Legislative Council: Wednesday, June 01, 2022


Address in Reply

Address in Reply

Adjourned debate on motion for adoption.

(Continued from 31 May 2022.)

The Hon. S.G. WADE: Mr President, I draw your attention to the state of the council.

A quorum having been formed:

The Hon. R.A. SIMMS (17:15): I rise to speak to the Address in Reply. Of course, I support the motion and I want to thank Her Excellency the Governor for her remarks. It is often said that when you change the government you change the country, and the same is also true of our state. We know that change in South Australia is desperately needed.

Over the last few years, we have seen the impact of a climate crisis that has ravaged our state with fire and flood. We have also seen the effects of a pandemic, one that has resulted in the tragic loss of life and the destruction of businesses and of livelihoods, and we have seen the growing gap between the rich and poor. These are the challenges that the new government must confront and that we must confront collectively in the Fifty-Fifth Parliament.

The Greens are committed to working with the new government, and indeed all parties in this place, to improve the lives of South Australians. There are contrasting views about the role of third parties in parliaments. My view is that we have a responsibility to hold the government's feet to the fire, to keep them accountable and to ensure that they deliver good outcomes, but we must also play a proactive role; that is, we need to offer positive ideas and solutions.

My colleague the Hon. Tammy Franks and I will continue to do this, as we have done in the last parliament. We will continue to fight for action on the climate crisis. This parliament has declared a climate emergency, and we have talked about that in great detail and we welcome that. We welcome the new government's commitment to deliver hydrogen power and we look forward to seeing the detail of this. We also welcome the government's desire to better fund our hospital system, something that we know is desperately needed.

But we need to do so much more. Poverty is rising in our state. In Australia, there are 3.5 million people who live below the poverty line, and in South Australia a survey from the Anti-Poverty Network showed that one in four respondents has less than $14 a day remaining after they have paid for rent. That is if they can find a rental property, with vacancy rates at an all-time low, most recently reported at 0.2 per cent.

More and more South Australians are homeless. It is morally wrong that there are people sleeping on the streets of our state this winter, and the government must take action to address this. We know, and I have stated this many times, that the new government's resolve to build just 400 new homes is welcome but simply not enough. It is a drop in the ocean. We need more public housing in our state and we need more affordable housing in our state. The government has a responsibility to deliver it and the Greens are fighting to ensure that that happens.

Amid a rental affordability crisis, we have a rental system that is stacked against renters in favour of landlords. We need urgent reform of our rental market to bring South Australia into line with other states—legislating a presumption in favour of pets, ending no-fault evictions, ending the unethical practice of rental bidding that drives up rent prices, and we need rent capping to stop prices from soaring out of control.

We also need to see leadership on transport. It was very disappointing to see the Labor government oppose setting up a simple committee to inquire into active transport and public transport. We know that cars are significant carbon emitters, yet there is no strategy to reduce car reliance to enable active transport. SA continues to underinvest in cycling infrastructure. Public transport infrastructure is woefully inadequate, particularly in the regions. We will be pushing to ensure that that gets the focus it needs during this term of parliament.

I note this government's resolve to make South Australia a leader in education. We welcome that ambition, but the solution is not university mergers and the inevitable cuts to staff and the reduction in student satisfaction that will follow. The solution is more government funding to appropriately resource our universities. We need governance reform to ensure the voice of students is heard, and we need to curb the exorbitant salaries being paid to uni bosses. We will continue to pursue these measures in the parliament.

Finally, I want to congratulate all members who were elected to serve in this place. I welcome the new members—the Hon. Mr Reggie Martin, the Hon. Ms Sarah Game and the Hon. Ms Laura Curran—and I congratulate all those members who are returning for another term. It is the greatest honour in our democracy to be elected to serve the community. For me, this was a special occasion, a special election, as after a few false starts in my political career I have finally been elected in my own right, and that is a real honour.

For the Greens, this was a breakthrough election. We secured a record vote in both houses of parliament and for the first time we secured the election of a member without the need for preferences, and I was third elected to this council. Last weekend's exciting results at the federal election demonstrate that the wind is at our backs here in South Australia. I am delighted to see that Barbara Pocock has been elected to join my colleague Senator Sarah Hanson-Young in the federal parliament. I am excited about what our Green team can achieve in the years ahead.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank everybody who worked on the Greens SA campaign: our many candidates who ran in 43 lower house seats, our upper house ticket team, our campaign staff and all of the members and volunteers who gave their time and energy to the election campaign. The Greens are a people-powered movement and we would not have achieved the results we saw on 19 March without all of their hard work and dedication. I want to highlight some of the really exciting results that we saw in Kavel, Heysen, Unley and West Torrens. All of these are areas where we can hope to make gains in future elections.

I would also like to thank my family for all of their support over the years. As all of us who are in political work understand, it does often have a big impact on families. I have been really lucky to have the support of my mum and dad over many years. I first ran for office when I was 19, and my dad has been putting up corflutes for me in every election. He is now 75.

I did point out that next time I am up for election he will be in his 80s, so he is off the hook for the Robert Simms re-election campaign. I will let him off corflute duty. I will get him out there on election day handing out how-to-votes, though. But I have really appreciated all of the support, particularly from my mum and dad, over the years and all of my friends who have stood by me. I reflect on when I lost the Senate seat back in 2016. It was a challenging time. I had many friends who encouraged me to stand again for office, and I am really appreciative of that.

Earlier this month, I notched up 12 months in this job. It is hard to believe it has been a year on 4 May, so I want to thank my parliamentary team, my office team, for all of the work they have done over this first year in office. It has been a busy and rewarding time. I feel really excited about what we can achieve together.

Might I also say a big thankyou to all of the parliamentary colleagues with whom I have had an opportunity to work over the last 12 months. Whilst of course we have differences in this place, I have really enjoyed the respectful environment and the camaraderie we have seen right across the chamber. I always welcome a lively contest of ideas and I look forward to seeing that continue over the eight years that I spend in this parliament, and hopefully beyond. Robs have a very proud track record of long service in this chamber. With that, I conclude my remarks and wish everybody all the best for this term of parliament.

Debate adjourned on motion of Hon. T.T. Ngo.

At 17:26 the council adjourned until Thursday 2 June 2022 at 11:00.