Maiden Speech

Wednesday 03 May 2006
Maiden Speech

Steven's maiden speech to Parliament in May 2006.

Thank you Mr Speaker.

I support the motion for the adoption of the Address in reply to Her Excellency’s speech on opening this session of the 51st Parliament.  I extend my congratulations to you Mr. Speaker on your elevation to this high office.  I also join with the other members who have addressed the House today in congratulating the new members on both sides of this House who join me in being given the opportunity to represent their communities.  While congratulating all new Members on their respective maiden speeches, I offer my respects to the Member for Bright and the Member for Stuart for their Address in Reply’s made yesterday.  While very different in style, they were both quite interesting and reflective of their personalities.

Mr Speaker, the opportunity to be elected as the Member for Goyder is an honour that I never had any intention of seeking until 2years ago.  Unlike many in this House, I am not someone who has been a member of a political party since their teenage years, or someone who has worked for a Union or in the offices of various State or Federal Members before being pre-selected.  In-fact, I have only been a member of the Liberal Party for 3 years.  What I have been though is someone who has lived, and involved himself at every level, in regional communities for all of my adult life.  That said, I have always supported the Liberal Party at the ballot box and believed in the principles and policies the Liberal Party has brought to Federal and State Governments and Opposition.  Mr Speaker, I stand before you today as someone extremely proud to be elected as the representative of the good people of Goyder.

Succeeding John Meier, a man I respect above most others and someone who gave everything he had to the people of Goyder and the South Australian Parliament for nearly 24 years, is a challenge, but one that I intend to rise to.  One thing that has become obvious to me in the six and a half weeks since the election is that John Meier is respected by all who have worked with him in Parliament House.  John is a man who always shows respect to others by acknowledging them and taking an interest in their lives, he works hard and when he makes a commitment he keeps his word.  I hope to be remembered for the same qualities.

While travelling with John several weeks before the election, I commented to him that one of the many things I had learnt during my campaign doorknocking efforts, which amounted to nearly 7000 homes, was that the people of Goyder acknowledged him as their friend.  Without any suggestion of exaggeration, several thousand people commented to me that John had done something for them, or that they had met John many times or that they knew John well.  The level of respect in which John Meier is held across the electorate has been expressed by many people, but I would like to repeat a comment I made to him while we were travelling together recently, when I said that:- “he could walk down the main street of any community within the Goyder electorate holding his head high, as everyone he met would acknowledge that he worked hard on their behalf for each of his near 24 years in Parliament.”  I wish John, and Ruth, who has always provided John with wonderful support, the best for the future.

While never anointing me as his chosen replacement, as this would not have been appropriate, John did offer to me his support and encouraged me to become involved in the activities of the Liberal Party.  I have enjoyed becoming involved at Branch, Electoral College, Regional Convention and State Council level.

This involvement has been a privilege, as it has allowed me to become involved with people dedicated to making a difference; people who are prepared to express an opinion about what their community and region needs from Government; and people who are prepared to work hard to make that vision become a reality.

The assistance I received from members and supporters of the Liberal Party during the election period was outstanding.  To all those who helped with fundraising, pamphlet folding, envelope filling, placing and removing posters and importantly ensuring that all polling booths had at least one person giving out how to vote cards, I say thank you.  Anytime I asked someone for assistance, it was given willingly and beyond my expectations. I will find the debt I owe these people very difficult to ever repay.

Mr. Speaker, the trust that the people of Goyder have placed in me is quite humbling.  By virtue of hard work and commitment, I intend to repay that trust.  Goyder is a region with many opportunities, and potentially a very bright future, but making these dreams become a reality will require a united approach between Government, business and the community.

At the Goyder pre-selection college in April 2005, my opening comment was, “Tonight provides the opportunity to elect a person challenged with ensuring that Goyder receives all the services and infrastructure required to continue as one of the best placed areas in Australia to live, work, invest in, raise a family, retire to and holiday in.”  I stand by that comment today.

I firmly believe that the key to economic growth in Goyder, growth which will provide the opportunity for our children and grandchildren to get jobs in the region and have worthwhile futures, is for significant investment in infrastructure to occur.

While we think of infrastructure as being the obvious ones such as roads, and goodness knows this is an absolutely important point, critical areas for Goyder are also electricity, water supply, telecommunications, community transport services, accommodation options for the physically and intellectually disabled, aged care facilities – (and given the age profile of the electorate the importance of continued investment in aged care facilities cannot be over stated), effluent disposal infrastructure, and hospitals – (and attached to this the difficulty in recruiting health professionals must be noted).

While the relative financial security of the region has been built upon the traditional industries of agriculture and small business, there is also the diversity of past and current activities such as copper mining, fishing and salt works while we are now finding that intensive land uses such as chicken farms (with millions of dollars of investment in this area occurring in the Adelaide Plains area over the last few years), pig sheds and hay processing are attracting significant investment.

Large scale developments in Goyder such as:-

  1. Marina’s - with Wallaroo and Port Vincent up and operating and an exciting proposal for Port Wakefield recently announced
  2. Wind Farms - the only one in existence at this stage, that being the 55 turbine, $165 million Wattle Point Wind Farm which can generate 2% of the power needs of South Australia, but others have been approved or are being considered, and
  3. Abattoirs such as Primo at Port Wakefield which is looking to expand its workforce from 300 to 450 but is having difficulty attracting, and accommodating, workers, and
  4. the amazing transformation of the small hamlet of Bowmans, where much of the physical operations of Balco, a business owned by Mr. Malcolm May, the Chair of the SA Export Council, exist and are also being developed.

With these diverse industries comes the need to grow our communities to provide options for people to live.  Frustratingly, a lack of basic infrastructure investment in electricity and water are making it very difficult for the communities of Goyder to grow.  Agriculture and small business are facing challenging times.  Farm returns are suffering with increasing input costs for things such as fuel, fertiliser, chemicals and machinery, while the high Australian dollar is having a substantial impact on reducing income from grain sales.

South Australian and interstate companies have recognised the Goyder region as being an ideal location in which to invest. Preventing these opportunities, which will employ hundreds of people locally, from becoming a reality is the required infrastructure NOT being in place.  Mr. Speaker, in reviewing the Maiden Speech of John Meier, made on 14th December 1982, I noted the following comments:-

“A major problem in parts of Goyder, especially in early years and still today in selected areas, is that of water.

Besides rivers, creeks and dams, the Aboriginal waterholes often provided a major source of water. Over time, bores were sunk, at times on the site of these waterholes.

In most areas however, it was the piped reticulated water supply that brought certainty of supply to the people. Unfortunately the reticulated water supply does not extend to all areas of the electorate.

This is turn limits the development potential of many farms, it limits the amount of stock that can be carried and it means an uncertain water supply for many households, especially during our current drought.

Although I strongly believe that the reticulated water supply must be extended to all parts of Goyder with all haste, at the same time, because of the limited water sources to which South Australia has access, I am very concerned about the availability of water for the next generation’s usage.

Hopefully, priority will be given to examining alternative methods to supplement the water supply for rural areas generally.”

I find it rather amazing, and frustrating, that exactly the same concerns still exist twenty three and a half years later.  I know of at least 16 communities across Goyder that do not have access to a reticulated water supply, while very little investment in desalinisation technology for the production of potable water is operating in regional South Australia.  Given that we all acknowledge the pressures on the River Murray to be greater than ever before, I find this lack of investment in desalinisation technology very surprising and encourage the Government to do all it can in this area.

Mr. Speaker, I take this opportunity to quote some examples of the augmentation costs being demanded of property developers in providing a potable, reticulated water supply.  Within the Copper Coast area, which is experiencing exponential growth by virtue of people making lifestyle choices, the cost per allotment to developers in contributions to SA Water is in the vicinity of $ 4631. This sounds a reasonable figure, when compared to the SA Water connection fee of approximately $ 2700, but it is subject to a CPI adjustment every year and will be reviewed in 2009.

Developers have also posed to me the question of when this augmentation work that they are funding is actually going to be undertaken.  In the case of communities such as Stansbury and Ardrossan however, both of which are on the eastern coast of Yorke Peninsula where the proximity to Adelaide is a decided marketing advantage, the costs of doing business are much more restrictive. A question I would also ask is when is the work being funded by these augmentation contributions actually going to be undertaken?  Is this work actually required or is this just a revenue raising opportunity?  In the case of a recent Stansbury development of 50 allotments, the augmentation price per allotment was $10,900.  Given the consistent upward movement of prices for coastal land, the developers in this case chose to proceed when most others would have withdrawn from the project.  I am aware that this cost has delayed the development of another, larger, staged subdivision.

For Ardrossan however, the situation is far more difficult, and there are 2 examples that I wish to discuss today.  The District Council of Yorke Peninsula has always viewed Ardrossan as a key community.  While only having a population of 1100, it has increased in size considerably over the last 20 years and is the home of the successful One Steel dolomite quarry.  As a community, the need to provide light industry business location opportunities was recognised and through the vision of a local land holder a 25 allotment light industrial subdivision was proposed.  It is hoped that this development, designed to provide a home to 25 small business operations, would provide employment for up to 100 people.  SA Water has previously decreed however that the water supply to Ardrossan was at maximum capacity, so no subdivisions, be they for residential or light industrial allotments, could take place unless substantial augmentation charges, estimated initially at $25,000 per allotment, were paid upfront.

Council and the property owner recognised that this condition was a deal breaker and sought the support of Minister Wright in allowing the development to proceed as a “dry” development and for rain water to be the sole water provision option.  Luckily, common sense prevailed and the Minister agreed to this request, but frustratingly delays have resulted in interested potential business’s going elsewhere.  In the case of the development of surrounding lands for residential purposes, the demands of SA Water was that a minimum of 100 allotments commit to be created, with $14,000 per allotment being required as an up front payment - $ 14,000 per allotment Mr. Speaker.  Developments of this scale may occur in metropolitan areas or very large regional centres, but for Ardrossan, a community of 1100 people, this condition is impossible to meet.

Discussions were held with land holders about future opportunities, but these have, predictably, failed.  As such, the future growth of a community is being held to ransom because infrastructure investment has not occurred in previous years.  Mr. Speaker, Governments from both sides of the political spectrum have been at fault.  Frustratingly, I have no doubt that similar examples can be quoted in other areas.  Mr. Speaker, the Labor Government must demonstrate to regional South Australians that it cares for the 300,000 people who do not live in metropolitan Adelaide.  Sadly, the example set in 2005 when launching the metropolitan component of the State Infrastructure Plan a month before the regional component, did nothing to encourage people who live in rural and regional South Australia to believe that the Labor Government was actually working on their behalf.

For those who were desperately waiting to find out about the future plans of the State Government in relation to infrastructure investment, the announcement of what we thought was a State Infrastructure Plan, and I enforce the word State, but which we soon discovered was only the metropolitan component, offered no hope.  We in regional South Australia had to wait until approximately a month later, in the week Parliament sat in Mount Gambier, to find out what was planned for us.  For the people that I spoke to, it was obvious that this was purely a media stunt.  Mr. Speaker, regional South Australia does not want media stunts.  What regional South Australia does require, Mr. Speaker, is action.  The question that I ask today is why in fact was it necessary to release the State Infrastructure Plan in 2 components?

Mr. Speaker, a fact that many in this House may not be aware of is that of the 5 private Hospitals in regional South Australia, 4 are located in Goyder, being at Ardrossan, Hamley Bridge, Mallala and Moonta.  All of these facilities, which have been financially supported by generations of residents, face funding difficulties and have found it necessary to develop an aged care focus to remain financially viable.  In the case of Ardrossan, after a battle with Government and the Health department bureaucracy over many years, the commitment made by the Government last year to provide $ 120,000 per year in recurrent funding to partially offset the costs associated with providing an Accident and Emergency service was a welcome decision.  Sadly, this commitment was only half of the amount that a Liberal Government would have provided.  That said, this $ 120,000 commitment is appreciated, as is the exceptional support provided by the Australian Government over the last 3 years in funding a significant portion of infrastructure required for high and low care aged bed licences that have been granted.

Work already undertaken by the Ardrossan Community Hospital has however only been possible by the Board of Management, an entirely volunteer group whose only desire is to ensure that THEIR hospital remains open, showing the courage to take out a $ 1 million loan.  I find this level of commitment amazing and commend them on the vision.  The challenge to ensure that the ability to repay this debt exists will be a focus of the Board of Directors, and the Ardrossan community, for many years.  No doubt similar challenges have been met in Hamley Bridge, Mallala and Moonta over the years.

As recognised in the Ardrossan situation however, the State Government must understand that regional private hospitals need additional funding support.  Mr. Speaker, the continued generosity of the communities over many years has played a big part in them remaining open.  As an example, I attended a function last Saturday night at Moonta where dedicated volunteers hosted approximately 140 people for a meal, entertainment and auction of donated goods and services.  While a good night was had by all, the important part was that $ 8000 was raised, with these funds to be used to assist in the purchase of a bus for the use of the Aged Care residents.  As a further example of the vision of our regional communities, last Sunday I attended the official opening of the Hayfield Plains Retirement Village at Balaklava.  This development, made up of 33 independent living homes, is a project of the Life Care Churches of Christ, and is an outstanding example of the confidence being shown in the Goyder electorate.

For those of you not aware, I come to Parliament following a 27 year career in local government on Yorke Peninsula, at Orroroo, Carrieton and Peterborough in the mid north and the northern Hunter Valley of New South Wales.  My parents divorced when I was 4, and my brother 2, but in my mother, Jenny, I was lucky to have a strong willed, hard working person, a lady who instilled into her sons the attitude that you MUST contribute to your community and achieve all in life that you are capable of.  Mum, thank you for all of your support and guidance.

Starting in local government straight out of school on the front counter doing general reception duties, I accepted challenges, was given opportunities and proved to people that I could take on difficult roles.  Importantly, I earned the trust of the communities I served.  The greatest compliment ever paid to me was when leaving Orroroo in early 1999 to move to New South Wales when, as a parting comment, a chap known as being very hard, but fair and supportive when you earned his respect, said to me that I would be missed as the difference between myself and many other people was that I TRULY cared for the people and did my best for them at all times.  A humbling comment, but I hope indicative of my attitude to life and the way I will conduct myself as a Member of Parliament.

Until resigning in January this year, I had the privilege of being Chief Executive Officer of the District Council of Yorke Peninsula.  Since being created in February of 1997, this Council has been acknowledged as being at the forefront of regional local government.  This Council has shown vision in:-

  1. accepting responsibility from Transport SA for the maintenance of 11 recreational jetties within the area – if a similar attitude was being shown now the Rapid Bay jetty may have been repaired some time ago.
  2. in establishing a restricted, reticulated water supply to the communities of Balgowan (at cost of $400,000) and Hardwicke Bay (at a cost of $650,000) when SA Water was not interested
  3. to attracting $1 million in Federal and State Government grants to construct the backbone of a Broadband network that it is hoped will soon be expanded to service all of Yorke Peninsula
  4. to granting development approval for the construction of the 55 turbine $165 million Wattle Point Wind Farm
  5. to facilitating, when Crown Law advice to the State Government was to not be involved, agreements that allowed for the construction of the $ 10 million Port Vincent marina.
  6. to construct a 5.5 megalitre water storage facility at Port Vincent which allowed for the construction of the highly successful Port Vincent Marina (an interesting point here being that the facility, which cost over $ 500,000 to build and for which SA Water only contributed $ 117,000, was transferred to SA Water ownership upon completion)
  7. the recent decision of constructing a reverse osmosis sea water desalinisation plant at Marion Bay, at a cost of over $ 300,000 which is capable of producing 60,000 litres of water per day. This is only a small plant, but it will allow this expanding community to have access to a guaranteed water supply.
  8. taking a lead role in the development of the Narungga Indigenous Land Use Agreement – a wide ranging document that recognises the heritage and culture of the Narungga people while also providing security to developers.

While proud of the contribution that I made to all of these decisions and projects, I pay tribute to the Elected Members who showed the real courage in allowing these visions to become realities.  It would be remiss of me to not mention the support and friendship I, and my family, have had from all elected members and staff, but in particular Mayor Robert Schulze and Mrs. Sharon Schulze during my five and half years with Council.

Robert and I did not always agree on things, but we respected each others opinion and were focussed on making the communities of Yorke Peninsula a better place to live.  No doubt within the Liberal Party Parliamentary team there will be instances in which we may disagree, but I can assure you that our efforts are focussed on returning to Government in 2010.

Mr. Speaker, tourism is a vitally important industry to the Adelaide Plains and Yorke Peninsula regions that make up Goyder.  Excellent marketing support has been received from the South Australian Tourism Commission for many years, with tourism operators now acknowledging that if they want to grow their business, create the climate to stimulate further tourism investment, to get a greater financial return to the region from tourism and to grow job opportunities, they must work together.  For those of this House not aware, in 2004 some 530,000 people visited Yorke Peninsula, spending approximately 1.7 million nights in the area.  These are truly amazing figures, and obviously indicative of a vibrant industry and the fact that people are attracted to Yorke Peninsula and want to return as often as possible.

However, significant components of this industry could be at risk if the situation that occurred near Port Wakefield on the recent Easter long weekend is allowed to continue.  The television news footage and Advertiser coverage of traffic delays which meant that a normal 2 hour trip suddenly turned into a 4 or 5 hour nightmare of moving along at a snails pace, or not moving at all, because of the inability of a road network to handle the number of vehicles must not be allowed to continue.

Minister Conlon may say that it is “only holiday traffic” and talk about, when asked a question in Parliament about this matter, that “he knows the area well and has spent many days at Port Vincent”, but does he and the Government truly recognise the potential impact that no action on improving this situation could result in.  I can imagine the scene in early 2007, when families are sitting down and talking about what their options are over the Easter period.  The option of going to Yorke Peninsula is considered, but then someone remembers the stories about Easter 2006, people being delayed by 2 hours and guess what, they decide to go somewhere else for their 4 day break.

On behalf of my constituents, I must tell you that the above scenario must be avoided.   

Mr. Speaker, as a new Member of Parliament, I am particularly proud to have been provided with the opportunity to serve as the:-

  1. Shadow Minister for Employment, Training and Further Education
  2. Shadow Minister for Youth, and
  3. Shadow Minister for Gambling

I acknowledge that these Shadow portfolios will be challenging, but they are also exciting opportunities for me to be a representative of all South Australians and to be involved in influencing the decision making process of Parliament.

In the area of employment, I am reminded of the figure often quoted by the Member for Frome and other Liberal Members during the recent election campaign that if the rate of employment growth in South Australia had matched that experienced across the nation over the last 4 years, some 11,000 more people would have been in work than currently are.

11,000 more people – imagine the multiplying effect that the wages from these jobs would do to our economy.   Our State faces many threats to its future prosperity, so now is a time for action to ensure that all risks are managed and all opportunities accessed.

The up-skilling and training of our community will be an important factor in the future prosperity of the state.  Employment opportunities abound for people who have skills, but appropriate resources must be provided to ensure that training is accessible and not cost prohibitive.  I commit to doing all that I can to assist in this area.  I am particularly pleased to have the opportunity to work in the area of youth.

While many in South Australia see only the bad things that a minority of our youth do, and judge all young people on these actions, I focus on the positives of our young people.  Our youth must be encouraged.  Our youth must be mentored.  Our youth must be supported and given every opportunity to demonstrate what they are capable of and allowed to succeed.  Simply put, our youth are our future – we in this House must ensure it is a positive one.  The decisions that we make today will impact on what our youth do tomorrow, so we must ensure that they are engaged and asked for opinions.

Gambling is an interesting Shadow portfolio for me, as by nature I am not a gambler.  That said, I respect the actions of others who do like to gamble, but I give an assurance that my focus will be on working with the various industry groups to ensure that responsible management, which is compliant with legislation, occurs at all times.  Mr. Speaker, I can assure Minister Caica that I will be noting every statement, every promise, every act and every omission of this Government in these portfolios as they are too important an area to the future of this State to not be diligent.

To my Leader, Iain Evans, and Deputy Leader, Vicki Chapman, I say thank you for the faith you have placed in me.  To my fellow Liberal Party Parliamentary colleagues, I say thank you for the support and friendship you have given me

Mr. Speaker, one of my frustrations as a local government officer for the term of the 50th Parliament was the apparent unwillingness of some Labor Ministers to become involved in the decisions of their departments.  We are put in this place to express opinions, hopefully informed ones, and to make decisions.

Certainly, I respect the fact that we are required to seek the absolute best advice possible, but examples I witnessed of presentations being made to Ministers, and the Minister then indicating that they had no knowledge of the issue and would rely solely upon the opinion of the bureaucracy running their departments, disappointed me.

Mr. Speaker, in closing it would be remiss of me to not thank my family for all of their support.  Donna and I have been together for nearly 20 years.  Donna has always supported and encouraged me to strive for my dreams.  Being elected to Parliament is one of those dreams.  We have brought Tyler and Kelsey into the world and seen them grow into great kids, young adults that we can be extremely proud of.  As a family, we have laughed, we have argued, we have cried, we have made a lot of great friends.  I trust, the same continues for many years.

Mr. Speaker, I intend to be the voice of all who live in Goyder, be they young or old, rich or poor, working, unemployed or retired.

Mr. Speaker, I intend to voice the needs of Goyder, as I believe in Goyder.

Mr. Speaker, I support the motion for the adoption of the Address in Reply.