Native Vegetation (Road Verges) Amendment Bill


Mr GARDNER (Morialta) (15:55): I do not know that I have ever heard a four minute speech sound so long, like an indefinitely timed opposition speaker, for a lead speaker against a bill. The point that I want to make is that this is a very brief bill. I make no reflection on the member for Fisher. I think that she put forward the government's case such as the government's case is and can be put forward, but the government's case is based on a bureaucratic approach to governing that typifies so much of what is wrong with the way that the South Australian government has dealt with the community over the last 13½ years.

There has never been something that could be dealt with simply for which this government has not found a complex, bureaucratic, longwinded, red tape-driven method of applying an approach instead, and this bill is the perfect example. I encourage and will be encouraging any casual reader of the Hansard, who is interested in the way that government and opposition interact in relation to the laws of the state, to consider the government's case as just put by the member for Fisher and then consider the substance of the bill. The substance of the bill is really very simple. It is two clauses, one of which, I remind members, is that:

native vegetation may be cleared without any other restriction under this act if the clearance occurs on a road verge and is reasonably required—

and there are two reasons for which it is reasonably required—

  1. for road safety purposes; or

Then, there is a definition of road verge:

road verge means the area of land adjacent to a public road bounded by—

It is a very clear, simple definition of what our community expectation should be to create safety in both the sense of road safety and in the sense of clearing fuel loads such as to present disaster when there are fires.

I know the member for Fisher represents an area for whom many constituents would have concerns about this, as I do, as both of our electorates are on the boundaries of the city, where the Hills and our CFS units in our townships are equally as important to us as for those who live in what would be more typically be categorised as suburban Adelaide. So I know she has an understanding of some of the points of view that we put forward in relation to this, but I know that I when talk to my CFS captains and CFS volunteers, and when I talk to road users, the people who live along these roads, who have to live through every summer with the prospect of fire coming along, when there is an uncleared build-up of fuel on the road, they ask why it has not been cleared up, and it is because of the monstrous amounts of paperwork that have to be dealt with before dealing with it.

The opposition's view—and it is a view on which the shadow minister for emergency services, the member for Morphett, consulted with the CFS, the SES, the MFS and the Local Government Association—is that we should take a common sense approach which, as I have identified in the two clauses, says that if fuel needs to be cleared to reduce the fuel load on the road verge or if for road safety purposes vegetation needs to be cleared, then that is something that is available to the community. However, the government seeks to complicate, the government seeks to add red tape.

The government does not seem to have any trust in members of the South Australian community. They assume that members of the community, who live in these areas every day having to deal with the issues, are going to be less wise about the management of their affairs than the people who are employed to go through the forms and check that they have gone through the procedures and check they have filled out in triplicate and are sent by the right date and gone through all the authorities. It is something that should actually be in place not only for public safety in terms of bushfires but also for road safety.

Fundamentally and simply, this bill will allow property owners to clean up their road verges without having to deal with all those state government and local government regulations in the circumstances identified very simply in the bill. It will clear confusion. It will apply a little bit of common sense. The bill allows for what is reasonably required. It does not give a defence for removing significant trees; it does not give a defence for desertification of the road verge; it does not give a defence for environmental vandalism; it does not give a defence for the sorts of behaviours that I think the government expresses concern about.

I am disappointed that the government has identified that they will not be supporting the bill and, as I do not think the bill will be voted on this afternoon, I hope that the government will take some time in the weeks and potentially months ahead, while this matter is under further consideration, to change its mind.

The Hon. A. Piccolo: No. I won't.

Mr GARDNER: The minister identifies that—

The DEPUTY SPEAKER: Order!

Mr GARDNER: —he does not think that is likely.

The Hon. A. Piccolo: The advice I got from the CFS—

The DEPUTY SPEAKER: Order! It is unparliamentary to interject and to respond to interjections. The member for Morialta is entitled to be heard in silence. I give the call to the member for Morialta and ask him to remain on task.

Mr GARDNER: In that case, I return to—

The DEPUTY SPEAKER: And not speak for the government.

Mr GARDNER: I return to—

The DEPUTY SPEAKER: No, on task.

Mr GARDNER: Yes, I return to the task I was on before I responded to the interjections of the minister.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER: Thank you.

Mr GARDNER: The point I would make to all members of the chamber is that, if one is here as a representative of a party that is not supporting this bill, then I urge such a member to reconsider their position and encourage such a member, whatever party they might be a part of, to go to their caucus and rethink this, because it is frankly common sense.

People in outer suburban and Hills areas and those who actually represent areas with CFS brigades having to deal with these sorts of issues, I think would have some comfort. If there are parties that seek to continue opposing what this group in our community needs and what the CFS—and other volunteers, I am sure—would be grateful for, then they can continue to do so, but it is not what the community wants.

Dr McFetridge: And the next coronial inquiry, they won't give evidence.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER: Order! If I reach for the Speaker's book, which I am bringing now to look at—

The Hon. J.M. Rankine interjecting:

The DEPUTY SPEAKER: —the member for Morialta is on his second warning—

Dr McFetridge interjecting:

The DEPUTY SPEAKER: Order—and the member for Morphett is on his first warning and I will have no hesitation in adding to the score, none whatsoever. Back on task. Off you go.

Mr GARDNER: The point I was making before again—

The Hon. A. Piccolo interjecting:

The DEPUTY SPEAKER: Order!

Mr GARDNER: —I was so rudely interrupted by the member for Wright was that all members should have a good long hard think about this and, in the time remaining, in the weeks before we may come to a vote on this, everyone has an opportunity to have a road to Damascus style conversion—

The Hon. A. Piccolo: You can too. One day you will too and join the winning team.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER: Minister.

Mr GARDNER: —and come to a sensible conclusion that, in fact, the Liberal Party has in fact come to, which is that the member for Morphett has brought forward an entirely sensible proposition to the house—

The Hon. A. Piccolo: Why are you on that side, then?

The DEPUTY SPEAKER: The Minister for Emergency Services is called to order.

Mr GARDNER: —something that will make people's life better, something that will improve public safety. Imagine that! A bill that will actually improve public safety and reduce red tape all at the same time.

The Hon. A. Piccolo interjecting:

Mr GARDNER: I am distracted, Deputy Speaker, by the—

The DEPUTY SPEAKER: I'm being provoked. I know how you feel.

Mr GARDNER: I am distracted by the comments of the minister—

The DEPUTY SPEAKER: I'm being distracted as well.

Mr GARDNER: I feel I need to restate where I was, which is that members of the government should think long and hard about what they are doing if they choose to vote against this matter. It is something I urge them all to consider.

The Hon. P. CAICA (Colton) (16:03): I will be brief in my contribution. I can assure the opposition that there will be no reconsideration of this matter. There will be no road to Damascus, and the reason there will not be is that, if there was—

Mr Gardner: That's what Paul said before he went to Damascus.