Legislative Council: Wednesday, June 01, 2022


Regional Development Australia

The Hon. N.J. CENTOFANTI (Leader of the Opposition) (14:29): My question is to the Minister for Primary Industries and Regional Development regarding Regional Development Australia:

1. Does the minister have confidence that the seven regional development associations are important to supporting economic growth and prosperity in our regions?

2. Does the minister believe funding levels for the RDA associations have been adequate?

3. Will the minister ensure that the RDA associations will not have their funding reduced or cut in the upcoming budget?

4. Will the minister give RDA associations and their communities confidence that they are a priority for her government, with funding levels, at a minimum, to be maintained?

The Hon. C.M. SCRIVEN (Minister for Primary Industries and Regional Development, Minister for Forest Industries) (14:30): I thank the Leader of the Opposition for her question. Certainly, I think Regional Development Australia associations are incredibly important. I think we have a very sound model here in South Australia, where they receive part funding from federal, state and local government.

One of the really important parts of that model is that it does mean that there is buy-in from all levels of government, both in a literal sense but equally as importantly a commitment to ensuring that RDAs do address the issues that are of most importance to regional South Australia and also that they are equipped to respond to some of those issues.

I have been very fortunate to have many, many positive interactions with RDAs, both when I was in opposition and since. I have spoken to a number of the RDA local organisations since becoming minister. I think it's very, very important that we continue to support them. In my own area, I pay tribute to David Wheaton, who is the CEO of RDA, Kelly-Anne Saffin in the Mid North of course, and many others, but they are two who I've had particularly frequent interactions with. So I certainly do think it's important.

In terms of whether they have been adequately funded in the past, I suppose the Leader of the Opposition is inviting me to reflect on her party's former government. Whilst sometimes here on this side we will do that, other times I don't think it's particularly helpful to reflect on the way that the former government did tend to ignore regional areas to their detriment. Of course, the strong swings against the former Liberal government in regional areas, in so many regional areas, such that a number of—

Members interjecting:

The PRESIDENT: Order! Leader of the Government, I'm sure the minister doesn't need your help. Please continue, minister.

The Hon. C.M. SCRIVEN: —such that the number of regional seats now considered safe are minimal, shall we say, for those opposite. They had incredibly huge swings. Maybe that is as a result of a lack of commitment from the former Liberal government to regional issues, a lack of time spent in regional areas actually listening to the diversity of opinions and views in regional areas. It may be because of that, but I don't think it was necessarily because of their approaches to the regional development associations. I think that's probably something that we can agree on, that the RDAs are very useful and fulfil their roles very effectively.

I think it's also interesting that the existing funding commitments are due to run out on 30 June 2022. The feedback that I've had from a number of people in regional areas is that they were fully expecting that those agreements would have been in place before the election—in place before the caretaker period. So I think it is unfortunate that there's been that kind of expectation that wasn't met by the former Liberal government.

However, in terms of going forward, I must just check the date: that's right, it's 1 June today. Tomorrow is 2 June. June 2 usually follows June 1, for those opposite, and June 2 is the date that the budget is due to be handed down. I look forward to hearing our new Treasurer hand down that budget. I would encourage all those here present to perhaps listen to his speech, as soon as they are able to after it's handed down tomorrow, and to take the time to peruse the budget papers, which I'm very confident will be presented in an excellent way, because the Treasurer in the other place, I think, is doing a fine job as Treasurer in the new Malinauskas Labor government.

Of course, he is happy to interact, to take questions, to listen to other points of view, which of course I'm not suggesting the former Treasurer, Mr Lucas, wasn't doing. That was actually the suggestion of many other people, that he didn't like to listen to other people's views, but I would never suggest that, nor would I reflect on his time in that role. Tomorrow, 2 June—

Members interjecting:

The Hon. C.M. SCRIVEN: That's right; I would not do that. Tomorrow, 2 June, is when the budget will be handed down, and I look forward to seeing that budget and listening to the responses.