Thursday, 24 June 2021 HOUSE OF ASSEMBLY Page 6364 – 6368
The Hon. G.G. BROCK (Frome) (16:41): I would also like to speak about the Appropriation Bill 2021. Before I start, I would like to pay my respects to the Hon. Rob Lucas in the other place, who is retiring. Over 40 years of service in the parliament is a testament to anyone’s patience. I would like to contribute today, and I will concentrate my comments on my current electorate in particular.
The budget appears to be a very important part of our future direction following the COVID-19 pandemic. I have spoken in this house previously regarding my concerns about the services that may be available to people suffering from any type of mental health issue. Whilst everyone states that there are funds available for the sector, my concerns are that there appears to be a lack of an actual workforce on the ground, particularly in regional South Australia.
There is $163.5 million in the mental health package, including the establishment of a crisis stabilisation centre in the northern suburbs. What about those from the regions? The issues that will eventuate from the pandemic have not, in my opinion, reached their peak. The tsunami is coming later when reality actually sets in. Do not get me wrong: there are lots of issues out there that we are all aware of, but there are lots of people out there who have not faced the reality of issues of concern or who have not brought their concerns to the relevant authorities due to their pride, especially males.
I would just like to mention the mental health services in the budget. There is $163.5 million over four years to respond to the Mental Health Services Plan. Support for our mental health system includes $20.4 million over three years and $8.5 million per annum ongoing, a new crisis stabilisation centre in the northern suburbs, $12 million in 2021-22 for the creation of an additional psychiatric intensive care bed capacity, $48 million over four years for a new older persons mental health facility and $5 million in 2021-22 for additional housing for people with a mental health disability.
Whilst I mentioned earlier that these services are welcome, I really question how many services and how much of these funds will be established in regional communities. If it is all in Adelaide, we again have the issue of these struggling people having to come to Adelaide or having a teleconference. There will be opportunities to transfer metropolitan patients in Adelaide to peri-urban hospitals for ongoing care in peak periods, which is very simple and should create more spare beds in metropolitan hospitals. However, to be able to do this, we will need to have far more Ambulance Service staff and ambulances to get these people to these hospitals.
We have ramping in metropolitan Adelaide all the time. Every day we hear about that. We are not too bad in the regional areas, but there is an issue out there. There is a private ambulance service in Port Pirie, ActFas, which has the contract for hospital-to-hospital transfers. I know our metropolitan Ambulance Service staff work under extreme pressure, but so do our regional staff, who at times have to work a complete shift without any breaks. This is unacceptable. I hear this all the time from people.
I had a stroke just before the new year and was very fortunate as there was an ambulance readily available there, but there are times when ambulance staff are at their wits’ end. They are at the extreme end of their shift. They are under extreme pressure out there. I ask the Minister for Health and Wellbeing to put more staff on and more ambulances and to not forget about our regional services.
Another issue is the shortage of GPs across all regional areas, and Port Pirie and Port Augusta are no exceptions. Recently, the Goyder’s Line clinic at Peterborough stated they were closing that facility, which would mean that people from Peterborough would have to travel to Orroroo some distance away. Some of these people may not have a motor vehicle, may not have the funds for petrol or may not be capable of driving to the required services. I have been pushing this for the last 18 months. I have had discussions with the minister and I have had discussions with the federal member.
The issue is that we get doctors here, but we are not getting them into regional areas. Everybody says there are plenty of funds, but the issue of getting doctors into regional areas is of the utmost importance because people are starting to go into the regions from metropolitan Adelaide and interstate. They are going into regional South Australia because it is a lot safer and it is a better lifestyle. If they are going to be doing that, we need those services out there, so I ask the government to address this as a matter of urgency.
I also see that there is new funding for our most vulnerable people, with $1.3 million over two years to help children who are at risk of being remanded in custody due to a lack of accommodation and support services by connecting them to appropriate supports. I will be looking forward to how this works, especially when we already have over 500 people in my region who are homeless.
In question time today, I asked a question about vacant Housing SA homes and how many Housing SA homes have been sold over the last 12 months and the outstanding preventative maintenance. The issue is that everybody says there is a lot of money there. There are plenty of funds, but they are not expending those out there. I know tradespeople in the regions who are only too happy to do that.
One of the concerns is the maintenance services facilities management. The government is looking at transferring it from the regions back into metropolitan Adelaide. Both parties need to realise that the regions really do matter. It is a logo that the government has: regions matter. But we have to put the job there and say, ‘Let’s put the stuff out there.’ Let’s not make it about terminology. Do not just talk about it. Let’s have a bit of action on this.
With schools in my electorate, the rebuilds that were approved previously—and most of those were by the previous government—are nearly completed and will be a great asset to those students and teachers using the facilities. We have some great schools in my area. Balaklava High School and the primary school and Clare High School are absolutely fantastic. They have a trade school in there.
Roger Nottage, the principal at John Pirie Secondary School, has done a fantastic job. He has transformed that school into what it is today. It has great pride. The $11 million redevelopment is going well there. It is a school that people are taking pride in at the moment. Years ago, it had a bad image, but at the moment they have a very good image. The SACE has around a 98 per cent success rate, so I am very happy with that. But, again, I really have to say thank you to the previous government because they committed those funds. The actual work was done in the term of the Liberal government now.
When the government spruiked the $17.9 billion infrastructure spend, it sounded very impressive and it is. However, this is over many years and nearly half is being carried in the north-south connector—nearly $10 billion—and $662 million is for the sports stadium. I will talk about the sports stadium. We have issues out there with health, ramping, ambulances, nurses and doctors, yet we are going to put $662 million into a sports facility on the River Torrens. I hear everybody say that it is going to be good for South Australia, that it is going to bring in more attractions and concerts and things like that, but we really need to be very serious about what we have to concentrate on.
As I said, all the stuff being produced for the operation and the running of this state is from the regions, yet we do not get anything out there. We will talk about roads in a minute, but for that $662 million I would rather see more MFS trucks and CFS vehicles out there. I would rather see more ambulances out there. I would rather see more staff out there and more people out there on the ground to help these people out. Get more doctors out into the regions and into the hospitals and you will save money.
Again, I note that some members here say they believe in it. I do not believe in it. I do not think that this particular point is the right time to do it. I really would ask that the government reconsider it and put that $662 million into other opportunities, particularly into health and education, which I will talk about it in a minute. I also thank the commonwealth government for their 80 per cent contribution to the $786 million, being $628 million, with $158 million from the state. We can see that without federal contribution these works probably would not succeed.
I notice there is no extra funding to complete the Horrocks Highway. There are several sections, particularly south of Tarlee, where the surface is very dangerous. That is around Roseworthy and surrounds. Two or three years ago, $55 million was put in there. They transferred $8 million to a rail crossing and $3 million to a bridge, which left $44 million for the Horrocks Highway.
The Horrocks Highway is a long road. It stretches to the Clare Valley and is used for tourism and so on. I see bits and pieces being done there, but we really have to concentrate on it. That $44 million is not going to be anywhere near enough to complete that road. I always say that if you are going to do something, do it properly the first time. I can see that we are going to do half-baked work on the Horrocks Highway and that in three to five years’ time we are going to have to come back and do more work on it.
I welcome the extra funding for the Augusta Highway duplication from Port Wakefield to Port Augusta, the extra $100 million for the planning and commencement of the highway from Nantawarra to Lochiel and the extra $80 million towards the previously announced section from Port Wakefield to Nantawarra.I have been harping on about the duplication of the highway from Port Wakefield for the last two or three years. We are going to have the overpass there and we are going to have the bypass going up on the eastern side, but we are going to have more and more traffic going to the north, with the renewable energy projects up around Upper Spencer Gulf, and to Yorke Peninsula, with the tourism opportunities there.
We need to have that opportunity for the duplication from Port Wakefield to Port Augusta. I was going back to Port Pirie one night and from Port Wakefield to Port Pirie I counted 176 semitrailers coming the other way. That is not what was in front of me or behind me. There are more caravans out there and there are more RVs out there. If we want to be safe and look at safety, we need to duplicate that highway.
It was also really great to see $5 million towards a business case for the duplication of the Augusta Highway from Crystal Brook to Port Pirie. As I said, I have been a great advocate of the duplication for many years and these small sections that are being done will be going towards the total duplication.
I noticed that the budget papers state that the commencement of this duplication from Nantawarra to Lochiel should commence—and I say ‘should commence’—in 2021-22. We have not even started the construction of the road from Port Wakefield to Nantawarra, which is just a bit south of Lochiel. I do not even think we have a design for the Nantawarra to Lochiel section, yet the budget papers say they need to commence it. I am sorry, but we work very, very slowly in these departments.
From a quick glance at the budget papers, these areas are included in the $786 million: Truro bypass, at $202 million; Augusta Highway, at $180 million; KI roads, at $40 million; Fleurieu Peninsula, at $31 million; the Strzelecki Track, at $80 million; the Old Murray Bridge refurbishment, at $36 million, and $105 million for safety concerns, including shoulder sealing, which is absolutely fantastic. Shoulder sealing does it make it easier. There is more and more traffic on those roads. As I said, I travel nearly 80,000 to 100,000 kilometres per year, so I see the traffic on those roads. It is getting to the situation where there are going to be more and more accidents or deaths on those roads.
The sealing of the Strzelecki Track will be a great asset to enable trade and goods to come to South Australia for export processing instead of going to Queensland. That has been on the cards for many years. I think the previous government committed $40 million and then the feds put some money in, but that is absolutely necessary.
I have driven on the Strzelecki Track with the previous minister, the Hon. Stephen Mullighan. We did see that little sections, about seven kilometres each, were sealed at that particular point. We did drive the Strzelecki Track. We did not just fly in there. This is the issue: if you are going to have a look at things, you do not just fly in. You actually have to drive on those roads to appreciate how bad they are.
The Strzelecki will also assist with the viability of a proposed Pirie meatworks announced on Monday by Reg Smyth at Adelaide University. This will use the new technology of harvesting seaweed, drying the seaweed and using it to feed to the animals. This will result in 90 per cent less methane from those animals, both cows and sheep, and it will also mean 15 per cent less energy used by those animals, so it will give them more weight.
I have mentioned, not only in this house but wherever I travel across the Upper Spencer Gulf, that these cities and the surrounding regions are the home of renewable energy and battery storage and the best location in the world for any renewable projects, whether they be solar, PV, thermal pumped hydro or others. The Upper Spencer Gulf has everything in the location, including an abundance of renewable energy, national rail networks, national highways, deep sea ports, airports, reliable gas supplies, the Morgan-Whyalla water pipeline, a great lifestyle and plenty of available workforce. These are really great facilities up there. With everything that has happened in the past couple of years, and in particular with the above assets of Upper Spencer Gulf, I believe it is the right time for both the state and federal governments to put in place a master plan for utilisation and value-adding of the resources we have on our doorstep.
With the uncertainty of the future of the Whyalla Steelworks, with Gupta—I understand that he has a reprieve now, and I hope that that goes forward—and the stimulus packages that are being offered by the state and the federal governments following the pandemic, it is time to harness the assets we already have in place, and future emerging opportunities, to look at utilising these vital assets to achieve more value-adding opportunities for industries to look at relocating to the Upper Spencer Gulf to produce their products and transport their goods across the whole of Australia and also overseas.
Some time ago I was at a conference in Port Augusta where Ross Garnaut, a world-renowned economist on renewable energy projects, commented that the Upper Spencer Gulf in particular is the best place in the world for any renewable energy projects, as I said earlier. He said it would be silly for industries not to look at relocating and establishing in the Upper Spencer Gulf. As I said, we have everything there. We are at the crossroads from Queensland, New South Wales, Western Australia and also the Eastern States. I implore the state government and the federal government to look at a master plan for the Upper Spencer Gulf because we are and will continue to be the powerhouse of the state, and we are going to be a bigger powerhouse in the next two years.
Another concern has been the continuation of our regional development associations across the state. As we know, our partnership with this operation is unique. We are the only state to have federal, state and local government as funding partners. We need to have those people there because the regional development associations need to have the security and the certainty that they have a long-term contract and funding, both state and the federal, to allow them to retain the best people for their jobs.
It is great to see targets for 2022 to innovate and transform TAFE SA campuses with modern and accessible facilities. I have questioned ministers in this house previously about the continuation of the TAFE campuses, especially in regional South Australia. TAFE facilities are out there, and I think both sides have not put enough into them. TAFE is out there, and I mentioned before: do we charge our children to go to primary school? No. Do we charge them to go to high school? No. But when they go to TAFE, yes, we have to, but we subsidise it. We need to do that because regional people need to be able to get those certificates without having to come to Adelaide. It is the cost of transportation, it is away from their family, it is away from their employment, and it is also the cost of the accommodation.
Our regions continue to struggle due to the pandemic. However, there are several tourism operators who are looking to expand and diversify to be able to capture more of the market. Those who currently have not been able to travel overseas are now experiencing the great attractions that our regions have. The Tourist Industry Development Fund is vital to these people, and I would like to see this increased to be able to facilitate the increasing demand from my operators.
It is great to see under trade and investment that the government will support 140 South Australian businesses to become new exporters or enter new markets. In the Upper Spencer Gulf there are several wineries, feed processors, and other industries including the great Golden North Dairies at Laura. Golden North has been the best ice cream in Australia for four years running. They have the opportunity, they have nearly 80 people there and they are exporting overseas.
They want to diversify but they cannot get any assistance from the government to be able to go into other products. If they could do that, they would then increase that workforce from 80 to about 130 people. That is in the little community of Laura and that would be a great stimulus. With the renewable energy projects that are happening around Crystal Brook and Bungama, and in the Upper Spencer Gulf around Port Augusta, we now have an opportunity for transition in those areas. We need the government to look at training facilities to make certain they have plenty at TAFE, and we also need accommodation, which is a big issue.
It is also pleasing to see that they are going to complete the service planning and implementation of the Yorke and Northern Local Health Network governing board strategic plan, which is well and truly overdue. Our current hospital at Port Pirie has been there for about 60 years and has had numerous reports on the structural integrity of the current building, and I am informed this includes subsiding of areas such as the kitchen, X-ray department and other locations.
What needs to happen is either major remedial works or preferably building a new hospital. I will be pushing for a new hospital because I understand this facility contains a lot of public servants who work in allied health, but 50 per cent of it is closed off due to OH&S issues. I will be asking for copies of reports about things like that, and I will be pushing for either a new hospital or a massive rehabilitation and repair job. I commend the bill to the house.