The Hon. D.W. RIDGWAY (Leader of the Opposition) (16:47): I rise to speak to the Independent Commissioner Against Corruption (Serious or Systemic Misconduct or Maladministration) Amendment Bill. I indicate also that my colleague the Hon. Andrew McLachlan will also be making some comments on behalf of the opposition, so there will be two speakers from the opposition. This bill mirrors a previous bill introduced in the other place by my colleague, the member for Bragg. The bill was defeated by the Labor government and a number of so-called Independents earlier this year, but I will touch on that more shortly.
The bill seeks to amend the ICAC Act 2012 to provide the ICAC with the powers of a commission as defined in the Royal Commissions Act 1917. One of the effects of this bill is that it will ultimately allow the commissioner to hold public hearings for matters relating to the investigation of serious or systemic misconduct or maladministration. It would provide greater transparency throughout the ICAC process, while maintaining the ICAC's integrity, and that is a prospect that terrifies the incompetent, secretive and dishonest Labor government sitting opposite.
The Weatherill government is lurching from one crisis to another, from South Australia's record unemployment rate, this government's failed Transforming Health policy, child protection, Oakden, electricity crisis, overflowing prisons, and the list goes on. The South Australian Labor Party is fighting for its political survival, and those opposite know that, if their scandals keep being exposed at the same rate they are currently are, they will suffer political annihilation at the next election. But that is what this bill is about for the Labor Party—political survival. South Australians are fed up with the constant deceit, lies, spin and rhetoric that this government churns out on a daily basis, and rightly so.
Let's look at the genesis of this bill before the chamber. The recommendation that the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) be permitted to hold open hearings if it was in the public interest when investigating matters of potential maladministration came from the commissioner himself following his investigation of the scandalous Gillman land deal. The Gillman land deal was a failure of monumental proportions. This is a deal that the Supreme Court ruled unlawful and irrational that cost taxpayers of South Australia $2.2 million just to cover the legal costs of Adelaide Capital Partners and IWS (Integrated Waste Services) and then cost another $20 million because Labor botched the compulsory acquisition of the Gillman land from the Adelaide City Council.
This is a deal that saw more than half the Renewal SA board resign in protest, and if that was not bad enough, the light was also shone on the state's treasurers. ICAC heard evidence that Treasurer Koutsantonis swore at public servants and that he used the c-word. The Treasurer sought to intimidate and bully these public servants. This kind of behaviour is rife within the Labor Party. Who could forget minister Hunter's dummy spit at Rigoni's? He used inexcusable language towards a female in that instance—or any human being—and then went out to celebrate with an ice-cream. Is this man fit to be a minister? You have got to be kidding.
Let's look at Oakden. We could have public hearings by the end of this month if Labor wanted to grant commissioner Lander's wish and vote to support these public hearings. Yet another incompetent, failed Labor minister has overseen the most profound abuse of South Australia's most vulnerable since the child protection crisis came to light a couple of years ago. To call minister Vlahos incompetent would insult the other incompetent people out there.
This minister received the Oakden report, as we all know, on Monday 10 April. She did not read the Oakden report until the following weekend and no public statement was made for 10 days until 20 April. Instead of reading and acting, the minister was taking selfies in the Qantas Club lounge and drinking gin and tonics. When the minister finally read the report, she did not raise it with the Premier. He, too, was busy on holidays. Did she raise it with the mental health commissioner? No. Luckily, she caught him at Bunnings at Mile End. The extent of the conversation was—and I quote from the minister in question time earlier this year:
…he said, 'Seen the report?' I said yes, and that is the limit of my involvement.
Again, you have got to be kidding. It troubles me that the Labor Party has awarded this most incompetent and underperforming minister the number one spot on next election's Legislative Council ticket. This speaks volumes about the shallow pool from which the Labor party is now plucking their future members of parliament. This government is petrified of having the spotlight shone on it. The families of the victims of Oakden, and all South Australians, have the right to know what happened at Oakden and how their elected representatives were involved or responsible.
The argument is simple: if this government has nothing to hide, then why oppose the bill? The culture of cover-up will continue as long as the Weatherill government is in office, because this government cannot afford to have the light shone on some of its dealings. In the wake of the Oakden scandal, commissioner Lander said:
Since publishing the Gillman report, I have consistently said there are very good reasons to provide me with the discretion to conduct maladministration investigations in public. My views have not changed. However, this is ultimately a matter for Parliament, which I note still does not have an appetite for it.
Well, I think this parliament does have an appetite for it. The anti-corruption commissioner wants open hearings, the families of Oakden victims want public hearings, the state Liberals want open hearings, and the people of South Australia want public hearings. The only people who do not want public hearings are this secret and cowardly Labor government and a couple of weak Independents who have been bought off with ministerial offices.
Looking at those ministerial Independents, the member for Waite and the member for Frome, if you could measure their independence, you could put it in an egg cup and still have room for the egg. The fact that all MPs support public hearings for maladministration except those in bed with the government speaks volumes. The member for Waite should in particular hang his head in shame. As opposition leader, the member for Waite advocated for an ICAC, advocated for public hearings, and now he has become the Labor government's puppet. The member for Waite may call himself an Independent Liberal, but at the end of the day he is a minister in the Labor government and takes his marching orders from Premier Weatherill and the faceless men who control the Labor Party.
The member for Waite's lack of independence is only superseded by his ego and his ambition. He would never do anything that would potentially jeopardise his ministerial office. The member for Waite fought admirably to establish South Australia's ICAC, but has quickly changed his tune after he got a bit of a pay rise, a chauffeured car and an office overlooking Victoria Square.
The Hon. J.S.L. Dawkins: And the title 'honourable'.
The Hon. D.W. RIDGWAY: My colleague interjects—and I know they are out of order—'and the title "honourable"'. The member for Waite, as we all know, was a political traitor, and what else would we expect from him. The people from Waite will not stomach him any longer. As we saw in The Advertiser a year or so ago, he was down at 5 per cent popularity. At the next state election, I have no doubt that the people of Waite will see through this selfish, duplicitous man, and I would be surprised if he managed much of a vote at all.
As for the member for Frome, I was perhaps a little harsh on minister Vlahos when I called her the most incompetent Labor minister. The member for Frome is nothing short of weak. The Premier barely lets him answer a question at question time. He has achieved absolutely nothing as minister and, like the member for Waite, he is just another Premier Weatherill puppet.
The Hon. K.J. Maher interjecting:
The Hon. D.W. RIDGWAY: The members for Waite and Frome will have one more chance to redeem themselves, as the Leader of the Government interjects, on this matter at least before the next election. I expect this bill will pass this place and will end up in the other place in due course, and they will have one more chance to show their independence and stand up for their local community and stand up for the victims of Oakden and support this bill. If not, everyone at the next election will know they are both nothing more than Labor puppets, and I have every faith they will vote according to this Labor puppetry. With those few words, I commend the bill to the chamber.