The Courier: Editorial

Care for the aged

The closure of the Kalimna Hostel has dealt a heavy blow to aged care services in Strathalbyn.
The ripple effect of the loss of the 24 bed, high care facility in February is now being felt in the town as elderly residents struggle to access local services.
With fewer available nursing home beds, those needing high level care are staying instead in beds in the town’s hospital.
So are those elderly people in need of respite.
Community services are stretched by increasing demand for care packages to help older residents stay in their own homes.
Those who are missing out, or waiting longer for services, are relying more and more on family members to step in and provide that care.
As the community-driven Kalimna Working Group found, there was no viable way to retain the hostel as a high-care nursing home because the building did not meet fire safety and could not be easily upgraded.
However, while the closure was unavoidable, those 24 bed licences are critically needed in Strathalbyn and something must be done to ensure they can be reinstated.
The working group should be commended for its thorough investigation of the Kalimna closure and future options for the building and for the bigger picture of aged care in the town.
Using the hostel as a hub for community services with a focus on aged care allows the building to continue its link to the sector.
The group also argues that there is an urgent need for another 60 residential aged care places to be provided in Strathalbyn by 2021.
The group’s recommendation to expand the existing nursing home near the hospital to incorporate the 24 ex-Kalimna beds, plus a further 12 to meet growing demand, deserves serious consideration by the State Government.
Its further suggestion that Country Health SA work with private aged care providers to help attract a further 24 beds to the town would also help ease the pressure on local services.
With an increasing aging population, it is vital that the State Government plan now for the expansion of aged care in Strathalbyn so that those who have lived all their lives in the district can continue to call it home.

Future of Mayo

The response to the Australian Electoral Commission’s recent public consultation into the redistribution of SA’s electoral boundaries has clearly demonstrated resolve among the public and political parties to retain the Hills seat of Mayo.
With more than 90% of 211 submissions directly relating to the seat, the Electoral Commission can be left in no doubt about the will of the people.
But keeping the seat of Mayo is also a logical outcome during the enforced shake-up.
The seat is considered to be one of the State’s three rural electorates and, given 30% of the State’s population lives in rural areas, it could be argued that one of the State’s eight metropolitan seats should face the chopping block, rather than one of its rural seats.
There is a strong point of difference between regional and metropolitan areas, with each facing different issues and struggles and often attracting different interest groups.
Trying to equally address the interests of both country and metropolitan communities within one electorate is a difficult balancing act and can often result in one sector of the community feeling overlooked.
Dividing Mayo between the surrounding rural and metropolitan electorates would diminish the voice of a unique and complex community and so it is good to see the major political parties backing the seat to be retained.
Mayo is also the only independently held electorate in SA.
Predictably, the submission by the Liberal Party advocates the removal of the Labor-held seat of Adelaide while conversely Labor is promoting the removal of the Liberal-held seat of Sturt, currently represented by Cabinet Minister Christopher Pyne.
Either way it is reassuring that Mayo is not in their sights.
It is important the unique community that encompasses the Hills, Fleurieu Peninsula and Kangaroo Island has its own voice in Canberra.
It’s now up to the Electoral Commission to consider the public’s wishes and the best interests of the State.
But with so much support behind Mayo, saving the seat would seem to be the sensible thing to do.

Tourism potential

The bold new vision for a dramatically expanded Cleland Wildlife Park and cable car may stir up some old concerns but it is a glimpse of the future we must embrace.
For the past 50 years the thought of getting up close to the park’s cuddly koalas has trilled generations of awestruck tourists, but the time has come to consider a new, grander vision for the famous Hills attraction.
Pictures of celebrities and foreign dignitaries snuggling up to the furry marsupials have helped put Cleland and the Hills on the global tourist map and this new vision is the perfect opportunity to capitalise on the park’s international exposure.
A hotel, shopping village and restaurant would certainly be a departure from the quiet attraction-amongst-the-trees that is the current Cleland Wildlife Park, but it is time the ageing facility received the investment it needs to become a world-class tourism experience.
Where else in the world can visitors go from the city to authentic bushland in under 20 minutes? If Allan Zeman and his high profile business partners can capture even a small portion of the booming Chinese tourism sector it would represent a huge win for the Hills.
Other businesses would stand to benefit from an increase in visitors to the region and there is no reason a revamped Cleland has to abandon its ecological focus with the opportunity to blend education and excitement.
Imagine learning about our unique and wonderful environment while walking amongst the tree tops before gliding down Mt Lofty on a zipline.
While the promise of cuddling a national mascot has sustained the park in the past, the modern tourist demands more and the park must adapt to survive.
Monarto Zoo’s newly opened lion cage is a prime example of how tourism operators can continue to push the boundaries by building on already great experiences.
While there may be some validity to claims the unfunded vision is designed to give the Government a little pre-election glitter, any attempt to encourage outside investment in the Hills’ growing tourism sector can only be a good thing.
If the project is done as thoughtfully and sensitively as the Government and potential developers have promised, then a revived Cleland will truly be another jewel in the crown of Hills tourism.

Lost opportunity

The Adelaide Hills Council missed a prime opportunity to engage with the younger community last week when it demolished the makeshift BMX track built over several years by local children.
There’s no doubt the council is concerned for the broader safety of the community and has a duty of care to protect those who use and pass through its public land.
But the fact that the action took place only months after the same children took the initiative to engage with the council and present a petition calling for a more permanent facility, will have left a very negative view of government in impressionable young minds.
Only a couple of decades ago, parents, kids and possibly even the council would have worked together to build a similar makeshift bike track and an array of other improvised facilities, restricted only by imagination.
But today – in an era in which getting many children outdoors is an uphill battle – the bureaucracy surrounding such freedom and creativity shows how much our society has become prisoner to red tape and the threat of litigation.
Communities should be applauding the initiative and adventurous spirit of local kids who prefer to be outdoors and keeping active rather than remaining inside interacting with nothing other than a screen.
But instead the lesson they have learned is that the higher powers of government are there to restrict, not work with them.
The council has identified a lack of facilities for primary school aged children in its region and has committed to exploring ways to respond to the identified need.
But as in any government, the outcome will be preceded by a range of investigations, reports and even debate – all of which delay the result.
There’s no doubt these processes and procedures have their place and play an important role in ensuring the safety of the community and the wise use of funding.
But in this case, the rigorous adherence to protocol may have cost the confidence and trust of dozens of local children – something that may take time and effort to reverse.
Hopefully over the coming months the council will work with these children to find a solution that addresses their needs as well as the needs of the broader community, and in doing so, redeem itself in the minds of the next generation.

Crisis deepens

Canberra’s citizenship crisis has caught up with the Hills electorate of Mayo over the past week, with the region now facing the possibility of a by-election early next year.
Rebekha Sharkie is one of the latest MPs to be caught up in the saga, which has already seen eight MPs resign and two by-elections announced since June.
After weeks of uncertainty and debate around how to resolve the escalating issue, the Government and Opposition have finally agreed on a way forward, bringing the fiasco to a head by forcing all MPs to provide evidence of their citizenship and any past or present allegiances to other countries by December 1.
With more than a dozen Federal MPs still caught up in the crisis, the new process will give Australians security about the nation’s future, while potentially rebuilding some of the faith that has been lost in our leaders over the past five months.
However, the Parliament’s new process is by no means perfect.
With the power to refer MPs to the High Court falling solely into the hands of their Parliamentary peers, the public would be forgiven for asking whether these MPs can be trusted to consider each case objectively and without bias.
Perhaps the nation would be better served if the Parliament referred MPs to the High Court based on the recommendation of an independent panel of constitutional experts.
The entire process is also not without significant cost to the taxpayer – costs which could have been avoided if our politicians had done their due diligence in the lead up to the election, avoiding the need to involve the High Court at all.
The fact that Ms Sharkie lodged her citizenship renunciation papers prior to the election being called last year makes her situation more pitiable than others caught up in the scandal.
But it does not change the fact that had she, and others in her situation, submitted their paperwork soon after their pre-selection, their eligibility could not have been called into question in the first place.
The entire sorry saga has undoubtedly caused significant angst for the MPs caught up in the crisis, many of whom face losing their jobs.
But the real losers are the taxpayers, who elected their representatives in good faith and will now be left picking up the cost of an unknown number of court cases and at least two by-elections.

Citizenship saga

The recent debacle enveloping the Federal Government and the Parliament in general regarding the citizenship status of numerous MPs has become a disaster.
The list of politicians under a cloud – even after the High Court’s recent decision which ruled that five MPs were elected illegally – continues to dribble out on a regular basis.
Last week Liberal Party Senate president Stephen Parry finally came forward (after knowing he was likely in breach for many weeks) and admitted he may also have been elected illegally and this week John Alexander joined the growing line of crestfallen MPs and revealed his electoral legitimacy may also be in doubt.
Have no fear, there will be more.
This sorry state of affairs has been dragging on for months, hampering good government, dominating the headlines and further undermining the public’s confidence in the political system and those who inhabit the corridors of power.
Ever since the matter was first brought into the public realm, the inability or unwillingness of Malcolm Turnbull to take ownership of the issue and prevent it from festering into the open wound it has become shows a distinct lack of leadership.
Perhaps he didn’t want to ‘own it’ because he knew the true extent of the problem.
But dithering is a bad option and the matter was never going to go away.
The specific part of the Constitution requiring all elected representatives to renounce any affiliations to other countries clearly outlines the obligations required of those standing for office.
It seems ignorance or complacency has dominated this space.
But the matter is much more than a poor reflection on the abilities and professionalism of our politicians and their political parties – it has the dangerous potential to unseat the Government.
In reality it is an overblown administrative error … but it’s the law.
There is no doubt that Barnaby Joyce – the only Lower House MP so far forced to resign – is a true-blue Aussie (as unsettling as that may be) who has been working hard in what he believes is the national interest. He is not an undercover agent for the Kiwis and none of the removed politicians had anything but the best of intentions.
At the same time the Labor Party has denied any of its MPs are in breach of the law but have steadfastly refused to prove it.
Hands up who believes them?

Council ward saga

The Adelaide Hills Council’s two ward decision is an interesting outcome that may satisfy very few people outside the council chamber.
The move, which combines the Marble Hill, Manoah and Mt Lofty wards into one and the more rural Onkaparinga Valley and Torrens Valley wards into another, was deemed a compromise by some councillors.
But the latest round of community consultation suggests it’s viewed as anything but a compromise by most interested community members, with 76.6% of responders opposing the move.
Councillors may have suggested the two- ward compromise in good faith, hoping it would satisfy the concerns of the five-ward advocates, while also providing some of the benefits associated with no wards.
But months of arguing and back-flipping over the council’s future structure left it with a very tight deadline, meaning the subsequent two-ward proposal became a do-or-die, last ditch attempt at satisfying both sides of the debate.
It was never anyone’s preferred option.
Had the compromise been met with community support it would have been an easy way forward that may have finally united both the community and elected members.
But when the community rejected that attempt at balance, it left the council with little option but to proceed with the unpopular proposal or risk placing the decision into the hands of the Electoral Commissioner, accompanied by a $2500 fine.
As a result, after a year of toing and froing, the council has landed on a final outcome that fails to really satisfy the concerns of either side.
It’s an unfortunate end to a year-long saga that has very likely damaged trust in both the council and the community engagement process.
Time will tell whether the two ward proposal will eventually be accepted by the community as providing both the security and choice that some councillors predict it will.
If it doesn’t, the decision can no doubt be reversed by the next council.
But it may take longer to rebuild the trust that has been lost through the process – and for what gain?
A compromise that disengaged many and satisfied few.

Fire assistance

The extension of a grant scheme subsidising landholders who invest in fire- fighting equipment is the latest indication residents are now firmly at the forefront of bushfire prevention.
Every major fire starts with a single spark and more often than not it is our farmer firefighters armed with nothing more than a ute-mounted pump and their knowledge of the land who are first on the scene preventing a minor blaze from becoming a major disaster.
While State-funded CFS units are kept well equipped thanks to the emergency services levy, farmer firefighters – often fighting alongside the CFS – are forced to cover the cost of their own gear leaving many heading to the fire front with ageing and unreliable equipment that is often deemed too expensive to replace.
First responders deserve to be equipped with first class resources, so the recent extension of the Regional Capability Community Fund (RCCF) until 2020 is not just great news for farmers, it represents a win for the broader Hills community.
Fire prevention is a collective responsibility and while many once relied on the CFS to keep them safe, the onus is now on every landholder to ensure their property is well prepared and that they are fully equipped to respond to the real threat of bushfire.
There is no doubt the CFS do an outstanding job, but in a major emergency it is simply unrealistic to expect a fire truck at every property.
The more than 30 Hills landholders who jumped at the opportunity to purchase new firefighting equipment in the most recent RCCF funding round represent the kind of proactive thinking that keeps communities safe.
With a further $1m in funding available over the next two years there is no doubt Hills residents will be better equipped than ever – but homeowners mustn’t become complacent.
A new pump will help fight a fire but a properly clean and prepared property could help prevent one all together and with the December 1 start of the bushfire season fast approaching it is important we all remember that bushfire safety starts at home.
Clean your property, know your bushfire action plan and we will all be safer this summer.

Glorious food

The sale of Hills-based cheese manufacturer Udder Delights to a Japanese dairy giant shows how far the region’s food reputation has spread around the world.
The $14m price tag will allow former owners Saul and Sheree Sullivan to stay with the company but spend more time doing what they do best – making cheese and developing new styles.
The new owner has the financial capability to invest significant resources into the company’s infrastructure and also has the network to export the products to international markets. The Sullivans believe this injection of capital will create local jobs and be a bonus for Hills dairy suppliers.
The transformation of the region from an agricultural base to one where the advantages of value adding are widely recognised, has been a significant employment creator.
It has also seen businesses keen to link themselves to the ‘Adelaide Hills’ as it signifies a clean, high quality product.
That reputation is priceless.
In this modern, highly competitive food world, producers must be able to “tell a story” about their product and the clean and green Hills is one to which many are keen to hitch their wagon.
The region combines the essential ingredients of food, wine, tourism, clean, green, fresh and high quality.
In an increasingly dirty and mass produced world, a high-end point of difference is gold for marketers.
The State Government is helping to grow this market through initiatives such as its highly successful I Choose SA campaign.
Encouraging people to look for and purchase locally made brands can make a significant difference.
It is estimated that if each SA family spent an extra $2.30 a week on local food and beverages it could support up to 600 jobs.
Activities and promotions such as the Ferment Festival in Adelaide from Thursday (October 19) until Sunday are a valuable tool in promoting food regions such as ours.
The festival highlights the many producers of fermented foods including cheese, chocolate, bread, yogurt, beer, wine, ciders and whisky.
The event has grown out of the popular CheeseFest and serves as a reminder that we live in one of the most pristine food environments in the world and we should not only appreciate it … we should also consume it!

No deal Steve

Last Friday Nick Xenpohon threw a very agile cat among the pigeons when he announced his intentions to return to State politics and lead his SA Best team in the March State election.
The resulting squawking and flapping was immediate.
But it was Steven Marshall – the man in the box seat to become the next SA Premier – who in the ensuing flurry fired off the first volley and in doing so quite possibly shot himself in the foot.
Mr Marshall was adamant immediately following the Xenophon announcement he would not do a deal with SA Best in the event of a hung parliament.
The Liberals, he said, would stand alone.
This may have resonated well with his supporters as some sort of rallying cry, but it also indicated a lack of awareness of the changed political landscape or, even worse, a limited grasp of the pulse of the wider community.
It is very easy to beat your chest and declare it’s either “us or them” but that’s precisely the attitude that is turning voters away in droves. That’s old school politics.
The reality is that, like it or not, more than 20% of people are expected to vote for SA Best – either because they like Mr Xenophon or feel disengaged from the current major parties and are prepared to give him their protest vote.
This move away from the political duopoly has been growing steadily for years and Mr Xenophon’s centrist position is not a step too far for those wanting to ‘send a message’ to both Liberal and Labor.
It is not a blip.
It is clear evidence of the changing political world and something which, remarkably, seems to have either been ignored or gone unnoticed by Mr Marshall.
Numerous political experts believe SA Best will hold the balance of power and could win up to 10 seats.
If the analysts are wrong and Mr Marshall cruises to victory after 16 years in the wilderness, then all power to him.
But to remove the opportunity to form a conservative government in the likely event of a hung parliament is a confusing strategy that gives Jay Weatherill a huge advantage.
The major parties have the chance to evolve and establish a prime position in the new political reality in this State.
The risk Mr Marshall is taking is spending another four years in Opposition to learn it the hard way.