The health forum at Wallaroo on 30 October again highlighted the level of concern that is felt for the future of rural health services, and a rising mistrust for a city-centric government seemingly blind to the fact that country people are equally deserving of quality care.
The lack of planning for the future was a stand-out issue among the guest speakers, in relation to both infrastructure/resource spend and doctors/staff recruitment. Not only must we maintain our current level of services but with the population growth particularly in the Copper Coast, the Wallaroo Hospital is under pressure -- Dr Graham Morris describing the situation as a crisis.
It was alarming to hear of stresses being felt by staff and service providers yet bureaucrats advise the system is not that busy.
Hosted by the Liberal candidate for Narungga Fraser Ellis, areas of need discussed included the provision of a Rural Generalist Training Program to improve staffing succession planning; how to develop better working relationships between service providers and SA Country Health; the impact of the recent decision to remove surgical services at Yorketown and place them at Wallaroo; and the current threats to the sustainability of local ambulance services due to a critical lack of volunteers.
Shadow Minister for Health Stephen Wade MLC was a speaker, and pledged to address the backlog of capital works and maintenance in country hospitals and empower local hospital boards to manage their own budgets should a Marshall Liberal Government be elected next March.
I also recently attended local forums held in the lead up to the debate in Parliament last week on the Statutes Amendment (Leading Practice in Mining) Bill which passed through the House of Assembly on 1 November. I spoke against the Bill which now faces debate in the Upper House where it is unlikely to pass before the 2018 election.
I have particular concerns about the word change from “Exempt” to “Restricted” relating to farming land; I voted no at the second and third reading stages, and was involved in the two hours of clause-by-clause review. This important Bill is complicated and lengthy (154 pages), and it is vital it receives forensic attention and is not rushed through.
As stated by State Liberal Leader in the Legislative Council the Hon David Ridgway MLC, the Liberal Party has reserved the right to consider amendments on this Bill and to have the time for real debate so it is unlikely the legislation will be completed before Parliament rises.
The State Liberals continue to release new policy, and I welcomed the plan announced on 6 November to reform the Natural Resources Management (NRM) System if elected in March 2018.
A Marshall Liberal Government will abolish the current NRM Boards, cap annual land and water levies which have been escalating in recent years, and establish a new agency (“Landscape SA”) which will restore independence and ensure all levies collected in a region are spent in that region.
The Weatherill Labor Government increased the NRM levy by $6.8 million last year and our farmers and regional communities were the hardest hit by this arbitrary tax increase.
ROYALTIES FOR REGIONS
I welcomed the recent pledge from Liberal Leader Steven Marshall MP to establish a Regional Roads and Infrastructure Fund by quarantining 30 per cent of mining royalty revenue.
In my nearly 12 years representing the Goyder electorate I have continuously advocated for more investment in our roads and, sadly, have watched them deteriorate under an untenable backlog of neglected maintenance.
The establishment of a regional roads fund with guaranteed funding will ensure regional roads remain a priority and focus for decision-makers in the years to come.
The RRIF’s committed dollars will also provide important leverage for additional Commonwealth partnership funding.
Among the roads more recently highlighted to me as needing maintenance are sections of Highway One, especially around Lower Light. I have highlighted these concerns with Minister Mullighan (3 Oct) and await his response.
I also still await response from him to my correspondence of 3 August requesting details on who is undertaking an announced $150,000 Port Wakefield traffic study, when it is due to be completed and if community engagement is to occur.
Construction is continuing on the roundabout at Federation Corner north of Port Wakefield at the junction of the Yorke and Copper Coast Highways. I was also pleased to see work has commenced on the redesign of the Yorke Highway Warooka intersection, and to be advised an 8 kilometre section of the road between Maitland and Minlaton is to receive $2.36 million of re-sheeting.
I believe the “Liberal Energy Solution” announced in October will reduce household and business power bills that are hurting so many, and provide the vital reliability and security of power supply that our State needs.
Two key elements of the solution are a $200 million interconnection fund to improve connectivity with the National Electricity Market, and a $100 million household battery program.
Consistent with the Finkel Report, providing better interconnection with the NEM will increase network stability and drive down prices.
Empowering South Australians who have invested in rooftop solar, and encouraging more people to install solar panels, will take pressure off the grid and lower household bills for all.
I also welcomed the scrapping of Labor’s costly plans for a State-owned gas generator which independent modelling has shown to be a white elephant that is only expected to operate in a one-in-ten year event by 2019-20.
AMMUNITION TESTING – PORT WAKEFIELD PROOF RANGE
Since attending a meeting at Port Wakefield about concerns about the impact on local fishermen of increased ammunition testing at the Proof Range, the Department of Defence has kept my office updated with schedules of activities.
Night firing commenced in November, scheduled for 3rd, 6th, 8th, 9th and 10th (starting in the afternoon and finishing no later than 10 pm); and there is also advice that noise levels will increase to high until Monday 13th November (classified as audible noise and vibration).
Anyone seeking details on Proof Range activities should phone 8867 0270 or 0400 462 846.