The Courier: Editorial

Just whose baby will it be?

Saturday’s State election has been one right out of the box.
Even at this late stage the only certainty about the outcome appears to be uncertainty.
It seems remarkable that Labor is still favored to win the tight contest after 16 years in government while having the putrid carcasses of Oakden, TAFE and the faltering health and education systems still dangling around its neck.
In any other year Steven Marshall and the Liberal Party would be calling in the removalists for their long-awaited shift to the plush government offices overlooking Victoria Square.
But they are far from across the line and there is the real potential they could be staring down the barrel of 20 consecutive years in Opposition.
Yesterday morning an Australian online betting company operating on the election had Labor firming as favorites to retain government coming in from $1.72 to $1.60. At the same time the Liberal Party has drifted to be a $2.40 chance to win.
As coarse and unconventional as it may seem, taking note of where people put their hard-earned is a measure of what they are thinking.
We know people don’t tell pollsters the truth in pre-election surveys (One Nation was about to win big in the last Queensland election, the Labor Party wasn’t supposed to get within a bull’s roar in the last British election and Brexit was never supposed to happen) but when punters put down their money it is done with substantial conviction.
The fly in Steven Marshall’s ointment this election is, of course, SA Best and its leader Nick Xenophon.
This new party has turned what should have been a cakewalk for the conservatives into a dour struggle.
A likely scenario is that one of the major parties will have to form an alliance with either SA Best or independents.
Some say that makes for unstable government.
Others say that’s democracy.
It’s fair to say democracy has many parents and once we’ve had our individual votes on Saturday and metaphorically sown our seeds, we really have no idea what the resulting baby will look like.
And if the newborn doesn’t look like us or behave like us, it’s still our baby and we should love it regardless … just like Barnaby Joyce intends to do.

Election deals

The complicated deals done between political parties over the allocation of voting preferences before elections is a part of the political process that is lost on most people.

Parties approach such pre-election negotiations with both short and long-term goals in mind.

The nuances are many and the strategies run deep.

However, points of difference established over decades and strengthened by opposing philosophical positions can be forgotten in an instant and swept under the carpet if a brief but ultimately doomed “marriage of convenience” can cause pain to a common foe.

The art of political negotiation is a cheap and dirty game and these “relationships” are designed to be forgotten faster than those on Married at First Sight.

In fact they are only relevant for one day out of 1500 (as elections are only held every four years) and are mutually annulled the morning after. Almost as though they never happened.

And it appears in this month’s looming election the usual negotiations have been fast and furious with almost everyone seeing SA Best as enemy No.1.

The Greens and Labor have done a deal to preference each other ahead of SA Best in most Hills seats effectively making the job of the Liberal Party to hold those electorates much easier. Why would the Labor Party want the Liberals to win seats in a close-run election?

Because the deal making game is played on a much broader playing field than the Hills, and a myriad of other ‘arrangements’ will have been done in other electorates by which the Labor Party is advantaged.

It appears the old duopoly is fighting to see off what it fears is a potential new force in SA politics.

They may be correct about their concern for their own welfare or, alternatively, the SA Best star may fade as quickly and spectacularly as Clive Palmer’s.

But it should be remembered that the preference swapping arrangements are only a guide to voters and, try as political parties might, the power still rests with those poised with their stubby pencils in the wobbly cardboard booths.

Voters do not have to follow how to vote cards. They can think for themselves!

No matter the outcome of March 17, Hills electorates look likely to become more marginal and that has to be a good thing for our rapidly growing region with its new-found ability to inflict political pain and reap the subsequent rewards.

Making the Hills more marginal is a win for everyone.

Securing local jobs

This week’s opening of Jurlique’s $30m expansion to its research and production facilities is good news for the local jobs market but it also underlines the potential for Hills companies to mix it with the world’s best.
This international company, which grows most of its raw product on its farm near Mylor, has resisted any temptation to undertake its production overseas and this latest investment plants its roots firmly in the fertile soil of the Hills.
It is a successful business model which can be replicated by other manufacturers who seize the opportunity to value add to the region’s primary production.
The clean, green and pristine scene of the Mylor valley is regarded by Jurlique as the best place on the planet to grow its base product.
And it tells the world exactly that!
That is the starting position for its entire back story and is a valuable marketing tool in creating a point of difference to separate it from the myriad of similar products on the international market.
The same technique is used by local wineries, cheese makers and meat producers who use the Hills’ image as a tool to sell the story behind their product.
The success of Jurlique and similar local companies should be used as a guide to develop many more value adding jobs for local world-class primary produce in the soon-to-be-established industrial zone in Totness.
It is hoped that expansion will create 1000 jobs – an economic windfall for a rapidly growing region.
The returns to a local economy from value adding to its primary production are many times greater than the returns from the original product.
The recent State Government’s Regional Development Grants – issued to investing companies wanting to grow their businesses and create jobs – are a useful tool in highlighting such opportunities and cementing this region’s economic future.
Such grants give small businesses the confidence to expand and allow them to grow to the next level.
That level not only creates more jobs and economic stability, but success breeds success and has the potential to attract like-minded and positive entrepreneurs culminating in Mt Barker establishing a high-end primary production manufacturing hub.
The clean, green paddocks are on our doorstep and the region’s reputation is already well established.
Appropriate planning, co-ordination and support is the next step.

Canberra culture

Just when everyone thought it couldn’t get any worse … it has.
As our politicians in Canberra blundered around late last year like an unsteady drunk between one citizenship debacle and another, the voters watched on with increasing disbelief.
Then, with the Christmas/New Year break offering some rare clean air, many people were brave enough to think the shenanigans of 2017 were consigned to history and our elected representatives would put their shoulders to the wheel and concentrate on improving the country.
After all, that’s what they were elected for.
And then along came Barnaby.
The Deputy Prime Minister has single- handedly torpedoed the Coalition Government with his extra-marital affair with a staff member, who is now expecting his baby.
But as if this whole tawdry affair wasn’t bad enough, the Prime Minister has kicked an embarrassing ‘own goal’ by suddenly declaring Ministers cannot have sexual relationships with staff.
Backbenchers okay, Ministers, no.
This reactionary ill-thought-out decree has made the private lives of all Ministers fair game for the media. Welcome to the new low in political reporting.
This will not be the media’s fault as the public deserve to know whether Ministers are operating within the rules – whether it be travel entitlements or accepting gifts.
Such stories shine a harsh light on deceit and are a valuable tool in keeping politicians honest. Remember Bronwyn Bishop and ‘choppergate’?
This whole sorry saga has further exacerbated the public’s distrust in our Federal politicians.
It is galling to realise the PM – now positioning himself as some sort of moral champion – knew full well of his deputy’s “shocking” behavior during the recent New England by-election but stayed mute.
His subsequent outrage – conveniently after the by-election win and the congratulatory front bar beers with salt-of-the-earth Barnaby for the cameras – makes Mr Turnbull look like a cheap political opportunist.
The cheating behavior of Mr Joyce is apparently not isolated with those on the inside declaring there and plenty of others.
It is interesting to note that former Mayo MP Jamie Briggs was sacked from his Ministry in late 2015 for a drunken kiss and alleged unwanted attentions towards a woman in a Hong Kong bar.
But Barnaby, who has impregnated his employee, has declared he’s staying put.
The Canberra political culture seems shamefully toxic.

Corella problem

Growing flocks of little corellas have been a nuisance in SA for years.
In Fleurieu centres like Strathalbyn and Willunga, the seasonal summer flocks are a regular annoyance for locals, bringing noise and destruction into the towns.
In Mt Barker the birds are a relatively new presence, only growing in number rapidly over the past five years or so.
With all the deterrents that have been trialled at problem sites around the State, one thing remains certain.
The birds never really go away.
When one council area has success at shifting the flocks made up of sometimes thousands of birds, they simply move the problem to the region next door.
Little corellas are a native species, but in their current numbers they have become a pest that needs controlling.
The most effective short-term solution to manage the species is arguably a State run cull.
The corella problem has parallels with the overpopulation of koalas on Kangaroo Island.
Rather than face the unpopular decision to cull the animals, which were destroying the island’s fragile ecosystem, untold millions were spent on sterilising 12,700 animals and relocating thousands more to the State’s South East.
Similarly, local governments across the State have spent their own resources trying to deter the birds from public places.
Schools, businesses and residents have also had to bear the cost of trying to move the birds on, or cover the damage they cause to infrastructure and the environment.
The Mt Barker Council’s plan for non-lethal scaring may well move the birds out of the town centre, but they will almost certainly become someone else’s problem.
Until the State’s environment authorities can develop a co-ordinated, Statewide plan for the birds, piecemeal management projects will achieve little other than to shift the problem.
While the University of SA’s Discovery Circle project has made many worthwhile long-term management options, these will take local governments years to implement successfully.
Culling, while an unpalatable option to some, must be considered as a short-term option because the growing overpopulation of the species cannot continue to go on unchecked.

Green light for pedestrian crossing

Pedestrians will no longer have to dodge traffic or make a last second dash in order to cross one of Mt Barker’s busiest roads near the town’s key shopping precinct.
The Mt Barker Council’s plan to install pedestrian activated traffic lights at the junction of Adelaide Road and Gawler Street will make the crossing point opposite the Auchendarroch House and Wallis Cinemas both safer and easier.
The current crossing, with a small pedestrian refuge in the centre of Adelaide Road, is inadequate for such a busy arterial road.
Pedestrians – often families with young children – can regularly be seen stranded on the refuge part way across the road, or dashing for safety ahead of oncoming traffic.
A pedestrian activated crossing will make it safer for people to move between one of the town’s big attractions in the movie cinemas and its main shopping and dining precinct.
A new trail link from the crossing point on the Auchendarroch side down into Keith Stephenson Park will also make it easier for people to access the town’s main park.
A redesigned left turn slip lane for vehicles turning left into Gawler Street from Adelaide Road should also avoid impeding traffic travelling straight through the town.
One test, however, will be what impact a fourth set of traffic lights has on traffic using Adelaide Road.
With traffic lights also a future certainty at the Adelaide Road/Hawthorn Road junction, motorists may be in for a lengthier commute on the road between the town centre and the freeway.
The intersection redesign also paves the way for a new entrance statement, likely a statue or sculpture, to be installed to draw visitors into Mt Barker’s main retail heart.
That, combined with the sale of most of the retail block bounded by Adelaide Road, Gawler, Morphett and Walker streets to the Peregrine Corporation, means the town centre is in store for some substantial changes.
If done well, they could breath new life into the CBD by making it a more accessible and vibrant place for shoppers.

Chance to shine

Thomas Food International’s recent announcement that it will provide work for more than 400 of its Murray Bridge staff at its Lobethal abattoir will undoubtedly have come as a relief to many of the company’s employees.
With close to 900 permanent staff displaced as a result of the devastating January 3 fire, the last few weeks have been a highly stressful period for the business’ owners and many of their employees.
To mobilise hundreds of staff to new roles in just a couple of weeks is undoubtedly a huge a task and one that would not have been possible without the support of Local and State Government and the Hills community.
But while the crisis point may be nearing an end, with most of the permanent Murray Bridge staff already offered employment with the company across the country, it may be just the beginning of the adjustment period for the affected communities – including Lobethal and its surrounds.
While temporary, the changes at Lobethal’s abattoir are likely to cause some disruption to the rest of the town and the region, as the facility doubles its processing.
The addition of about 410 staff and the transportation of more animals to the site may result in greater traffic congestion, while extended operating hours could be disruptive to close neighbors.
But the inconvenience – which is estimated to last for two years – is a small price to pay in exchange for the financial security of hundreds of South Australian families.
Most people probably consider an abattoir to be the kind of place they’d prefer to leave out of sight and out of mind.
But it can often take the loss of such an enterprise – which provides not only jobs to immediate workers, but also income for local farmers as well as a service that is essential to most Australian homes – to help a community recognise its value.
Now is the Lobethal community’s chance to embrace the worth of the enterprise not only to the town, but to the wider region, State and country, and welcome with open arms the changes that will occur there and the new workers who will descend upon the town.

Australia Day

The debate surrounding the date of Australia Day seems to divide opinions as cleanly as same sex marriage.
For an issue which doesn’t directly affect most citizens, any suggestion of a change can evoke deep emotions, again, much the same as marriage equality.
A recent survey revealed the majority of Australians had no idea January 26 was the date in 1788 that Captain Arthur Phillip stood on the beach at Sydney Cove and proclaimed – largely to himself, some staff and possibly a few bemused Aboriginals – that this land was now part of the British Empire.
But for the few survey respondents who knew the back story to the date, most Australians (56%) have no specific preference for a national day, just as long as there is one.
It is worth remembering a few facts that have occurred in the 230 years since that bizarre ceremony near where the Opera House now stands.
Since then Aboriginal people have been driven off their lands, shot, poisoned, raped, infected with disease, enslaved, murdered and marginalised. They had their children forcibly removed and were not counted in the nation’s census until 1967.
They could not vote, own land or enjoy a drink in a hotel. They were, however, allowed to fight and die in wars … but not join the RSL on their return.
The treatment of Aboriginal people is a sad and sorry chapter in this nation’s history and one which has been hidden from subsequent generations.
It is fair to say most Australians do not know the truth about how Aboriginal people were treated in the colonial era.
Thankfully modern Australians are slowly beginning to see the deep and rich culture to which our early settlers were blind.
With 60,000 years of continual occupation it is easy to understand that the Aboriginal connection to the land is strong – the same land that was ripped away from them in a few decades.
While today’s Australians cannot undo the wrongs of the past we have a responsibility to acknowledge those mistakes and remain vigilant to ensure our society is strengthened by the lessons learned from them.
The best this debate over our national day can hope to achieve is a greater level of respect and understanding.
After all it’s just a day … there are 364 others on which to make a difference.

Let’s get to work

With Mt Barker’s population booming, the Mt Barker Council’s proposal for a new employment park at Totness is timely.
It is vital that as the town grows, so too do local industries to provide employment options in the region.
Too much of the district’s workforce is already required to commute to Adelaide and beyond for work because of limited opportunities locally.
There is a genuine need to encourage new and expanding businesses to set up in Mt Barker to ensure the region can become self-sustaining as it grows.
One of the constraints placed on the region’s economic growth has been the lack of available land, with limited sites on offer in Mt Barker’s existing industrial and commercial zones.
Opening up 34ha at Totness, with close access to a growing workforce and the South Eastern Freeway, is an attractive proposition.
The new employment lands zoning will provide greater flexibility for businesses looking to establish or expand in the town, with a range of uses from primary production value adding to manufacturing and commercial permitted in the zone.
That’s good news particularly for the food and beverage industries because it opens up more space for processing businesses.
Totness is already home to success stories including the Prancing Pony Brewery, Skara Smallgoods and Buzz Honey.
The addition of new wineries, cellar doors and food processors would only add to the region’s growing reputation as a fine wine and food producer.
While the Totness location seems ideal, it also comes with its own set of challenges.
One of those is the need to cater for a sharp increase in heavy vehicles accessing and leaving the site via the busy Mt Barker Road.
These trucks will need to negotiate an often congested road to access the freeway via Mt Barker’s busiest intersection.
Plans must be made to upgrade the interchange to accommodate the trucks that will need to turn right onto the freeway towards Adelaide before the development grows to such a point that the heavy vehicles become a safety risk.
The nearby Totness Recreation Park – a precious area of scarce remnant native bush – must also be protected.

Alarming statistics

For most people, Christmas is a time of joy, family, friends and celebration.
But for others, the festive season can be a reminder of tragic loss.
This year’s road toll is already 14% higher than last year’s figures, with motorbike deaths three times as frequent as last year and P-plate deaths four times higher.
These statistics are alarming and have prompted local police to plead with motorists to slow down, pay attention and arrive safely.
Many an accident is caused by driver errors, with speed, inattention and drink or drug driving playing major roles.
Regional roads are particularly high risk areas, with increased speed limits and winding roads meaning the slightest error can potentially have catastrophic results.
As we enter the Christmas period, there will be more visitors on Hills roads.
This might cause frustration for locals who will likely become stuck behind slower drivers who are doing their best to navigate unfamiliar roads.
But as demonstrated by dashcam footage of irresponsible motorists at Cudlee Creek, posted on The Courier’s Facebook page recently, impatient driving can easily put both the driver’s – and other innocent motorists’ – lives at risk.
Serious accidents leave a permanent scar on local communities and families at any time of the year.
But the tragedy is heightened at a time that is supposed to be centred around joy and celebration.
This Christmas, spare a thought for the police officers and volunteers who give up spending the holiday with their families in order to pull victims from crash scenes.
Irresponsible driving can have impacts that are far wider reaching than just the occupants of a single car.
So don’t be the person that permanently ruins Christmas for your family, friends, community and emergency volunteers.
Next time you’re tempted to shave a few minutes off your drive, overtake a slow driver across a double line, get behind the wheel after a couple too many beers or send a quick text to a mate on a quiet road, think again.
It might be convenient, but it’s not worth a life.