Country Cabinet

Mr TRELOAR (Flinders) (16:24): I rise today to contribute to this debate. We have certainly had a good opportunity to discuss this particular motion and the amendment to it. There is nothing like having private members’ time extended throughout the day. I think it is important that we all have the opportunity to talk about the things that are important to us.

The member for Mount Gambier brought the original motion to this place, and being a country or regional member—I suppose ‘regional’ in the true sense of the word, given that Mount Gambier is, I think, our second biggest city; it might be the biggest, so will I stand corrected—it is always a bit of a—

An honourable member interjecting:

Mr TRELOAR: No, a regional centre. It is the biggest country town. I was right. Murray Bridge is growing. Whyalla possibly will have an increase in population in the coming years, given the exciting things that could potentially happen because of the arrival of Gupta, who could well reinvigorate the steelworks. That would be exciting for Whyalla and the state more generally. The original motion has been amended by Minister for Education and now reads:

That this house—

(a) recognises the importance of regional South Australia and its communities;

(b) acknowledges South Australian’s regions underpin the state’s economy, contributing more than $20 billion;

(c) highlights this government’s $773 million investment over four years, as allocated in the 2018-19 state budget;

(d) notes that the Marshall Liberal government is committed to growing our regions; and

(e) notes that the former Labor government’s country cabinet schedule did not see meaningful improvements to Labor policies and prefers the Liberal government’s method of meaningfully engaging with regional South Australia.

I think I got that, as it was written by hand by the Minister for Education. I am speaking today in support of the amendment. I attended two country cabinet meetings, one in Port Lincoln and one in Ceduna, during the life of the previous government.

The Hon. J.A.W. Gardner: As an observer.

Mr TRELOAR: As an observer and as the local member. What I detected was very much a smoke and mirrors sort of arrangement. Certainly, the Labor government were trying to give the impression that they cared about country people when they were there. What they needed to do was be there all the time, as we are, as sitting members, as representatives of country people in South Australia. The majority of country representatives are on this side of the chamber, in the government now. I acknowledge the member for Giles and the member for Mount Gambier, who sit on the other side but represent their constituents as well as they can from outside of government, which is always a challenge.

As has been said on a number of occasions already in contributions, ministers often regularly visit our country areas. People have been quoting numbers. I am not familiar with the numbers. I have lost count of the number of times that ministers have visited country seats and visited the electorate of Flinders, including the Premier. It is always a pleasure to have the Premier in your electorate. We had a particularly difficult situation recently on eastern Eyre Peninsula in relation to dry conditions and the drought.

We were privileged to have the Minister for Primary Industries visit twice in recent times, and the Premier visited both Cowell and Cleve recently. That is the sort of action we are seeing from this government, and I expect that to continue. In relation to the ministers in this current government, I have been impressed by their willingness to visit country areas and their availability to talk with the people whenever they are there and whenever it is required.

In the lead-up to the 2018 election, in January there suddenly appeared a huge bus in the seat of Flinders, and it was premier Weatherill’s bus. I had never seen a bus so big.

An honourable member: The Jay Bus

Mr TRELOAR: It was the Jay bus, exactly. I think I met it in Arno Bay or Cowell just to keep an eye on things and to ensure that things did not get out of hand. What intrigued me was that when the bus doors opened a whole host of young, well-groomed people wearing red T-shirts hopped out, but no sign of the premier. With all due respect to the premier, he did arrive in Port Lincoln and I shared a table with him at the Tunarama dinner. It was interesting, and it is all about perception and illusion to a certain degree.

I have spoken about our being able to best represent country people from this side of the government because we live and work amongst our people: we make our homes there, we run our businesses there and we raise our families there. Often, we were born there, went to school there and are longtime residents there. We are not people who have been parachuted into seats. We are not party apparatchiks and we are not career politicians necessarily; we are representing the people we live and work with because we want to.

The significant exports that come from our regional areas drive the state’s economy, as the member for Mawson quite rightly pointed out. Exports such as mining products are mostly from the Far North of the state, but we occasionally see a mine pop up in the more closely settled areas. Agriculture, of course, has been the mainstay of the state’s economy since settlement, since the first good harvest in 1841—there were a couple of failures before that, but we managed to get through—together with the pastoral pursuits, the viticulture, the horticulture and, of course, in my electorate particularly, the seafood sector, the fishing and the growing aquaculture sector.

I admire the perseverance, the dedication and the risk-taking of country people to see their businesses succeed, to bring exports to the port and to bring new money into the state. Prior to the last election, our current Premier was often heard to say, ‘We’re not going to get rich selling lattes to ourselves.’ It is more than about money going around and around within a relatively small state economy; it is about bringing in new export dollars, and certainly our regional areas are able to do that.

Last night’s federal budget was particularly exciting for country areas, especially in relation to roads. I know that everybody wants their roads fixed, and there are many hundreds of millions of dollars that will be committed to the state’s roads; some of that, I can assure people, will be going to Eyre Peninsula. Some would say that it is probably long overdue, but we have Liberal state and federal governments, so there is no better time to achieve good results through negotiations.

There are challenges for government in providing services to far-flung country South Australia, particularly those things that state governments are ultimately responsible for, such as health, education, communication to a lesser extent because it overlaps with the federal government, and water utilities. It is a real challenge, and it is a cost, and we as a government have to determine how best to provide those essential services to people who do not live in the metropolitan area but who deserve an equitable share of the services that governments can provide—and all of this in a state with a highly centralised population and Adelaide being the focus, with more than a million people. People who live in country areas certainly are punching above their weight, and I congratulate them on all their efforts in relation to producing export income for this state.

As I said, it has been a pleasure to be a part of this debate. It is a good opportunity for everybody to flesh out a few ideas and work out where everybody sits in relation to country cabinets. I think it is probably a cost we can do without. On this side of the house, we certainly feel that we are more than willing and able to represent our country constituencies capably. We have the ear of the ministers. We have ministers regularly visiting and making themselves available, and we also have a Premier who well and truly realises the importance of the country areas of South Australia.


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