Legislative Council: Wednesday, May 18, 2022


State Labor Government

The Hon. N.J. CENTOFANTI (Leader of the Opposition) (15:36): I rise today to talk about the emerging character of the new Labor government, character quickly being overcome by arrogance. We saw it in their first week in parliament with the sniggering, sneering and sledging from the benches, the refusal to answer questions or dismissive responses. In the lead-up to the election, the now Premier said he was firmly focused on the future, but all I see now is a lot of the past resurfacing: the old Labor way of doing things—playing the blame game, less transparency, less accountability and jobs for the boys.

I thought it was telling that in the first week of question time there was little mention of Labor's positive vision for South Australia in either chamber. Instead, minister after minister rose to their feet to criticise the former government. With $3.1 billion worth of election commitments you would have thought the Premier, the Leader of the Government and their team would have had plenty to talk about.

We also saw the new government remove the 30-day deadline to answer questions with notice. This instantly reduces government accountability and raises an incredibly important question: what are they trying to hide? Then there is the retirement of the Hon. Russell Wortley, who accepted an invitation from the Governor to attend a taxpayer-funded retirement dinner at Government House at the end of last term, only to run again for election and secure another eight-year term. This government clearly does not believe in being honest with the South Australian community; they clearly do not believe in being transparent with the South Australian community; and they clearly do not believe in being accountable to the people who showed them faith in electing them on 19 March—shame on them!

Over the past week it has also been revealed that long-term Labor staffers have been parachuted into high-paying public sector executive positions. I suspect that no merit-based process was involved. One appointment that raises eyebrows is the 10-person Premier's delivery unit, which will cost taxpayers $2 million a year. The Premier still has not explained why this exorbitant price tag is required for a job that he and his cabinet are already paid to do.

Speaking of delivery, one project the government seems hell bent on delivering, regardless of expert advice, is Southern Expressway's on/off ramps at Majors Road. Yes, this project was supported by the Liberals in the lead-up to the 2018 state election. However, once we came to government a feasibility study was conducted, which showed that the $120 million-plus project did not stack up. The conclusion of that study was:

With no expressway interchange at Majors Road, travel patterns across the wider area may be less efficient than they might otherwise be. However, whilst an interchange may result in overall reductions in travel distance and time for a reasonably significant number of trips, these would not be sufficient to justify the cost of constructing it.

Put simply, the traffic gains are next to nothing and, without completing the north-south corridor first, on-off ramps at Majors Road would increase traffic on nearby roads such as Brighton Road and Adams Road. This does not even take into account that the current proposed design will rip a highway right through the middle of Glenthorne National Park, felling thousands of trees and shrubs, destroying precious habitat and open space, trashing mountain bike trails and marooning the brand-new Sam Willoughby International BMX Facility.

In chasing a quick headline in the lead-up to the state election, the Premier and the transport minister have arrogantly ignored the expert advice and want to push on with a project which will put a wrecking ball through a metropolitan national park which is home to koalas, echidnas, kangaroos and many species of rare woodland birds.

Metropolitan open space is currently at a premium, and to lose a large piece of it for a project that has been so soundly rejected by an independent feasibility study is madness. This project simply does not make sense whichever way you look at it and Labor's approach to it can be summarised in one word: arrogance.

Character is important in politics, character as individuals and character as collectives. This Labor government's character has clearly shown over the last few weeks that nothing has changed. There may be a few new faces, but it is clear to this chamber and to the South Australian public that the old Labor is back.