Speech

Legislative Council

ADDRESS IN REPLY

May 17th, 2018

The Hon. M.C. PARNELL: I also rise to support the Address in Reply and in doing so I thank His Excellency the Governor for opening this session of parliament. I congratulate you, Mr President, on your elevation to the top chair, and I welcome the five new members of parliament who are our colleagues for the next four years—some of us for the next eight years, maybe—in this place.

I also acknowledge the three retiring members and we have spoken previously about the two members who sought re-election but were unsuccessful. I would also especially like to acknowledge that my colleague the Hon. Tammy Franks was re-elected, which was something that we worked very hard for as a party and, having been the only Green in the village for a period of four years, I am delighted to have a colleague with me to share the workload. We only have half of all of the portfolios each. A little bit like, I think it was, a former pope who divided the world up between the Portuguese and Spanish, we divide the portfolios up accordingly.

I congratulate the new government on their election. The speech for the opening of this session delivered by His Excellency set out some of the government's agenda. I will accept that the government has a mandate to bring things forward to parliament but, as others have said, they do not have a mandate for them to pass because a number of other people elected to this chamber took a contrary viewpoint.

I am reminded of something that the Treasurer said during question time today. He said that he thought it would be surprising if those of us on the crossbench and on the opposition did not want to hold the government to every promise that they made during the election. Well, I am happy to hold them to the good promises they made, but the lousy ones, the lousy promises, I am happy to let them go. I am more than happy for the government not to fulfil its promise to introduce drug sniffer dogs in schools, for example. That is a terrible policy—it will have unintended consequences. The good things they said: yes, bring it on; the bad things: no criticism from the Greens if they drop them.

The Greens' mandate, along with others in this place, includes opposing some of the things the government has said it wants to do in its early days. They want to cap council rates—the Greens do not support that. They want to completely deregulate shop trading hours—the Greens do not support that either. There are some policies that are likely to find favour with the Greens, such as increased openness and transparency and measures such as journalist shield laws. In fact, I have already tabled in this place a freedom of information reform bill and I look forward to the government supporting that.

I really look forward and I encourage the government to show leadership in changing what I think is a dangerous culture that has developed within government. It is a culture that has developed and, I think, festered under 16 years of Labor, where the default position has always been, 'How can we hide this information? How can we prevent disclosure?' The Ombudsman put his finger on it. He said:

The first question in a government agency should be, 'How do we share this information with the public who own it?' rather than the first question be, 'How can we find an exemption in order to prevent disclosure of information?'

But I am prepared to take the government at their word. They say they are up for reform of openness and transparency, and I wish them well and the Greens will support them, if that is, in fact, their agenda. Someone asked me a month or so ago, how was the new government going. I said that I thought it was going really well and that they had not done anything wrong. Of course, that led to a supplementary question, which was, 'Does that mean they haven't done anything yet?' and I said, 'Well, sort of.' As some members know, and hopefully soon all members will know, I am generally a glass half full sort of person, so I am prepared to give the government the benefit of the doubt.

There are some issues which the government has not put on its legislative agenda for this session, which the Greens will be pursuing. My colleague Tammy Franks highlighted some of these yesterday and she got the ball rolling with bills to decriminalise sex work in South Australia, to enshrine volunteer charters for emergency services, as well as putting a motion for a select committee into poverty in South Australia.

In my portfolio areas, I intend to bring before parliament a number of issues that the government does appear to be reluctant to engage in. The first of these, I have to say, is climate change. We saw at the federal level an incredible paralysis of policy, which meant that investors had no certainty of where policy was heading, they could not confidently invest in new projects—overwhelmingly, renewable energy and storage projects—and as a result, investment stalled.

I raised in parliament, in the first week, that we are starting to get an indication from solar energy, at least in South Australia, that similar policy paralysis is impacting the investment decisions of ordinary South Australians. They are not putting panels on the roof, even though they want to, because they are not sure that the government is going to support, in a policy sense, that commercial decision that they are making.

I am increasingly, and in a completely bipartisan way—which means I am equally critical of both Liberal and Labor—concerned that the ongoing support for the fossil fuel industry appears to be marching unabated. The present government appears to be just as supportive of new fossil fuel electricity generators as the previous government was. In fact, just before question time today, I gave evidence before the State Commission Assessment Panel, which is a subcommittee of the State Planning Commission, urging them not to support yet another fossil fuel power station in South Australia. It is now the third of these that I have done in recent months, totalling about a gigawatt of brand-new, climate-changing, fossil fuel power stations in South Australia.

If we are serious about addressing climate change, we have to start with a policy of no bad investments, and that means no new fossil fuel power stations. It is going to take some time to phase out the old ones; why on earth are we building new ones? I would also point out that, under the current government, they are continuing to succour and to give support for the underground coal gasification industry, which I spoke about not at some length but I think in my five-minute matter of interest speech yesterday.

It is one of the filthiest, dirtiest and most dangerous technologies, yet the government is giving them approvals to progress through the pre-feasibility stage, including construction works that are apparently starting on-site next week. Underground coal gasification is just a ridiculous concept. The global scientists tell us that if we are serious about climate change, 80 per cent of known existing fossil fuels have to stay in the ground. We should not be looking for new ones, and we should not be using the dirtiest possible techniques to exploit the reserves that we already know are there.

The Great Australian Bight is the next target for the commonwealth government, promoting new oil and gas exploration. The state government might try to conveniently hide behind the fact that it is in commonwealth waters and it will be a commonwealth decision, but I can tell you that nothing is going to happen in the Great Australian Bight without equivalent on-land facilities. Those on-land facilities are the responsibility of the state government.

If the state government says they are not going to support a new oil and gas industry in the Great Australian Bight and they are not going to approve new on-land facilities to support those offshore activities, then that industry is dead in the water. We want to see some leadership from the government. It will be the next big campaign, especially with every conservation group in the state dead against offshore oil and gas.

South Australia can be a world leader in renewable energy and storage, and we have to make sure that this new government preferably gets behind it but, at the very least, gets out of the way. The industry is speaking. They are speaking with their investment dollars. They want to build new renewable energy facilities and storage. They do not want to build new coal-fired power stations. There will never be another coal-fired power station built in this country, and I would be very surprised if too many of these gas ones get built either. So, the government, ideally, should get behind renewables, but at the very least, get out of the way.

Another issue that is coming up—and I think the Governor referred to this, or certainly ministers have since the opening of parliament—is that the mining law proposals that were tabled towards the end of the last session of parliament are going to be revived. My plea to the government is to not just bring back the bill that the Labor Party introduced, but go back and look at those parts of the act that provide for community participation.

The new ministers, many of them from country areas, know that the imbalance is well recognised by farmers and by others in the rural community. They have no rights when it comes to mining. They do not want to be treated like mushrooms. They expect to have a say on mining proposals, and they also expect that decision-makers will actually weigh up the pros and cons of short-term mining projects versus long term farming projects.

A classic example was the Hillside mine, over on Yorke Peninsula—maybe 15 years of relatively common minerals versus potentially thousands of years of ongoing sustainable agricultural production. Why would you sterilise several thousand hectares of some of the best barley growing land in South Australia for a short-term mining project?

There are other mines, obviously. We have the Bird-in-Hand mine in the Adelaide Hills, where you have direct contact between the growing lucrative winery industry, cellar doors and a range of other agricultural/horticultural pursuits in the Hills, again weighed up against short-term mining proposals.

Another issue that I think will be dominant in this next session of parliament—and I know that some members will be groaning at this thought—is planning, which will be back on the agenda. It was, I think, the longest debate we had in the last session of parliament. That might have put the framework in place, but really the detail is yet to come. I expect that, whether it is in this chamber or in the committees of parliament, we will spend a lot of time talking about the future of our state, our suburbs, our cities, our towns, how development will occur, what will be allowed where and, most importantly, what rights citizens have to participate in decisions that affect their quality of life.

Time does not permit me to go through all the issues that the Greens will pursue in the next session of parliament, but I will just finish with this one. I am again, with my glass half full, encouraged at what I have heard from the government about parliamentary reform. I know, through my discussions with various what were opposition members now ministers and government backbenchers, that there is an appetite for reform.

Certainly, the committee system has been mentioned, whether that is the restructure, the consolidation of committees or other aspects. We got rid of those cars and drivers. I have already put on the record that I think we need to reconsider the pay structure for committees; in other words, get rid of the chairs' pays: I do not think they are deserved, I do not think they are necessary and I do not think the public even know about them.

Also on the question of parliamentary reform, I am encouraged that there are noises from the government about standing orders reform. I am not 100 per cent sure of my facts here (but someone will correct me), but I believe the Standing Orders Committee met last century—I was told 1999. It may have met since, but I do not think it has resulted in any reform since, so I am very keen to see that. There is some low-hanging fruit that can bring this parliament into the digital age, but there are a lot of other reforms we could look at as well.

I am very keen to bring this parliament and this chamber into the 21st century. I have chewed a few ears already about how the Victorian parliament does things: they have an attitude which is that the parliament can engage with citizens independently of the members, and I think that is fantastic. There are online petitions in the Victorian parliament now. They are tweeting away at the hearings that are being held, the witnesses and all the different programs going on. They absolutely encourage the citizens of Victoria to engage with their parliament, and I think we can do a lot more in that space.

I will finish with something that I hope will have fairly unanimous support. Again, I reference the Victorian parliament which, in the last several months, became the first White Ribbon accredited parliament as a workplace. That is something that we can do here. I have taken on to get the ball rolling with that, so I will be writing to the men in parliament, I think. It is the White Ribbon movement, which, as we know, has often been driven by women, but part of the agenda is to make sure that ultimately it is driven by men. I think we need to get together a multiparty group that pursues White Ribbon workplace accreditation for the state parliament. That would be a great initiative for this First Session of the Fifty-Fourth Parliament.

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