STATUTES AMENDMENT (BOARDS AND COMMITTEES - ABOLITION AND REFORM) BILL

Wednesday 25 March, 2015

Mr TARZIA (Hartley) (16:19): I agree with the comments made by the member for Unley. I would like to think that members of these boards and committees were awarded their positions based on merit and nothing else. That could just be my utopia, but I would like to think that in an ideal world that would happen. It should happen. For what reason should people be appointed to these positions, positions that are funded by the taxpayer, other than merit?

Mr TARZIA (Hartley) (16:19): I agree with the comments made by the member for Unley. I would like to think that members of these boards and committees were awarded their positions based on merit and nothing else. That could just be my utopia, but I would like to think that in an ideal world that would happen. It should happen. For what reason should people be appointed to these positions, positions that are funded by the taxpayer, other than merit?

Overall, I would support the bill with amendment, as has previously been mentioned today. In particular, I would like to talk about four boards and committees and why they should stay under the government's proposals: firstly, the South Australian Tourism Commission; secondly, the Pastoral Board; thirdly, the Animal Welfare Advisory Committee; and, fourthly, the Health Performance Council.

Speaking broadly, the government has certainly stated their intent to abolish a whole plethora of boards and committees, and they will have many opportunities before they make their ultimate decision. However, there is no doubt in my mind that there may be merit in abolishing some boards and committees. On this side of the fence, we believe that efficiency is certainly a good thing. If you are able to utilise the state's resources, the taxpayer resources, that is a good thing and, if you can do that for the benefit of South Australians, why not? However, we do have a concern about a blanket reform measure that says that you should abolish only to cut costs, say. You should not just cut for cost because there are valuable services, opinions and reports and many functions these boards and committees provide.

They are formed mainly of experts in a chosen field. It is important that they advise the relevant committees, relevant boards and relevant ministers because they are mainly experts in their field. Often, they come up with very valuable findings so, if there is no cause or real argument to abolish them, that should not be done. I note that the Premier has announced that of the 429 boards and committees, 90 would be retained, 107 would be abolished, 17 would be merged, and 62 will be subject to further review, I understand.

I believe that this bill initially abolishes some 56, or thereabouts, either completely or by merging them with another entity. I have spoken about four in particular that I think should be kept, and these have been key and pivotal in identifying for the lawmakers and the government of the day areas of development and opportunity to delve into benefits the state can explore, so I encourage the government to look at keeping these.

Firstly, I look at the South Australian Tourism Commission Board, a board established under the South Australian Tourism Commission Act 1993 and the governing body of the SATC. Every financial year, the board enters into a performance agreement with the tourism minister, covering areas such as tourism policy, planning, market share, industry sustainability, advocacy, visibility, financial management and performance measurement. I think that it serves a very important role and that we should certainly look at keeping it at least for the time being.

If there are financial constraints, and that may be the case, perhaps this needs to be made clear to the board. If they need amended key performance indicators, and that needs to be seen in light of the financial situation, that should be made clear to the board. I think it is wrong just to come out swinging and say that you are going to sack some boards and not others. What the market is after is certainty, and what these boards and committees are after is certainty.

I think we should definitely engage and consult with them and give them some time lines and ask them to perform and meet certain targets, and if those targets are not met after a certain point in time, sure, perhaps then they need to be looked at, but I do not think that has been done. In fairness to that particular board, I think it should be maintained.

Secondly, I would like to speak about the Pastoral Board. The member for Stuart had a lot to say, I believe, about the Pastoral Board. It serves an absolutely fundamental role in not only his electorate but also across the state. They have certainly been focusing on many strategic priorities in recent times. I just wish to draw upon them to highlight how important they are and why I believe that they should stay.

For example, I note that they provided advice to DEWNR on progress against the SASP targets by 2020, to achieve a 25 per cent improvement in the condition of pastoral land. In the SA NRM plan guiding target 7, the board discussed how its business can contribute to achieving that target and also how the board would report on the target. They have also recognised that various new interests and issues have emerged since the enactment of the Pastoral Land Management and Conservation Act 1989. I note that this act is still subject to discussion for variation, and the board has also discussed ways to ensure that it can continue to meet its responsibilities through the mechanisms of the pastoral act.

They communicate widely with many stakeholders, often in parts of rural South Australia. Many of these stakeholders often find that, because they are in remote areas, they certainly see this board as a mouthpiece for their interests. I believe that they also entered into a memorandum of understanding with the SA Arid Lands NRM Board in response to improving relationships and synergies with other statutory boards. That MOU has formalised a strong working relationship between the two bodies. They have also done a lot of work with regard to public access routes. Pastoral lessees have also been reminded of their responsibilities regarding boundary fencing and the impacts on neighbours of straying sheep, in light of the increase in farming of alternative breeds of sheep in the rangelands.

They have also had a lot to do with Indigenous land use agreements. Say no more. That is an area where it is fair to say that the government needs improvement in that regard. I could go on and on, but it goes without saying that the Pastoral Board is a fundamental part of the backbone of the remote parts of South Australia and the economies that that supports, economies such as agriculture. It is certainly a very important board and we should look to maintain it.

Thirdly, we have the Animal Welfare Advisory Committee. I know animal welfare is close to your heart, Deputy Speaker, and it is also close to mine. We have seen in recent times issues regarding, say, baiting in the greyhound industry. We know that, from time to time, these issues are raised and they are very serious and important issues. It is committees like this that aim to really provide much needed support to those who own animals and those who trade in animals, and we should certainly look to keep this committee.

They have also, in the last year, provided a whole range of positive changes in South Australia relating to animal welfare not only by responding to ministerial requests for advice in a timely manner but also providing advice to the minister and to DEWNR on draft policies and proposed legislation. I note that they have been involved in the code of practice for the humane destruction of wombats, for example.

They have also provided responses to national standards and guidelines for animal welfare. I note that at its March 2013 meeting the Animal Welfare Advisory Committee considered and commented on the draft Australian Animal Welfare Standards and Guidelines—Livestock at Saleyards, and they were involved in an associated discussion paper as well. In fact, their comments were conveyed to the national writing group for consideration.

They have also provided many comments on codes of practice and developing codes of practice, as well as developing position statements. They provided a series of these position statements regarding specific animal welfare issues. These statements, I am led to believe, have been reviewed on a regular basis to determine things like relevancy, and they are amended as appropriate. New statements are added as they are considered and, in 2012-13, the committee reviewed its position statements to align with the six categories of animals used within the Australian Animal Welfare Strategy. There is also the sharing of information between nominating organisations and agencies. Subject specialists provided the Animal Welfare Advisory Committee with presentations on many admirable causes, so they should certainly be maintained.

Last, but not least, I think we should also look at keeping the Health Performance Council. The Health Performance Council provides a fundamental role to South Australia. They are an independent body and they review South Australia's health system, as I understand it, across not only private but also public and community sectors, and they speak about and look at prevention strategies in both primary care and hospital care. They are separate from health departments and they are separate from health services. Their independence is a good thing because it means that they are not owned by anyone. It means that they can provide frank advice on whether strategies are being implemented as planned on merit and without bias. This is why they are so important.

They have no specific affiliation to any union or any interest group. They are independent, and in a world today where our health outcomes are not where they need to be and as high as they should be, we need good independent bodies like the Health Performance Council to provide the checks and balances, as well as the other array of expertise they provide. They do report to the Minister for Health every four years and they have recently provided an annual report to the parliament. They should certainly be kept.

I believe that the four boards and committees I have mentioned today should be preserved, so I plead with the government of the day to have mercy. Please do not cut what are very important imperative boards and committees. I understand that there are financial implications of keeping some of these; however, we should not just take an axe to things that provide expertise and benefit to South Australians. We need to be selective. We need to be very measured with this, and I would ask and plead that the government keep these four boards and committees. With those comments and the amendments that I propose, I commend the bill to the house.