THURSDAY 18 June 2020 

The Hon. G.G. BROCK (Frome) (15:00):  My question is to the Minister for Transport and Infrastructure. Can the minister update the house on any consultation that has taken place regarding the future direction and employment of regional DPTI officers and staff. With your leave, sir, and that of the house, I will explain further. 

Leave granted.   

The Hon. G.G. BROCK:  It has been identified by statements made by the minister on radio last week that these facilities will be privatised or outsourced. Have there been any discussions with the numerous clients, including SA Health, the Department for Education and numerous others, and has there been any communication with local government in the regions?   

The Hon. S.K. KNOLL (Schubert—Minister for Transport, Infrastructure and Local Government, Minister for Planning) (15:01):  I thank the member for Frome for his question. It is an important one and again another reform that we are seeking to undertake to drive the taxpayer dollar further in relation to how we undertake road maintenance in South Australia.   

At the moment, about 60 per cent—and this is under our government and under the former government—of the road maintenance work that is done in South Australia is currently outsourced to private contractors. Those contractors operate in various parts of South Australia. Early on coming to government we undertook analysis that said that, if we were to move to a 100 per cent outsourcing model, we could save money and we could use that money to reinvest in being able to get more road maintenance work done in South Australia.   

We are in the throes of a tender process in relation to that, and we will have more information shortly to share with members. But it is very clear to me that, in regional South Australia, getting access to good, qualified road maintenance staff is not that easy. It’s a discussion that the member for Stuart and I have had often. In fact, we have just had four new staff being employed in the Port Augusta area.  

 Getting access to these quality staff is difficult and so, in relation to the job opportunities for road maintenance staff under this new model, we will work through those arrangements in the way that we normally do. However, I know already from discussions within the department that keeping and getting access to these qualified staff is actually quite a high priority because these people know those roads and they are good at their job. What we do know is that we need more of them. 

  In fact, what is having to be done at the moment is that the department is relying on contract labour to be able to fill some of those positions, and so there is more work out there than there is staff. Also, once we move to these contracting arrangements, we will actually be able to drive that dollar further and be able to get more road maintenance done in regional South Australia.  I know that we were left an ever-growing road maintenance backlog in South Australia, especially in our regional areas. It has led us to have a very underserviced and undermaintained regional road network, and it is why we are now spending some $1.5 billion fixing up country roads in South Australia. 

  In the member for Frome’s electorate, whether it is the Goyder Highway, whether it is the Blyth Plains Road, whether it is the Horrocks Highway, or whether it is the Augusta Highway, this government is spending money upgrading those roads to make them more safe. Whether that be basic shoulder-sealing treatment, whether that be audio tactile line marking, whether it be road rehab and reseal, we are undertaking this work right across regional South Australia to help catch back up some of that lost time and those lost years in relation to our roadwork.   

I can assure the member for Frome that all those appropriate consultation processes will be undertaken, and I can assure South Australians that we are looking at this as a great opportunity to be able to get more roads done and drive taxpayer dollars further as we seek to drive reform here in South Australia that is going to leave our state better off than when we found it.