Tag listing: State government

Electoral reform

The proposed sweeping changes to the State’s electoral boundaries are likely to significantly impact many sitting MPs and their communities.
After representing their districts for at least a four–year term, the changes proposed by the Electoral Districts Boundaries Commission would force politicians to come to grips with an entirely new array of community needs and to understand the issues facing their new districts.
Some changes, like the proposed reform of the Morialta and Newland boundaries, seem appropriate. Those changes would see the two electorates become almost completely metropolitan seats, rather than the current metropolitan–rural split.
But one major change – shifting Mt Barker from Kavel into the Hammond electorate – would result in a significant demographic change for Hammond MP Adrian Pederick.
Mr Pederick has spent the last 14 years representing farming communities across the Murraylands and Mallee – including towns such as Murray Bridge, Tailem Bend, Karoonda and Pinnaroo.
These are smaller communities with vastly different issues to Mt Barker, which is well on track to becoming SA’s second largest city.
Mr Pederick would need to rapidly get up to speed with the multitude of issues brought about by widespread residential development – including vast infrastructure needs.
Currently presiding over an expansive rural region with little largescale development, he has had limited exposure to such needs in his parliamentary career.
The boundary changes are the result of declining rural populations and increasing populations in peri-urban centres.
But perhaps more effort should be made to fit similar neighboring communities into the same electorates, rather than simply moving a boundary around a town so the electorate meets its voter quota.
Mt Barker would appear to be better suited to a Hills electorate rather than being attached to a Murraylands area purely to bring the electorate up to its required population.
With the changes yet to be set in stone, now is the right time to consider these factors and ensure the boundary changes not only provide fair elector distribution, but also guarantee all regions are appropriately and effectively represented.

Bus backflip

It is hardly surprising the State Government decided to kill off its “once-in-a-generation” bus network reforms given the severity of public backlash.
The changes would have seen about 1000 general-use bus stops removed or used only as school stops, and dozens of routes cut or restructured – including axing Nairne’s only direct link to the Adelaide CBD.
The proposals were met with public outrage and led several Liberal MPs – including Kavel’s Dan Cregan – to stand with their communities rather than meekly going along with the restructure.
Having no doubt spent a tremendous amount of money, time and resources developing the reforms, the ensuing backlash and prompt dismissal of those plans created instant embarrassment for the Government.
However, it was at least astute enough to realise the potential longer term fallout and respond swiftly.
For it to completely drop the sweeping changes just two weeks into a six-week public consultation period, it clearly saw that pushing the reforms through would have led to increased community disapproval and likely future turmoil within the Party itself.
Governments are sometimes forced to make decisions that are deeply unpopular and it is remarkable that Premier Steven Marshall came to the conclusion just a few days after the initial announcement that these much-vaunted improvements to the public transport system were not worth the political pain.
Let’s hope the Government has not lost its courage to strive for future reforms to improve the public transport system.
If there is any good to come from the debacle it must be that the Government learns how to better communicate its vision.
Transport Minister Stephan Knoll must wear much of the responsibility for this failure as his less-than-honest sales pitch treated the public as fools.
Saying people were not interested in the bigger picture of the proposed changes and were only interested in what was happening to the bus stop at the end of their street, is arrogant in the extreme.
His attempt to mislead people into thinking only 500 stops would be affected when the reality was about 1000 not only allowed mistrust to fester in the community, it gave the Opposition a free hit for two weeks.
Intelligent, honest and humble politicians are what the community wants.
Mr Marshall needs to ensure the Member for Schubert works on his skillset.

People’s politician

Finally the Hills has a backbencher with a backbone.
Dan Cregan, whose electorate of Kavel covers Mt Barker, Hahndorf, Nairne, Carey Gully, Oakbank, Woodside and Charleston, has proven himself a politician prepared to put his people ahead of his Party.
How utterly refreshing.
For the second time in his short career Mr Cregan has made himself a nuisance to Premier Steven Marshall by standing up to the Liberal Party machine in an effort to get a better outcome for his electorate.
Early in his career Mr Cregan twice crossed the floor of Parliament with three Liberal colleagues to vote against the Liberal Party over changes to mining legislation.
The newly-minted MP showed he was prepared to do what was right rather than simply toeing the Party line. The Liberal Party, he said, was turning its back on a clear promise made during the 2018 election campaign and he was not prepared to join the bulk of his colleagues, preferring to take the moral high road and vote the way he believed was correct, not convenient.
This week he has again ruffled a few Liberal feathers by telling his colleague – Transport Minister Stephan Knoll – in no uncertain terms to keep his hands off any changes to a direct bus route from Nairne to the city.
The proposed changes to bus services will see 500 bus stops closed and a number of routes cancelled or merged.
Mr Cregan is not against reforming the public transport network but he has heard the concerns of his constituents about the need to retain the direct service from Nairne to Adelaide and is unashamedly representing the community.
Such fierce community-driven representation shouldn’t be that unusual in the corridors of power but sadly, in this day and age of cookie-cutter politicians, it is.
This is exactly the sort of representation all people – not just the voters of Kavel – desire, and Mr Cregan has shown himself to be his electorate’s representative on North Terrace, not North Terrace’s representative in his electorate.
Being branded a renegade by the power brokers within the Party could put him on the outer when future Cabinet positions are being considered, but one suspects Mr Cregan’s actions have cemented the support of the people who really count – the voters of Kavel.

Protections for landholders

The four Liberal MPs who crossed the floor to vote against their Government last week made a bold move.
It’s comforting for residents in their electorates to know their MPs are willing to advocate for their concerns, even if may mean opposing their Party’s policy.
With mining activities occurring in the Hills for many years, some local landholders have taken a keen interest in the mining reforms.
There is a danger that the cards are stacked in favor of miners when it comes to land access rights.
Often they have more financial resources than farmers do, leaving them in a better position if a land access matter goes to court.
Governments, which are responsible for approving or rejecting mining activities, also receive royalties from mines – money they don’t receive from the agriculture industry.
Additionally, not all land is the same and not all mines are equal.
Mining in an arid backwater is different to mining in a highly fertile agricultural region.
Large open cut mines are different to underground mines with smaller above-ground footprints.
Legislation that acts as a ‘one size fits all’ may not provide the necessary protections and balances that such complex industries require and it’s important a fair balance is achieved between mining and farming.
The State’s Mining Minister has promised to continue to look for ways to improve the legislation, saying the current changes are just a step in the right direction.
It would be reasonable for him to outline exactly how and when he will review the legislation.
Farmers and MPs alike have advocated for SA to adopt laws more similar to other states, which afford extra protections for highly arable land and better compensation for farmers whose land is accessed by mining companies. Farms are not always easy to buy and sell and often families have farmed the same land for generations.
If a highly valuable mineral deposit is found under a farm, it’s essential that the compensation offered considers more than just the value of the land.
The mining reforms drew particular attention from Hills farmers, some of whom are concerned that a proposal to mine gold at the old Bird in Hand mine in Woodside could damage the local aquifer.
Terramin has recently lodged a mining lease application for the mine, outlining in detail how it plans to manage and protect groundwater. But – regardless of the passage of the mining Bill – it’s imperative that the Government does not allow the mine to go ahead if there’s any real chance of it damaging the water table.

Speeding fines

The State Government is no doubt feeling the squeeze from a sizable cut in GST revenue allocated to SA by the independent Commonwealth Grants Commission.
After proudly touting a strong pre-election message that speed cameras should not be all about raising revenue, it has been forced to dramatically abandon that promise, admitting that huge speeding fine increases are intended to do exactly that.
The GST cuts leave the Government forced to find half a billion dollars.
Given the size of the deficit, it’s reasonable that the shortfall will need to be raised from across a range of budget cuts and savings … and it’s inevitable that the squeeze will be felt by many South Australians.
The Government is attempting to recover a portion of that shortfall through “voluntary taxes” – also known as fines handed out for breaking the law. But the mark of any civil society is that a punishment fits the crime.
A 60% hike in fines may be appropriate for a motorist who deliberately speeds for their own thrill, putting their own and other people’s lives at risk.
But it could be argued that it’s not appropriate for the law-abiding citizen who – for any number of legitimate reasons – may miss an unexpected change in speed limit, suddenly finding themselves traveling 30km/h over that limit – right past a camera.
The variable speed signs on the freeway are a perfect example of this.
While it’s the responsibility of drivers to be aware of speed limits, there are times when a sign can be reasonably missed – such as when the unsafe behavior of another driver demands a motorist’s full attention, potentially distracting them from an unexpected change in speed limit.
For low-income motorists who genuinely try to do the right thing, a $1600 fine for a simple mistake could be crippling.
While everything should be done to prevent reckless and dangerous driving, a case could be made for exempting the variable signs from the dramatic fine hikes.
It could be argued such increases should only be applied to motorists caught by police officers who have witnessed the reckless behavior or to fixed cameras where the speed limit has not been reduced below the norm. With the squeeze on State income, the Government is in a difficult position.
But it’s vital to ensure that law-abiding, responsible citizens are not crippled by extreme punishments that are intended for reckless criminals.

Parties to pay

News that former Premier Jay Weatherill and his deputy John Rau will quit Parliament and force by-elections in both their metropolitan seats brings to an end an era of SA Labor politics.
Both men were elected in 2002 and had significant leadership roles in the State Government’s domination of the political landscape until Mr Weatherill’s team lost office earlier this year.
The recent retirement announcements also continue a disturbingly familiar tale of politicians simply walking away from their election promises.
At the March State election both men made it clear that, if elected, they would serve their full four-year term.
But it seems being a humble Opposition backbencher just doesn’t cut it when you’ve experienced the giddy heights of power.
The cost for these expensive by-elections will, of course, be picked up by the SA taxpayer.
In this instance it is the Labor Party that should be paying.
If a politician chooses to quit mid-term for no other reason than “it’s time to move on” or to “spend more time with my family” or to “explore other opportunities”, then the responsibility should fall with their party to pay for the required by-election.
It was no different when long-serving Liberal MP Alexander Downer decided he didn’t want to represent Mayo a few months after being elected in 2007.
The estimated $250,000 to elect his replacement was picked up by the taxpayer for no other reason than Mr Downer, like Mr Weatherill and Mr Rau, didn’t have the enthusiasm for a prolonged period in the political wilderness.
That is not good enough.
Entering politics is not just about being in Government. The unpalatable flip side is Opposition, but it seems those who have enjoyed a taste of power find the alternative a bitter pill to swallow.
If a MP has a legitimate reason for resigning just after being elected – such as a health issue either with themselves or their immediate family – then it is only reasonable the cost fall to the taxpayer.
But to cut and run and brush off the considerable expense as though it doesn’t exist is a trend that must be discouraged in the strongest terms.
Making the party behind perpetrators pay for their actions would focus the mind perfectly.
It is simply

Refreshing change

The decision made by four first-term State Government backbenchers last week to oppose their party’s position and stand up for their communities is a refreshing change in big party politics.
Crossing the floor was once more common in Australian politics, but has become increasingly rare.
In the Labor Party, opposing the party’s position during a division is all but a death sentence, with rogue MPs sometimes expelled for breaking ranks.
The Liberal Party, on the other hand, allows its members to vote against party lines – but as wholesome as this sounds it can have serious ramifications on their political careers.
The actions of Dan Cregan, Fraser Ellis, Nick McBride and Steve Murray do not represent major disunity within the party, but rather highlight a conviction to stick to promises made to their rural communities.
It may not have an impact on the final outcome of the legislation review, but it will allow more discussion about an issue that has the potential to affect the livelihood of thousands of people and the economic future of the State.
Their willingness, after only a few months in the job, to potentially compromise their political careers in order to advocate for their communities is highly commendable and shows they are willing to do what they were elected to do – represent their constituents in Parliament.
At a Federal level, politics is experiencing a widening of the crossbench, with thousands of voters abandoning the major parties in favor of independents who are not tied to a party line.
This direct representation model is gathering momentum.
While there are still many who vote for the ideals of a particular party, no party’s policy can completely appeal to every sector of its voter base – such as this latest skirmish which has vastly different perspectives in regional and metropolitan communities.
This highlights the appeal to voters of an MP who is prepared to devote themselves to the interests of their electorate.
Perhaps this shift will place increasing pressure on major parties to allow their MPs to put their constituents ahead of party lines and crossing the floor may become commonplace again.

Road repair

Last week’s tragic double fatality on Long Valley Road between Strathalbyn and Wistow has reignited calls for improvements to the increasingly busy commuter corridor.
While there is no suggestion that the condition of the road had any influence on this latest accident, the Alexandrina Council has been lobbying State Government authorities for months for action to be taken on the road.
Twice the council wrote to the relevant department and twice it received no reply.
That is as discourteous as it is unprofessional.
The third approach – once again outlining the council’s concerns with limited passing opportunities, bad driver bahavior and the condition of the road’s surface – did receive a reply which Mayor Keith Parkes described as a “fob off”.
Now the community is reeling from the deaths of two local teenagers and once the pain and heartache has eased, attention will invariably return to the condition of the road.
The Long Valley Road carries over 8000 vehicles a day and is the major route linking Mt Barker and Adelaide with the booming communities of Strathalbyn and beyond.
The road has two overtaking lanes (both on hills) and has broad sweeping bends perfectly suited to the 100km/h speed zone.
One major concern is the lack of turn-out lanes for slow moving traffic which can lead to driver frustration and risky behavior on a road primarily used by commuter traffic.
Bad driver behavior can never be condoned, but the reality is that a country road which has become a major commuter thoroughfare in the past few years has different requirements to a country road of lower importance.
There are also a number of minor roads which enter this fast flowing stream of traffic at dangerous locations – Archer Hill Road, Pursell Road, Stirling Hill Road and Gemmell Road – for example.
The continuation of this road from Wistow into Mt Barker is a disgrace.
This part of the road carries even more traffic than the Long Valley Road – admittedly at a lower speed – but it is a wonder that it can be considered in adequate condition by road authorities.
The Transport Minister should take it upon himself to become acquainted with the shortcomings of this road at his earliest opportunity.

Simple solution

The tragic death of Bree Nicolo in 2016 at the Bridgewater freeway interchange is a sobering reminder of the fragility of life.
Nothing can change the outcome of the accident or reduce the suffering of her loved ones. But her untimely death should serve as a warning for others and every reasonable measure should be taken to prevent another such tragedy from occurring at that site.
While the cause of the accident was misjudgment, there are many factors that play into the outcome of a collision.
The pleas for change at the intersection, made by a family whose lives will never be the same, are simple and easy to execute.
Extending the 60km/h speed limit across the entire interchange and installing a stop sign in place of a give way sign are logical ways to improve safety at the site and will cause very little inconvenience to motorists or cost to taxpayers.
Bree’s accident was not the only one to occur at the site, with two other reported casualty crashes – including one resulting in serious injury – occurring there within the decade.
The suggested measures are likely to be effective in reducing both the likelihood of accidents and the impact should they occur.
As a newly appointed Transport Minister, Stephan Knoll could have taken the opportunity to prove that his Government was efficient, logical and in touch with its constituents.
But instead, what could have been a simple, quick change has become entangled by layers of bureaucracy, while the Government waits for an investigation into an accident that occurred more than two years ago.
It is important that Governments act on evidence and the recommendations of experts.
But the State Government is fully aware of the impact speed has on the outcome of a vehicle accident, stating on its own My Licence website that a speed increase of just 5km/h can have significant bearing on a car’s braking time and the impact during a collision.
Bree could have been any one of us.
And while the changes proposed by her parents won’t bring her back, they will bring some comfort to a devastated family through the knowledge that another family may be spared from suffering in the same way.

Rate capping

The State Government’s plan to scrutinise local government spending has some merit.
While most local governments manage their budgets responsibly there is undoubtedly scope for them to be more efficient with their resources.
The much publicised approach by some councils to spending (Onkaparinga) has clearly dented the public’s trust in the system and there is a perception that some councils are not good financial managers.
This is further enhanced by the constantly increasing cost of living (while wages largely remain stagnant) and it is not difficult to understand the level of discomfort felt by many who are battling to make ends meet.
However, councils are not immune to unexpected cost pressures themselves, often having to find resources to administer new State Government initiatives, which are added to their workload without adequate compensation, as well as having to deal with significant cost increases, such as those caused by the fall-out of the Chinese recycling ban.
Rate capping is likely to be a popular solution for those who fear opening their rate notice each year but it can be a blunt instrument which, if not flexible enough to allow for a wide variety of individual council circumstances, could have a negative impact on the very people it is designed to help.
While established metropolitan councils may be able to easily keep their costs relatively low, councils such as those in the Hills face special pressures – rapid growth, difficult topography, vulnerability to flood and fire and significant and expensive road maintenance and infrastructure responsibilities.
Regional councils are also burdened by having to provide the required level of services which in many cases is not balanced by high density living meaning they must be paid for by fewer ratepayers.
If rate capping is the Government’s chosen means to relieve financial pressure, these factors need to be considered when the cap is set and any negotiating system must be free flowing, transparent and not overly onerous on councils.
Perhaps consideration could be given by the State Government to increasing concessions to the most disadvantaged in the community rather than making the entire district suffer if the result of a rate cap is a reduction in established or new services.