Cinema Augusta


Mr VAN HOLST PELLEKAAN (Stuart) (15:11): I rise today to share with the house a very unfortunate example of government red tape thwarting business so that it cannot employ people and cannot serve the community in the way it has done for so long. I speak specifically about Cinema Augusta in Port Augusta, which is run by Roger and Michele Coles, a very hard-working couple.

They have great support for and from the surrounding community in Port Augusta. They not only provide movies for people who like to come and watch the latest new releases—and they make sure that they are very up-to-date, and often show movies before any other part of the state outside of Adelaide—they also give enormous support to the community with regard to out of hours school care programs, where kids who would otherwise perhaps have nothing else to do come to see their movies. They provide a place for pensioners to come at discounted rates on very hot days in Port Augusta, and they provide their cinema for community fundraisers so that community organisations can use the facility to raise money for all sorts of programs.

In fact, the Coles have invested enormously in the equipment used at the cinema. The difficulty for them is that they lease the cinema from the state government; it is a TAFE auditorium and is leased from the government by the Coles. The Coles have been in negotiations for renewal of the lease for approximately 3½ years; it has gone on and on and on with almost no progress. TAFE has made it very clear, following a study, that it does not need the cinema, they have no need for it for their own teaching purposes, and, of course, that is very important. If they did need it for their TAFE purposes it would be an entirely different matter, but they do not.

This issue has gone through two ministers; two ministers for TAFE and further education have been involved in this. We have certainly agreed on the principle; there was no difficulty whatsoever in agreeing to the principle that they could lease this facility from the government at a cost which does not cost the taxpayer any more than the actual cost of providing the facility. That principle was negotiated with the Hon. Mr Kenyon and agreed by minister Portolesi in the context of their responsibilities.

There were going to be two options for the Coles. They could either rent the facility for exactly what it cost the government to run the facility, or they could pay zero rent and could directly pay themselves what it cost to maintain and operate the facility; so, by way of electricity bills and maintenance of equipment, all those sorts of things that come along. So, at zero profit to the government and zero cost to the taxpayer, it is just a rent that basically covered the costs—a very good principle—but unfortunately this principle has got lost in red tape. We have been trying to negotiate with the government back and forth, and the Coles have done everything they can to provide all of the information that is requested to them and yet we have got no further.

I have to say, the government has provided a 12-month renewal of their lease from June this year to June next year, and that just gives them a bit of comfort that they can be there for another year, but I think really all that has done is just given the government another 12 months to try and thwart them. They really are avoiding negotiating properly on this issue. It has been going on for three and a half years. If the government was doing this in genuinely good faith, it certainly could have reached an agreement with the Coles by now. There have been excuses after excuses about why this very straightforward, simple agreement in principle cannot be reached, and it has reached an unacceptable stage. It cannot go on any longer.

I have been asking the government in every way possible to get on top of this. The ministers and the ministers' staff have been saying that they will get on top of it, but the bottom line is it is just not happening. We need to free this award-winning business up so that it can employ people locally and so that it can serve our community locally. They have an excellent reputation; they serve not only Port Augusta but the entire Upper Spencer Gulf and close country area. To make matters worse, the government has actually been giving grants to other cinemas which compete against the Coles and which are not private enterprise cinemas, which makes the Coles' business, in genuinely private enterprise, harder and harder.

Time expired.


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