Matter of Interest: Member for Waite

The Hon. D.W. RIDGWAY (Leader of the Opposition) ( 16:01 :20 ): Last Wednesday night the member for Waite probably sat down at a Chinese restaurant with an expensive glass of bubbly and toasted his first 12 months since unceremoniously joining the Labor cabinet to create what he termed 'good and stable government'. Anger at Martin's decision was palpable, but here and there someone would play devil's advocate and ask, 'What if he really can deliver more from within cabinet? What if, even though he has responsibility for only 0.3 of 1 per cent of the total state budget, he can actually have a considerable impact on the state's economy? What if he has really maintained his core Liberal values? Maybe he can convince the entire Labor cabinet to sign off on Liberal policies.'

It seemed a stretch, but there were a few who were optimistic. Martin's anniversary causes me to think: what would those advocates say 12 months on? The question was aptly answered a few weeks ago when a survey of hundreds of Waite voters found that only 5 per cent of them would vote for him. That is the ultimate criticism that we as parliamentarians can receive. I would far sooner enjoy the superficial and childish name-calling that Martin directed at me yesterday than weather electoral annihilation. I live in the seat of Waite. It is an area which I love, and one of the jewels in that crown is the Repat Hospital and it is on the brink of closure. When that same hospital was threatened with cuts some years back, Martin as the local member called it 'a death by a thousand cuts'.

The ACTING PRESIDENT ( Hon. J.S.L. Dawkins ): He is the honourable member for Waite.

The Hon. D.W. RIDGWAY: The honourable member for Waite, thank you, Mr Acting President. He called it 'a death by a thousand cuts'. He is now sitting idly by while his precious facility is being slaughtered. Do his advocates still say the Hon. Martin Hamilton-Smith will be more effective for Waite as a Labor minister? The honourable member supported the removal of the pensioner concession payments, has supported Labor's exponential emergency services levy hike, and, of course, is very happy to see the Repatriation General Hospital close. The voices of his few advocates are becoming muffled. It is impossible to ignore the evidence that the Hon. Martin Hamilton-Smith has not delivered for Waite by any stretch.

Yesterday he was particularly sensitive about The Advertiser having revealed to the taxpayers that he had taken 13 overseas trips in his first 12 months. He had a stab at me for being critical of the government's involvement in overseas trips. What I am critical of is the government's absence at the coalface of trade negotiations. On a recent Chinese trip we saw Premier Weatherill photographed with Mr Patrick Zu and Mr Randall Tomich, who are responsible for the new Famous Australian Brands market access company.

He was there for a photo, as his ministers often seem to be, but what of the four years prior where relationships were being created and fostered? Where were those at the coalface? Who were those at the coalface? Some of them, including members of my team, were actually digging into their own pockets to forge those relationships. These trade opportunities have a long gestation. They take tireless investment and negotiation. They challenge language, cultural and logistical boundaries.

My criticism is that the government is not there for any part of that. They are only around for the handshakes and the photos. Mr Hamilton-Smith does not understand this. This is another example of what he cannot deliver for the people of Waite or South Australia as a Labor minister. I think the honourable member knows his electorate, by and large, and what they think of him, and he will not admit it, because he does not want to validate their views. In a recent opinion piece he said that the Waite electors have a view 'that they're unlikely to share with a clipboard wielding journo in a shopping centre survey'. Well, a lot of them have shared it with me. I would like to share some of the comments we have had from his electorate. They are as follows:

'Your so-called government is not what your voters endorsed.'

'You did the dirty on us and the electorate.'

'What an absolute turncoat and hypocrite.'

'You chose an absolute shocker of a government to feather your own nest.'

'You're not fooling anyone.'

'If he was fighting in the SAS, would he join the enemy if he considered them to be winning?'

'Say goodbye at the next election, or are you going to jump MHS? Stand as an Independent and see what happens if you think we will vote for you. The state is worse off now than before the election, and you are part of the blame.'

'Martin Hamilton-Smith is not worthy of Army recognition.'

'You are a disgrace to the services. Show some intestinal fortitude.'

'Shame on our local member. I voted for him, sorry to say. From hero to zero.'

Some of those comments were in direct response to his opinion piece, which incidentally signed off with him attacking one of his media critics by saying, 'I'm okay. How are you doing?' I think that that comment on its own pretty much sums up the honourable member's character and his line of thinking. He is not asking: is South Australia okay or are the people of Waite okay?

He is a Labor minister with all the trimmings of a ministerial office. He has abandoned the mess he is leaving in Waite for his sanctuary in the hills, which we saw recently—a lovely house in the electorate of Heysen. He will continue to traverse the globe, shaking hands and smiling for the cameras, secure in the fact that his increased pension awaits his retirement. He is okay and that is all that matters.


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