Legislative Council: Wednesday, November 30, 2022


Parliamentary Committees

Select Committee on Dolphins in Adelaide Dolphin Sanctuary and Port River

The Hon. T.A. FRANKS (11:35): I move:

That the interim report of the select committee be noted.

I rise with some pleasure, but also some great anguish in fact, to speak to this report of the Select Committee on Dolphins in Adelaide Dolphin Sanctuary and Port River. I thank members of the Legislative Council for the support in establishing this particular select committee to look, put simply, at why the quite unique and precious dolphins in our Adelaide Dolphin Sanctuary are dying at the rates that they are, and whether or not the Dolphin Sanctuary Act is fulfilling its intended purpose.

I first wish to thank the members of the committee who have devoted their time and energy and intellect into investigating this matter, including the Hon. Sarah Game, the Hon. Michelle Lensink and the Hon. Reggie Martin. In fact, I will reflect that many select committees' members are there out of a sense of duty, but not necessarily out of a sense of desire. On this committee, in no way did any of the members seek to shirk their responsibilities. Indeed, they were all very passionate and enthusiastic in working together and collaboratively to seek to investigate this most concerning issue. I also wish to thank the committee secretary, Mr Anthony Beasley, and the research officer, Dr Merry Brown, for their contribution and for supporting the very important work of parliament through our select committee process.

I note that this report is probably before this parliament much quicker than we would normally see a report come back from a select committee, but the reason for that is bleedingly obvious: the dolphins are dying, and there is some concern that they are dying because of things that we could be doing that are preventable. It is also of concern, and became absolutely patently obvious, that the original intentions of the act that established the Adelaide Dolphin Sanctuary are not currently being fulfilled.

The inquiry today has an interim report. It is a body of work that we believe will be useful for the minister in her deliberations. It will be something for the community to consider, but also a call to action to re-establish a central governance body to oversee the Adelaide Dolphin Sanctuary with haste. Under the whole scale, at the stroke of a pen, erasure of many boards and committees under the Weatherill government, the Adelaide Dolphin Sanctuary suffered with the loss of their advisory body.

Indeed, since then, there has not been, if you like, somebody or a body with oversight of the Adelaide Dolphin Sanctuary able to get through the myriad levels of government, elements in the community, elements in industry of concern to provide a strong voice for the protection of these dolphins. Our very first recommendation is that either a body or an individual be charged with that power and that job of oversight.

The committee received 24 submissions. It heard from 30 witnesses, and it also conducted a site visit that traversed the St Kilda mangroves, Garden Island, Torrens Island and Outer Harbor, including a visit to AMWRRO. I note that this committee continues beyond this report today. I also note it was incredibly telling that the issues that have been raised for, in some cases, over four or five years suddenly were addressed.

For example, the Royal South Australian Yacht Squadron's concern about pollution suddenly got attention and was addressed because this select committee asked a few questions and took some submissions and the media put pressure on for a response. This is the importance of having an oversight body that will have the power to ensure that it is not seen as something that is everyone else's responsibility where concerns are raised. Indeed, somebody will have that 'buck stops here' role when it comes to the Adelaide Dolphin Sanctuary.

The heightened public awareness of the matters also assisted, and I think that is again a case in point why the important work of this select committee should continue. Regarding the report, as I say, we are hopeful of a response from the minister and the department. I note that the department, in their submission to the select committee, presented us with a PowerPoint presentation with many aspirational intentions, none of which had commenced. We look forward as a select committee to those aspirational intentions turning into actions and hearing regular updates from the Department for Environment and Water on those intentions actually happening.

I believe the select committee has played an important role in reviewing what I suspect was very much a simple oversight when we removed many of those boards and committees. I do not think it was anticipated that the removal of this particular Adelaide Dolphin Sanctuary committee would have the impact of leaving this very precious icon of the port without the appropriate regulatory response, the ability for action to be taken on behalf of the Adelaide Dolphin Sanctuary where it was needed or just simply the accountability to the parliament of regular reporting or somebody who was able to be that one-stop shop to ensure that these issues were not being overlooked.

There are many recommendations here, and I am not going to go through them all today; in fact, I am going to revisit this in the next sitting week of parliament. I am hopeful that by then we will have had some responses also from Renewal SA, who, similarly to the Department for Environment and Water, have promised us regular updates.

There are many questions raised by this select committee report. I hope that in the future, through the continuation of the work alongside the Labor and Liberal members of this committee as well as One Nation, we will see the parliament's interest spark active engagement and turn what is currently quite a sad story around to one where South Australians can be proud that the parliament intervened and ensured that these dolphins were treated in the way that they should be.

The committee has traversed a number of areas. While we do not purport to have all the answers, certainly we have made some recommendations that reflect many things that the community has called for for some time. I look forward to receiving responses in a timely way, which I hope to reflect upon come the sitting week next year when we resume. I do not know the date of it yet, but on the next Wednesday of sitting, I hope to conclude my remarks with an update for the parliament that we have seen some action, not just simply those aspirational PowerPoint presentations. With that, I seek leave to conclude my comments.

Leave granted; debate adjourned.