Legislative Council: Wednesday, April 10, 2024


Question Time

Cross Border Commissioner

The Hon. N.J. CENTOFANTI (Leader of the Opposition) (14:24): I seek leave to provide a brief explanation before asking a question of the Minister for Primary Industries and Regional Development regarding the Cross Border Commissioner.

Leave granted.

The Hon. N.J. CENTOFANTI: On 21 February this year, in this chamber, the minister was asked by the Hon. Michelle Lensink a question regarding the Cross Border Commissioner, and I quote: 'Has the recruitment process for the new Cross Border Commissioner begun?' The minister answered on that day, and again I quote: 'The processes are in place.'

It was revealed by the minister herself on radio last week that, after less than a year of operation, the role of Cross Border Commissioner is being reviewed. This comes only eight months after the government first appointed the inaugural commissioner. It was also revealed by the minister herself during the same radio interview that the government had not, and were not currently, advertising for the role. Given the minister's previous answers in this chamber when asked about the recruitment process on 21 February, my questions to the minister are:

1. Exactly what processes were in place for recruitment, not review, of the Cross Border Commissioner as of 21 February this year when the minister answered the Hon. Michelle Lensink's question?

2. Given the reports to the opposition that the Cross Border Commissioner office in Mount Gambier remains physically closed—that is, the doors are locked—will the minister apologise to cross-border communities for failing them?

The Hon. C.M. SCRIVEN (Minister for Primary Industries and Regional Development, Minister for Forest Industries) (14:25): I thank the honourable member for her question. The vacancy created by the resignation of the previous Cross Border Commissioner presented the government with an opportunity to consider some of the operational and administrative arrangements and potential changes to the position prior to the recruitment process being undertaken for a new Cross Border Commissioner.

On 21 February, I would expect that probably what I was referring to was looking at the selection criteria at the time, it was something around that kind of part of the process, but given that there was a vacancy it seemed like an appropriate time to look at what had worked well and whether there were opportunities for continuous improvement. I think that is something that is pretty standard in most organisations—I would certainly hope—to be constantly looking at whether operational or administrative changes can improve the position.

The process is now at where a recruitment company has been engaged, a chair of the recruitment panel has been appointed and I might also take the opportunity to mention that the recruitment panel will certainly include a regional representative. I am advised that the advertising for the position will be distributed within the next week and feature across a range of platforms, including regional and national publications. I remind the chamber that the act requires that the commissioner reside in a cross-border community and have a detailed understanding of the issues affecting cross-border communities.

That is the substance of the answer to the question, but I can't help but reflect what a remarkable backflip this is from those opposite. They go from leading up to the last election, when Labor announced that it would establish a Cross Border Commissioner—

Members interjecting:


The Hon. C.M. SCRIVEN: —and saying that it wasn't required—

Members interjecting:


The Hon. C.M. SCRIVEN: —they certainly didn't commit to having a Cross Border Commissioner, and they have done everything they can since to undermine the role. Suddenly, they put out a media release saying, 'Oh my goodness'—

Members interjecting:


The Hon. C.M. SCRIVEN: —according to the opposition this is the most urgent thing facing them, and yet this is something that they did not support—they have never supported—and clearly they don't really support now.