Bill: Supply Bill 2017


Mr GARDNER ( Morialta ) ( 11:46 ): I rise to speak on the Supply Bill 2017, which proposes to give the government $5.9 billion to spend in the next financial year ahead of there being a budget prepared for the next financial year. Every year, we have a supply bill, and usually it seeks to appropriate $3 billion or thereabouts to get through the first quarter in case there is any hold-up with the full Appropriation Bill—the budget bill—that will cover the whole year. 

As the Deputy Leader of the Opposition just identified, this is a very unusual process being undertaken this year—to seek five months' worth, nearly half of the year's budget, ahead of the actual budget bill. It makes one wonder what exactly the government is doing. Why this breach of protocol, convention and process? Why this incompetence? Why is the government seeking nearly $6 billion without even having to go through a budget process? It does not make for good governance and is not a practice that I endorse or hope we will see again. 

That said, with the government seeking $5.9 billion, it is my happy duty, as the member for Morialta, to offer some suggestions on how they might best spend that money in the year ahead. Of course, this is the regular business of government. Paying salaries for teachers and doctors is tremendously important, and we do not want to put any impediment in front of that, which is why we will be supporting this bill. 

I wish to talk about some issues that are particularly important in my electorate and also in my portfolio area and, as the shadow minister for education, multicultural affairs and the arts, I will endeavour, if there is time, to also touch on some of those issues. I will touch on some of the brief issues first. 

There are some tremendously important works being done, and I commend the Adelaide Hills Council for the work they are doing in conjunction with the powerline undergrounding process and the PLEC committee, which is a collaboration between different levels of government. In particular, I note that some of these processes are in train, and some of these processes are sought but we are optimistic they will be delivered. Certainly, if a Marshall Liberal government is elected at the next election, we will ensure that they are delivered. 

I applaud the work that has already been done to make sure that powerlines are able to be undergrounded in Lobethal in the 2018-19 year and in Gumeracha in the 2019-20 year. I will spend a moment on Gumeracha. In terms of Lobethal, many people go to the wonderful Christmas parade, the Lobethal lights, the Lobethal Living Nativity and all the other things that are in Lobethal. I note the incredible 175th anniversary of Lobethal celebrations, in the presence of the Governor, just on Sunday. It was a tremendous day. 

In terms of Gumeracha, the Gumeracha Main Street committee, formed by Chelsea Lewis and her team, is really focused at the moment on ensuring a body of work to make that town an attractive feature to increase tourism to the area and to ensure that the beautiful history of Gumeracha is maintained and celebrated and the current business opportunities are leveraged to do even better in the future. 

Powerline undergrounding will be one of those things that will be part of a broader strategic plan that the Gumeracha Main Street committee is putting together, and I look forward to that process. I am pleased that the Adelaide Hills Council is on board and supporting that. We will need to make sure that the powerline undergrounding committee supports that work so it can be carried out before the end of this decade. 

A couple of other issues in the local area have been brought to my attention as the shadow minister for education. A total of 168 petitioners have signed a petition in relation to the student crossing at Ridgehaven Primary School requesting that it be improved. As the petition that was presented to the parliament last year said: 

Every week, there are near misses and it is only through good fortune that we haven't seen a tragic accident at this location. 

Your petitioners therefore request that your Honourable House approve funding for improvements to the student crossing at Ridgehaven Primary School—preferably to include pedestrian-activated lights or, at least, a raised 'wombat crossing'. 

I note that in the Leader Messenger in April there was a letter from Dr Richard Harvey, the Liberal candidate for Newland, which I also concur with, in which he wrote: 

It is disappointing that the State Government has ignored community and police concerns about the safety of the school crossing at Ridgehaven Primary School. Not only have hundreds of parents signed a petition asking for the crossing to be upgraded, but police also want the crossing upgraded. The safety of children must come first. Jay Weatherill's response is to disregard parents and police and do more surveys. It is extraordinary that while the government is able to find millions of dollars for spin-doctors in the education department, they can't find the money to make a school crossing safe. I urge Mr Weatherill to listen to the community and police and just get on with fixing the crossing. 

As I said when I spoke to this chamber on 30 November last year about this school crossing that needs some fairly inexpensive works to have it improved, this should not be a political issue. The current signage is inadequate. The current crossing is inadequate. It should be a matter of a couple of days' work during the school holidays—it could have been last summer school holidays; let's hope it is the next one—to get it fixed so that this situation can be improved for all those residents and all those families at the Ridgehaven Primary School and they can have their children walking to school more safely in the years ahead. 

I am going to talk in a moment about Highbury Primary School, which is on the border of my electorate and the Newland electorate and which has some similar issues. While we are on this school crossing issue, it is important to note that we should have more children walking to school and more incentives, rather than fewer for children to walk to school, and ensure that they are safe. We live in a society where we want our young people to be more active. We want children to have less screen time and more exercise. 

This is something that we should all be focused on trying to help happen more often. It is very disappointing that the government has been so slow to act on these school crossings, which are hopefully things that can be fixed relatively easily. This is, I think, the fourth time that I have brought this issue up in parliament. The Hon. Jing Lee has been asking questions of the Minister for Road Safety in the Legislative Council about this matter. Frankly, I am not satisfied that the government has been doing enough to get this fixed. I hope that it is fixed. If the government does not fix it, then a change of government after the election, I am sure, will see these matters fixed. 

In February, I spoke to the house about Highbury Primary School and the petition signed by 571 local residents who live near or who are part of the Highbury Primary School community, noting that the roads there are unsafe. Improvements are needed for those students walking to school, not only across Lower North East Road between Dordoy Street and Stow Court but also across Valley Road, either at or between Honeysuckle Drive and Beckman Avenue. Constituents are calling for improved road signage, road markings and student crossings on the roads immediately surrounding the school and preschool. 

This matter was clearly of concern to the local community, with 571 signatures on the petition. The Hon. Jing Lee asked a question of minister Malinauskas in February. I note the minister said that he would be: 

…more than happy to facilitate higher level discussions with the department so that if there are genuine concerns to be raised and there is a genuine priority that needs to be met that it can be contemplated in the context of all other areas where the government is expending large and significant sums of money to ensure that we do have safe traffic crossings in and around our schools. 

That is apparently all one sentence. What that sentence means will be up to the linguists to decipher. I hope the department will endeavour to do some work on how those crossings might be improved and how the signage around the immediate vicinity of the school might be improved. 

So far, in the local Messenger press—and Ben Cameron did some excellent work for the Leader Messenger in writing about these issues—the government response suggested that the Highbury Primary School might like to reconsider an opportunity to be involved in the Way2Go school bicycle scheme. A scheme that the school did several years ago—and they got some instructors talking about cycling safety—was completely irrelevant to the issue at hand: the need for improved school crossings and signage. 

In relation to the federal government's budget, which is also being held today, there has been an announcement by the federal government in relation to school funding. It will impact South Australia in some ways that are welcome. It is, of course, a lower quantum in the next two financial years—in the 2018 and 2019 years—than was suggested by Bill Shorten and Julia Gillard might come through, had their plan in 2013, which was unfortunately unfunded, come into place. 

Obviously, as the state opposition we would always like more money to come into South Australian schools. The increase on the current forward estimates is welcomed, but what is particularly important here is that we are now talking about a genuinely needs-based funding model, based on the six principles outlined by David Gonski in his initial review. I welcome Mr Gonski's engagement with how this money best can be spent into the future. 

The increases over the next 10 years from the federal government to South Australian schools look like a 5.6 per cent increase to government schools, a 3.7 per cent increase in funding to Catholic schools and a 4.6 per cent increase in funding to independent schools. Across Australia that compares with a 5.1 per cent increase to government schools, 3.5 per cent to Catholic schools and 4.1 per cent to independent schools. 

You will note that the increases to South Australian schools are significantly higher than the increases to schools in other states, and that is because the deal that our Premier, Jay Weatherill, signed with the federal government ahead of that 2013 federal election was an inadequate deal. It was not as good a deal as other states were able to achieve. The Premier is obviously not a very good negotiator when it comes to school funding or when dealing with his federal counterparts, and unfortunately South Australian schools (and I particularly note the comments of Michael Honey from Nazareth College in the South Australian Catholic school sector) have suffered as a consequence and will benefit from the improvements that will happen over 10 years. 

Of course we would like any of that federal funding that was able to come earlier to do so, and we will always stand up for South Australia's interest. There was also a state component of that Gonski funding that was to come as a result of the original agreement, and the state government put it in the budget last year. The Liberal opposition, of course, voted for the budget last year, and we have always supported that contribution coming through and we will continue to support it coming through. 

We will stand by that budget commitment from the state government because the true Gonski model, with those six categories of need, whether it is a disadvantaged or regional and remote location, disability or low SES (and there are a couple of other categories, one of which is for small schools), should be the principle on which needs-based funding is allocated, and it is good that we are getting back to that straightforward principle. 

It is especially important, as today our children are sitting their NAPLAN tests, and it is important for South Australia's future that we are able to deliver the best schools in the country—that should be our ambition: nothing less than the best schools in Australia. This Labor government, after 15 years, has failed to deliver that. Last year, we were last or second to last in 18 of the 20 NAPLAN categories. That is not good enough. Our children deserve better and our community deserves better. Over the years to come, a Liberal government, after the next election, will deliver the best schools in Australia and an improvement in those NAPLAN results, which is tremendously important. 

I want to use the remaining time I have to talk about a particular local issue that is very important to residents of my electorate who live in Woodforde, Teringie and Rostrevor and to residents who live in Magill, in the electorate of the member for Hartley. It relates to the new development at the old Magill Training Centre site, and there is a long history and context to this. 

The Deputy Premier signed the development plan for this site the day after Boxing Day, I think, in 2013, when obviously the minimum possible scrutiny could be applied by the fourth estate, the local Messenger was on a two-week hiatus and many people were on their summer holidays. That plan was to allow about 400 dwellings to be built at Woodforde, rather than the 200 to 250 that Renewal SA talked about in its initial correspondence to local residents. At any rate, it is a plan that our residents are somewhat used to and have been familiar with for over three years now. 

In the week before last, the Department of Planning, Transport and Infrastructure put out a category 3 public notice of application for consent to development for quite a substantial change to the plan. I wrote to local residents as soon as we were able to get the detail of the change to inform them that, far from the three-storey maximum for a couple of buildings identified in the original plan, this one sought that some five-storey developments take place there. 

This is on the old Magill Training Centre site, which is basically Hills Face Zone, and it is an extraordinary development. Constituents of mine and anyone else who is interested have until 10 May—bearing in mind that we got this in the last week of April—to make a submission. I invited all my constituents who wished to do so to put forward their views to the DAC or, if they wished to write to me, I would present them. 

This is an issue on which there has been significant state government abrogation of responsibility in relation to traffic management. This development of 400 houses (it may be more now) is, of course, going to have a massive impact on traffic in the area, so we thought that it was appropriate, as there are already traffic pressures in that area, that the state government produce a traffic management plan and some traffic management improvements. The state government has refused to do that. 

However (and I have spoken to the house on this before), they did come back last year and identified that they would work with the Campbelltown and Adelaide Hills councils to get a new traffic study and, potentially, a plan. The CEO of the department, Michael Deegan, wrote to me in January stating: 

I am advised that on 17 November 2016, representatives from the Department of Planning, Transport and Infrastructure, Adelaide Hills Council and Campbelltown City Council met to discuss a jointly funded Traffic Study for the Woodforde Development and its surrounds. The Traffic Study will be for the area generally bounded by Magill Road, Norton Summit Road, Glen Stuart Road, Moules Road and St Bernards Road and will review the traffic generation rates, distributions and the traffic impacts of the Woodforde Development within the study area, as well as examine any existing problem locations. 

In response to concerns raised by members of the local community at forums, I understand the Councils are also considering expanding the traffic study to review traffic issues on local roads outside the Woodforde Development study area. 

The outcomes of the traffic study will inform the need to undertake any further road management plans of the arterial roads in the area, as well as inform the Councils' road and traffic management programmes. It should be noted that a comprehensive road management plan has already been undertaken for Penfold Road, St Bernards Road, Newton Road and Darley Road. 

It is expected that the traffic study will commence in early 2017 following agreement by Councils and the State Government on the scope. 

I trust this information is of assistance. 

I wrote back to Mr Deegan on 14 March stating: 

Dear Mr Deegan, 

Thank you for your letter dated 20 January 2017 regarding the Housing Development at Woodford e . 

Now that the development is underway I would be grateful to hear what steps will be taken next by the government. 

I note in your last letter you referred to the Road Management Plan for St Bernards Road/Penfold Road, which was previously undertaken. I also note that the government has spent no money delivering the road management plan's recommendations. 

I look forward to your advice on this matter. 

That is true: five years after that road management plan that was referred to, for St Bernards Road and Penfold Road, the government spent no money actually delivering on any achievables. I very much hope that the government will look at the traffic management plan now being undertaken, which is being partly funded by Campbelltown and the Adelaide Hills councils—in fact, majorly funded by them—and a little bit supported by this government, and deliver on the improvements that are suggested. 

The point I want to make in relation to the new application to the housing development is this. How can we possibly have a relevant consideration by the DAC of this new proposal that will increase the height of the buildings in this development until we have had the road management plan, the traffic survey of the traffic there at the moment? 

In the last five days, I have been absolutely inundated through Facebook, email, correspondence, visits to my office and letters to my office. Dozens of constituents have taken the trouble to write letters, make telephone calls or physically visit the office to pass on their concerns. Their concerns are widespread and need to be taken seriously. I will be putting together a comprehensive report of those concerns in a submission I will be sending to the DAC tomorrow on the due date. 

I note that the Adelaide Hills Council has told me they are identifying to the DAC a particular problem when considering this issue prior to the completion of the traffic survey. How can the DAC possibly contemplate the significant impact this is going to have on our local community until we have had that traffic survey work done? That is a point I will also be making to them in supporting the submission by the Adelaide Hills Council that their consideration be deferred until that work is done. 

Because I only have 30 seconds left, I will not read the specific letters of those constituents who have taken the trouble to get in touch, but I note that the flavour of their concerns include: 

  • the irregular infrastructure for the area;
  • that the original development was approved for a maximum of three storeys and this far exceeds that;
  • that it is not located in a site suitable for high density;
  • that it does not meet the required policies and zone objectives;
  • that the buildings are too tall; and
  • that the streets are too narrow for the proposed number of car parks, which are clearly inadequate in this development.
  • I hope the DAC will take notice.