APPROPRIATION BILL 26 July 2016

Second Reading 

Adjourned debate on second reading (resumed on motion). 

Ms CHAPMAN ( Bragg—Deputy Leader of the Opposition) (22:14): Here we are, at the 2016 budget, the Appropriation Bill, to accommodate the announcements by the Treasurer, and I remind members that it is a budget that has been approved by cabinet. No-one should underestimate the significance of that because the whole of the cabinet has endorsed the plan of action in respect of the expenditure of $18 billion of South Australians' money to the application of the priorities of this government.

Every year we hear speeches about those priorities, and I am one of many who question a number of those. Many of them are meritorious in the application of moneys and priorities, but a very substantial number just perpetuate the waste, fiscal ineptitude and gross irresponsibility on behalf the government. I will refer to just a few issues that I find to be inconsistent, unacceptable and shamefully discriminatory against people who are most in need in South Australia. 

Let me say at the outset that it is a great budget for koalas. They get $500,000 to have a plan prepared in my electorate, in Cleland national park, for an upgrade to facilitate the global attention to koalas. They are not a native species to South Australia, I might add. They are not even a very pleasant little creature, but they have become iconic in relation to the promotion for tourism purposes. 

I am happy to talk about the personality disorders of koalas if you want me to be induced into that subject, but the fact is that they are presented as a tourism opportunity. People already come to Cleland from all around the world and visit not just the koalas but the kangaroos, wombats and other species that are native to South Australia. We have donated, I think, six or seven koalas from Cleland to a private park in Hong Kong. They, along with a few wallabies, have been sent over there. 

We have grown forests for them and have spent a lot of money to promote an exchange of koalas. We have an abundance of them on Kangaroo Island. We would be very happy to give one to every tourist who comes. We could actually have a program to advance that, but I do not think we need a $500,000 study and maintenance upgrade to do that at Cleland. Nevertheless, that is the government's priority. 

On the other hand, at a local level (and this is a selfish assessment), we have nothing else in the state seat of Bragg—nothing, no new school, not even a new science lab at any of our schools. That is probably because our schools are so chock-a-block with children that we cannot fit anything else on the school grounds. We certainly cannot fit in any more children. Most of the schools are capped. If any child from the plains of Adelaide wants to go to a school in my electorate, they have to drive up to the Adelaide Hills and go to Uraidla Primary School. It is the only school left that has any vacancies, yet the government consistently refuses to even consider a new school for the people of Bragg. 

They are proposing a major development on the Glenside site but they will not even reopen or secure the occupancy of the closed Jewish school, Massada College, sitting next to Glenside, when we have children on the rafters at our school. That is the priority of the government, and it is very concerning to me. 

I will identify five other features of this government that I find quite disturbing. First, it is recorded in Budget Paper 3, I think, under the general division, that we had nearly 5,000 people net leave the state of South Australia last year. That is the highest net number of people leaving the state to go and live in another state or location since I have been here in the parliament. We know, of course, that the profile is mostly young people. It is disturbing because it adds to a continuing trend, but it has usually been around 3,500 to 4,000 people. Last year, it was nearly 5,000 people. 

What does the government do to address that? Many people have spoken about job initiatives or lack thereof. Let me put this to you, Madam Deputy Speaker: the government's decision harvests $5 million a year from people who come to South Australia on 457 visas because they now want to charge them for their children's attendance at public schools. We have a payment for attendance at public schools from people who are overseas residents, and that has worked quite well. This harvests, though, from families who are here working, mostly for the state government, I might say, but some are in regional parts of South Australia working for abattoirs and other industries that need a workforce. They will be charged to send their children to school. Even though they are paying tax, they will be charged. 

What is the sense of doing that if what we really want to do is encourage people to come, bring their families, like the place and apply to stay? We actually want population in this state. What will be the effect of this tax? I predict that the 457 visa holder will leave their spouse and children behind in the country from which they have come. What does that do for South Australia? Nothing. We need the spouse and children here with the person who is working. I wonder whether it is just some union that has put up this idea or whether they are just so desperate for money that they have to charge people who are coming here to do work in skilled areas where we have a shortage. We are turning our back on an opportunity to increase the population of South Australia. It is short-sighted and it is stupid. 

The second matter I raise is the fact that the government has announced an amalgamation of the Elizabeth, Salisbury, Gawler families and community facilities, Families SA facilities, which deal very substantially in child protection, into one larger accommodation at Smithfield Plains. We have stood here and listened to the government for two years talk about how they have undertaken a commitment and paid for Margaret Nyland QC, former judge of the Supreme Court, to undertake a royal commission into child protection services in our state. 

Every time we have raised an initiative, including current legislation before the parliament, to appoint a commissioner for children, with powers, the government standard answer has been, 'Well, we are waiting for Ms Nyland's report because we need to have an understanding of what she says.' She provided an interim report recently in respect of having separate departmental structure, and the government accommodated that. It is something that we on this side of the house have been calling on for years. 

However, here we are in a situation where we raise case after case of shocking circumstances of child abuse, and what is the government doing about it? 'Well, we are waiting for Ms Nyland to explain to us what we should be doing, so we will not be precipitating it, we will not be prejudging it. We are going to wait for her report.' For two years we have been waiting for this report. It is apparently to be delivered on 5 August. And what does the government do? 

They say they are going to shut down Families SA services, amalgamate them into one spot, without a scintilla of an indication from Ms Nyland or any other interim report to say that that is what is requested, that is what is recommended and that is what is advised. There is not a jot of evidence to support that. So, a cost-saving measure gets thrown into the budget as a means of streamlining services for Families SA without even waiting for that report. It is totally inconsistent with the mantra that they have given us for two years now. 

After they were embarrassed by the Shannon McCoole case, they rushed out in 2014 and said that they were going to have a royal commission, and now, in mid-2016, we are about to get a report. They go out and pre-empt that, having claimed that they could not advance any other initiative until they had Ms Nyland's advice. It is totally inconsistent. It also adds a cost saving with no identified provision for initiatives that she might make. 

Thirdly, we have this extraordinary situation where the Treasurer has announced that there will be a major expansion of prison beds. At the same time, they close mental health beds in the SouthEast, and they do not make any provision for the forensic mental health patients who are in desperate need of extra facilities at James Nash House or at some other facility, if the government wanted to have another separate site. Nothing—not a single provision for extra forensic mental health patients. 

Here we have a situation in government where we have, on a regular basis, mental health patients being sent down to the gaols. We now have something like 25 patients being held in our prisons in South Australia. Yet, what does the government do? Instead of cleaning out and making provision
for these people in mental health services, they keep them in gaols and add more prison beds. It is disgraceful. It is inhumane. It is 19th century, and it is totally unacceptable. At the same time, they are still pursuing the flogging off of space at the Glenside Hospital campus. They are selling off 40 per cent of that site for a housing development when we are in desperate need of help for our mental health service. 

Fourthly, I mention the provision for increasing the solid waste levy from $62 per tonne to $103 per tonne. This smashes the budget of the people who are struggling. They are already having to pay for their power bills and trying to take out a loan to pay their water bills. This is one other major impost as a cost of living. This is at a time when the waste levy fund has a budget balance of $85.4 million. The fund has money in it. Another $89 million has come in and out over the last 13 years, but minister Koutsantonis has held this other money back to keep his balanced budget up to standard, namely to make it look good. 

The people of South Australia are being raided again with an increased cost, with no justification for it. We have $85.4 million sitting in a fund which the Treasurer does not want to let go, yet it was paid into this fund under the pretext of saying to the public that we need to encourage recyclable opportunities, we need to encourage resource recovery and we need to bring the community with us, so we will pay a levy. I think there is a large group of the community which is happy with the direction of that. What is absolutely stunningly unacceptable is, of course, the refusal to spend it because it is there to prop up the Treasurer's position. 

Finally, I will speak on initiatives, or lack thereof. I speak now of the women of South Australia, in particular those who are vulnerable to being victims of domestic violence. Late last year, there was an important initiative—namely, what is colloquially called Clare's Law—to have a register to be able to identify those who may have a propensity or have had some history in relation to domestic violence, to help women to be able to identify when they may be at risk. The Attorney-General announced that there would be a review. In fact, the Premier came out and announced that there would be a review and that an issues paper would be prepared and published. 

Just on Sunday, that document was published—seven months later. Guess what? We have, I think, some date in late August or September to make a response to it, and then the government might act. To change the law on Clare's Law, you do not need a jot of money; you just need some legislative reform. The Attorney could bring it in here tomorrow. The issues paper makes recommendations in respect of seeking submissions on fixed terms for injunctions for intervention orders. I have already introduced a bill to the parliament for that. The government said, 'We are working on an issues paper. We will cover it then, so we are not going to pass your piece of law.' It could have been done months ago. 

These are initiatives that should have been budgeted for in this budget. Women die, we know, around Australia at the rate of between one and two a week at the hands of their partners. So what does the government do? They announce this issues paper, belated as it is, telling us what we already know. Most victims are women. Most perpetrators are men. Most often it happens in a person's own home, and most often the perpetrator is a partner or former partner of the victim. We know this. We have had bucketloads of reports on this. We do not need to be told this again. 

We know what the situation is, and yet the government has chosen to publish its issues paper seven months after it had announced that it would do something about this, and then put an advance date months ahead to even action anything. We will be into 2017 before anything happens. How many more women have to die or be brutally assaulted in South Australia while the Attorney-General, the Minister for Police and the Premier fail to act on this matter? Women die or are injured, families are fractured and broken, and the government has done nothing to advance even the legislative reform, let alone funding the programs that are urgently needed. 

There are many contributions we can make in respect of what we think priorities should be individually. Governments obviously have the opportunity to decide how the money is spent. As I said, some of those initiatives are worthy. However, the absence of provision for people with mental health issues; to advance a population increase to ensure that we have some job security for our young in South Australia; the failure to deal with child protection and its funding, other than to amalgamate Families SA's resources; the stealing of more money from the people of South Australia; and the abandonment of women all produce for me a sickening feeling about this budget. It fails the most vulnerable and the most in need. 

Today, I add to that the indication by the Premier and the Attorney-General that they are going to do nothing about the brutal assault of a resident at the Mitcham aged-care facility. The best they can do is write to a federal minister and seek reform on regulations under the Aged Care Act. That is utterly scandalous. Every person in South Australia deserves the protection of our criminal law, and they have been abandoned because the Attorney takes the view that the best he can do to protect other people in that situation—after the offender in that case had been prosecuted and convicted—who may be frightened in aged-care services in South Australia, is to say, 'We will let the feds deal with that.' 

Well, hello. They have a primary responsibility to protect South Australians and have failed to do so yet again. This government has fundamentally failed the aged, mental health consumers, women, children and our unemployed young people in this year's budget. It is the worst I have seen. I could talk long and hard about waste and mismanagement, and many other speakers have done so, but when I see that they do all that and still fail to deal with the most vulnerable, it just makes me sick.