Second Reading

Ms CHAPMAN (Bragg—Deputy Leader of the Opposition) (12:01): I rise to indicate my support for the Supply Bill presently before the parliament to approve the appropriation of $3.29 billion for the continued operations of government, in particular the salaries of public servants and continued funding of programs pending the consideration and approval of the budget yet to be presented by the government.

The fiscal performance of the current government is clearly woeful. Nevertheless, we understand the responsibility of maintaining the operation of government pending budget approval. What I will say is this: in simple terms, it is of great concern to me that the government continue to be blind to the annual deficit and accumulating state debt.

In the time I have been here in parliament, they have had a continuous clearing sale of just about everything that moves—and there is not much left. Although there is some stock left in the Housing Trust, according to a recent government announcement it is to sell everything within a 10-kilometre region. That will affect my electorate because they will be selling those first—unquestionably a quick, available sale.

They still have the desal plant and some wastewater treatment plants, but I do not doubt for one moment, at the rate the government is going, that they will be up for grabs in due course as well. They have announced they are selling the MAC—a sacred cow some would say, but I would say a well-performing asset—and it is with no justification other than to raid its resources and reserves to prop up the government's inefficiency.

Also for sale is the State Administration Centre. In the CBD, the heart of government, these properties are up for sale. They have sold just about every government building, but now the Education Building and the headquarters for government in State Administration are for sale. And because they have not been able to get a sale, they throw in another sweetener, the Torrens Building, which they promised, back in the original announcement, would not be sold.

Again, the government is desperate: they sold the forests under value and they sold the lotteries commission and they are now getting to the bottom of the barrel. They need to understand that there is not much left. South Australians cannot continue to prop up the irresponsible financial management of this administration.

The state's indicia of economic performance and the great social cost that follows and social dislocation from our unemployment and the fact that we are now top of the ladder for our performance in relation to making it attractive for our young people to stay in South Australia when they are still leaving in droves just confirms how economically stagnant we are.

In economic terms, I think that the only other underperforming jurisdiction, other than South Australia, of course, is the Northern Territory and, given their financial position and minimal population, that is understandable. So, we are top of the pack in leading indicia such as unemployment and bottom of the pack in economic performance. Is it little wonder that we have still anyone in South Australia who is not looking for greener pastures.

The government's announcement in relation to health reform, on the back of complaint about some alleged reduction of financial contribution by the people in Canberra, and taking no accountability themselves, is to attempt to abolish the Health Performance Council. They have finally backtracked on that, but they are still pursing their Transforming Health agenda on the basis that they say that they can justifiably increase our health services in South Australia, yet they want to cram seven emergency departments in our major metropolitan hospitals into three. I think that is scandalous and completely undermines their public commitment to the health and welfare of South Australians.

Their more recent announcement that they would close the Repatriation General Hospital as an acute health services hospital is something the public has been outspoken about and will continue to be. It is a scandalous decision by the government and it is a complete abrogation of responsibility to those who have served our country and to the families who have needed their services in the past and will continue to need their services.

As to infrastructure, notwithstanding the whinging and whining of the government in respect of its alleged poor circumstances with respect to the federal government, the government is doing things with infrastructure which continue to scandalise and undermine its claims of being financially responsible.

The Torrens Junction grade separation of freight and passenger rail, for example, a project which has stagnated and which is inconsistent with the state government's own published plan, will leave us in a circumstance where $232 million of federal money is sitting parked in an account and not being applied. It is just scandalous! On one hand, the Treasurer and the Premier come into this place and repeatedly go on about the federal government. There is money sitting in accounts which, if they got their act together and did their job, would ensure that we had that money applied and, in this case, would address the very dangerous situation we have in South Australia, where our construction sector is desperate for work.

It is critical for South Australia to start putting forward quality projects for that government funding. Every state is in there getting the money. We have an infrastructure Prime Minister and we have Warren Truss out there on a regular basis saying that he is ready to build Australia, yet South Australia is sitting on its hands, sitting back here whinging and not getting those projects ready. Again, it is a scandalous mismanagement and not dealing with the importance of ensuring that we have work for South Australians and opportunity for our young.

I also want to say today, on a particular infrastructure project, how deeply disappointed I was in the government's announcement that they would have an ANZAC walk along Kintore Avenue as our Gallipoli centenary year foundation item. The states had an opportunity to put in to get commonwealth money, put in a bit themselves and to seek, in this case, Adelaide City Council support for that project.

In terms of the 100 Years of ANZAC celebrations, in particular the Gallipoli recognition of the service and sacrifice of men and women in that conflict, we have known about the projects that were to be done to support the celebration of that centenary, yet the government has not even turned the first sod! This is a brick walkway. It is not some great huge construction. It is a $10 million project. You would think that they would at least have had that ready for when we had the significant recognition day on 25 April this year. However, it is still on the drawing board and we are waiting for that to take place.

This is a year of recognition of the contribution that South Australians have made to the Great War, World War I. I would hope some recognition is given by someone in the government (whether it is here in Parliament House or in the walkway) to those who have been members of this parliament who have given service and served in public life, whether they be governors, premiers, members of parliament or those who have held judicial positions. There is all manner of people in leadership roles in South Australia who have made their contributions as well.

Dr Weste, of our library, has provided me with a list of those in our parliament who have served, and I will briefly refer to them. Mr Edward Bagot, MLC from 1938 to 1941, in 1916 embarked Adelaide as a lieutenant in the 1st Australian Wireless Signals Squadron. John Bice, MLC from 1941 to 1959 for the Liberal Country League, enlisted in July 1916. Arthur Seaforth Blackburn, a member in the House of Assembly, is well known to members, I am sure, because of his decoration as a contributor both at Gallipoli and then in France in 1916. He was later a state president of the RSL from 1946 to 1949. He was highly decorated and awarded the VC.

George Fedor Baron Hundt Bockelberg was the member for Eyre for the Liberal Country League from 1956 to 1968 and enlisted in the 9th Light Horse Regiment in February 1915 and served at Gallipoli and the Western Front. Horace Bowden was an ALP member for Gouger from July 1943 to April 1944 and enlisted in 1916. Norman Brookman, MLC from 1941 to 1949, served in France as a gunner with the 11th Brigade Field Artillery. Archie Cameron was the member for Wooroora from 1927 to 1934 for the Country Party and enlisted in the AIF in 1916 and fought on the Western Front.

William Joseph Denny was a member of the House of Assembly for the United Labor Party, the member for West Adelaide from 1900 to 1902 and Adelaide from 1902 to 1933. His descendant Bill Denny, of course, has served in veterans organisations in South Australia. He enlisted in 1915 and was commissioned in 1916 as Second Lieutenant in the 9th Light Horse and was awarded other decoration. Lieutenant Colonel James O'Loghlin, a member of the Labor Party, was involved in SA's volunteer forces from 1883 and enlisted at age 62 in August 1915. I also mention George Yates, MHR for Adelaide from 1914 to 1919 and then again from 1922 to 1931 for the ALP.

I conclude by particularly acknowledging Sir Thomas Playford, whose portrait adorns this chamber. He was a member of this parliament as the member for the seat of Murray from 1933 to 1938 and, when its name changed to Gumeracha, from 1938 to 1968 for the Liberal Party. He enlisted in May 1915 for the 27th Battalion. He landed at ANZAC Cove in September 1915 and served three months there. Then he fought on the Western Front in France and Belgium. He was severely wounded and promoted to Lieutenant. I particularly acknowledge him, but in no way do I suggest that does not recognise those who have otherwise served. However, he was severely injured and, notwithstanding that, returned and made a very substantial contribution.

I will refer to Stewart Cockburn's reference in the chapter titled 'Death's Feast' in Playford: the Benevolent Despot, which he published some years ago. A whole chapter is dedicated to his service. I think it tells us of the character of those who served and, I am proud to say, of those amongst them who have served us here in the parliament on all sides of politics, when he wrote that German messages were 'fired by means of de-fused rifle grenades into the Australian positions', and this is at the time they had arrived in enemy territory:

'Welcome, you brave Australian heroes, [they] said. 'Soon your blood will stain the fields of France. You will find the German dog can bite. Witness Verdun.' It was a taunt full of prophetic, deathly truth.

Playford was to fight with his battalion in slaughter houses like those at Messines, The Somme The Ancre, the Ypres Salient, Passchendaele and Pozieres Ridge. He was to be terribly wounded at Flers, near the end of the last battles of the long campaign on The Somme with their appalling suffering and casualties. Few Australian soldiers saw more action than he did. Few endured the hell of war more stoically. Yet hardly a word in his own handwriting survives to disclose what his own inner feelings and emotions may have been, or to betray what misery or fear he experienced. A few postcards written to his mother survive. According to Sir Walter Crocker, some prayers, perhaps chosen by his mother, were found after his death in his wartime wallet, one of the few mementoes of the war he had bothered to keep. His family say they can now find no trace of these prayers, of which even Lady Playford, on the eve of her own death in 1986, seemed unaware. Of his sensitivity to the ghastliness of all the events he witnessed there can be no doubt. His family and those close friends sometimes watched tears trickle down his cheeks as anniversary occasions recalled to him things he was so characteristically reluctant to speak about.

The contribution that South Australians made who then came back and served in public life and, in particular, in this parliament, does, I think, deserve some acknowledgement.

I would hope the government would consider, in addition to the walk they are doing, that we do something here in the parliament to recognise those who have served and indeed to provide at least the facility to ultimately embrace others who have served in other subsequent conflicts who have also served in the parliament.

I think it would be a fitting tribute to this parliament to ensure that, just as we have recognised women in the parliament, on special occasions we do recognise the sacrifice of those who, like Sir Thomas Playford, who went on to serve over 26 years as a premier of the state, made that contribution and returned really in humility and in silence. Really, only now and in recent decades are we uncovering the extraordinary contribution they made. With that, I endorse the passage of the Supply Bill.