Legislative Council: Thursday, October 19, 2023


Establishment of Adelaide University

The Hon. F. PANGALLO (14:42): I seek leave to make a brief explanation before asking the Attorney-General and the Premier in the other place a question about the merger of universities.

Leave granted.

The Hon. F. PANGALLO: As I have outlined in the motion introduced today, transparency of process is integral. On Tuesday morning on ABC Radio 891 breakfast, the education minister, the Hon. Blair Boyer, Greens MLC the Hon. Robert Simms and the opposition shadow education minister, John Gardner, were asked about their views on the university merger. The report by the joint parliamentary committee into the merger and its findings and recommendations had not yet been tabled in both houses of parliament. Allow me to quote Minister Boyer:

I know the committee itself I think found—

and that's my emphasis—

that it would be a real plus and lots of upside in terms of the economy. I am not the minister responsible but as education minister we have a lot to do with the unis as well and I've had the opportunity to speak not just to Vice-Chancellors but to other university staff and I think there is a level of kind of excitement out there about what South Australia could achieve if we do get this merger through. So fingers crossed.

Fingers crossed that the minister isn't found to be in breach of the Parliamentary Committees Act in pre-empting the findings and recommendations by a cavalier slip of the tongue.

The other two MPs who are on that committee made it clear in the interview that they would not break the parliamentary embargo and committee protocols. Then, voila! With the ink barely dried on the report and the merger legislation still to see the light of day, the Premier yesterday morning had two of the committee members, vocal South Australian Voice opponent, the Hon. Sarah Game, and the Hon. Connie Bonaros, by his side announcing a deal had been stitched up. My question to the Attorney-General and the Premier:

1. Will they now disclose to this chamber the names and dates of meetings, phone records and email exchanges the Premier, the Deputy Premier and the education minister have had with individuals and organisations, including members of parliament and external persons seeking to influence government policy or decisions, about the merger between 24 March 2022 and 19 October 2023?

2. Can the Minister for Education explain how and why he came to the belief that the committee was going to support the merger and whether he had discussions about the merger report with Labor members on the committee, the Premier, the Deputy Premier, other committee members and the Presiding Member before the report was tabled?

The Hon. K.J. MAHER (Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, Attorney-General, Minister for Industrial Relations and Public Sector) (14:46): I thank the honourable member for his question. On his questions in relation to what I am responsible to the chamber for, I can't recall having had extensive consultation with my colleagues within the parliament about the issue of university mergers. Certainly, it's been raised with me by community members in passing, but I don't remember having a distinct meeting on the topic.

In relation to what the Premier or the Minister for Education have discussed with various people, I am sure that they, in doing their jobs properly, have a wide range of discussions with a whole range of people about issues that affect South Australia. I am happy to see if they want to add anything further to what they do, but I am sure that they have a whole range of discussions with a whole range of people.

In relation to the question about the Minister for Education's comments, there was plenty of public information that the universities had put forward about the benefit that this had to the state.