Appropriation Bill 2017

Ms CHAPMAN (Bragg—Deputy Leader of the Opposition) (11:23): I rise to speak on the Appropriation Bill, which comes before us subsequent to the estimates process. This is a process in which the minister responsible for portfolios presents to a committee of the parliament, usually with a significant number of senior advisers from their department or areas of responsibility, to provide information to the parliament, via this committee, arising out of the budget of that year.

It is an important process established originally by premier Tonkin, and it has been one that I think overall has served the parliament well. In the 15 years I have been here, however, in regard to the presentation of ministers, I would have to say there has been a variety of assistance given by different ministers; some have been quite forthcoming. I remember that the member for Ashford, when she was a minister, would promptly provide information to the committee. When it was not available to her from the people sitting around, she made sure that it was provided promptly.

However, the myriad who are presented today, unfortunately, I think fail to give any credibility or credit to the government in their responses. Surrounded by very senior people, they frequently take matters on notice which are clearly available and in relation to which advisers are rushing to present their material to the ministers. Unfortunately, anything they see as slightly controversial they will of course take on notice. So it is sabotaged, I suggest, by lazy ministers who fail to act when they should and who attempt to frustrate a process to which in the ordinary course of business they ought to be proud to present on a budget they have endorsed.

With that, can I turn to the Attorney-General, who presented with the Chief Justice on the Courts Administration Authority and with senior personnel for the Attorney-General's Department, together with consumer and business affairs, the Electoral Commission and State Records, matters in relation to which I was a member of the committee. Firstly, can I say this: I raised with the Attorney a number of questions that were outstanding from last year, that is, the 2016 estimates. This is not uncommon; we frequently have to ask for them. The Attorney took great delight in advising the committee that he would check on what happened with those answers, but he accepted that they should have been answered. He thought they had been.

We then found, as he presented to the committee later, that he had identified that a number of those questions had been presented, apparently, to the parliament on 20 December 2016. That is eight months ago. On further inquiry, it became clear that not only had the answers to those questions never been tabled in the parliament, never in that time, but apparently the email through which they had been presented to the parliament had never even been opened or read.

That is a matter that I think should be brought to the Speaker's attention. Since then, I have been provided with copies of those, and I understand that sometime this week those answers to the questions for the 2016 committee will in fact be tabled, as they should be. Any suggestion that it is outside of the practice to provide answers outside of the proposed estimates time would not only make a mockery of the system, because we frequently get them outside of the proposed time, but in addition to that, subsequently I have received other questions from other ministers. I want that matter brought to the attention of the Speaker, and I do not want it to be repeated. If there is a breakdown in the system of that information being provided, then it ought to be dealt with.

Apparently, there was an old email used from the Attorney-General’s office. That may be the fault of his office. I do not really care whose fault it is. These are answers to the parliament and we should see them, the committee should see them and I should see them, having asked for them. I will not say anything further about that, but if it was the Attorney-General's office's fault then he can give me the usual apology.

In respect of the budget this year, the Attorney-General's Department and the courts administration area in particular received some continued maintenance and repair work, an extra Supreme Court judge, some redevelopment of the superior courts building at 1 Gouger Street and the Sir Samuel Way Building and, frankly, not much else. That is disappointing. In the lifetime of this government, we have had three announcements of a courts precinct rebuild and three cancellations, the last one followed up within weeks by a $100 million development at the Festival Centre when the government had claimed it did not have the financial resources to progress the courts precinct.

As has been indicated frequently by Chief Justice Doyle and now Chief Justice Kourakis to the committees of this parliament, our superior courts buildings are in a disgraceful state of disrepair. At a recent ABA conference in London it was a source of mirth that we had a Supreme Court building in which there was a mattress still lashed to the wall at the bottom of a stairway as some kind of occupational health hazard management model to collect somebody if they slipped down the stairs. It is an utter disgrace. Chief Justice Doyle could not even get into his own courtroom because of inaccessibility in terms of disability provision when he was in a wheelchair for a period of time. It is a disgrace. We have the worst superior court buildings in the country, and they are a source of great embarrassment.

People should understand that this is the workplace of not only many people who work for the Courts Administration Authority but also judges and their staff, offenders—it is true—plaintiffs and defendants. These are normal citizens who go to a government service to have their case litigated in an appalling situation. That is not to mention the number of witnesses for cases, who come along to support civil and criminal cases, who are living in that squalor. It is unacceptable and clearly needs to be remedied.

The government's commitment of $31 million to re-create courtrooms on the top floor of the Sir Samuel Way Building was identified in estimates as $18 million for that and $13 million to be spent on the Supreme Court building. That is the 1 Gouger Street property, which is owned by the state, the former of which is leased by Funds SA. The Chief Justice was helpful in his contribution, telling us that, at a rental cost of some $6 million a year, something had to be looked at in terms of paying out the tail of that 40-year lease and/or land value and that that would be a financially sensible way forward.

The 40-year lease expires in 2023. Given the government's financial commitment to someone else's building, it is expected that it will sign a further period of lease and/or hopefully take the Chief Justice's advice and acquire the building so that the services that are there can continue. Any precinct rebuild now will take some time. If things change in March next year, we will have more comments to make about that, but at the moment this is the expenditure that will be introduced. Apparently, the first tranche on 1 Gouger Street will be completed this year, followed by work to be done on the Sir Samuel Way Building by June 2019. It will create two new criminal courtrooms and refurbish another area for civil matters.

There is some financial support for the Civil and Administrative Tribunal (SACAT) that has been established as more areas of responsibilities are moved across. The Attorney is so slow in introducing the legislation for that to actually happen that I will be surprised if that $6.1 million is spent in this financial year; in any event, it has been announced. The Legal Services Commission gets a tiny bit extra. The most disappointing aspect was the lack of provision of financial support for our community legal services, particularly in regional areas.

Even the federal Attorney-General saw the folly of attempting to cut out community legal service costs. Although significant amounts of federal money are still tied, he had the good sense to backflip on his original decision on that in the federal budget. The state Attorney, however, obviously failed in the cabinet, if he put the submission at all, to get continuing support. We now have this absurd situation where, although there can be some tissue of services rescued in Mount Gambier, the rest of the southern part of the state, including the Riverland, has to get services from Christies Beach, which is a three-hour drive away. It is utterly absurd. If the Attorney's submissions fell on the deaf ears of the Treasurer in the cabinet room, then the Attorney's failure to deal with that area is not to his credit and he has failed the people of regional South Australia.

Some moneys have been put towards an ice strategy for the Stop the Hurt program, which apparently came as a result of a task force jointly chaired by the police and mental health ministers. We are yet to have a briefing about that because not much has been forthcoming. How ridiculous! That report, apart from some glossy pictures, has been published on their website. The recommendations from that report, of which I understand there are about 50, are a secret. We are not allowed to see the report. Obviously, it has been expensive for the ministers and their entourage to skip around the state.

We are not even sure who they consulted. Did they just talk to themselves or have lunch at Port Pirie or something? I do not know what they did, but it is a secret. We are not allowed to know. This is the most pressing issue for young people, in particular, in this state, yet we are not even allowed to see the report. We are not allowed to have any particulars of what has been recommended. I find that disgraceful.

While we are on secrecy, the $1 million report and business plan for the courts maintenance and continued structural requirements, commissioned by the Department of Transport and Infrastructure under minister Mullighan, is also a secret. Nobody is allowed to see that. We have asked for it in estimates: again, it is a secret. For goodness sake, why are we not able to see what is being recommended by either external consultants or internal persons who are advising the government? The people of South Australia pay for these reports. In this case, the Department of Transport paid $1 million for this business plan and report on the infrastructure requirements of the court precinct, and we are not even allowed to see it. It is utterly disgraceful.

It is hardly surprising that we have a situation where the Attorney will not even progress the integrity bill to deal with whistleblower reforms in this state, which has stagnated in the i-cloud between these two houses of parliament because he will not convene a meeting to actually progress it. It is scandalous conduct. It is juvenile behaviour for a minister and he perpetuated that behaviour at estimates.

A further temporary deputy coroner is to be appointed to help with the critical shortage there, apparently to deal with some backlog. We have been waiting for one for Graziella Daillér from 2014—a shocking shooting murder-suicide in respect of which we want some answers. After the Abrahimzadeh coronial inquiry, it is scandalous to think that the Coroner has not had the funds to progress that.

The Coroner is now burdened with the responsibility of dealing with multiple deaths at the Oakden facility and has no money to do it. The government's answer to the independent statutory authorities of this parliament is to starve them of money so that they cannot actually do their job. Instead, they commission a secret inquiry by MinterEllison to undertake the issues in respect of potential breaches of the obligations under the Aged Care Act and other matters. Really, the government just perpetuates a continuing problem.

A paltry $270,000 for justice reinvestment in respect of the safety and wellbeing of our Aboriginal people is symptomatic of the government's refusal to deal with important areas of support for a community that is absolutely in pain. People who have jobs are fearful that they are going to lose them and people who do not have jobs are worried about providing for their families. We have major social dysfunction.

I will speak later today about unemployment. As at the end of last year, there are close to 60,000 unemployed in this state, not to mention the underemployed, who are expected to be in the hundreds of thousands and mounting. The situation is quite dire, yet the government has abandoned these important areas of service and support, which they have an obligation to provide to the people of South Australia. On the other hand, the Attorney-General's Department is quite happy to spend over $20 million to refit their facilities in the GPO Tower—a flash new office for the Attorney-General. I think there is about $24 million all up to relocate all of the Attorney-General's Department over into the new GPO Tower.

I have no issue about the provision of adequate accommodation for those who work hard, and that includes those in the Attorney-General's Department, but this is on the back of consumer affairs having a refit of all their offices last year. I think that was about $4 million. The government is quite happy to spend money in respect of the services of those who work for them at the high end, I might add; just about everyone else in the government has to hot-desk these days. The high end get their facilities in the new offices but not others.

Forensic Science SA has a major role in respect of the work that it does, particularly in DNA crime scenes and the drug driver and illicit drug testing that it does. The failure to deal with the performance indicators in respect of turnaround times is a direct reflection of the government's failure to provide adequate resources to ensure that that occurs. When I asked what the full-time equivalents for the 2017-18 year was, Forensic Science SA is actually going to lose half a person. How they expect them to do more work and comply with these areas is beyond me.

In respect of the youth offenders boot camp, we have this absurd situation where again another secret report, the final evaluation, is due out this year. We are not allowed to see the interim report. Again, taxpayers' money has been spent on this, but we are not allowed to see whether it was good and should be continued, whether it was hopeless and should be abandoned or whether it is not a bad idea but needs some remedy and we could make amendments. Again, it is all a secret.

As for the Fines Enforcement and Recovery Unit, what a mess! We have a situation where the major portion of close to $379 million is owed to the state, and it is growing. All that does is prop up the very dodgy budget of the Treasurer as an asset on the balance sheet, but it does nothing to act as a disciplinary tool for those who should be paying their fines or provide appropriate relief and alternate penalties for those who clearly cannot pay their fines.

With those comments, I indicate that we are again waiting for a whole lot of answers. There are a whole lot of red stickers on my material, so the Attorney is on notice. I expect him to deliver those; I think a date has been set in September for answers to be provided. When they come here, I hope someone in this house makes sure I get a copy.