Mr VAN HOLST PELLEKAAN (Stuart) (17:01): As you know, I am here to speak about the Supply Bill 2010, for the appropriation of money from the Consolidated Account for 2010-11. I would like to just take a moment to point out that, just before question time, the Premier mentioned the ascent of Everest today by Duncan Chessell. I think it would have been equally important to mention Katie Sarah, who is the first South Australian woman to have made that same ascent. I recognise that great feat and congratulate her on that.

We have heard people from our side of the chamber speak today—the members for Davenport, Waite, Goyder—with regard to statewide issues. The member for Norwood gave us the exciting speech that he promised us, and the member for Schubert spoke very passionately about agriculture and the impact that the decline in funding for agriculture, particularly in research and development, has had.

I would like to really support the member for Goyder with regard to focusing on regional issues. It will not surprise anybody here that this is very important to me. It is very disappointing to me that regional South Australia has been so ignored over such a long time by this government. Dealing with regional issues is always difficult. I certainly will not oppose this bill. I am a realist and I understand the mechanisms. I understand that it is important to get the money through. I also understand that Adelaide will always be the centre of South Australia—there is no doubt about that—but regional areas should not be forgotten.

The government tells us all the time that money needs to be spent in the city because country people come to the city all the time to use those services, and that is very true, but the reverse is equally true: city people go to the country—to rural and regional South Australia and the outback—all the time and access services as well. I think that it is very important to recognise that the money needs to be divided equally.

Every single person in South Australia, regardless of where they live, has a vote. They all contribute to the government, they all pay taxes, whether they are payroll taxes, personal taxes or business taxes. We all know there are lots of taxes—far too many—and everyone in regional South Australia contributes in exactly the same way as other people.

Madam Speaker, I know that regional South Australia—Whyalla and the north-west of the state—is very important to you, as Port Augusta and the Mid North and the north-east is important to me. This is a very important aspect. Isobel Redmond said before and after the election that she wanted to be, and hopes one day to be, a premier for all South Australians, and that is exactly the sort of premier I would like to have. We do not have that at the moment. The current Premier would struggle to claim that for all South Australians. Isobel Redmond, before the election—

The SPEAKER: Member for Stuart, I just need to point out to you that you have made your maiden speech. From now on, it is not appropriate to refer to members by their name but by their seat or their position. I am not telling you off; I am just reminding you.

Mr VAN HOLST PELLEKAAN: Thank you very much—the member for Heysen.

The SPEAKER: You can address her as Leader.

Mr VAN HOLST PELLEKAAN: The Leader of the Opposition, thank you very much, Madam Speaker. Yes, the Leader of the Opposition desires to be and I hope very soon (in four years' time) will be a premier for all South Australians because that is sadly lacking at the moment.

Stuart, as I hope everybody knows, is a very large electorate. Almost everything that can be found anywhere in regional South Australia is found within Stuart. It runs from—

An honourable member interjecting:

Mr VAN HOLST PELLEKAAN: Almost anything, but no crayfish—not yet. It runs from Kapunda and includes a section of the Riverland—fantastic farming lands—all through the Mid North, Port Augusta and through the north-east pastoral district. People in those areas are visited very regularly by people from the city. Every road up there is not just for an outback person or a country person but it is for a city person as well and, very often, it is for an international person or an interstate person who has come here for tourism. So, it is extremely important.

I fear that this government is trying to shrink regional South Australia by stealth. By providing decreased funding year after year to communities in regional South Australia it forces small towns to contract as people go to the slightly bigger towns in their area. Of course, when that happens, in an unfortunate irony, then the services have to contract as well. It is quite a sneaky process that I object to dreadfully. I think that comes from a lack of funding across the region.

This government says that it spends more money in regional areas, and I do not doubt that that is true in many cases. Where that happens I give them credit for it, but I also think that a lot of it is hidden with regard to inflation and other ways of hiding things: it might be spent more in one area and less in another.

What I can tell people absolutely is that regional people know that their services are diminishing, and they are the people who I listen to. When the government tells me that it is spending more money in a certain area, but the people of Stuart tell me that they are getting less of a result in that area (which is really what counts), that is the most important thing for me.

Regional people are not silly. Regional people are no sillier, no dumber, no less able to figure out what is going on in their communities than any other people anywhere else in the state or in the rest of Australia. They know if their roads are not right; they know if their schools are not adequately funded; they know if their hospitals are not adequately funded; and they send a very strong message that they are incredibly disappointed with the funding that is going to regional South Australia—and they know.

We have a situation at the moment in regional South Australia where a town of about 1,000 people is the break-even point. Towns below 1,000 people living in them are shrinking and this has been going on for about a decade. Towns in regional South Australia with a population of over 1,000 are growing. That is a trend from smaller towns to bigger towns because smaller towns are being starved and shrunken and they are really deteriorating. I do not believe that the government is not aware of this. I do not believe that the government is not doing this deliberately.

It is tough economic times, and I understand that. It is difficult and costs have to be cut, but they should never be cut more in regional areas than they are in the city. Every time there is cost-cutting, people in the country suffer more than people in the city. I will always keep reminding the government of that because it is absolutely not acceptable.

There are roughly 30 towns throughout Stuart. There were many more 10, 20, 30 years ago. I fear that there will be fewer in the next 10, 20, 30 years. The government has an opportunity to help. The government talks about putting money into regional services, but this is a very important thing. The member for Schubert talked about agriculture: if you cannot feed yourself, you are going nowhere. It does not matter whether you are a family, whether you are a town, whether you are a state or a nation: if you cannot feed yourself, you are going nowhere.

If we have this perpetual drain on communities, this shrinking of people living there, every time a person loses a job in a country area it is so much harder to find another job in a country area. If a person in the city loses a job, that is a terrible situation, too, as every job, every person, every family is important, but there are more opportunities to get yourself back on track and to find another job. In country areas, that opportunity is devastatingly small, and I think that one of the things that needs to be looked at is regional employment.

To its credit, the government has set some targets. The government has population growth targets in the South Australian Strategic Plan for regional South Australia, but I do not believe that they will be achieved, and I do not believe that the government is spending money, or planning to spend money, in ways that will allow it to achieve those targets so that regional South Australian population grows at the same rate as Adelaide's population grows. It is the government's own target, and it is a good target, but it needs to be taken far more seriously.

I would like to talk about health, and again I give the government credit. It has just announced chemotherapy services for some regional towns, including Port Augusta in the electorate of Stuart, and I think that is terrific. It is actually matching an election promise the Liberal Party made before the election—we made that promise. We said that if we were elected we would put chemotherapy services in town for the people of Port Augusta and the surrounding area. To its credit, the government matched it, and to its credit the government is now about to implement that, so I think that is absolutely fantastic.

I am extremely disappointed, though, that the government will not support the implementation of an MRI licence. I understand that the licence is provided by the federal government, but the state government is not supporting it. There is an operator capable of doing it, there is a site capable of doing it, there are skills, and there is even money available. The reality is that this would not cost the South Australian government anything or, at worst, very little. There is no reason for the government not to support the granting of an MRI licence; that is, the licence for the operator of the MRI machine at Port Augusta to have their patients claim Medicare rebates. It does not cost the state a cent.

There is an operator ready to go, and I am extremely disappointed that the government will not support it, because if it were put into place, it would support not only the people of Port Augusta but a whole fan all around Upper Spencer Gulf, including the outback, the Mid North and the closer Eyre Peninsula. I think that this should be a very high priority, and it should be in the budget, particularly since it is an incredibly cheap matter for the state government.

One of the most important things about the Liberal Party's policy to rebuild the RAH where it is at the moment is that the savings would have been spent on the health system throughout the rest of the state. We can all haggle about what the savings would have been, and there is plenty of argy-bargy to be had about the numbers, but there is not one person on either side of this house who does not know or admit that it would have been much cheaper to rebuild on the current site. The reason I supported it so wholeheartedly was that there was a commitment to spend the savings—the significant savings—on health throughout the rest of the state, and that would have included suburban Adelaide and regional and remote health facilities. I think that would have been a very important thing to do.

It is a sad thing to say, but people in the country—people in my electorate—do not trust the government in regard to the health plan. It is an indisputable fact. The government is saying that it will do the best it can, and I will do everything I can to help the government do the best it can for health in country South Australia. However, in all my travels, both within and without Stuart, people do not trust the government on that. That is one of the first things the government has to rectify, and it has do whatever it needs to do to get people to believe them, to get people to trust that they are not trying to shrink the health system in country South Australia.

Hospitals in country South Australia belong to the communities. They do not belong to the government. The government should do the best it can by them with funding and resources and training and all that sort of thing, but they actually belong to the communities. In country areas more than anywhere else, people know that and people believe that, and people raise money for the hospitals and do everything they can. Without a hospital in a country town, you do not have a GP, you do not have a pharmacy, and you do not have an aged-care facility. The hospital is so much more than just a place where people need to go for some quick service as day patients or perhaps even stay for a couple of nights. It flows onto everything in a country town, and you lose all those other terribly important services.

With regard to education, again there is this shrinking by stealth issue. A very important issue going on at the moment in my electorate is the Melrose kindergarten. People may not understand how important a kindergarten is, but for a family, for a child, for a community, it is everything, even if it is only 10 or 15 or 20 kids who are going to go to that kindergarten.

If they do not get to go there, they have to go to the town down the road. Now, the town down the road, if you are lucky, might be 25 or 30 kilometres away. It may be further. If you do not go to that kindergarten, and you go to the kindergarten in the next town down the road, well then you probably stay with your friends and you go to primary school in the next town down the road. And guess what? A few years after that, the primary school in that first town is not needed any longer, and it is just disgraceful. It is a stealth issue. I think many people opposite just would not have thought about it, understandably; it is not part of their electorate, not part of their work. I am so concerned that there be some people opposite who would have thought about it and it is a deliberate plan to save money, shrink regional communities and just move on because it is not a high priority.

Shared Services is a mess, an absolute mess. Sixty million dollars was meant to be spent to save $137 million over five years by contracting services. Now, I am a realist and I come from a business background. I understand how important it is to save costs, but why do those costs have to be saved in the country? The only reason this is possible is because services can be shrunk. We do not need to pass a piece of paper from one person's desk to another person's desk right next to them in the same office, and have that happening absolutely everywhere. Technology allows us to effectively work and communicate remotely.

It does not have to be in Adelaide. We could have the Shared Services payroll for all government departments in Whyalla, Madam Speaker. It could be absolutely anywhere. It could be in Port Augusta, it could be in Mount Gambier, it does not have to be in Adelaide. Why is it that everything has to shrink back to Adelaide? If people would open their eyes, they would say that what allows the shrinking could also allow some growth out into regional areas; harness exactly the same technology and send it out to the regions instead of trying to pull it away from the regions.

On the matter of infrastructure, we need infrastructure to develop the very important mining industry, and tourism is also a terribly important industry. The regional development infrastructure, which was put in place by a previous Liberal government, has only had funding withdrawn from it every single budget over the last period since that happened. We went to the election saying that we would put a share of mining royalties—25 per cent—into that.

That would have taken that funding in the regional development infrastructure program from about $2.5 million to about $42.5 million overnight and, because it is a percentage-based program, that would have grown and grown and grown as our mining grows, the mining that our Premier and Treasurer keep telling us is on the way. We hope it is, and, as that grows, that 25 per cent would have grown. Hence, the money available for regional infrastructure, which has an extraordinarily high multiplier effect—I think it is 100 or 200 times—so for every dollar that is spent through that regional infrastructure development program it amounts to $100 or $200. You cannot get that kind of growth, you cannot get that kind of multiplier effect in just about any other way.

The silly thing is that, if we do not do it, we will not be able to grow mining or tourism. We will not be able to grow all of the other very important programs that both sides of this house know are important for regional South Australia. And we will not be able to reverse the population decline. If population declines, then communities decline and it is a negative multiplier effect. When a business closes because there are not enough people in the town, then even fewer people will stay and live in that town. It is absolutely disgraceful. If you have a town like the one I live in, Wilmington, of about 250 people, if one of our service stations or one of our shops were to close, then all of sudden the town would shrink even further. It is not just about Wilmington, it is about all the towns throughout regional South Australia, but particularly the towns in Stuart.

I would like to challenge this government to spend money in the budget. They have a long time, a long lead-up with regard to putting this budget in place. We talked about it in question time. The Treasurer has explained to us why he needs so much extra time to deliver his budget. I challenge him directly to spend the money equitably between South Australians who live in Adelaide and South Australians who live in the country. 'Equitably' is not saying, 'We will spend the majority of it in Adelaide and country people are welcome to come and use those services anytime they like.' That is not equitable because we know that is not how it works. That will only perpetuate the shrinking of regional communities.

I challenge this Premier to spend the money in his budget equitably across all South Australians. Everybody has a vote; everybody is a real person; everybody contributes to their communities; everybody is responsible for choosing their government; and everybody deserves equitable treatment by the government, whichever government it is, when it comes to handing down the budget.


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