Legislative Council: Tuesday, November 15, 2022


Council Amalgamations

The Hon. N.J. CENTOFANTI (Leader of the Opposition) (14:44): I seek leave to make a brief explanation before asking a question of the acting local government minister regarding council amalgamations.

Leave granted.

The Hon. N.J. CENTOFANTI: In September of this year, Peter Malinauskas introduced legislation for a plebiscite to investigate—

The PRESIDENT: Leader, the Hon. Mr Malinauskas or the Premier, not Peter Malinauskas.

The Hon. N.J. CENTOFANTI: Apologies. In September of this year, the Hon. Peter Malinauskas introduced legislation for a plebiscite to investigate the merger of the District Council of Grant and the City of Mount Gambier into this parliament with little to no consultation with either council or the community. My question to the Acting Minister for Local Government is: given the results of the District Council of Grant and the City of Mount Gambier plebiscite were what was described in The Advertiser as an overwhelming rejection of the state government's bid to merge these councils, will the government rule out further uninvited meddling in other council boundary processes?

The Hon. C.M. SCRIVEN (Minister for Primary Industries and Regional Development, Minister for Forest Industries) (14:45): I thank the honourable member for her question. I find it quite remarkable that a process that enabled consultation with all residents of the City of Mount Gambier and all residents of the District Council of Grant who are on the electoral roll is not acknowledged as important consultation. There was not a bid from the government to amalgamate the two councils. What the government did—

Members interjecting:


The Hon. C.M. SCRIVEN: —was ask whether there was sufficient local interest to investigate potential benefits or disadvantages to such a merger.

Members interjecting:


The Hon. C.M. SCRIVEN: I notice that the Leader of the Opposition is interjecting with questions such as, 'Why don't you go and talk to the people?'

The PRESIDENT: And indirect interjections are out of order.

The Hon. C.M. SCRIVEN: Anecdotal discussions are important, and indeed the raising of the potential merger—a potential merger—had been raised with the now Premier on a number of occasions. Of course, the now Premier had the opportunity to listen to members of the community who raised the possibility because of his very frequent trips to Mount Gambier and the South-East, both since being minister and also while in opposition.

Of course, what those opposite don't want to acknowledge is that their former leader, the former Premier Marshall, never bothered or very rarely bothered to go to the South-East, and when he did what local people said was, 'Well, we can't actually get to see him. We don't know he is coming. We can't get to see him unless we are a member of the Liberal Party going to a Liberal Party event.' So I'm very glad that our current Premier has taken such a different route.

He was in the Limestone Coast on many occasions while we were in opposition, and he has visited the Limestone Coast on a number of occasions since—I think it is about four so far since the election or this calendar year; I will have to check—so it was really important that we actually asked the question. I think that is an important part of democracy, and it is a shame that those opposite don't value democracy in the same way that those of us on this side do.

Overall, of those who responded to the plebiscite about a third indicated they would like it to be further investigated. That shows that there was significant interest in investigating the possibility—

The Hon. N.J. Centofanti interjecting:

The PRESIDENT: Leader!

The Hon. C.M. SCRIVEN: —of an amalgamation. What we wanted to do as a government was test how strong that sentiment was, how strong that community support was. We have now tested that. It has been incredibly successful in asking the question and having the feedback returned to us.

Roughly a third were keen for it to be further investigated—it doesn't mean they necessarily wanted an amalgamation or didn't, but they were happy for the question to be asked and then for that investigation to take place—and roughly two-thirds did not want it further investigated. So that's important information to have. It was therefore successful in gauging the level of community support in the local area, and given that the community has now said that there is not sufficient support for that investigation to proceed it will not proceed.