Legislative Council: Thursday, May 19, 2022


Address in Reply

Address in Reply

Debate resumed.

The Hon. D.G.E. HOOD (16:56): I rise to support this motion in appreciation of the speech with which the Governor opened the First Session of the Fifty-Fifth Parliament. I would like to thank Her Excellency the Hon. Frances Adamson AC, Governor of South Australia, for her diligent work in her esteemed role and trust our new parliament will endeavour to work and support her objectives to advance the welfare of our great state.

Her Excellency brings a wealth of knowledge and experience from a remarkable career into her relatively new appointment as Governor, and she is fulfilling her duties with characteristic distinction. I also acknowledge Her Excellency's attendance at the opening service to mark the beginning of the parliamentary year, which I had the privilege of co-hosting, along with the leaders of Christian Church of South Australia, on behalf of the South Australian Parliamentary Christian Fellowship. We are grateful for her presence at that important time of reflection and encouragement.

I joined Her Excellency in welcoming the 14 newly elected members of parliament, particularly our three new colleagues in this place, the Hons Laura Curran, Sarah Game and Reggie Martin, and of course for those re-elected members, with whom I look forward to working constructively in the best interests of all South Australians.

We certainly do not share the same policies or views on every matter—that is obvious—but it is safe to say that we will do all we can in order to promote the common goal of bettering the communities in which we live and work. It is my sincere hope that our robust discussion and debate in this place will be effective in ensuring the best possible outcomes for the electors we have both the duty and privilege of representing.

I congratulate the Labor Malinauskas government on its election to office and echo the sentiments of the Leader of the Opposition in this place that it is indeed a privilege to live in a democratic society where we have the freedom of election and being elected, the freedom of political participation and where change of governments can occur and have occurred and do occur with peaceful transition.

This is particularly pertinent when we are now witnessing a previously, I would say, somewhat inconceivable violent assault against the sovereignty and democracy of a foreign nation (Ukraine, of course), which does caution us not to take for granted how blessed we are and how we should be vigilant in protecting the founding principles of our state and our nation.

Indeed, when I opened the service I mentioned a moment ago marking the commencement of this parliamentary year, I took a moment to reflect on the extraordinary changes our world has experienced since the previous state government was elected just over four years ago. It has only been four years, but a lot has changed in that time.

When the Marshall Liberal team came to power just over four years ago, I do not believe any of us could have imagined a hot war on European soil was even remotely possible, nor could we have predicted or anticipated the incomprehensible effects a global pandemic would inflict upon all of us. We have much to be thankful for over that four-year period, and I take this opportunity to express appreciation for the outstanding work of the former Premier, Steven Marshall, and former health minister, the Hon. Stephen Wade, in leading us through such an unprecedented time in our recent history.

Due to their management, South Australia avoided an estimated 4,400 deaths during the first wave of COVID alone as well as daily case rates of up to 40,000 during the Omicron outbreak. This achievement could not have been possible without the sound guidance from the Chief Public Health Officer, Professor Nicola Spurrier, and police commissioner, Grant Stevens. I offer them both my sincere thanks. Of course, that was in conjunction with the tireless efforts of our frontline workers, essential workers and generous volunteers, whom I sincerely commend.

South Australia, under the leadership of the Marshall government, is fortunate to have fared incredibly well in comparison with many other jurisdictions on almost every measure, including lockdowns. Just over the border in Victoria, the city of Melbourne suffered the longest lockdowns of any city in the world. It is my hope that over the next four years, the Malinauskas government will likewise navigate and respond appropriately in an effort to mitigate and manage the residual effects of COVID-19 on the people of our state. This pandemic is not over, although we are hopeful it is almost over.

Her Excellency noted that in order to accomplish this the Malinauskas government would seek to enshrine nurse-to-patient ratios and increase hospital and ambulance staffing ratios—100 more doctors and 300 more nurses, to be precise. These are all important measures that come off the back of the Marshall government's significant investment into South Australia's healthcare system, resulting in the upgrade of all suburban hospitals, the reactivation of the Repat, the expansion of emergency departments right across the metropolitan area and the employment of more doctors, nurses, ambulance officers and health staff than ever before in our state's history, with staffing levels more than 2,500 higher than the mid-2018 levels when the Liberal government came to power.

I note the current government is also seeking to reform the Emergency Management Act, which we have dealt with just this week, to deal with the ongoing transmission of COVID-19 in the community, with the relevant bill receiving passage in the other place and, as I said, progressing through our house just this week.

Her Excellency also mentioned the Malinauskas government's intentions to invest in the construction of a hydrogen plant in Whyalla. This is interesting policy and something that I think much can be said about. It is certainly a very expensive project and one that I think requires great debate, examination and scrutiny by all the parties, including the government itself of course, to ensure that South Australian taxpayers receive the value for money that they expect.

Whilst I do agree that we should certainly explore alternative means of gathering electricity, I would personally like to see us consider other means of electricity generation for base load power, including the elephant in the room that is almost never mentioned in Australia, somewhat perplexingly, and that is nuclear power. Nuclear energy has the potential to be the key to our future energy security.

The zero-tolerance policy towards nuclear energy adopted by many environmental activist groups ignores the fact that it is used safely and effectively overseas, and it has incited an unfair fear of atomic energy here in Australia. Public discourse on the topic of clean nuclear energy needs to be reorientated towards fact-based science and reasoned discussion. We need to go beyond the controversies and selective arguments sometimes used to present the indisputable facts about energy supply and demand and how base load energy needs can potentially be met, in part at least, by nuclear power, or in some countries almost wholly by nuclear power.

I accept that nuclear energy carries its challenges and risks. That seems to be self-evident. As with every form of energy production, nuclear energy is no different in that regard, but we need to understand that these risks are frequently misunderstood and often misinterpreted and somewhat exaggerated. This is the only way we can develop sound, rational and effective energy policies that will sustain our state and nation into the future.

Nuclear energy is emissions free, which is something that is increasingly important. South Australia is well poised for the development of a nuclear industry, given our nation boasts the world's largest known uranium resources. Uranium is an abundant resource that we have historically refused to use for our own energy-producing benefit yet one that we are content to export for other countries to utilise. This hypocrisy should cease.

South Australians have a right to access the most reliable and most affordable electricity supply, whatever form it comes in, which is essential to maintaining comfort, convenience and enhancing economic competitiveness. To this end, I am of the strong view that all power sources, including nuclear energy, should be considered properly where they prove to be the most reliable and cost-effective options. In short, all options, including nuclear, should be on the table. None of us want to experience again a state-wide blackout like we did in 2016, which put our emergency services at risk, cost businesses hundreds of millions of dollars—possibly more—and resulted in devastating losses in hospitals and medical facilities all over the state, not to mention costs to other related businesses.

The Marshall Liberal government took swift and necessary action to avoid the reoccurrence of such a crisis and succeeded in increasing the reliability of South Australia's power network. I do not think that is in dispute, but at the same time household bills were reduced by some $400 a year on average. Despite Labor's previous opposition to the project, I would urge the Malinauskas government to ensure the high capacity interconnector between South Australia and New South Wales is completed on schedule to provide increased energy security and further reduction of power costs for South Australians.

Should the new government proceed with it, I have no doubt they will seek to take credit for the benefits it will afford, including lower power costs, which will inevitably come. This is an essential part of our energy future in South Australia. To reiterate the point, I believe that all of these matters should be considered equally. The interconnector is a given, but why do we not consider other options for baseload power, including nuclear energy?

A brief reference was made by Her Excellency to our growing defence, cyber and space industries, which has undoubtedly been fostered by the Marshall Liberal government's establishment of the facilities on Lot Fourteen. The redevelopment of the former Royal Adelaide Hospital site into a vibrant global precinct, which cultivates ideas, creativity and innovation, is a credit to the innovative foresight of the previous government to identify and seize any opportunity to revitalise our state.

Due to the site's transformation, Lot Fourteen now boasts a curated and collaborative research and business ecosystem that has attracted leading international companies to operate within the district, creating thousands of jobs and showcasing our state on the world stage. With the Australian Space Agency basing its operations at Lot Fourteen, South Australia now has a burgeoning state industry that will continue to attract interest and investment for many, many years to come. This offers exciting career opportunities, which I am confident will continue to retain our best and brightest right here in South Australia, where they belong.

Although the current Premier stated publicly that he agrees that Lot Fourteen has been of immense benefit to the state, there is of course one project initiated by the former state government that his new government was vehemently against, and that is of course the riverbank arena. The so-called basketball stadium, as it was labelled and as the now government likes to refer to it, would have provided South Australia with a 15,000-seat venue, replacing the Adelaide Entertainment Centre.

Analysis has revealed that the riverbank arena could have generated $300 million in a single year through hosting concerts, conventions, exhibitions and court sports, which require between 3,500 and 10,000 seats (and of course can be more on some occasions). It would also link up with the Adelaide Convention Centre, which has found that our city has missed out on hosting over 80 such major events just in recent times.

It was a spectacular, world-class design that could have ensured Adelaide was not continually bypassed by the biggest names in the entertainment industry, for example, and would have enabled South Australians to attend informative medical, scientific and other conferences without the need to travel interstate, because at the moment we simply do not have a venue large enough, and it is an opportunity lost in my view. It is a missed opportunity that not only had the potential to significantly boost our economy long-term, but would have ensured that South Australia remained renowned as one of the most liveable cities in the world, indeed the most liveable city in Australia. I watch with interest to see what the newly-elected state government has planned for that particular site.

It may surprise some to hear that I do support some measures the Malinauskas government has promised to implement, as detailed by Her Excellency in her speech, including the establishment of five new technical colleges and the construction of a new Adelaide aquatic centre. These are good initiatives, and I believe should be supported. However, in relation to the swimming centre, I still regard the Liberal's plan to have it funded by all three levels of government as a more prudent approach. I hope that both these projects do not experience cost blowouts at the taxpayers' expense, and of course we would all like to see the Malinauskas state government emulate the Liberals' responsible fiscal approach to the management of our state's budget throughout its term—that remains to be seen.

With this contribution I wish to join with honourable members in assuring Her Excellency of our commitment to conducting all elements of our duties as elected representatives of our state and its people to the best of our abilities. I commend the motion to the council.

Debate adjourned on motion of Hon. I.K. Hunter.