Statutes Amendment (Boards and Committees - Abolition and Reform) Bill

The Hon. D.W. RIDGWAY (Leader of the Opposition) ( 16:26 :29 ): I thank the minister and the chamber for changing things slightly to allow me to speak to this bill. The Statutes Amendment (Boards and Committees—Abolition and Reform) Bill has been something that the government has been progressing for some time. I think it was in the middle of last year that the Premier announced that they were going to get rid of 200-odd boards. I think in the end what they did was an audit. The Premier announced that, as a result of an audit of government red tape, recommendations were made to abolish 105 state government boards and committees and reform a further 194.

It is interesting that some boards and committees have already been abolished. These are: the Agribusiness Council, the Australian Citrus Industry Development Board and the South Australian Wine Industry Council. This bill will also abolish the Aquaculture Advisory Committee, the Fisheries Council and the Phylloxera and Grape Industry Board Selection Committee. It will also abolish by regulation in June this year the Alpaca Advisory Group, the Goat Advisory Group and the Horse Industry Advisory Group, which is a body that came to me with a number of concerns. I know that we will be up for all of April, so I would ask minister, when she is summing up, to reassure the council that the Horse Industry Advisory Group's concerns have been addressed. That group was somewhat concerned.

We have thoroughbred racing, trotting, show jumping, quarter horses, domestic horses, and stock horses that are used for work. The Horse Industry Advisory Group will raise some concerns; for example, if we had an outbreak of Hendra virus or equine influenza, how would the government deal with that? Where would it go for a contact? What body could actually help coordinate the control of one of those diseases if it were to break out? I would be interested to know whether the government has a satisfactory arrangement in place.

Often what we have said to these groups—and I have written to most of them—is, 'What is your view?' It is fair to say that the Liberal Party was not opposed to the abolition of some of these boards as long as the new arrangements served the industry appropriately. I would certainly like some information on the Horse Industry Advisory Group.

Other groups to be abolished by regulation in June 2015 are: the Deer Advisory Group, the Apiary Industry Advisory Group, the Rock Lobster Fishery Management Advisory Committee and the SA Forest Industry Advisory Board. I think the Rural Assistance Appeals Committee expires in September 2015, or it will disappear when that scheme expires. I think also that when the South Australian River Murray Sustainability Program Steering Committee project is completed in 2018, that committee will cease to exist.

With regulations there have also been a number of changes to allow the chief executive to appoint boards rather than the minister, and that includes the Pig Industry Advisory Group, the Cattle Industry Advisory Group, the Sheep Industry Advisory Group and the Meat Food Safety Advisory Committee. Again, I would like the minister to reassure the chamber that those groups are comfortable with the new arrangements. Also, I think in June 2016, the Phylloxera and Grape Industry Board of South Australia will also cease.

This omnibus bill also transfers the power of appointment to the minister for the Genetically Modified Crop Advisory Committee, which is interesting. We have had a moratorium now for seven years, I suspect, so we have had a Genetically Modified Crop Advisory Committee but we have not had any genetically modified crops growing for them to advise the minister on.

Minister Bignell offered an explanation that the functions of the committee are now policy-based not operational. I am relaxed about how it is appointed, but I think that the minister and the government ministers—not just minister Bignell but Premier Weatherill and his merry band of ministers and backbenchers—have often suggested that we get significant benefits from being GM-free, and significant financial benefits that our produce is more readily sought after, it commands a higher price in the marketplace and that our primary producers are better off because we are GM-free.

We went to the last election saying that we supported a moratorium but we wanted to measure that benefit. My advice to the minister and the government would be that, if they are going to continue to have a Genetically Modified Crop Advisory Committee, surely one of the functions of that committee would be to evaluate the government's policy. If he says now that the functions of the committee are policy-based not operational, and there is the government policy of being non-GM then this committee should actually measure that benefit for the people of South Australia.

They also go on to reclassify a non-government committee which is now to be the South Australian Forestry Corporation Board—Risk and Audit Committee. They are going to retain the Aquaculture Tenure Allocation Board, the Veterinary Surgeons Board and the Dairy Authority of South Australia. But, more importantly, there are four boards—or four committees, boards, councils, call them what you like—that the government wanted to abolish, which were the Health Performance Council, the Animal Welfare Advisory Committee, the South Australian Tourism Commission Board and the Pastoral Board.

I am pleased to say that these were four boards that the opposition was very keen to retain and I am pleased to report that the government has seen fit in their wisdom to support the opposition's position. When members look at the bill as it has come forward now, they will see that those four boards are still included. Our amendments were passed and supported by the government in the House of Assembly, yesterday I think it was, so I am pleased that they have done that.

I will not speak about those four boards in particular, other than the South Australian Tourism Commission Board shortly, but I suspect the Hon. Stephen Wade will have some comments around the Health Performance Council, and my colleague the shadow minister for the environment will have some comments around the Pastoral Board and the Animal Welfare Advisory Committee.

I am delighted as the shadow minister for agriculture that the Pastoral Board has been retained. I know the Minister for Environment was very keen to see that go but the pastoralists and the opposition were not convinced that the new arrangements were going to be an improvement on what we already had, and so our fear was that pastoralists would not be listened to and would not have the voice or the framework that they have been used to—but I know my colleague, the Hon. Michelle Lensink will touch on that when we return.

There are a number of boards that are still subject to further discussion as per the final report that was tabled a little while ago, and I will read them out as quickly as I can. I think it would be appropriate for the minister to update the chamber on where that further investigation is up to.

They are: the Adelaide Cemeteries Authority Board, the Adelaide Cemeteries Authority Heritage and Monument Committee, the Adelaide Park Lands Authority Board of Management, the Architectural Practice Board of South Australia, the Art Gallery Board, the Asbestos Advisory Committee, the Australian Children's Performing Arts Company, the Boxing and Martial Arts Advisory Committee, the Carrick Hill Trust, the Construction Industry Training Board, the Da Costa Samaritan Fund Trust, the Dog and Cat Management Board, the History Trust of South Australia, the Industrial Relations Advisory Committee, the Libraries Board of South Australia, the Ministerial Advisory Committee:

Students with Disabilities, Passenger Transport Standards Committee, the Planning Committee for Non-Government Schools, the Police Disciplinary Tribunal, the Police Review Tribunal, the Police Superannuation Board, the Privacy Committee of South Australia, the Roxby Downs Advisory Reference Group, the SafeWork SA Advisory Council, the South Australian Housing Trust Board of Management, the South Australian Museum Board, the South Australian Parliamentary Superannuation Board, the SA Superannuation Board, the SA Superannuation Board Member Services Committee, the Southern Select Super Corporation Board, the State Procurement Board State Record Council, and the West Beach Trust.

As you can see, there is quite a list of boards that, according to the final report, are all subject to further investigation, so I would be very interested in the minister giving us an update on where the government is up to with those particular boards, committees, etc. when, some time in May, she sums up the bill.

I will just come back now to the tourism commission which, as the shadow minister for tourism as I have been now for a number of years, was something that came as somewhat of a surprise to me that the government of the day wanted to abolish. We have had a commission board now for a couple of decades or more and it has worked really well. We have seen things like the Tour Down Under and the evolution of motor sport. We have the motor sport board which is to be abolished, and that is something that we had mixed feelings about, but we are keen to reform the state and we are keen to support getting rid of red tape.

I think there was a good case for a motor sport board when it was a new event that we had never staged before. Obviously we have had the Grand Prix and a couple of events, including the Le Mans 24 Hours, and now we have the Clipsal, which is a great success. So it is actually well established, and there is probably a case to say now that it can run similar to the Tour Down Under without a board, although there were some concerns. It is our view that we will let the government have its way with those boards and abolish them.

I think there is also a merger proposed, or an abolition of, the boards of the convention centre and the entertainment centre. Again, we are not convinced that is entirely the right solution, but if that is what the government of the day desires to have, they are big well-established organisations and they have chief executives in place. I think there may well be a new board that oversees both of those facilities.

We will watch those with some interest, because if there is a problem, if it does not work well, we have an election in a bit under three years now, and I know that seems like an eternity, but it will probably whizz past pretty quickly and it also will give time to see whether the new arrangements are working, and I suspect that goes for most of the other boards and committees that have been abolished or will be abolished. If there is an anomaly, or something is not working, or the new arrangements are not satisfactory, then we will be the first to say, 'Let's have a look at it to see if we can come up with some better arrangements.'

But the tourism commission board was a bit of a surprise because throughout my travels and with the people I speak to, nobody had complained about the board's decisions and about the function of the board. With some of the decisions, like putting the visitor information centre in a basement in Grenfell Street, there was a bit of duckshoving and handballing as to whether it was the chief executive or the minister; the minister says it was the board. So there were some decisions that were made. I did actually question a board member and asked what was going on and they said to me, 'We had no idea what was going on.' I question whether there was ever enough training about the corporate governance role of the boards.

I am glad the government has come to the decision to keep this particular board. With our proposal I would hope that the new arrangements are that the new board members are made fully aware of their responsibilities as a board and to make sure that they do probe and ask questions to avail themselves of all of the information.

It is interesting when I look at a letter that was written by the tourism minister, the Hon. Leon Bignell. I guess it gives us some insight into where I perhaps think we should go with the tourism commission board. This is a letter that he sent out to most tourism stakeholders in South Australia, and I will just quote from it:

The South Australian Tourism Commission Board is to be replaced with an industry panel, designed to provide all members of the tourism industry with a strong voice, decisions taken by the SATC.

He claims that we get some savings of around $200,000 a year. It is interesting that we are seeing every few a weeks another million dollar advertising campaign rolled out by the government, which I am sure was not budgeted for, and it is having little effect attacking the federal government. I know that they have issues with the federal government, but I am not sure that it is a wise use of taxpayers' money to spend a million dollars every few weeks on another advertising campaign. So, they can quickly save five or ten times what they have attempted to save from the Tourism Commission Board by just desisting from pointless, meaningless advertisements. He says:

While I will continue to work with industry to determine the exact make-up of the panel, it will include: Adelaide Airport, Education Adelaide, at least two regional representatives, South Australian Tourism Industry Council, the West Beach Trust, the Adelaide Convention Bureau, the Australian Hotels Association, the arts and the Australian Tourism Export Council.

I said to minister Bignell, in a briefing we had with him, that I would expect that, if the parliament is insisting on retaining a board—he has already outlined the sorts of background and representatives he would like on an industry panel, so clearly he has a view of the sort of people and the industries he wants represented on his panel—I would expect him to follow that when he appoints a new board. Reading the act I think there is some requirement to have at least two women and at least two men and, apart from that, some broad guidelines on industry background.

If we had won the election and I had the good fortune to be the minister, I would have had people like the chief executive of the industry council on the board so the small operators have a voice on the board. With regional representatives, I know that all the regional boards have regional chairs and they meet and elect a chair. At the moment it is Mr Pierre Gregor from Kangaroo Island. I am not sure whether he should be the representative or the chair of the chairs, but maybe the regions should elect a couple of people.

If minister Bignell is saying that he would like two regional representatives, then it would be appropriate in my view for the regions to elect those regional representatives, or at least offer some suggestions to the minister so that they have people in whom they have faith and confidence to represent their views around the board table. Obviously, the Conventions Bureau, the Hotels Association and others just make common sense. It was also interesting that in this letter minister Bignell said:

These decisions haven't been taken lightly, and have come about from discussions I've had with hundreds of people throughout South Australia during the past 20 months.

It is interesting: I have not heard from anybody who supports the abolition of the Tourism Commission board. I move about South Australia, and last year in October-November either the Leader of the Opposition, Stephen Marshall, or the deputy leader, Vickie Chapman, in the House of Assembly indicated that we would not support the abolition of the Tourism Commission board, yet I got not one bit of correspondence, phone call or email saying, 'You guys have got it wrong, you've got to get rid of it'.

So I am a bit surprised that the minister says that he has spoken to hundreds of people and that this is the view he has come to. I am a little surprised he would say that. I was a little surprised also, in the briefings I had with him, that he was asserting that various people had changed their mind, including some of the industry groups and stakeholders. It is fair to say that, when I contacted those people, they had not changed their mind: they had decided they would not be vocal in opposition to it, but they still had a view.

I think it was the Hotels Association that still had a view that they did not agree with the minister's decision, but that they were not going to be vocal and out there beating the drum. I recall a copy of a letter I received from the minister that he had written to Mr Peter Shelley, the Managing Director of the Australian Tourism Export Council. The council says that they are opposed to it, and minister Bignell was writing to them and was quite scathing. He said:

I am disappointed in your comments which show a severe lack of knowledge and understanding of the South Australian tourism industry.

He went on to say:

The Chair of the South Australian branch of the Australian Tourism Export Council, Mr Paul Brown, was included in this process and is supportive of the government's decision.

He goes on to say:

Mr Brown has accepted a position on the new industry panel.

Of course, he could well be one of the regional people. It was interesting, because I think that Mr Brown was lying on the beach in Bali on holiday when he got a phone call from the minister saying, 'Will you be on a new advisory panel?'. He really had no understanding of exactly what was being proposed. It is interesting that at times minister Bignell has stretched things a fraction when it has come to exactly who agrees or does not agree with the decision. Nonetheless, we are delighted that this Tourism Commission board is now going to be retained.

Of course, one of the big areas that I think the government has been quite keen to progress just recently is the events space. I think that is something that we all need to look at. Just on Sunday, we saw an article written by Sheradyn Holderhead about new events:

South Australia has an arts calendar the envy of many, a motorsport festival unlike any other, and a world-acclaimed bike race that goes from strength to strength.

But with M ad March now behind us, the State Government is calling on the public to help shape the next big act to cement Adelaide on the tourism map.

It is interesting that they say that, because then they go on and talk about investment in events and quote minister Bignell:

Tourism Minister Leon Bignell said Tour Down Under was a perfect example of a successful event started from scratch. 'The government didn't think of that, a cyclist did. The ideas don't rest with us, they rest with everyone,' he said. 'When we talk about major events they don't necessarily have to stop the city. Some of the best returns we get are for things like the University Games.'

About 2½ years ago, a group came to me with a proposal to stage the world waterski championships in South Australia. I have looked at that events article and I also think: what do we have here that is unique? We saw the Victorians steal the Grand Prix; they built a track and they were able to do it. There is always the constant threat that somebody is going to take away the Tour Down Under, although I suspect we are reasonably secure because of our geography and the fact that the cyclists and their teams can stay in the Hilton every night.

But one thing we have in Adelaide that no other capital city has—and I think you will all be a little surprised that this—is that the western end of the Torrens lake is one of the most perfect bodies of water for waterskiing anywhere in the world, and better than any other capital city in Australia. I will just quickly elaborate on that. For that level of competition, they need a body of water that is not tidal, is not flowing and has reedbeds along the side so the wash from the wake does not come back and so the water is still and flat again in a very short period of time.

Of course, in Melbourne they have the Yarra, in Sydney the harbour; there is the Brisbane River in Brisbane, the Swan River in Perth and the Derwent in Hobart. They are all tidal; they are all beautiful, lovely parts of Australia, but what we have in the western end is a unique geological environmental asset that is perfect for waterskiing.

The president of the world waterskiing federation has visited Adelaide and could not believe that we had a body of water which was walking distance from several big hotels, right in the middle of the city. I think last year's world championships were either in Chile or Argentina, and it was a two-hour coach ride for the athletes from wherever they were staying out to the lake, which I guess was probably up in the foothills of the Andes somewhere, where there was a solid body of water.

So we have this unique environmental asset. The water skiing community here has been to the city council. The city council has signed off that, yes, they are happy to do it and have it there. They propose to do it in September, so it would not be in Mad March. I think they also had some discussions with the Kaurna people, and the Kaurna people are comfortable and relaxed with the event being held on the Torrens; they are not fussed about the timing of it.

So we have an event that is ripe for the picking and in the last few days has become riper than ever. It was scheduled for 2015 to be in Italy, but the Italians are unable to host the event, so the world waterski federation is now looking for a host city for 2015. We were to bid for the 2017 world championships. Unfortunately, the word got out that we had a perfect body of water and when it came to bidding, nobody else bid for the 2017 games, because they all expected Adelaide to bid for it.

We have not bid for it, and I know there are a few issues in and around that. I think there is a $50,000 bid fee, which is a bit like a deposit; you pay it and then get it back once you have run a successful event. There are some staging costs. As an example, there are naming rights sponsors; there is a whole range of sponsors. In Darwin, we have the SkyCity Darwin Cup. I know that the waterskiing community here has had some discussions with the Casino here, and so I am sure that whether the Casino wants to be the naming rights sponsor or however they would like to be involved, they will be on the water's edge, effectively.

It is interesting that, when I recently met with Mark Beretta—members would know that he is a sports reporter for Channel 7 and a waterskiing enthusiast himself—he told me that he had emailed Hitaf Rasheed at Events SA and said, 'This is a great event. You need to get on and back it. Given that the world president and all of his cronies have seen Adelaide as such a perfect location for it, here you have a golden opportunity.' It may have been somewhat of a throwaway line, but he said to me, 'Channel 7 will come in and broadcast it now.'

Channel 7 would have to obviously program that in, but the way he spoke was that it would be a big event. I am told that it has a viewing audience of some 200 million or 300 million. It is one of the biggest participation sports in South Australia.

I was interested to see that only last week, when this bill was being debated in the House of Assembly—I think somebody might have interjected minister Bignell in relation to the World Waterski Championships and why we were not doing it, and he said that it was an extra cost of $1 million dollars. So, this week we asked the Minister for Recreation and Sport, further to his comments last week, could he detail the $1 million of costs associated with the World Waterski Championships, but he could not do so. So, last week he said in parliamentary debate that it would be extra $1 million of costs, and this week he said:

I thank the member for the question. Yes, I can bring back some information about the World Waterski Championships.

The member for Chaffey went on to ask:

Given the event will attract participants from an estimated 45 countries, what support is the government going to provide to this potentially lucrative major event?

Minister Bignell went on to say:

We have been having discussions…for a couple of years—

I know that, Mr President—

We are well aware of the potential for the event but we are also aware of the potential risk for the government and the taxpayers of South Australia in hosting the event. We hav e asked the organisers for some further information and we are still waiting on that. The last I heard, when I spoke to the South Australian Tourism Commission, they were still waiting on that information to come back from the organisers.

What I am saying here is that we have an event that fits the bill perfectly. It is not in March, we are going to capitalise on a unique environmental asset we have, it has support from both sides of politics and I suspect probably from the crossbenches as well, the city council supports it, and my understanding is that the local Kaurna are happy with it. I would urge minister Bignell and Premier Weatherill to go back and have a closer look at this.

One of the other things I think is possible is that, because the Italians have dropped out of hosting this year, we may well be able to do a deal with the World Waterski Federation and host back-to-back world championships, one in 2015 and one in 2017, which would defray some of the costs the minister is talking about.

Also, there is a strong indication that the Australian body will have what they call a pro series, where they have a championship event a bit like the V8 supercars: they rotate around the nation. They would have a pro series, and they would like to start that with an Adelaide event in September-October each year. So we could see, with a little bit of imagination and a little bit of investment, an event that has the world championships maybe this year and in 2017 and then a regular event, being the Adelaide leg of the Australian championships for water-skiing.

They have done all of the testing. The water quality at that time of year is the best. It is at the end of the winter cycle, so it as fresh as it can be. The water is deep enough, and it is long enough. They have had some discussions with the private schools, with all the little rowing sheds for the contestants to put their skis and all their gear and then lock them up. Then there is the Intercontinental, the Stamford and The Playford. There are still plenty of hotels in walking distance, and I expect that we will see some new hotels built around the city as well over the next little while. So, it really fits perfectly, and I would implore the minister and the Premier to have another look at that particular event.

I am sure that the Tour Down Under, the Clipsal and all the other things we have done over the years that have had some longevity did cost some money initially. I think it was $160,000 or $170,000 the Hon. Robert Brokenshire said it cost to build the temporary grandstand and tent on top of Willunga Hill for a race that goes past for one day in a week-long event.

These waterski championships will be a week-long event, so it would provide an opportunity to showcase the Riverbank. We are all proud of the Riverbank, and it will develop and continue to evolve over the next 10 or 15 years. The backdrop for the television coverage of the waterski championships would have the new hospital, SAHMRI and the other research facilities and then the Convention Centre, the Intercontinental, the Casino and whatever the final development is behind here, the Festival Theatre refresh and then, of course, swinging around to Adelaide Oval. So you can see that it will be a wonderful way to showcase Adelaide to the world, with the opportunity to host two world championships, probably within a couple of years of each other. I encourage the minister and the Premier to have a much closer look at that particular event. With those few words—probably not few words—but with those words I indicate that the opposition will be supporting the bill and I look forward to further stages of the debate.

news speeches