Address in Reply

Published Wednesday, May 9, 2018 | Share:

Mr BELL (Mount Gambier) (11:59): I would like to start my Address in Reply by congratulating all the successful candidates on their election to this place. It is a bit of a surreal experience when you come back in and see 11 new faces sitting in the Liberal team. It reminds me of a time when I finished playing football and went back the next year to support the same team from the sidelines. When you look at the team that you were playing in, it seems like half the team has changed from just a short period of time before. I am sure the Leader of the Opposition will find that when he finally hangs up the boots.

I also think of those MPs who contested the election and who are no longer here with us. I would like to thank them for their service to this great state: the Hon. Kelly Vincent MLC, the Hon. Robert Brokenshire MLC, Tom Kenyon, Annabel Digance, Duncan McFetridge and Leesa Vlahos. I was genuinely happy to see Tom Kenyon find employment post politics, and I wish all the others my sincerest best wishes. It is one of the stranger professions, where you are employed on a Saturday, but you have no idea whether you are going to be still employed on the Sunday.

I think this is an area where we can improve somewhat. Sporting codes recognised this a long time ago and provide opportunities for participants to keep their skills up or develop additional skills in preparation for their career coming to an end. It is sometimes quite an abrupt end, just like politics. I think about my previous colleagues and their transition into meaningful employment post a political career. It may seem strange to some, but in actual fact I would argue that the longer you are in here the more de-skilled you become and the harder it is to find job opportunities going forward.

During the election for the seat of Mount Gambier, the electors were spoilt for choice. I want to acknowledge the candidates in the last election and their efforts. While some people are critical of politicians and politics, it is often the same people who are not courageous enough to stand for election. The following people are not only courageous but will serve our community well, and on behalf of all the people of Mount Gambier I thank them for participating in the democratic process. SA-Best was represented by Kate Amoroso. Kate has advocated for a number of years for more services in areas of drug addiction and mental health. As a reformed drug addict, she is passionate about assisting those who are struggling with this insidious addiction.

Lance Jones of the Dignity Party is a lawyer, academic and successful local business operator. Twenty-five years ago, Lance launched a disability service called COMREC from his home. That is now functioning very well in the seat of Mount Gambier, assisting those with disabilities. Gregg Bisset from the Australian Conservatives has had a number of roles during his lifetime and has owned, managed and developed businesses throughout regional Australia. Gregg was passionate about helping regional families and communities.

Gregg spoke passionately at numerous forums that were held and is very knowledgeable about the many issues that were raised by the audience. This man, along with his wonderful wife, Helen, really walks the walk. They provide assistance for people coming out of prison and help them readjust to life as a functioning member of a community. I remember one weekend during the campaign when Gregg had to fly halfway around the country to bring a young person home. They are amazing people and it is a real privilege to get to know them.

Isabel Scriven for Labor, the daughter of Legislative Council member Clare Scriven, provided a youthful view of issues within the electorate, and I am sure she helped secure those much-needed Legislative Council votes which helped Labor achieve their fourth spot. I am sure she will remain active in the political arena.

Craig Marsh for the Liberal Party: many local constituents recognise Craig as a local weatherman, who for numerous years provided information to the entire Limestone Coast about all things weather. Following the closure of the weather station, Craig transitioned into real estate for a short time before joining the Liberal Party to run as its pre-endorsed candidate. He dedicated his time to campaigning full time and had knocked on over 3,000 doors. I know this because my phone would ring most days. It is an amazing effort and I want to give him the credit he deserves for dedicating his time to the cause and to our community.

Gavin Clarke from the Greens, the son of a local veterinarian, Rex Clarke, returned to Mount Gambier after spending many years away in his role as an entertainer. Gavin was deeply concerned about the prospect of fracking in the South-East and that was his number one issue. Lastly, Richard Sage, an Independent, who is the Mayor of the District Council of Grant, has served our community over the last 20 years in local government and has been mayor for nearly nine. Richard is, and continues to be, a strong advocate for the residents of the District Council of Grant.

I would like to put on the record my gratitude to all those candidates for the time that they and their supporters put in to what was a very hard-fought campaign. I would also like to acknowledge the success in the other place of Clare Scriven, who is based at Port MacDonnell in the seat of Mount Gambier. I look forward to working with Clare in the coming years to deliver for the people of the South-East.

Some people may wonder how we won the seat. Well, the truth of the matter is that you cannot fatten the hog on market day. Your re-election starts the day after the election, and you do this by looking after everybody who walks into your electorate office. I have an amazing electorate team that looks after everybody who walks through the door. The first person they see when they come through the door is our trainee. Over the last four years, I have had a number of trainees because I always want to give young people an opportunity or their first full-time, paid job—whether it is a gap year student or a student who has finished year 12. My trainees over this period have been Victoria Ceceli, who is currently with me, Abby Hepburn, Ruby Nicholas, Lilly Thornley and Ashlyn Clarke.

Once a constituent comes in and sees our smiling, wonderful trainee, they are then greeted by either Denise or Travis. No matter how large or small their issue is, Denise and Travis show concern and compassion, and they research. We have had many wonderful results due to their diligence and hard work. Over the last four years, they have assisted many thousands of people who have walked through that door—sometimes the same person thousands of times, but you will get to notice that in your own electorate offices.

To the campaign team and to all the volunteers who gave up many hundreds of hours to support me, I will be forever grateful. To Doug Mullen, Chris Patterson and some who will not want to be mentioned because they are associated with another party, I want you to know that I am truly honoured by your commitment to and support of me. Before I start on the most important people in my life, I want to say that I admire the commitment that the Leader of the Opposition has shown in taking on that role, especially with such a young family.

I reflect on the resignation of Tim Hammond, the Western Australian federal member, and commend him for prioritising his family. Being a country MP with a young family, a number of points he and Wayne Swan made resonated with me, and they are as true in this place as they are on the federal scene. Most in this house will go home every night to their family, especially during sitting weeks. Those of us from country areas will not. Wayne Swan talked about families lives moving on without you—soccer practice, family routines. The family (quickly, it seems) learns to live without you, and then when you are there there is a little feeling of getting in the way because the routines are occurring without you actually needing to be there.

I would ask that this government keep this in mind when developing sitting schedules for next year. Whilst back-to-back sitting schedules may be more efficient for city electorates or ministers, it is often the case that those members can still attend functions in their electorates in the CBD or close by before or after sitting times. That is not the case for us. We find that the weeks we are home get jam-packed with constituents or events, particularly in a back-to-back sitting week.

I thank my beautiful wife, who has endured more than is reasonably expected and who has sacrificed a great deal and who takes the true meaning of marriage for better or worse. I have a lot to make up to her and I dedicate my time on this planet to doing just that. To my children, Jordan, Jackson and Bridie, thank you for your understanding and ongoing support. To my mum and dad, thank you. The babysitting, the taxi service, as well as the support over the campaign are truly amazing and something that I am forever grateful for.

I have heard a number of members in this chamber speak about their boundaries and the electoral changes. In this respect, I am lucky. My electorate cannot go any farther south, or east, because I have a coastline and a state border. It really only can progress into more conservative territory, which is quite okay by me. My aim is that my electorate gets smaller because that will signify that the City of Mount Gambier and the District Council of Grant are, in fact, growing in population. That is what I would like to see happen.

I am profoundly grateful that my community has supported me and I commit to them. I will not let them down. We have achieved a number of amazing things over the last four years. To that end, I do need to pay credit to the previous Labor government. The MRI machine was a conversation between Jack Snelling and me about getting past roadblocks that were put in the way for this machine to go into our hospital. I thank Jack and I always will for that.

The traffic lights between Wireless Road and Penola Road were a combination of our federal member, Tony Pasin, and Stephen Mullighan, then minister, providing the funding and making it happen. To Stephen Wade, the $2 million upgrade to the renal dialysis unit, which has been promised, is much needed and greatly appreciated, as is the reinstatement of palliative care services, rail trails and vibrancy of our community.

I note that the new leader of the Labor Party announced that he is embarking on a listening tour. I welcome this. Listening, however, is one thing. Acting on that information is where the challenge certainly lies. I point out that the seat of Mount Gambier has not always been a Liberal seat or an Independent seat. In fact, Ron Ralston held it with a primary vote of 68 per cent to the Labor Party in 1962. Alan Burdon held it with a primary vote of 58 per cent in 1973. In fact, Labor held the seat continuously from 1958 right through to 1975.

However, if we look at the 2014 election results, Labor's vote in the seat of Mount Gambier was 10.9 per cent and 14 per cent in our neighbouring seat of MacKillop. If we look at this last election, that has dropped to 9.9 per cent in Mount Gambier, under 10 per cent for a major party. MacKillop just pips me at 9.8 per cent. They have gone from 14 per cent to 9.8 per cent in the space of four years. You would need to ask yourselves: why is that the case? I am hoping that when the leader of the Labor Party comes to the lower South-East he understands the real reasons behind that. I appreciate and welcome his travel to the Limestone Coast. It appears that the big, black, shiny bus did not make it down south during the campaign; maybe it can be filled up and driven down by a new driver.

What you are going to find in the South-East is that the residents are opposed to fracking. What the Liberal Party did was listen to the community and acted—a 10-year ban on fracking in the South-East. I have just introduced a private member's bill, which will be debated on 4 July. The ex-treasurer stands here and says that there is no science. In my second reading contribution, I will outline a number of peer-reviewed studies that provide the science. The problem is that the ex-treasurer is a relic of the old Labor, a relic that does not listen. If you follow his lead, you will find that the Labor vote in the seat of Mount Gambier and MacKillop will not improve, but I fear the listening will not turn into anything more than lip service.

If the Leader of the Opposition is genuine about listening, then here is his first test. It is probably a little bit difficult when he has a previous minister for mining and resources, the member of West Torrens, in his ear and, in fact, that member's previous chief of staff now employed by Beach Energy, the one company that is operating a conventional gas well in the South-East. To be clear, our community is not opposed to conventional gas. It has been welcomed and that activity continues.

It is probably a little bit difficult when that same person is the Leader of the Opposition's brother, Robert Malinauskas. I do hope the appropriate disclosures of all conflicts of interest, when deliberations get underway, are made. It is also probably a little bit more difficult when his party gave $11 million to Beach to keep its headquarters in Adelaide, and probably a little bit difficult when his party gave $7 million to Beach to drill down in the South-East; but here is his chance to listen.

A small warning to the members on the government side: the rarest commodity in politics is trust. If you say you are going to do something, then you need to do it. Once trust is lost, it is very difficult and a long road to get it back. If you listen to the member for West Torrens and start taking his advice, you are heading down the wrong path. If you honestly believe that the member for West Torrens has your or the Liberal Party's best interest at heart, then you must also believe in the tooth fairy and Father Christmas. The member is trying to wedge the Liberal Party because he knows that this broken promise will have consequences and it will be telling.

I congratulate the government on their election victory, but one name that has not been mentioned is that of Mitch Williams, the previous member for MacKillop. Mitch fought long and hard for fair boundaries, and I credit part of the Liberal Party success to fair boundaries. I hope the history books reflect the important contribution that Mitch Williams made to this cause. In fact, if you look at the boundary redistribution and the prediction based on the 2014 results of 53 per cent Liberal and 40 per cent Labor, two-party preferred, you will see that it was calculated right back in January 2018, before the election, that the new boundaries in 2018 would deliver the following based on that percentage: 19 seats to Labor, 24 to Liberal and four Independents.

The end result was pretty close, with one less Independent going to the Liberal Party side, so three Independents, 25 Liberal seats. If you look at the pendulum, it is unbelievably close to the seats that lined up due to the boundary redistribution. If you swap King (which they had in Labor's side) over the Liberals and Mawson (which they had in the Liberal side) over to Labor, it is 100 per cent accurate minus that one Independent.

Just be aware: before people start congratulating themselves on an amazing campaign strategy, which I think both sides had, I would say that both campaign strategies pretty much cancelled themselves out and that the boundaries made the greatest difference to achieving a fair outcome. The word of caution is that boundaries will be redrawn now not on a 53-47 basis but on a 52-48 basis. It is actually an increase to Labor for the 2022 election. It is possible that fracking will be an important topic at the next election.

Last week, we listened to the Governor outline the government's agenda over the next four years. Today is about addressing those goals and replying to them. Can I assure the members of the government and this house that many of the aspirations of this incoming Liberal government I share and will be supporting. I have also specific goals for my region, and I have introduced a number of motions on the floor of parliament to debate and progress these. These include Generations in Jazz achieving major event status and epilepsy reform.

Believe it or not, South Australia and the Northern Territory are the only states in Australia that do not recognise epilepsy as a disability or provide any funding to support them. With over 61,000 people living with epilepsy in South Australia and 8,000 in the Northern Territory, I think this needs to be addressed. Mount Gambier mother Katherine Gray has brought this to my attention having watched her eight-year-old daughter suffer seizures since she was three months old. To watch an eight year old, bright and bubbly, suffer seizures is terribly distressing. Another of my goals is a meningococcal B strain vaccine for all South Australian children, as well as an awareness campaign. Quite frankly, I find it unacceptable that a preventable disease is still claiming lives, particularly young lives.

The advancement of a cross-border commissioner based on the success of the New South Wales model, a bioenergy fund, the advancement of nuclear energy and discussions around that, a covered aquatic and sporting centre, an opt-out organ donation scheme for South Australia, and also protection for our tradies and subcontractors so that all small to mid-sized operators receive a greater level of protection are also my goals. Every single tradie I know has had to write off bad debts of people who refuse to pay, or of businesses going broke and leaving the subcontractor or tradie out of pocket for work already completed and materials already paid for. We need to give tradies and subcontractors a fair go in this state.

Imagine if we randomly chose a teacher or a politician every week and said, 'Thank you for your work, but you are not getting paid this week. If you do want to get paid, you are going to have to take us to court.' There would be protests up and down North Terrace. There would be people in every electorate office demanding that the system change, yet this is the exact same situation that occurs every single week for our tradies and subcontractors in South Australia. We need to better protect and support our tradies and subcontractors.

With those remarks, I look forward to engaging in debate over the next four years to improve South Australia and the lives of South Australians.