I rise to make my contribution to the Appropriation Bill. It is my 14th contribution in this place, and I must say that over time I have become quite aware of the different natures of government priorities and what it means to the state, and how the state deals with the government's priorities. Once again, we continue to see that the South Australian Labor government's priority, the majority of it, is in the city. It is a city-centric government because they obviously have a majority of city and peri-urban seats—of course, taking you into account, sir.

But I think what I would say is that I have given the budget a reasonably low grade. It is a lacklustre budget. A lot of hardworking South Australians, business owners and small business entrepreneurs are giving it everything they can, they are giving it a shot, and they are employing people, but they have never ever had it so tough as at the moment. Not only is it tough to do business in South Australia, it is tough to put food on the table.

I know that my office is now starting to receive a lot of correspondence with the cost-of-living impacts coming into winter. It is obviously very cold at the moment, particularly in the Riverland. People cannot afford to have heaters turned on. People cannot afford to have the luxuries of some of those warm meals that keep them warm and keep them sustained through a difficult period. It is not a difficult period because it is cold; it is a difficult period because they cannot afford to have those everyday necessities commensurate with what we believe we should have as a standard of living here in South Australia. What I must say is that the cost-of-living crisis is coming through further and further. Every day people have to deal with either an accumulation of debt or not being able to live a life that they should, rightfully, expect to live.

I must say this budget is big talk in the city and little action in the regions. The budget has seen a real neglect in the electorate of Chaffey. The Riverland and the Mallee have received little. But I am gratified and I have to show my appreciation for what we did receive: a small amount of what the government is calling 'cost-of-living relief'. It is little comfort to those who are having trouble putting food on the table.

What we are seeing at the moment is a $44 billion debt bomb—$44 billion. I have not done the calculation on what that is costing the taxpayers' credit card. I am not sure what that is costing every South Australian on a day-to-day basis. I am not sure what it is actually going to mean to our future generations. I know that the government are very quick to talk about surplus but are very, very sketchy when it comes to what the big picture means, and that is debt. Any business person who runs a business knows that when their debt exceeds their capacity they are in trouble. What I can see here is that our future generations in South Australia will be in trouble when they are going to have to pay off this debt.

Specifically, I will touch on regional roads. The $310.6 million for regional roads and transport improvements: gee whiz, you turn the page, you read the fine print and what does that tell you? It tells you that 80 per cent of those upgrades are going to the Adelaide Hills and the peri-urban areas. Every regional area, every peri-urban and every metropolitan road is needing work, yes, granted. But when we are looking at road safety, we look at the Sturt Highway that runs from the border through the Riverland. It is the main thoroughfare down to Adelaide. We look at other arterial state government-responsible roads and federal government-responsible roads. We are seeing people continually die on our regional roads. A majority of accidents where people are losing life and being severely injured are happening on our regional roads. I say that with the utmost of concern, because we are seeing now a reduction, particularly in the Riverland, of road funding.

We are now seeing that the $20 million that was put into the regional road program—that is 6 per cent of the road funding program—is going to a four-year planning exercise. There are no major upgrades, there are no major black spot programs for fixing up dangerous areas such as intersections. We do not see programs there to remark the lines on our highways. We do not see programs to upgrade roadside posts, initiatives that help make our roads safer. I am not saying that we need to put down hundreds of kilometres of bitumen, hot mix, spray pave. I am just saying that the small amount of cost that should be in a road safety program is nowhere to be seen and that is critically disappointing.

I am dealing with blackspot sites on the Sturt Highway. In recent years we have seen 40 deaths in a section of the Sturt Highway just in the Riverland alone, and yet the former Liberal government and the National Liberal Party federally put an $87.5 million road safety program in place which is just about completed. All of a sudden now that is completed the government have decided they are not going to put any more money into road safety. What we have seen on the Sturt Highway are overtaking lanes, we have seen better road signage, we have seen guardrails and we have seen parking bays, and that is going to make our highway safer. It is going to make it a better road to commute on.

By the same token we are seeing more heavy vehicles, larger heavy vehicles and due to those heavy road mass vehicles we will see fewer trucks on our road. I think that is a good thing. It does give some road users heartburn, because it is a big vehicle if you do need to pass it, or if you need to navigate around that heavy vehicle. Some people become very intimidated—and I think rightfully so. If you are intimidated or you do not feel you have the capacity to either overtake a truck or deal with navigating your way around that vehicle, that is when accidents happen. That is when situations arise when you are on a regional road. Many people who live in the city deal with a 40, 50 or 60 km/h speed zone on a daily basis, but that is something that we rarely deal with up in Chaffey because we spend the majority of our time on a federal highway or on a state highway.

I look at some of the roads that are in dire need of repair—not just rebuilds but repair. I look at the Wentworth Road. It is an unsealed road. It is a road that gets used every day, not by a lot of people, but it is a road that has now been smashed to pieces. The former SA Water project, the Chowilla regulator, has been there for a considerable amount of time but the road never recovered after it was built. It saw a large number of vehicles, particularly heavy vehicles, cranes—you name it—big trucks and big equipment that would go out there to install a piece of infrastructure that cost a significant amount of money, but the road never had enough road base put on top of it.

Then came along the interconnector. ElectraNet have run their equipment and all their vehicles along that road. There are many cranes all operating there at the one time. There is a huge amount of steel, a huge amount of concrete and a huge amount of workforce using that particular stretch of road. That road is buggered; it is absolutely buggered. I must say that the department officials have given me their time for me to state my case, but an extra large amount of material needs to be allocated to that road that currently is only allocated to be graded once a year, and I think that is just an absolute joke. That road now needs to be maintained and needs a program where we can put large amounts of road base there.

Other roads are desperate for upgrade. We have the Lyrup causeway that is now down to one lane—a flood-affected road with no sign of being remediated. We have the Old Sturt Highway that has had a lick of spray pave and it needs that program to be finished; it is currently a very dangerous road.

If we move on to other programs, the Truro freight route services about four and a half thousand people every day. Where did that funding go? Was that funding redirected to the Heysen Tunnels upgrade? I wonder. No-one has told me that it has not been, so I would suggest that it is a program that was funded, that has had that small amount of money taken away and redirected to a peri-urban road project. So, again, the regions are missing out, particularly up in Chaffey.

There are many roads that are desperate for attention and safety upgrades as a matter of priority. We must also understand that efficiency and productivity gains are through the big road user, pay-as-you-go types of businesses. A lot of those large trucks pay exorbitant amounts of registration and costs to use those roads every day.

We do have some big trucking companies that particularly use the Sturt Highway. Sturt Highway is a thoroughfare, not only from Adelaide to the eastern seaboard, but it is seeing an increase in traffic. As primary production increases its tonnage, so do we increase the number of trucks. We are putting more pressure on the roads, and that is something that the government should put a level of care and consideration into.

Another area of concern is the Mobile Phone Black Spot Program. The former government put in a significant amount of effort and energy in conjunction with the telcos and the federal government and we saw some gains. We saw what people in the city currently expect, and that is mobile phone reception wherever you go. Well, get out into the country and have a look at what it means to be a second-rate citizen where you go over a hill and the phone drops out, you try to do business on the phone and the phone drops out, you try to run a business and you have no phone service. Many farmers, as did I, have to drive to the top of a hill, or you have to stand on the roof of your tractor so that you can actually get mobile phone service. It is an absolute crime that this state government has not shown any foresight, any futureproofing of South Australian mobile phone black spot issues, and that is something that is sadly not in the budget.

I also want to talk about our police stations. I noticed that the Treasurer was very happy to talk about having just tipped an $18 million bucket of money into the South-East. Well, good luck to the South-East, but I have police stations that have not been manned now for a considerable amount of time. If we look at Morgan, Blanchetown, Swan Reach and Renmark, Renmark is the cracker. Renmark is a town of over 10,000 people, it has a police station and it is not manned. There are no police. It just needs to have some form of commitment to keep that town with an operational police station, but currently it is not manned; it is not operational.

I have spoken to police officers, I have spoken to those in the know of what is going on, and they have said, 'Our hands are tied. We are going to leave it up to you. Please, if you have any capacity, make a noise.' That is exactly why I am making the noise here today. It is absolutely unconscionable that a town of 10,000 people has had the capacity of a police station taken away.

If we look at Country Health—I know that the member for Frome has weaved her concerns, and very knowledgeable she is—yes, it is a tougher environment to live in regional South Australia, particularly dealing with health services. We are serviced by a very good regional hospital. We do have outreach hospitals in some of the Riverland towns, but yet we saw no money for regional mental health services. At the moment we are going through very uncertain times, particularly in the commodity sector, and that is proving to be creating a lot of mental health issues, particularly within the wine industry. Again, it is of particular concern, when we are dealing with regional health services and mental health, that there is no considered approach by this government.

We look at metropolitan Adelaide and they have been rewarded with $2½ billion for their health. This government promised to fix ramping; they cannot fix ramping. They promised to do a lot of things within the health system and they cannot do them. I really do worry for where the health system in South Australia is headed.

I do not want to talk about the ramping issue because that is an embarrassment for the government. They promised to fix it, they cannot fix it. It has become worse. We have record ramping hours: 4,773 hours ramped up to last week. Since they have come into power ambos have lost over 91,000 hours on the ramp. It is out of control. We moved a no-confidence motion in relation to the minister, and I think rightfully so. As an opposition, we are here to keep the government in a straight line. We are here to criticise the government where criticism is due, and the health system is very much a warranted criticism.

I guess the health system is one of my major concerns. Roads and health are the two big issues in the regions, as well as primary production and the care and considered need for making sure that we have every lever operating to make us more competitive. If we are going to generate an economy for every South Australian, we need primary production to be humming, we need the wine industry to get back on its feet, and we need all the commodity sectors within horticulture to be competitive. We need all those sectors to be able to go into an export market and return premiums for their premium product so that we can actually generate an economy, pay our taxes and help the South Australian budget get out of what is a huge debt—and the list goes on.

I must acknowledge the $30 million in new funding for biosecurity in South Australia. It is a welcome measure, but there are only a few. It does show that the government is potentially continuing to eradicate. The eradication program is something that I fought very hard for as a minister. It is very costly, but it is something that is worthy.

For those who are not aware, and as I have said in this place on a number of occasions, you will only understand what the biosecurity measures for fruit fly are when you go to someone's backyard or you go into a fruit shop and you bite into a peach and you get a mouthful of maggots. That is the reality check when you do not have good biosecurity measures in place. That is exactly what the Riverland is looking to do, to eradicate so that we can be more competitive on a global stage and we can be more competitive when we are looking to secure new markets.

I have much to contribute to this Appropriation Bill and I am going to use what time I have left to continue, but I will be using my 10-minute grieve to finish this off. While we are talking about the South Australian wine industry and the grapegrowers, there was little support for an industry that has been a powerhouse, with about $1.2 billion into China. We lost China, but both the state government and the federal government were on drugs, they were on China drugs. They are back there like nothing ever happened.

The South Australian economy has lost over $100 billion in the last four years due to the tariff barriers by China. As soon as we get a whiff that China could give us those opportunities back again we are not for one minute looking at what are our alternative global trading partners. I will sit down but I will resume my contribution at the earliest convenience.


speeches feature