Today, Mark moved a Greens' amendment to oppose the repeal of the Commissioner for Kangaroo Island Act, which passed the Upper House despite opposition from the Government.
Statutes Amendment and Appeal (Budget Measures) Bill 2018
My amendment is simply an advice to the committee that I will be opposing clause 63. Clause 63 repeals the Commissioner for Kangaroo Island Act. I spoke at some little length in my second reading contribution about why I felt it was inappropriate to take that statute from our statute book, but the Hon. Rob Lucas has said a few things in his summing-up that I need to respond to, so I will quickly refer to some of those. He mentioned that it is a legitimate role of the government to go through the statute book and remove from it things that no longer have any work to do.
I will say that I agree with him entirely. I will shed no tears when the Liens on Fruit Act 1923 is eventually repealed. It is an excellent case study on how not to draft legislation. There is one part of that act that goes for 23 lines without a full stop, the longest sentence I have ever seen in a South Australian statute. It can be summarised as follows: if you do not pay your bills, the creditors get the apricots. I do not think that act has any more work to do. I am happy for it to go, but the Commissioner for Kangaroo Island Act I think is in a different category.
Ultimately, what the Treasurer has told the council today is that the Liberals are reverting to type: anything that might be regarded as small government must be good by definition. He raised the floodgate argument—although he did not use the word—saying, 'Well, if the people of Kangaroo Island get someone to represent their interests and help them to deal with the bureaucracy, what about the people on the West Coast? What about the people in God's own country (I think he said) down in the South-East?'
That is a very good question. Why should people in disadvantaged, far-flung regional communities not have someone whose job it is to bat for them when it comes to dealing with bureaucracy and red tape? The minister said that that is the proper role of local government. Local government has a clear set of responsibilities, but I am not aware that there are many local councils that take on the role of batting for citizens when they have trouble dealing with state government departments or agencies. They just do not do that. It is not their role. I think that referring to the office as simply an overpaid lobbyist sells the position short.
I remind people, as I did the other day, that this legislation was reviewed as recently as last year. The review committee consisted of Liberal, Labor and Greens. The committee unanimously resolved that the office was worth keeping. It did not recommend getting rid of it and it did not recommend getting rid of the legislation. The submissions are on the Environment, Resources and Development Committee website and members can read the submissions made by business owners, expressing their support for the continuation of the office.
Interestingly, in responding to an out of order interjection, the Treasurer seemed to indicate that the election of Mr Pengilly is some sort of referendum on whether the office of commissioner should continue. I make the prediction here now that we might hear the election of Mr Pengilly as being a referendum on a whole manner of issues coming up. We will be told that it represents the overwhelming support of Kangaroo Island for oil and gas drilling offshore. It will be overwhelming support for anything that Mr Pengilly, in all his years in state parliament, advocated or opposed. But, we know that local government elections are fought on different grounds. With those brief words, I indicate that when the question is put that clause 63 stand as printed, the Greens will be opposing that clause.
For further information see Mark's second reading speech.