it is happy to support a policy that will make it very difficult for families who are working in small business. Really, this is pure ideology; that is all this is about. This parliament can see through it, the South Australian people can see through it, and really it is time for the Marshall government to go back to the drawing board and to come up with some ideas, because this is a complete joke.