APPROPRIATION BILL 2016

Estimates Committees

Ms CHAPMAN ( Bragg—Deputy Leader of the Opposition) (12:12): Deputy Speaker, I firstly acknowledge your role in the estimates proceedings that we have recently undertaken and thank you for your contribution, together with the member for Little Para, whom I was able to have as chair in a number of meetings during the estimates being convened and who did a stellar job. I also thank those ministers who presented to estimates and the number of advisers and departmental staff who were down here to explain to us a number of aspects of the 2016 budget.

The government has announced through the Treasurer about an $18 billion budget. Slightly less than that is actually expended because, of course, net-wise there is some revenue generated by some of the agencies, so the actual appropriated funds are slightly less. However, as we know, the Treasurer had to raid the Motor Accident Commission and now sell off its insurance arm to be able to prop up this year's budget.

I do note that at present the State Administration Centre is also being sold, the land services division is under review and the TAFE sites are being transferred to Renewal SA. We are yet to see what is going to happen with those, depending on what the TAFE agency determines is surplus to requirements. Of course, we also have other entities under consideration for what aspects may be sold, so the government is continuing its fire sale. I mention that because we now have the infamous EPAS coupled with two other things, namely, the squirrelling away and accumulation of money in funds which they manage and which the Treasurer has control of, such as the Victims of Crime Fund.

By the 2019-20 financial year, the Victims of Crime Fund will have a net base of some $370 million together with the massive blowouts in their infrastructure, two of which have been highlighted and are now indelibly printed on the mind of South Australians, namely, the new Royal Adelaide Hospital, which has just plunged from disaster to disaster economically—and this is apart from the tragic loss of life of two of the workmen—and the now infamous EPAS, a system of patient records that has now blown out another $200 million above its budgeted amount.

It is almost incomprehensible to the average person in my electorate when they raise issues of the monetary spend of the government, or lack there of. It is hard for them to comprehend, firstly, why a proposal which they think is meritorious, or an initiative in the electorate which they think is hugely wanting, cannot be financed because of the massive amount of waste due to the government's ineptitude in managing major infrastructure. It is just criminal to them that the government could be so wasteful, so incompetent, so irresponsible with our finances that the opportunity to have the prospect of their projects being financed just disappears from the horizon.

It is important for us, when we pick through the budget via the estimates process, to be able to identify where there is a need and where we need to help the government understand and redress the deficiencies of their budgets in the allocation of resources. They are going to continue to struggle to provide for high need areas if they do not get their own house in order in managing what they have got, if they stop hiding away money in funds which are clearly designed to be held there until the year prior to the election so that they can have a big spend on initiatives they will announce.

This year, the Attorney-General's estimates just confirmed for me in a very short time that we will have no new superior court, that there will be no new judges and that there will be no new structural reform, as had been considered by the Attorney the previous year. He was going to squirrel away money into the Victims of Crime Fund, with no relief to those who are victims of crime by being able to have any more generous access to it. That was obviously a myriad of small initiatives the government has announced—more reports, more reviews.

Sadly, there was nothing of substance—not even something as simple as being able to offer a person who appears in SACAT, our new administrative tribunal, on a review of a guardianship to have legal representation on those occasions. I think that is disgusting, and I am very sad that it has not happened. The reason it has not happened is that the government expects that over the next few years the Legal Services Commission will have to cut its budget. It is getting $4 million less over the next four years, rather than our having any extra initiative to ensure that we have legal representation for civil matters in the guardianship world, many of whom obviously will severely struggle to represent themselves. I am very disappointed about that.

In terms of urban development, the Minister for Transport is now the Minister for Urban Development—he has taken over. He continued form from his previous attendance at estimates in transport and infrastructure: he did not appear to know a lot and took an enormous amount on notice. Again, it just puzzles me that we have these hundreds of thousands of dollars a year, and personnel and executives sitting around—including Mr Deegan, who I think is one of our highest paid public servants in the state—right next to the minister, yet they do not appear to apply even a movement of the head to inquire as to the answer.

They preferred to take it on notice, and hopefully they will provide some response down the track. We will see what happens with the minister this year in that area. I note of course that even by the end of estimates the list of questions which I had resubmitted to the Attorney about a month before estimates, which he had not answered from the 2015 estimates committee, still have not been answered. So this is the contempt that some of the ministers have for the committee. They do not want to answer. If it is embarrassing, they take it on notice and we never see a response back and that is very concerning.

Can I move to youth justice, an area for which I have been asked to take shadow responsibility. This is an area which is a relatively small part of the entire Communities and Social Inclusion budget so minister Bettison is responsible for this, but it does run the facilities of our youth detention centres. The Northern Territory inquiry, announced consequential to the public release nationally of television footage of children in youth detention in the Northern Territory, is enough to send an electric rod through your spine, but the reality is, it has been confirmed this week that, yes, there are handcuffs used in our detention facilities; there are leg wraps, which are leg restraints, used in our facilities; and there are what are known as spit restraints, namely a hood like a piece of material which is placed over the youth.

As has been explained, these are rarely used, although we were advised these hoods were used in South Australian detention centres 31 times in the 2014-15 year. We do not know what last year's is yet; I will be asking the minister that. It does concern me and I think it is important now that the minister confirms, comes into the parliament, and she has until 6 o'clock tonight to come in and say to the people of South Australia, 'I will undertake to this parliament, to the people of South Australia that until the Northern Territory royal commission has concluded and given its findings on appropriate material and restraints suitable for use, including the use of tear gas on youths and in what circumstances they should be used, that I will not allow, permit or authorise the use of hoods or tear gas in South Australian detention centres.'

I think it is incumbent on her to do that. I know that the Commissioner for Human Rights has asked for there to be an expansion of the terms of reference of the Northern Territory inquiry and for that to include an invitation to other states to identify if they are also struggling with this. It is not to say that these are easy issues, it is not to say that our personnel who are employed in our youth detention facilities are not at some risk at the behaviour of some of the youths in these facilities, especially if they in withdrawal from drugs and the like or, of course, if they are aggressive and have not had rehabilitation to deal with that while they are in the custody of the Minister for Communities and Social Inclusion. I think she needs to do that and I think she needs to reassure South Australians about that.

Minister Bettison was also appearing in estimates on the question of women, and the biggest disappointment I have in this area is that although we have a select committee in respect of domestic violence and family violence in this state that has been tabled in this parliament since April, not one dollar of this budget was allocated specifically to deal with domestic violence. There was a small amount allowed to do a report on homeless women, $150,000 from memory, but not a dollar to deal with the issue of enforcement of intervention orders and reform in that area, Clare's Law reform, which of course has been on the table for a year now to be considered, or application of further resourcing, etc.

At best, we have a promise to extend some of the MAPS, which is a coordination program between the relevant agencies that deal with response teams and part of the call-in centres. We have had these reports a number of times and the government has said, 'We will now publish a new issues paper and call for submissions until September,' and goodness knows when we might have some action. I remind the Attorney-General and minister Bettison that a woman is dying in Australia at least every three or four days from domestic violence, and that is not to mention the thousands of women and children, particularly, who are the most in number of victims, who are injured or left homeless or left in an impecunious state, which, of course, is not acceptable.

When minister Bettison came in and said that she was part of a government that was proud of the work it was doing in respect of domestic violence, I nearly threw up. I felt sick. It is just not acceptable to pretend that something is being done when we just get another report and then another report. The rest of us get another coronial inquiry to read relating to the death of someone that should have been avoided. I just despair because it is really a head in the sand approach if you do not accept that there is a problem and that we do need to do more about it.

In respect of the Department of State Development, minister Maher presented. The shadow minister for state development and a number of other members of our team who deal with mining, higher education, arts, Aboriginal affairs, science and innovation—to name a few of the subsections within state development—very competently inquired on a number of matters. I did attend some of these. For example, I inquired of the Treasurer what advantage he saw for the state in selling the Lands Titles Office, or any services operated by it. Predictably, his answer was obtuse.

He seemed to take some joy in saying that it was going to create a whole lot more money for him to spend. The current estimate is that South Australia would pick up about $300 million for selling off those services, while of course the Lands Titles Office staff and other supporters of the public sector union are rallying in Hindmarsh Square against this because there is no provision of protection. In fact, we have a budget bill to debate next that says that the Registrar-General of the Lands Titles Office and the two senior directors are to be protected as public servants but that everyone else's role goes.

They are amending the act to ensure that only the top dogs are protected, not the rest of them. The government says that under the Public Service Act they are entitled to opportunities to be reallocated. The truth is that a number of their positions will be sold off. They may take the opportunity to apply to whatever private agency buys that sector in due course, but the government's dismissal of these people, as though they are toys to be thrown away, is alarming.

I make the point that when an individual rings me and says, 'I've read this on our pinboard at work. You've put out a press release, Ms Chapman, about this issue of the Lands Titles Office being sold. These are my concerns. Why is the government doing this?' I reply, 'It's very clear: because they want the money, they are desperate for the money, and your job is secondary in their priorities.' It is very disturbing to me that they will come in here and masquerade some pretence of care for the workforce they employ, yet they are prepared to discard them so readily.

Finally, can I mention mental health. Minister Vlahos presented to the committee. This is a difficult area but, again, all I ask her to do is to focus on the fact that we will never get adequate mental health services for the people of South Australia. I think she made a valiant effort to try to present to us that there are X number of mental health beds. She exercised some care in identifying priorities about where they should be, etc., for acute care. The truth is that we are very much undersupplied here. The Public Advocate tells us that every year and the people who work in the mental health industry tell us that every year.

We are strangled by inadequate services for our mental health. Frankly, if you live in the country you may as well give up if you want mental health services. When the government says that it is going to flog off 40 per cent of the Glenside site to Cedar Woods for a housing development and quarantine a little bit for the relocation of Ward 17 from the Repatriation General Hospital—which is grossly inadequate for what we need—it is a shame.

The worst of it is when the government allows a situation for the Treasurer to come in here and proudly announce that he is going to fund 70 new prison beds, yet not make provision for the 20 to 30 people who are in our prison system every day who should not be there, people who have undertaken certain conduct that has got the attention of the authorities but who are not fit to plead. They are not capable of being convicted, but their behaviour is such that they need to be detained for mental health purposes.

When the government cannot fit them into a mental health facility or a forensic facility—which was specifically built out there in the 1980s at James Nash House—then the Minister for Mental Health signs under section 269V of the Criminal Law Consolidation Act to authorise them to go to a prison—and we see this every day. Some families out there are waiting for adequate facilities where their son or daughter, husband or wife, partner or niece or nephew is on a waiting list trying to get into this service.

What is the government's answer: 'We'll build more prison beds.' How about reopening some facilities, allowing some extra facilities at Glenside, quarantining some of the Repatriation General Hospital, which should not be sold, or at least keep part of it for mental health services for our returned servicemen and women, and make sure that we have this service available. To just say, 'We're doing the best we can,' when the Treasurer and the Minister for Health are squandering money like drunken sailors is just obscene.

We will never get respite for women, people in mental health or children who are, of course, looking for protection—now with Ms Nyland's report tomorrow. We are never going to get protection for these most in need while the government squanders that money. Until the people of South Australia rise up and say, 'We're not prepared for our taxes to be paid in this way and squandered in this way,' this government will continue to have a licence to have it. Tragically, fixed elections mean that we are going to have at least another budget by this government before the 2018 election, but come 2018 we want a clean sweep.