Legislative Council: Wednesday, March 22, 2023


River Murray Flood Response

The Hon. S.L. GAME (15:04): I seek leave to make a brief explanation before addressing a question to the Minister for Primary Industries, representing the Minister for Police and Emergency Services, regarding the River Murray flooding response.

Leave granted.

The Hon. S.L. GAME: I have made multiple trips to the Riverland during the flooding event and I spoke at length with tourism operators and associated local small businesses. It was brought to my attention that the government had, at taxpayer expense, booked out entire local hotels which were made largely empty for weeks on end. The purpose of this was to reserve rooms in case they were needed for temporary government workers and contractors to attend to flooding related issues.

My understanding is that these were, without exception, underutilised and remained in place long after the immediate danger receded. My questions to the minister, representing the Minister for Police and Emergency Services, are:

1. How much money was spent on accommodation for government services in relation to the River Murray flooding event?

2. Why were premium rooms requested on taxpayer dollars, when standard rooms would have sufficed for emergency work purposes?

3. Does the government admit it spent too much money on empty hotel rooms when that money could have been better spread across the region during the flooding event?

The Hon. C.M. SCRIVEN (Minister for Primary Industries and Regional Development, Minister for Forest Industries) (15:05): I will refer the substance of the question to the minister in the other place. However, just in terms of some general comments that I might make: the Malinauskas Labor government has been very keen to support the Riverland and Murraylands communities who have been so badly affected by floods. Cabinet has been there as a group on occasion as well as individual ministers spending quite a lot of time throughout all of the flood affected communities.

I know that rooms were booked, as the honourable member refers to, for contractors but I also know that rooms were reserved for residents who might have been unable to remain in their homes. I think in terms of a general approach there were all of those reasons for booking out rooms, but also it was important to actually support those businesses.

We know that tourism, of course, has been significantly affected by the flooding events, with far fewer people travelling, either for safety reasons or concerns that they might get stranded or wherever it might be, so that was another aspect to the general approach. However, in terms of the specifics, I will refer it to the minister in the other place and bring back an answer to the chamber.