The Hon. J.A.W. Gardner: The Adelaide Hills?
Mr BELL: This is where the debate comes in, doesn't it—what is country and what is peri-urban? However, for the sake of not engaging in debate, which is unparliamentary, the Adelaide Hills matter. I have been the member for Mount Gambier, South Australia's largest regional city, for over five years.
The Hon. A. Piccolo: And for many more years.
Mr BELL: Thank you. It is home to 26,000 people, the famous Blue Lake and major farming and forestry industries, and it is a region that chips in more than its fair share to the coffers of government. Combined, South Australia's regions contribute more than $20 billion towards our state's economy. Over 400,000 people choose to live in our regions, and they deserve to have their voice heard. I see country cabinet as a way for South Australians to proactively play a role in government decision-making and to feel that their issues, challenges and voices matter.
As elected members, it is essential for us to be accountable to the people of South Australia. We make decisions in this place that affect the entire state. Country cabinet is a chance to meet state ministers. I accept that the government will probably argue that out of the 12 'truly regional seats', the Liberal Party represents all but four. But what I put forward is that there are only three regional ministers out of a cabinet of 14. It is one thing to say our backbench represents regions, but, of course, to have the cabinet attend regional areas is a vastly different scenario and, in my opinion, a sign of respect to regional communities.
My concern—and I have seen it, although I need to point out that this is not always the case—is that some ministers fly down to Mount Gambier, conduct department-crafted meetings, get on a plane and fly out the same day. Of course, that does not always occur, but it is a worrying trend that I see. I believe the Minister for Regional Development will be down in my area next week, and he has pointed out that he will be staying overnight, so I commend minister Whetstone for that. My recollection of the country cabinet—
Mr BELL: Can I have a bit of protection, Deputy Speaker?
The Hon. A. PICCOLO: Point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker.
The DEPUTY SPEAKER: Order in the house! The member for Mount Gambier—
The DEPUTY SPEAKER: Order! The member for Mount Gambier is speaking. He is speaking to his motion.
The Hon. J.A.W. Gardner interjecting:
The DEPUTY SPEAKER: The Minister for Education will listen in silence. Member for Mount Gambier, continue. Do not respond to interjections; charge on regardless.
Mr BELL: My recollection of Labor's country cabinet in Mount Gambier was a series of meetings held with different stakeholders. Ministers would go out to different groups on the same day. But the important part was the gathering at Mount Gambier High School, where the community came together for a barbecue lunch and informal chats with state ministers and then proceeded into a forum where the Premier spoke to my community and addressed questions from the floor. There was a sense of the government of the day listening to residents' concerns, with departmental staff following up genuine inquiries subsequent to that meeting.
Of course, country cabinet is not new. There is a famous picture hanging in the corridor just outside the Premier's office, where Speaker Peter Lewis went one step further than country cabinet and sought to hold parliament outside our Parliament House. That was held at the Sir Robert Helpmann Theatre down in Mount Gambier. Whilst I am reliably informed that the cost of such an exercise was enormous, I am not advocating for that level of engagement with regions. However, country cabinets, I think, are an important factor in our state's democracy and I would encourage this current government to look at them.
In 2014, it was the member for Frome who was the instigator of the Labor Party bringing back country cabinets, saying, 'We need to get parliament back to the people.' In this day and age, I could not agree more. I am not reflecting on Labor or Liberal in this case, but I am reflecting on the community's disconnect with the democratic process and the cynicism that is creeping into the psyche of voters. I think that they can certainly be addressed by more direct contact from ministers, and I am not just talking about MPs.
Through Labor's process, more than 6,000 people attended country cabinets in regional South Australia. Country cabinet also led to the YourSAy initiative by using the feedback gathered throughout the visit to form an issues paper, which then gave the community further opportunity to have their say. Government agencies had to provide a response to the issues they were responsible for, making the state government further accountable to people in regional areas who wanted their ideas heard. The Fund My Idea grant program also came from country cabinet, allowing communities to vote for projects in their region.
In November 2015, country cabinet came to Mount Gambier, as I have mentioned before. Some of the issues that were addressed were fracking, health care, natural resources and mobile phone blackspots. I think this is a wonderful opportunity for the current state government—
The Hon. J.A.W. Gardner: What was the response from the government then?
Mr BELL: This is a wonderful opportunity for the—
The DEPUTY SPEAKER: Member for Mount Gambier, I am going to ask you to stop for a moment. The Minister for Education continues to interject out of his place, so could we cease interjections. The member for Mount Gambier is doing a good job speaking to his motion.
Mr BELL: Can I start again, sir?
The DEPUTY SPEAKER: No, you cannot.
Mr BELL: I think this is a wonderful opportunity for the current government to share positive stories with our community because, if we look at most of those issues—fracking, health care, natural resources management and mobile phone blackspots—they are issues that have been addressed with funding attached to them, and I think it is a missed opportunity.
It is true that at the time I spoke on local media about country cabinet and during that interview I was quite critical of the response to country cabinet by the department. I need to be clear, and I will quote from that interview:
Mr Bell did say the State Government's focus on opening up new export markets to China was to be commended.
'The China focus is certainly a good one and I commend the State [Labor] Government for initiating these China delegations...A number of our producers are already in China that are export ready, but, I agree, it is good to open it up to other producers and industries.'
The State Government's Fund My Idea project which recently benefitted two Limestone Coast recipients was also to be commended, he said.
But Mr Bell said many issues…residents were concerned about, such as fracking…the south east drainage network, had simply been glossed over in the response from State Government.
When asked what score he would give the cabinet, Mr Bell replied, 'Two out of 10'.
'One point for making the effort to travel to the region and…another one for recognising the issues...Congratulations for coming down here, congratulations for working out the issues, but the…response section is very, very disappointing.'
I want to put on record that I was not critical of country cabinet; in fact, I support country cabinets. I gave credit to the government for attending Mount Gambier for country cabinet, but the report that was generated out of that by the department was very, very disappointing because it did not address the issues that were raised and couched on that day.
In closing, I would like to re-emphasise the catchphrase that 'regions matter' and that ministers addressing and attending country cabinets is a good way for this government to be seen to be listening and to respect those who live more than two or three hours from Adelaide by having their voices and concerns heard. I am calling on this government to reintroduce a country cabinet schedule, and I invite the cabinet to Mount Gambier to launch the country cabinet schedule.
The Hon. T.J. WHETSTONE (Chaffey—Minister for Primary Industries and Regional Development) (12:24): I would like to rise and move an amendment to the member for Mount Gambier's motion. He knows that this government is very careful and considered about regional South Australia. I move to amend the motion as follows:
Delete all the words after 'this house' and substitute:
(a) recognises the importance of regional South Australia and its communities;
(b) acknowledges South Australia's regions underpin the state's economy, contributing more than $20 billion;
(c) highlights this government's $773 million investment over four years, as allocated in the 2018-19 state budget; and
(d) notes the Marshall Liberal government is committed to growing our regions.
I have taken on board what the member for Mount Gambier had to say; he raised some point that I will take on notice. This government is going to govern for all South Australia—
The DEPUTY SPEAKER: Minister, I would like to ask you to stop for a moment. We need to see a signed copy of that proposed amendment for you to speak to, please.
The Hon. T.J. WHETSTONE: Indeed, sir.
The DEPUTY SPEAKER: I remind the minister that the amendment he is proposing really needs to relate back to the original motion. It may or may not. I will view it when he brings it up.
The Hon. T.J. WHETSTONE: I thank the Minister for Education for ripping up my notes. It will be much easier to read out. As a regional MP, the member for Mount Gambier knows all too well how important the regions are to South Australia. His electorate is a key region to the state's economic growth, and his region needs a constant stream of visiting ministers to understand the issues and hear the fantastic stories.
Over the past 12 months, under the Marshall Liberal government, that is exactly what he has had. He has had a constant stream of ministers visiting the Mount Gambier electorate, including me. As he said, I will be there again next week. There are some details we would like to clarify. I think I have made five visits to Mount Gambier in the past 12 months, and of those times—
The DEPUTY SPEAKER: Minister for Primary Industries, I am going to interrupt you. I have a copy of your amendment to the original motion and, from what I can see, it does not actually mention country cabinet at all. The original motion was specifically about country cabinet. I will let the Manager of Government Business work on that while you continue to speak.
The Hon. T.J. WHETSTONE: Thank you. Yes, I will continue to speak. 'Country' is code for regions. I would say to the member for Mount Gambier that, yes, I have been down on a number of occasions and have stayed overnight to look at a large part of his electorate and that of the member for MacKillop while I was down there.
If we are going to talk about country cabinet and question the validity of what country cabinets achieve, other than being a couple of days out of town, I ask the member for Mount Gambier: how many times did country cabinet visit Mount Gambier? I would ask the opposition: how many times did the country cabinet visit regional South Australia annually?
Mr Hughes: We visited every region.
The Hon. T.J. WHETSTONE: You have your chance to make your contribution. I would like to hear this. What I want to know is: does it compare? We have a steady stream of our ministers—the cabinet—out in the regions very regularly. We also have all the government members out in the regions. They understand the importance of regions. The majority of our regional MPs live and breathe regional South Australia; they live and breathe the country air that it offers. We saw country cabinets visiting—I think they were doing two country cabinets a year—
The Hon. G.G. Brock: No, three.
The Hon. T.J. WHETSTONE: Three? That is really rocking it. Of the $800,000 that it cost taxpayers over that two years, let's compare. In its first 12 months this government has visited regional South Australia 255 times. Do you hear that? There have been 255 visits. They are cabinet ministers visiting regional South Australia. As the Minister for Regional Development, I am proud to say that I have made 56 regional visits to South Australia. Nothing warms the cockles of my heart more—other than one of the greatest electorates in the state, which is Chaffey, and everyone knows that—than getting out into the regions.
It gives me some form of constipation when I hear that we are looking for country cabinets to be reintroduced to visit the regions twice a year—knock yourself out, guys—when the current government in its first 12 months has been there 250 times. It really does beggar belief that country members would not be getting the benefit of those ministers visiting the regions. I have said that one-third of the members of our parliamentary team live in the regions. There are four ministers who sit at the cabinet table who come from regional South Australia. Arguably, there are five, but there is always a bit of a blurry line about the urban fringe and what differentiates metropolitan and regional South Australia.
But we have to remember that the cabinet meets twice a week to understand just exactly what regional South Australia means to the South Australian economy and the importance of the regions being buoyant, producing food and fibre for the state's economy. It also should be noted that the Premier—are we listening over there?—has made 40 regional visits in his first 12 months as Premier. He is the Premier of South Australia, the most powerful person in South Australia. He has been out to the regions 40 times—not two, 40 times. I hope that everyone can hear that in their offices. It shows his dedication to regional South Australia, just like this government's dedication.
Again, we know regional South Australia contributes about $25 billion to the state's economy and contains 29 per cent of the state's population. For too long we have seen a previous government centralise services. We have seen the previous government centralise the mentality, the budget bottom lines, in metropolitan Adelaide by and large. We know Adelaide is a one-city state, but the importance of regional South Australia cannot be understated not only as an economy, not only as a driver, but also because it feeds the world.
I would also like to say that this government is committed to investing wisely. In the last 12 months, we have seen some fantastic projects and programs going out to regional South Australia through the Regional Growth Fund. We are going to see the economic business fund that is going to put money into our regions. We are going to see budget bottom lines that are putting money into our regions.
We do not need any excuse to have a Regional Growth Fund or what the previous government had, which was a regional development fund. That is pretty much where it stopped. We noticed that a lot of that money went to certain electorates and a lot did not go to a lot of electorates. It was duly noted. The 10-year commitment of the growth fund is critically important. It is important we have a long-term commitment.
We talk about blackspot funding. That has been a bone of contention for probably 16 years. The digital connection for regional South Australia has been amiss. Sadly, we have seen the regions of South Australia miss out on $220 million of federal government money through rounds 1, 2 and 3. That digital connection went amiss, so we have put a commitment of $10 million on the table and it is now being leveraged. We have announced the 29 blackspot towers that are about to be rolled out. It is great news for regional South Australia.
Again, we look at supporting our RDA boards. They have now been given some certainty. The $12 million over four years means they can get on with the job of developing our regions rather than looking at the next grant stream. It is so they can actually keep an allocation of money to support their job. There is $192 million over 10 years for country health services; for education—and a fine education minister we have—$194.7 million over four years to modernise our education facilities; and, as I said, we talked about the mobile blackspot programs. There are also the trade offices, and it is about understanding how we vertically integrate some of our businesses, about putting our produce into our trade market so that we can grow our economy and create more jobs.
Regional South Australia is important and this side of the house, this government, understands just exactly how important it is. That is why we have made over 250 visits to regional South Australia, that is why the Premier has been out there 40 times and that is why I, as regional development minister, have been out there 55 times. Regional South Australia matters.
The DEPUTY SPEAKER: Before I call the next speaker, I inform the Minister for Primary Industries that having viewed his amendment I am actually going to rule it out of order, due to the fact that it did not relate nearly well enough to the original motion. Having said that, I understand there is possibly a further amendment coming when the Minister for Education makes his contribution. However, I am going to call first somebody from the other side if they wish to speak. Member for Giles.
Mr HUGHES (Giles) (12:36): Thank you, Deputy Speaker. I commend this motion from the member for Mount Gambier. He knew the value of country cabinet meetings, as did lots of other people from regional South Australia.
Mr HUGHES: There is always room for improvement. In the Marshall government, the Minister for Primary Industries and Regional Development, in particular, often ends his speeches in parliament by saying '#RegionsMatter'. All the time we hear it, '#RegionsMatter'. This has been happening for a year now, but hashtags do not help people, hashtags do not listen to people and hashtags do not visit the state's regions in a way that is open to all residents.
Instead of spruiking his catchphrase, the minister should spend more time encouraging his leader, the Premier, to follow Labor's lead and hold regular country cabinet meetings. Refusing to do so is a slap in the face for people in the regions who voted for a Liberal government and who expected to see that Liberal government in their regional town or city. They expected to be able to speak to cabinet ministers who visited them collectively, not the other way around.
The Minister for Primary Industries and Regional Development, who is also a local MP in a regional area, will tell you time and time again that his government's ministers do visit the regions—and I am sure they do. However, the answer to that is plain and simple: absolutely no money was allocated in the 2018 slash and cut budget for country cabinet meetings. In very simple terms, that means the Marshall government does not care about regions and what people living in those regions have to say. Ministers do not want to take the time to get in their car or catch a flight to listen, as an entire team, to the needs and concerns of people in every corner of South Australia.
Mr Pederick: Just say thank you before we rip up the cheque.
Mr HUGHES: When I need to say thank you, as the Premier knows, I am more than happy to say thank you on public media—and I have done so. It is been a year of disappointment for the state's regions, which have been dealt a series of blows by the Marshall Liberal government. Regional communities have been dudded by this government's broken promises, undelivered policies and lack of funding, including cutting funds to Primary Industries and Regions SA and the South Australian Research and Development Institute, and failing to adhere—
The Hon. T.J. Whetstone interjecting:
The DEPUTY SPEAKER: Order! Member for Giles, one moment. The member for Giles deserves to be heard in silence. Minister for Primary Industries, you have had your opportunity and you were listened to. The member for Giles has that same opportunity.
Mr HUGHES: —thank you, Deputy Speaker—to its promise to increase rural road speeds to 110 km/h. Come on, where are we? You have had a year to do that. You have cut $26 million from regional road funding. There is no direct tangible significant support for producers affected by the drought in parts of the state, especially in comparison to the work that has been done in other states to assist drought-affected farmers and pastoralists.
You have cut the female change room funding, which has impacted on a number of regional communities, including one of mine at Roxby Downs. You have ignored the state's 277,000 recreational fishers and are in fact looking to remove funding from the independent body that has ably represented recreational fishers in RecFish SA. You have closed TAFE facilities in Roxby Downs and Coober Pedy. You have threatened to privatise SA Pathology, undermining the important work this service provides in regional communities. You were given the opportunity to rule out the privatisation of SA Pathology and you did not choose to rule that out.
You have refused to fund the PACE program (the Plan for Accelerating Exploration) an incredibly important program for regional South Australia. This is a program that led directly to the discovery of Carrapateena, the 500 jobs that are being developed there and the additional jobs that are going to come with the additional investment that OZ Minerals has flagged, a very important program for regional South Australia.
Then we have the courts under threat—the courts in Port Pirie and Whyalla—and the impact that will have on regional communities. You talk about the Regional Growth Fund and the $150 million in that fund. That is just a substitute for the $150 million program over 10 years that we had, except yours will actually entail a cut over time because as yet there has been no CPI adjustment flagged for that particular program.
And of course you have cut country cabinet meetings. The Marshall government has proven time and time again that regional communities are not a priority. The year 2019 is the fifth anniversary of country cabinet meetings. They first began under a Labor government. Over four of those years, premier Weatherill and his entire team listened to the concerns of 6,200 people who attended country cabinet meetings in regional South Australia. There were no gatekeepers there. Everyone from a community that was visited—and there are often multiple communities in an electorate—could turn up. Anyone could ask questions of all the ministers there, and those ministers were accompanied by senior members of the departments. That was an incredibly important initiative.
As a regional member, I would be one of the first people to acknowledge that there is a metro-centric culture in this state. It is a pervasive metro-centric culture in this state, and it has run through governments past and present. Because I am old enough, I remember the record of the previous Liberal government and what they did in regional South Australia, and it was not an attractive picture. They ignored regional South Australia and concentrated on the city.
Country cabinet meetings were held in every region in South Australia. The public forums were very popular and gave all members of the community the opportunity to directly question ministers in a very open way. Also throughout that time, more than 22,000 votes were cast in the Fund My Idea initiative. It defies logic that the Liberal government, which continuously claims that regions matter, would scrap this very worthwhile initiative—and it was a worthwhile initiative. I will not go on about Fund My Idea, but initiatives from many electorates were funded through that particular participatory program. It was a very worthwhile program that we subsequently built on to assist our regional communities.
One thing that I suggest the current cabinet does is go to some of those areas that have been affected by drought because some of those people are questioning the commitment of this government to drought-affected farmers and pastoralists in parts of our state. Look at what has happened interstate. I acknowledge that the drought interstate has been more extensive and longer lasting, but when we look at the incredible amount of tangible assistance provided interstate we know that some of the assistance that has been provided has had a knock-on effect in this state in a number of different ways.
I urge this government to reinstate country cabinet visits because it was a very important initiative. When ministers go out and meet with select people who are not, generally speaking, in open forums, it is just a minister or it might be two ministers. This is an opportunity for the whole of the cabinet to go out. It is an opportunity for the whole of the cabinet to meet with different communities out in regional South Australia and receive feedback and questions without any gatekeepers there.
The fact so many people did participate indicates that people in regional South Australia thought it was a worthwhile initiative. There is sometimes a degree of amnesia amongst those opposite when it comes to the record of the previous Labor government on regional South Australia. There was incredibly significant investment in the upgrade of many of our regional hospitals, and it is good to see the Minister for Education and the cabinet committing to the school in Whyalla.
The Hon. J.A.W. GARDNER (Morialta—Minister for Education) (12:46): It is a great pleasure to be able to speak after the member for Giles. While I was disappointed that the member for Mount Gambier, a man whose political judgement I have some regard for on most occasions, moved the motion, I am absolutely chuffed to be able to respond to the member for Giles and the Labor Party's point of view on their lack of service to regional South Australia in the last 16 years. Their failure, over 16 years of Labor government, to deliver a new high school for the people of Whyalla is a case in point, as is the failure of the Labor government to deliver new entrepreneurial education in Mount Gambier and the failure of the Labor government in so many ways.
I seek to move an amendment to the motion. I move:
Delete everything after 'this house' and substitute:
(a) recognises the importance of regional South Australia and its communities;
(b) acknowledges South Australia's regions underpin the state's economy, contributing more than $20 billion;
(c) highlights this government's $773 million investment over four years, as allocated in the 2018-19 state budget;
(d) notes the Marshall Liberal government is committed to growing our regions; and
(e) notes that the former Labor government's country cabinet schedule did not see meaningful improvements to Labor policies and prefers the Liberal government's method of meaningfully engaging with regional South Australia.
The DEPUTY SPEAKER: Minister, given that you have mentioned country cabinet, I will accept the amendment.
The Hon. J.A.W. GARDNER: Thank you, sir. There were hundreds of visits from cabinet ministers within the first year. The member for Mount Gambier and the member for Giles talk about how on three occasions a year—or maybe two; it is not entirely clear, but certainly on fewer occasions than can be counted on one hand—members of the former Labor government's cabinet visited country South Australia.
They had the member for Frome, who would drive to his electorate, obviously as a member of the cabinet. However, the Labor members of cabinet had to get out their GPS to find out where the schedule was for the country cabinet and then they would go and visit somewhere they had never been before. They would turn up to a meeting—if they turned up; I am not sure that all members of the cabinet turned up to every single one of those country cabinet meetings—and then all of them would be available at once. So, if you had two ministers you wanted to meet with or two issues you were concerned about with the government, then over the course of four years, if you were lucky to be in town on the day that they happened to turn up, you could choose one of the issues that was concerning to you and raise it with them.
Those opposite talk about the cutting of the budget for country cabinets and the opportunity to apply for $50,000 worth of projects as if that was in fact the priority for regional South Australia. Those opposite want us to fund country cabinet. We want to fund country priorities. We want to fund service delivery in the country. We want to fund new schools in the country. We want to fund entrepreneurial programs, such as that which I was happy to announce at the Mount Gambier High School with the member for Mount Gambier, just before I bought him lunch and just before we went on to a series of other visits in his electorate of Mount Gambier to have meaningful discussions with a range of people. The member for Mount Gambier should know about that because he was there and he was watching. There was not a departmental official in sight, other than when we were there to ask department officials questions.
The fact is this is a government that has genuine engagement with our regions. This is a government that will continue to have genuine engagement with our regions. One of the reasons I know that is possible is that the member for Giles was so proud of the fact that 22,000 people had voted on their Fund My Idea country cabinet website.
Around the cabinet table today, there are ministers who, combined, have received far more than 22,000 votes. There are far more South Australians in the country who have input into every decision made by this government as a result of the fact that we actually have regional MPs in the cabinet. We have more cabinet members who are from the regions originally, and I can tell you that you can take David Ridgway out of Bordertown but you cannot take Bordertown out of David Ridgway.
The fact is that the members of the Liberal Party who form this government and the members of the Liberal Party who form this cabinet are of the country. They are in the country. They are regularly engaged with the country. Most importantly, we are delivering for the country. It is a prime objective of this government to ensure that, for example, in education, every child in every classroom in every school in every town in every region in this state will be supported to fulfil their potential. It is a policy of this government that we want country South Australians to prosper, to thrive, to succeed, to continue to contribute, as they do, to our successful economy because #RegionsMatter.
The Hon. G.G. BROCK (Frome) (12:51): My goodness! I have heard some really wonderful statements here this morning. It intrigues me; it really does. When the country cabinet was introduced in 2014, as part of my discussions with the previous government, there was no idea in my mind as to the success that would come from this move. Sometimes we in this house may think we are getting the message through to the general public, but in reality I do not think we are getting to the grassroots of our communities.
During the four years the country cabinet was held across all regions, there was firstly the opportunity for the whole of cabinet to hear the presentations. I take on board what the Minister for Regional Development said, that it is about the number of visits by various individual ministers, and I congratulate them on doing that. However, it was the whole cabinet going out there together, hearing the issues all in one hit. When the current ministers go out, and I will just leave my notes there, they have to come back, explain it to the other cabinet members and try to get their voice and explanation across.
I congratulate the new government on getting out there. As the Minister for Regional Development said, there were 255 visits by various ministers, 56 of which were by the Minister for Regional Development and the Premier. I say that is great, but we are missing one thing in this discussion here. This is about the people of our communities, of the regions, being able to talk to a minister or the Premier and all the ministers understanding what the issues are for that particular location.
We can have this argy-bargy argument in this house but the issue is: let's bring it back to the people. We are here to represent the people and the people have a right to be able to talk to a minister directly and to the Premier. As one of the ministers in this current government indicated on radio some time ago, if somebody wanted to talk to the Premier or a minister from the country, that particular minister would make an arrangement for that person from the country to see the minister in Adelaide when they came to Adelaide. I ask members in this house: are we here for people to come to see us or are we here to go to see them?
An honourable member: Both.
The Hon. G.G. BROCK: I hear from the member for Narungga, I think it was—no?—or over here somewhere. Yes, it is both ways. What I do as a local member, and I note that there are a couple of other members of parliament doing the same thing, is have what I call listening posts where I go out. I do not ask them to come to my office in the electorate of Frome in Port Pirie. I go out. I will travel the 170 kilometres or the 200 kilometres to see those people on a regular basis. That is all country cabinet was: it was going out there to talk to the people and for people to be able to come back in to see the ministers and local governments and put their visions and their priorities to the full cabinet. I repeat: the full cabinet.
I endorsed the member for Mount Gambier in his motion, but I am disappointed that the government has to change it to take away the importance of country cabinets. I have heard lots of discussion here today and I have heard lots of ridicule, and it frustrates me that we are not thinking of the people in the regions, the grassroots people who make up all the constituencies out there. I ask everybody in this house to support the original motion of the member for Mount Gambier and not the amendment.
Mr BASHAM (Finniss) (12:55): I rise to support the amended motion. I experienced a country cabinet during my time as the preselected candidate for Finniss when, from memory, they came to Finniss late in 2017. It was an interesting visit, and it seemed very orchestrated, very planned and very managed. I do not think the community received much out of it at all.
The Hon. A. Piccolo: Did you say that at the time?
Mr BASHAM: Did I say that at the time? I have been absolutely stoked by the engagement our new cabinet has had since the election. It is not something just from the election day itself; the shadow cabinet made many, many visits to the area of Finniss. They were often there in the 12 months prior to the election in which I was a candidate, and that has continued. In the seat of Finniss, since the start of the term of the Marshall government I have had 21 visits to my electorate by members of the cabinet. I have had nearly every single member of the cabinet visit in that time. Of the less than a handful who have not been, two are actually scheduled to come in the next few weeks or months. It is fantastic to have that engagement right down to my electorate.
I will run through some of the visits I have had to my electorate. Interestingly, the first visit was from the Premier. He made a very impromptu visit—he actually came on Easter Sunday—and it started with him dropping in to our place at the time, on the farm. He was staying down in Victor Harbor, having a few days off over Easter, and he decided that he wanted to do some things in the electorate and engage with some of the community, so he popped in for a chat before going off to do so. Being Easter Sunday, when my at the time nine-year-old daughter got up and knew that the Premier was coming for breakfast—and she had not yet done her Easter egg hunt—she said, 'If he eats any of my Easter eggs, I'm never voting Liberal.' Thankfully, he did not and so the opportunity is still there that she might vote Liberal.
Following the Premier's visit, in June the Minister for Trade and Tourism, David Ridgway, came. David hosted a breakfast in Victor Harbor on a very important topic for the region, that is, tourism. Tourism is a really important part of our electorate, and he came down and had a breakfast with operators in the region, listening to their concerns in a very public way, and it was great to see the minister engaging directly with those people of the community.
The next minister who arrived was the Minister for Environment and Water. He has by far been the most regular visitor to the electorate of Finniss. His first visit was on the day of the Mayo by-election, when he came down to help out on the campaign. Only a short time later, he came down again and visited the region. I seek leave to continue my remarks.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
Sitting suspended from 13:00 to 14:00.