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In Parliament and the Media

Suicide Prevention

Mr DULUK (Waite) (15:23): I rise today to speak about the serious topic of suicide in relation to the recent work that I have begun as the chair of the state government's Issues Group on Suicide Prevention. The loss of life under any circumstances is always difficult but the notion that any person would intentionally take their own life is incredibly distressing to so many in our society. The reasons people take their own life are complex and often there is no single reason why a person attempts suicide or is successful at suicide.

Society's approach to people who have issues with mental health and suicidal thoughts continues to improve each and every year, and it is fundamentally important that we continue to support organisations that play such a great role in suicide prevention. It is these groups, whether they be in our community, such as those in my Blackwood and Mitcham communities, or as part of government such as the issues group I chair on suicide prevention that continue to facilitate discussion and ensure that governments and, more importantly, our society adequately provide care for people who are going through a difficult time and require access to appropriate services.

Suicide remains the leading cause of death for Australians aged between 15 and 44 and is the biggest cause of death of men in that cohort. Australian Bureau of Statistics data shows that over 3,000 people died from suicide in 2017. Deaths from intentional self-harm occur among males at a rate more than three times greater than that of females. For every death by suicide, it is estimated that as many as 30 people have attempted to take their own life.

Last year, the Premier appointed the Hon. John Dawkins from the other place as his Advocate for Suicide Prevention. Shortly after, the Premier's Council on Suicide Prevention was established. The issues group is a working group of the Premier's council and tasked with supporting the council by providing information and reporting on new initiatives and programs to enhance the ability to facilitate change in policy and community awareness.

The issues group involves 22 senior executives from state government agencies who work collaboratively on mental health and wellbeing strategies for their workplace and their consumers. In identified high-risk areas, such as the Aboriginal and Torres Straight Islander portfolio and emergency first responders, there is more than one representative on the issues group. We meet monthly for approximately two hours and work closely with the Department for Health and Wellbeing's suicide prevention unit and the SA Mental Health Commission to identify key cross-sector issues for the public sector in suicide prevention.

It is so important that government works in a collaborative fashion, and it is fantastic that Ms Erma Ranieri, the Commissioner for Public Sector Employment, sits on this issues group and co-chairs it with me, ensuring that government agencies have the ability to share employee and consumer programs, ideas, data and statistics to best create good public policy. We are also guided by the South Australian Mental Health Commissioner, Chris Burns, and SA Chief Psychiatrist, Dr John Brayley.

As the biggest employer in the state, it is important that the public sector has mechanisms in place to work together in providing the best support for their staff, resulting in a positive effect to their families, other work colleagues and community members. The Premier's council and the issues group on suicide prevention both support initiatives and events run by local suicide prevention networks across South Australia.

There are 34 community-based suicide prevention networks linked predominantly to local council regions currently in operation, and this number continues to expand. The issues group assists in increasing the profile and reach of suicide prevention programs for both public sector staff and consumers. Examples of some of the work that we have been undertaking and looking at is the establishment of working groups to investigate and progress data collection in the state. That is so important in many of the key emergency service departments.

We are ensuring that local suicide networks are present at country field days to hand out information on suicide prevention and counselling services. We are looking at ways of addressing actions within the state suicide prevention plan specific to individual agencies, reporting back and then using that data to best create good public policy. They are some of the positive examples that we have been working on to date.

The state government is committed to improving efforts to reduce the state's suicide rate. It is indeed a state and national tragedy. We are working towards breaking down the stigma surrounding suicide and encouraging people to seek help when they are having suicidal thoughts. Every effort—and we are doing this to increase awareness on the importance of suicide prevention—is critical. Through community programs, we can break down that stigma and hopefully save lives.

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Climate Change

Mr DULUK (Waite) (14:55): My question is to the Minister for Environment and Water. Can the minister update the house on how the government is working to help protect our state against the threat of a changing climate?

Members interjecting:

The SPEAKER: Minister, be seated for one moment.

Mr Malinauskas interjecting:

The SPEAKER: Leader of the Opposition, you can leave for the remainder of question time, thank you.

The honourable member for Croydon having withdrawn from the chamber:

The SPEAKER: The Minister for Environment and Water has the call.

The Hon. D.J. SPEIRS (Black—Minister for Environment and Water) (14:55): Thank you, Mr Speaker, and it is very good to be able to update not only the member for Waite but also this house about the Marshall Liberal government's approach to climate change, which is embedded very significantly in the state budget and which was announced yesterday.

Our approach in funding a number of key and very significant climate change policies builds on the 2018-19 financial year budget, which of course we believe was the biggest spending budget on climate change in this state's history, with very substantial investments in renewables and a whole range of environmental initiatives. We have continued with that theme, that body of work, in this budget, and our approach to climate change is woven into all of the environmental initiatives which were announced in the budget.

It was a great budget for South Australia's natural environment, with some $86 million of new investment being provided to our natural environment over the coming years. When it comes to climate change, there is no greater example of our focus and our investment than our very significant spending on our coastline: $52 million for coastal protection across the state and a very substantial amount invested in the member for Colton's electorate, which we know is that weak spot in the metropolitan coastline—a weak spot in our metropolitan coastline at West Beach that has knock-on effects for all the metropolitan coastline in our capital city.

We know that our coasts form the front line in the fight against climate change in this state. We know that increasing populations, rising sea levels and increasing storm events all contribute to a vulnerability in our coastline, and we have to be willing to invest, and invest substantially, in order to overcome those challenges. I was very keen to see our coast invested in, and I know that many of the members in this chamber are, none more so than the member for Colton with his ongoing advocacy for his electorate. But we are quadrupling the funding available for regional coastal protection as well. We've got many thousands of kilometres of coastline in regional South Australia. We know there are challenges there as well, and a $4 million regional coastal protection fund is being established.

We are also making significant investment in our national parks. More than $11 million is being invested in our national parks because that is land that the government has care and control of. Twenty-one per cent of the state is locked up in our reserve system. They are areas of land which we can get into and in which we can improve biodiversity and increase resilience so that native species of flora and fauna can thrive in those environments and hopefully withstand a change in climate.

Then we've also got our investment in waste reduction, waste management. We are undertaking significant reform in the waste management and resources recovery area because we know that waste to landfill has a big impact on the amount of emissions. In fact, methane is thought to be four times more damaging for our environment than CO2, so diverting waste from landfill, getting it out of our landfills, is a very important response to climate change.

South Australia has a historic and, I believe, in many ways bipartisan approach to dealing with climate change, and this budget continues to take that to the next level.

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Aboriginal Lands Parliamentary Standing Committee

ABORIGINAL LANDS PARLIAMENTARY STANDING COMMITTEE: REVIEW INTO THE OPERATIONS OF THE ABORIGINAL LANDS TRUST ACT 2013

Mr DULUK (Waite) (11:39): I also rise to make a few small comments in relation to the noting of this report on the review into the operation of the Aboriginal Lands Trust Act 2013. I certainly do not want to repeat the words of the member for Narungga or the member for Giles, who I think have covered very well the committee's intentions and its management, but I would like to look at some of the recommendations. I would urge members to look at the recommendations of this committee.

A strong theme from many of the witnesses who came before the committee was the autonomy of decision-making in their communities, and I think that is something that all members of parliament can appreciate. People in general want to make decisions that they believe are in their best interest. How we as a parliament, through this particular act, can further enhance the desire of those communities for self-determination is so important.

Their sense of belonging and the way in which they navigate the world is very important to them and their communities. More importantly, a greater degree of autonomous decision-making will allow a greater level of not only independence but also financial independence to help deal with some of the disadvantage that those communities experience and which they expressed to our committee.

In particular, recommendation No. 4 encourages the government to include in the South Australian Aboriginal strategic plan the development and strengthening of Aboriginal governance structures, systems and administration for Aboriginal communities. I think that is very important. Many of the witnesses who came before the committee expressed that, in some of their communities, there is a lack of governance and a lack of trust, which is seen to be leading to a perception that Aboriginal land is not being as well managed as it should be. Those are some of the key concerns that we need to consider; that is, how the state government and the parliament look at structures of governance and provide the right training and the right framework for communities living on ALT land.

It was a very informative committee. I would like to thank everybody who came to present as witnesses, especially those members who came from the Far West Coast—from your communities, Mr Deputy Speaker—and across all of South Australia. To touch on the words of the member for Giles and the member for Narungga, I thank Shona Reid for her work as the secretary of that committee for many years. I think she was a fantastic advocate for and passionate representative of her community. I would also like to thank Dr Ashley Greenwood, the current secretary, who has picked up right where Shona Reid left off and is leading the committee in a fantastic manner.

Motion carried.

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Rabbit Control

Mr DULUK (Waite) (15:27): My question is to the Minister for Primary Industries and Regional Development. Can the minister update the house on how the state government is addressing the impacts of rabbits on agricultural land?

The Hon. T.J. WHETSTONE (Chaffey—Minister for Primary Industries and Regional Development) (15:28): Yes, I certainly can. I thank the member for Waite. I know that he has rabbit incursions in his electorate in the foothills of South Australia. What I can say is that recently in Mount Barker, I was very happy to announce a new Rabbit Control Coordinator in South Australia. His name is Josh Rosser.

Members interjecting:

The SPEAKER: Order!

The Hon. T.J. WHETSTONE: No, it's not Peter the Rabbit: it's Josh. The position has been funded in a partnership thanks to $260,000 from the federal Liberal government through the Agricultural Competitiveness White Paper. We know that the then minister Joyce had developed a white paper about the invasive species across the nation, none more so than the rabbit. We know that we are now working with landowners to wipe out areas of the destructive environmental pest and the amount of damage that it is doing, not only to agriculture and horticulture but also to our environmental assets.

I am sure the Minister for Environment is deeply concerned about the damage it's doing to his parks and his assets—some $30 million of damage across the state on an annual basis. What we are going to see is that the rabbit coordinator is now going to move around the state and coordinate with landowners, farmers, agriculturalists, horticulturalists and environmentalists to coordinate an approach to this destructive pest. We are seeing now that we are using some of the different methods, such as ripping, fumigation and, of course, the calicivirus that has been in train for a number of years.

The rabbit coordinator will work with landowners to make sure that we have a very much coordinated approach. He is travelling the state, and there have been significant reports on newly planted horticulture—grape vines, trees and nurseries. That puts the cycle of those trees and vines back four to five years in some cases. We know that some of the rootstocks, once they are chewed, never recover and can never be used out in open field. We know that the destruction on fence lines, the destruction they are incurring, particularly with agricultural crops, is having a significant impact on our economy.

Again, I would say that the landowners are being called upon to make sure that they let the coordinator know when there are significant sightings or impacts of rabbits so that we can actually implement a collaboration, an approach, that will better destroy this invasive pest. I am advised that the coordinator is about to release approximately 300 vials of the RHDV1 K5 calicivirus strain. That is the latest strain that is about to be released into our natural environment to combat the invasive species.

We know that, once upon a time, myxomatosis was a viral strain that was released, and it had a significant impact on rabbits, but today the calicivirus continues to evolve. With the release of those 300 vials, we hope to see the destruction of such an invasive pest. Josh Rosser is travelling the state, and I appeal to every landowner and every environmentalist: if you have rabbit pressure, contact him through PIRSA so that we can attack the rabbit instead of the rabbit attacking us.

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Blackwood Roundabout road safety taken seriously

The $3.5 million Blackwood Roundabout upgrade was long overdue, and I am incredibly pleased with the completed work.

However, I have heard the concerns of our community after receiving many calls and visits to my office regarding the safety, signage and line markings on the Roundabout.

Last week, I met with the Blackwood Roundabout Project Manager to discuss the new signage, speeding concerns and to request bollards be installed in front of the Frank Collins Memorial Fountain.

I have been advised that pedestrian safety is being considered in an independent audit.

I have also been assured of the continuation of reviewing the safety of the Blackwood Roundabout.

I will always take concerns about road safety seriously and bring them to the attention of DPTI and to the Minister for Transport, Infrastructure and Local Government, Hon. Stephan Knoll MP.

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Former Labor government in hot water as independent pricing inquiry finds Labor inflated water bills for consumers

An Independent Inquiry into Water Pricing in South Australia has found the former Labor government deliberately inflated the value of SA Water’s opening regulated asset base (RAB) to maximise profits and protect government revenues, driving up water bills for hardworking families and businesses. 

The damning final report of the Inquiry, led by a former regulator and respected corporate leader Lew Owens, found that the RAB had been deliberately inflated by at least $520 million (in 2012 dollars) and ‘despite the (Labor) government claiming it was acting in the interests of consumers, that was not apparent and it appeared that the main driver of the decision was the securing of revenue for the Government’. 

“While the Government was able to deliver a small reduction in price from July 2013, that needs to be seen in the context of an increase in water prices of over 150% in the previous 5 years,” the report found.

Average household water bills in SA under Labor rose from $236 in 2001-02 to an estimated $782 in 2017-18 – an increase of 232 percent. 

The report found Labor ignored advice and criticism by the Essential Services Commission of SA and other stakeholders and used their powers under the Water Industry Act (2012) to set a $7.77 billion opening RAB value in May 2013 – which was “not reasonable’’ and “locked in its revenues for many years to come, at the disadvantage of customers”. 

The RAB (which reflects the value of SA Water’s economic assets) is important, because it is used to set a Pricing Order which sets parameters that must be adopted by ESCOSA in setting its fouryear price determination for water bills. 

“… the process was not transparent, balanced or credible: the decision was taken without proper public consultation or explanation, and there was no demonstrable effort to balance the interests of consumers against those of the Government,” the final report said.

“The Inquiry concluded that the process and the RAB value were not ‘reasonable’ under the criteria it applied, and concluded the value was at the upper end of a range of possible values.” 

The Inquiry – which fulfils an election commitment of the Marshall Liberal Government - has found that, a ‘reasonable’ value of the RAB at 30 June 2013 (in December 2012 dollars) is probably in the range $7.1 billion to $7.25 billion, which would represent a fair balance between the interests of consumers and the Government.

Treasurer Rob Lucas said this report was a stunning and damning indictment of the former Labor government.

“We now know what many have suspected for years, and that is Labor puts its flagrant self-interest above the needs of hardworking South Australian families and business,’’ said Mr Lucas.

“They ignored criticism and advice and arrogantly pushed ahead with inflating the opening value of SA Water’s regulated asset base, knowing full-well it would ultimately cause undue hip pocket pain to consumers.

“It’s disgraceful, shameful and typical Labor, who say one thing publicly and do another in private.

“Labor, under the leadership of Mr Malinauskas, now owe South Australians an apology and must explain to them why they deliberately jacked-up their water bills and cost of living for the past six years.”

Mr Lucas said the Government would now consider the report in full, and he expected it – together with a lower interest rate environment – will result in lower water prices to customers and lower returns to the budget from 2020-21 onwards.

The next SA Water Regulatory Determination will apply from 1 July 2020 to 30 June 2024.

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Volunteers to Receive Legislative Boost

The heroic volunteers of the CFS and SES will soon have their rights to consultation about matters that affect them assured by legislation thanks to Marshall Government support.

The State Liberal Government will support Greens MLC Tammy Franks’s Fire and Emergency Services (Volunteer Charters) Amendment Bill 2018 when it is brought before the Lower House.

The Volunteer Charters represent a commitment by the Government to consult with the CFS and SES volunteer associations and CFS and SES volunteers about matters that might affect them.

The Franks Bill is identical to those introduced in 2012 by former Liberal MP Duncan McFetridge and then Robert Brokenshire MLC in 2015.

Minister for Correctional Services and Emergency Services Corey Wingard said the Bill would ensure volunteers continued to be adequately consulted and their advice taken onboard when decisions are made concerning the sector.

“The State’s volunteers are the backbone of our emergency sector,” Minister Wingard said.

“They have valuable insights into how the sector should operate and we are proud to ensure their knowledge and feedback will continue to help build a safer South Australia.”

“We pride ourselves on being a cooperative Government and we are honoured to work with Ms Franks to bring this important legislation through the Lower House and into legislation.”

The identical Bill which was introduced in 2015 by Robert Brokenshire, passed in the Legislative Council with bipartisan support during the previous session of Parliament.

Unfortunately, inaction by the previous Labor Government meant it did not pass in the House of Assembly before the March 2018 election.

The desire to have Volunteer Charters in legislation first arose during the Holloway review and stemmed from a concern of some volunteers that existing agreements on consultation processes and consideration of the views of volunteers would not be treated seriously enough under reforms proposed by Labor’s then Emergency Services Minister Tony Piccolo.

 

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PRESS RELEASE: TAFE SA to maintain its presence at Urrbrae as campus transition plan is finalised

TAFE SA will maintain its presence at the Urrbrae Campus and continue its delivery of horticulture training, after meeting its required savings targets for the site and completing a review of how its training offering can be best delivered.

The announcement comes after the Government announced a further $25.2 million injection into TAFE SA in this year’s budget, as well as an additional $1.6 million to recognise delays in the training provider meeting its existing efficiency measures.

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Year 7 High School Reform

Mr DULUK (Waite) (14:19): Thank you so much, sir. My question is to the Minister for Education. Can the minister update the house on the transition of year 7 to high school?

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Epilepsy Roundtable

Mr DULUK (Waite) (15:35): South Australians of all ages experience the chronic and debilitating health impacts of living with epilepsy. One in 25 people will have epilepsy at some point in their lifetime, and it is a chronic health condition for many South Australians. It can result in ongoing medical expenses and can require, and often does, constant medical attention. Many people living with epilepsy are usually able to live full and productive lives through medication, self-management and lifestyle changes. However, public confusion on epilepsy can cause challenges to people who live with this condition.

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