Legislative Council: Thursday, May 05, 2022


Cross Border Commissioner Bill

Introduction and First Reading

The Hon. C.M. SCRIVEN (Minister for Primary Industries and Regional Development, Minister for Forest Industries) (15:44): Obtained leave and introduced a bill for an act to establish a Cross Border Commissioner charged with facilitating improved outcomes for people and businesses in cross border communities, and for other purposes. Read a first time.

Second Reading

The Hon. C.M. SCRIVEN (Minister for Primary Industries and Regional Development, Minister for Forest Industries) (15:45): I move:

That this bill be now read a second time.

I am very pleased to introduce the Cross Border Commissioner Bill 2022. This bill fulfils one of the government's commitments to support South Australia's regions to grow and continue to be wonderful places to live, work and visit. I was asked during question time yesterday by the opposition if we would be honouring our election commitments. I was delighted to inform members that we are a government that will keep our promises, and this bill is further evidence of us doing so.

I want to particularly commend the member for Mount Gambier in the other place for his advocacy on this issue, dating back to at least 2018, when he first called for a cross-border commissioner. The introduction of this bill is a result of this government's commitment to the regions and evidence of our listening and responding to the needs and concerns of regional residents.

The goal of establishing a cross-border commissioner is to make the lives of regional residents easier by simplifying the often complicated red-tape issues that occur through different regulations on both sides of the border. It is an issue that predates COVID-19, but certainly during COVID many regional MPs who represent border communities were crying out for support from the city-centric Marshall Liberal government, which was failing to listen to concerns of regional members, such as the member for Mount Gambier. It was not until last year that the Marshall Liberal government even agreed to add a regional representative to the COVID emergency management committee to advocate for regional communities.

Many residents and businesses in regional South Australia travel across our borders, sometimes on a daily basis. Back in 2018, the member for Mount Gambier tabled a motion calling for the then state government to establish a South Australian-based cross-border commissioner. Of course, as we know, the city-centric Marshall Liberal government ignored these calls to even consider this request, and the issue has not progressed until now.

There are many complicated issues that residents living in cross-border communities have to deal with that many people who do not live in those communities may not realise. For example, tradies who work in the South-East and operate on both sides of the border are often forced to deal with almost a doubling up of red tape due to the vicinity of where they work.

I have spoken with David Tye, who is a Mount Gambier resident who has worked as a plumber for the last 23 years. For 23 years, I am advised, he has had to pay two annual licence fees for his business and comply with two different sets of operating regulations. He says that the expense and process of obtaining dual licences means only select contractors choose to operate across the border. This, of course, impacts customers, who have reduced options of obtaining trades.

When it comes to getting trades and services, for this very reason you do not want to be living in Nelson. Nelson is only 36 kilometres from Mount Gambier, and Mount Gambier is its closest major centre, but a tradie from Mount Gambier must not service Nelson unless he or she is licensed in both states. I have heard anecdotally that some small businesses are tempted to just pop across the border to places such as Nelson to help out people who cannot get Victorian tradespeople to travel.

For example, a plumber might install a vanity unit. This might be a small job of around $400 or $500, but if there is an adverse event, even as a result of a product failure, they then risk that their public liability insurance will not honour any claims. That tradie could be liable for tens of thousands of dollars in damage claims because they have traversed that invisible line.

Mr Tye further says that not all qualifications transfer across borders, which is another area that could be examined by a cross-border commissioner. He asks if perhaps a buffer zone could be established to enable people to work within a certain radius, where they typically service both sides of the border. This may or may not be the solution, but it is the type of issue that can be examined by a cross-border commissioner in conjunction with Victoria to explore different options that might be available.

Similarly, firefighters experience difficulty when fighting fires along the border. When firefighters cross the border, they often need to switch radios or switch the channels on which they operate. Many farmers in regional South Australia have property on both sides of the border. Many residents who live in one state have children who go to school in the other state, and all of these come with different complexities and different challenges. In fact, when I was a teenager, I was living just over the border in Strathdownie, which is about 15 kilometres into Victoria. I went to school in Mount Gambier, my father worked in Mount Gambier, our shopping and our activities were all in Mount Gambier, but our address was in Victoria, so I have some firsthand knowledge of the challenges.

But with the onset of COVID-19, it has only highlighted the challenges that cross-border communities face and the need to address them. These issues predate COVID-19 border closures, with differing policies, regulations and practices producing broad-ranging issues, including navigating access to post secondary school education, licensing, accreditation, training requirements for workers and businesses, access to health information, sharing of information across government departments, and more.

The cross-border commissioner established by the bill will provide a new mechanism to address these issues, facilitating collaboration and engagement with residents, businesses and community organisations, as well as all tiers of government. The commissioner will work with all stakeholders to identify issues, broker solutions and provide advice on matters impacting border communities, making it easy to do business across our borders while addressing barriers to education, health and other services. The commissioner will also work with other jurisdictions, in particular the Victorian and New South Wales cross-border commissioners.

With the commissioner dedicated to these matters in South Australia, it is expected collaboration with these jurisdictions will improve not only on an individual basis but also, potentially, in national arenas where the common voice of cross-border communities will be strengthened. The functions of the commissioner are included in the bill to reflect the intent of the position. An annual plan, in consultation with the minister, will be required and an annual report will be tabled in parliament to ensure that the outcomes being achieved are clear to all stakeholders.

To futureproof the act, a provision for the minister to give direction to the commissioner has been included. The intent of this clause is to enable the commissioner to consider emerging issues for cross-border communities that may not be apparent at the time of drafting this bill. Standard probity, confidentiality and delegation powers have also been included in the bill to ensure the commissioner operates within the appropriate public sector parameters modelled on the Small Business Commissioner legislation.

To provide the appropriate skills and credibility to the commissioner, the bill requires appointment by the Governor of a person with detailed understanding of the issues affecting cross-border communities and experience living within a cross-border community. A maximum three-year term has been provided, in line with all executive appointments for public sector employees, with clear specification for termination modelled on similar commissioners already in place, such as the Small Business Commissioner.

This bill demonstrates the government's clear commitment to supporting our regional communities and finding practical ways to create better economic and wellbeing outcomes. I commend the bill to the council and look forward to further debate. I seek leave to table the explanation of clauses and insert it in Hansard without reading it.

Leave granted.


Part 1—Preliminary

1—Short title


These clauses are formal.


This clause defines key terms and phrases used in the measure.

Part 2—Cross Border Commissioner

4—Appointment of Commissioner

This clause requires the appointment of a Cross Border Commissioner by the Governor on the recommendation of the Minister.

5—Terms and conditions of appointment

This clause sets out the terms and conditions of appointment of the Commissioner.

6—Functions of Commissioner

This clause specifies the functions of the Commissioner.

7—Ministerial direction

This clause provides that the Minister may, after consulting with the Commissioner, give directions to the Commissioner in writing.

8—Appointment of acting Commissioner

This clause allows the Minister to appoint an acting Commissioner in certain circumstances.

9—Honesty and accountability

This clause provides that the Commissioner and any acting Commissioner are subject to the duties imposed on senior officials under the Public Sector (Honesty and Accountability) Act 1995.


This clause provides for staff to be assigned to or employed by the Commissioner.


This clause is a standard power of delegation for the Commissioner and the Minister.

Part 3—Miscellaneous


This clause provides for confidentiality of personal information, information relating to trade secrets or business processes or financial information received under the measure (except in certain specified circumstances).

13—Annual report

This clause requires the Commissioner to report annually to the Minister, who must lay the report before the Parliament.


This clause is a standard regulation making power.

Debate adjourned on motion of Hon. J.S. Lee.