I rise to make a brief contribution on the Supply Bill 2011. The passage of this bill will fund the activities of the government from 1 July to when the Appropriation Bill passes sometime after that. From what we have seen in recent years with this government, I cannot imagine that the Appropriation Bill will not attract a hell of a lot of scrutiny and, therefore, could be debated for quite a while.
It is pertinent that I talk about some of the poor decision-making of this government when it comes to public money, particularly in portfolios which I shadow, including supply. In Aboriginal Affairs we have seen the minister announce many programs, spending millions of dollars which have had or will have little effect on the Indigenous community. Recently, I met with representatives from the Mai Wiru Regional Stores group who are deeply concerned about the affordability of food on the APY lands.
The minister’s solution was to drive around the APY lands giving cooking lessons to local women. If they cannot afford the food in the first place, cooking lessons are not going to be of any value at all. Instead, what the government should be focusing on is trying to reduce the real cost of food on the APY lands by subsidising the cost of the regional stores, particularly in the area of transport, which is one factor, if not the major factor, on the remote APY lands.
The drug rehabilitation centre in Amata—another brainwave. There is no doubt that substance abuse has been an issue in Aboriginal communities, but to spend $1 million upgrading the facility to have no-one in it is hardly worth the money. The annual $1 million could easily have been spent in areas where it would have had a real effect. People at Mai Wiru informed me that a $300,000 subsidy has the potential to reduce food price on the lands to near Adelaide prices. That would create a real effect. Mismanagement and wastage of funds are, unfortunately, what we have come to expect from this government. A million dollars here and there may not seem like much on paper but, as I have just mentioned, that kind of money can have a real impact on communities in South Australia.
I will now touch on Correctional Services. The government has really dropped the ball in this area. The conduct of the minister and the department is nothing short of disgraceful in recent times and I am glad that the council has agreed to form a select committee in order to review this conduct and the flawed culture that exists within the department. It must be stressed that any failure of the department to act with the utmost integrity risks the genuine rehabilitation of prisoners and undermines our entire corrections system.
The recent escapes go to the heart of the department’s shortcomings. The failure of this department to keep the people of South Australia safe is a direct reflection on the performance of the minister whose conduct through this entire saga has been pathetic and completely unbecoming of a minister. He has refused to take any responsibility for the string of escapes that have occurred recently, all of which were meant to be low to medium risk inmates. All three of the escapees went on to commit further violent crimes while on the run. I can say that there was a fourth escape but because the violent criminal did not get past the gates of the carpark of the Royal Adelaide Hospital, it was not actually classified as an escape, even though, at the time, the offender stabbed a guard with a pencil.
The minister went on to blame everyone but himself. He blamed G4S, the company subcontracted to transfer prisoners. If they are the problem, then why hasn’t this happened before? The minister blamed the opposition for subcontracting out the responsibility in the first place but, apart from the year 1998-99, prisoner escapes never got above one in the entire time the Liberals were in government. There have been three so far this year—we have had three and counting.
This government has renewed the contract twice. The only difference between now and then is a toxic minister in a toxic government who has infected the department. It is clear that we have a Premier who has no control over his cabinet and flawed decision-making which is so typical of his ministers. He is not doing the appropriate background checks or screening when it comes to promoting members to cabinet and is allocating important portfolios to undeserving members. If he cannot even choose the right people how can he be expected to handle the state’s finances?
In tourism we have seen millions of dollars being ripped out of the department’s allocation, affecting the long-suffering regional areas of South Australia. Many towns in country South Australia will now have no tourism representation, no information centres, and local businesses and tourism operators are predicting large shortfalls in revenue as a result of these budget cuts. This policy of centralisation, pulling tourism funding from the regions, cannot benefit regional South Australia one bit, yet the government will say that this is a good thing for them—much like the electricity price hike in Coober Pedy. The government is centralising tourism in Adelaide, yet it is closing the Visitor Information Centre in King William Street. How can this policy make any sense?
At the end of the day these are just ill-thought through budget cuts which will impact on everyday South Australians. In a further blow to tourism and sport, this government has seen the loss of another major event, the Rugby Sevens—an event which was not only good for the sport of rugby here in South Australia but for tourism also. So far there has been no replacement for it and many businesses in Adelaide and elsewhere rely on the dollars that international visitors bring in and this needs to be sorted out.
The Adelaide Oval project is the budget white elephant. There is a massive cost for an inadequate stadium, and as Rod Sawford, the former federal Labor member for Port Adelaide said, we are now going to get a 20th century stadium for the 21st century. It is a massive cost for an inadequate stadium while South Australians are losing jobs and having their livelihoods threatened, particularly in regional areas. I am not suggesting for one second that we break the age old convention of granting supply to the government but I recommend that this council take a good hard look at what this government is proposing, because if there was ever a time when it could be justified it almost could be now.