Wednesday 23 June, 2021

Adjourned debate on second reading.

(Continued from 22 June 2021.)

The Hon. V.A. TARZIA (Hartley—Minister for Police, Emergency Services and Correctional Services) (16:35): I am very pleased to speak on this bill in regard to the 2021-22 state budget. It is a strong budget, it will certainly create jobs, it will result in better services and we as a government will continue to build what matters. It is also a budget that builds on the investments we have been making now for several years. I would like to highlight some of the initiatives in the budget in my respective portfolio areas.

First, I would like to begin with SAPOL. Today, I was at the Police Academy, and I want to congratulate the most recent graduates and wish them well in their future roles as police officers in an array of fields. We know how hard South Australia Police have been working right throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, but we know how crucial it is that we continue to provide them with the tools they need to keep South Australians safe, to continue to respond to the pandemic and also to carry out their regular policing duties.

This state budget allocates an additional $23.6 million not only to extend the employment of 54 protective security officers engaged in 2021 but also to recruit and train an additional 114 PSOs. So, sir, if you know any good people who are looking for a challenging and vital role, SAPOL are currently recruiting. The additional PSOs will be deployed to things like medi-hotels and also undertake a range of other COVID duties as they are required.

With more than $71 million announced in last year's budget and a further $77.5 million included in this year's budget, the government allocation will have provided an extra $98.9 million to support SAPOL's COVID-19 response. The government is investing over $21.1 million over three years to also complete the implementation of stages 3 and 4 of the Shield project to deliver greater collaboration and also data sharing capabilities, which are essential in this day and age. This will result in a more efficient use of policing resources and also ultimately improved community safety.

In the emergency services space, we are building on our $97.5 million investment in last year's budget to respond to the Independent Review into South Australia's 2019-20 Bushfire Season. We are continuing to ensure that our emergency services have what they need to keep us safe and strong. We are investing $1½ million in 2021-22 and $1.8 million per annum thereafter for the ongoing support and maintenance of automatic vehicle location (AVL) for our emergency services, which is obviously a vital tool for our emergency services going forward. We know that our emergency services personnel have been calling out for AVL technology for years and years, and I am very proud that our government will be delivering that for our emergency services.

Our volunteers are the backbone of our emergency services, and the Marshall Liberal government is committed to doing all we can to recruit and retain emergency services volunteers. That is why we are investing $4.4 million in our SES to implement a new program, called New Pathways: Volunteering Recruitment and Retention. This will go a long way to assisting our 67 SES units to respond to thousands of callouts right across the state each and every year. This will go a long way to increasing volunteer numbers. There are approximately 1,700 SES volunteers, but hopefully it will increase our volunteer numbers and also improve their experience in the SES, so this is very important.

We are also investing $100,000 to undertake planning and design work for a future joint CFS and SES incident management facility, CFS regional headquarters and also an SES unit at Willaston. Obviously, as the growth of the state leads to certain areas requiring more attention, we will continue to look at that with our emergency services. This has been a part of the state that has been identified for such works to be done. Such a facility would potentially service the Mid North, Yorke Peninsula, northern Mount Lofty Ranges, Barossa and Adelaide Plains, as well as the outer northern suburbs. It is much needed and we look forward to seeing that work.

To meet the increased demand for development assessments in bushfire risk areas, we are also providing an extra $146,000 per annum for the CFS to assess and process development applications as quickly as possible. Of course, we continue to provide the MFS with over $155,000 per annum until 2023-24 to support continuing the audit of buildings that may contain things like combustible cladding as well.

From a Department for Correctional Services point of view—and obviously we have an exceptional Correctional Services area—we are investing $4 million over the forward estimates to expand what is a very sophisticated offender tracking program. This will be done with an extra 100 electronic monitoring devices. These will monitor low-risk offenders re-entering the community. I had the great privilege recently of attending one of our local offices at Edwardstown, where I was able to see what our Correctional Services staff do to monitor some of these offenders. I was absolutely blown away, and I want to take this opportunity to thank all our staff in our Correctional Services area for the great work that they do in monitoring these offenders and keeping our community safe.

A further $1½ million will be allocated to develop a full business case for a new rehabilitation prison. Rehabilitation is very important. If you can rehabilitate a prisoner—if you can help turn their life around, if you can get them back on track, back on the straight and narrow, if you can get them where they are able to be reformed, to be better people with better skills, they can go out and get a job, provide for their family, have dignity and have purpose—ultimately there is a massive benefit to society not only for themselves and for their families but also for the economy. We should be doing everything we can wherever reasonably possible to rehabilitate people.

A further $1½ million will be allocated to develop a full business case for a new rehabilitation prison, and that has been identified as a priority by Infrastructure SA in its 20-year strategic infrastructure plan. The government will also be providing $2.4 million per annum from 2021-22 to bolster strategies to reduce the rate of Aboriginal reoffending and over-representation in our criminal justice system. We have a number of exceptional programs in our prison system that go towards reducing the rate of Aboriginal incarceration and Aboriginal offending, but we always have to be doing more. This is an exceptional measure that I know will help to reduce the rate of Aboriginal reoffending and over-representation in the criminal justice system.

We are also investing a further $14.4 million towards the huge upgrade of Yatala Labour Prison. This takes our investment in the upgrade to more than $160 million. I know my predecessor worked very hard on this upgrade at Yatala Labour Prison, and we are continuing to invest in that site. I am also pleased to provide some key updates that show the significant impact our investment is having on the ground. The upgrade is actually delivering 270 new beds, new visitor and admission centres and also new kitchen facilities.

We have had over 3,000 cubic metres of concrete installed across a 9,000 square metre area, 60,000 tonnes of rubble have been applied, and over 448 precast panels installed. Importantly, so far around 150 tradespeople and also site supervisors have been on site most days, and that has contributed to over 100,000 work hours. Our continuing investment in South Australia's prisons does not stop there. We are investing a further $8 million for the new reception and visitor centre project at the Adelaide Women's Prison, as well as $1.9 million in targeted security upgrades at the Adelaide Remand Centre to strengthen and bolster that centre as well.

On a local note, I am very excited to see $84.4 million included in the budget for the construction of a new 1,200-place high school at the Norwood Morialta High School campus site in Rostrevor—just down the road from Rostrevor College, in fact. It is no secret that people in my electorate and surrounding suburbs have been calling for a new school there for years and years.

What did the former government do? They had a secret plan to sell the site, but that will not happen under our government. The former government time and time again ignored the need to make hard decisions on this site, but I am proud to be part of a government that has listened to the community, that has looked at where the demand is needed and that will be meeting that demand with a brand-new school. This new site will deliver positive results, and continue to build what matters for the people of our state and for our local community.

Of course, the new high school is in addition to our massive upgrades of existing local schools. For example, down the road, if we go to Charles Campbell College we see an over $10 million upgrade of that particular school, delivering an upgraded senior school building with flexible science, technology, engineering, arts and maths learning centres, a refurbished performing arts centre, six upgraded general learning areas in the junior school, and the demolition of ageing infrastructure.

I was delighted to go out there on a number of occasions recently with the Minister for Education to inspect the site. There is a whole lot of excitement from the students, the parents, the teachers and future families who will be involved in that school. It is absolutely outstanding.

Then, of course, there is our over $50 million upgrade of the Norwood Morialta High School Magill campus, which will increase the capacity of The Parade, Magill, campus to 1,700 students. This will effectively allow all year levels to be on the same site. That upgrade is taking shape, sir; you should see the way it is coming along. It is moving at a rate of knots.

The upgrade there will also deliver a three-storey middle school building with a rooftop play space—how good is that? It will also have a two-storey building for the school's technical and specialist precinct, there will be refurbishment and extension of the gym (which is long needed), and a new façade entry statement. You can see that taking place as we speak as you drive down The Parade, so if you are in that neck of the woods have a look at that. It is coming together very, very well.

Of course, there is also improved landscaping, car parks and also sports courts. That is a school that from time to time allows other groups to use its facilities. I can remember a time when I was actually called down there to a local judo club, but a number of other schools use the oval there for cricket and football as well, amongst other things. Through our huge investment, our government is delivering local jobs, better services, and building what matters for South Australians, and I am delighted to give those particular updates.

When I look at the budget on the whole, it is great to see an improved economic outlook that has resulted in upwards revisions to GST and state taxation revenues over the forward estimates. It is notable that the GST revenue grants over the four years from 2021 to 2023-24 are expected to be $2.5 billion higher than estimated in the 2020-21 state budget. I think that shows how well the state has done and how well the country has done. I feel very privileged to do what I can in our government to support South Australia Police and the role they have played in ensuring that we have kept our state safe and, in turn, kept our economy strong as well.

Our net debt is, of course, at a sustainable level, but now is the time to borrow—at record low interest rates—for good productive infrastructure.

An honourable member interjecting:

The Hon. V.A. TARZIA: I certainly was not. Our net debt to revenue ratio rises to 129.6 per cent in 2024-25 but again, when you look at that and how it compares with other jurisdictions around Australia and around the world, I think we are travelling pretty well. If you look at where New South Wales is heading and where Victoria is heading, our net debt to revenue ratios are at a good level in this climate. Of course, now is the time to borrow at record low interest rate levels and do it for the right reasons.

The economy has recovered much more strongly than expected. Of course, there were some economic commentators who, 12 months or 18 months ago, had forecast diabolical consequences because of COVID and the way it would wreak havoc through our state and the country. But the economy has recovered very well, much more strongly than expected, and I think that reflects a number of things.

Firstly, people in this state have done exceptionally well and our government has done a good job as well in making sure that we keep South Australians safe and our economy strong. It also reflects I think very positive and productive stimulus spending as well as increased confidence. If you look at GSP growth for the next year, it accelerates to 3½  per cent. If you look at some of the economies around Australia and around the world, they certainly will not be doing that. I am very pleased to see how resilient our economy has been and I am sure there is only going to be more growth in the future as we rebound and come out of this period and see the light at the end of the tunnel.

Employment in South Australia recovered swiftly after May 2020. In fact, over 60,000 jobs have been created since May 2020, and there has been significant employment growth in April and May 2021, bringing employment to our highest level on record. It is also good to see that employment is forecast to grow by 1 per cent in 2021 and then 2 per cent in 2021-22. Of course, we would like to see that grow better but, again, when you put it into context as to how it could have been, we have done very well here.

A big priority in this budget is on jobs, on health—especially mental health—and of course on education, especially in the early learning environment. Our Economic and Business Growth Fund has been called the Jobs and Economic Growth Fund. There is $200 million of funding available, and the funding continues to support jobs and economic development in the state. The growth fund is available to support initiatives that create long-term sustainable jobs and economic growth in new and existing industries in the state. It is available to provide support for modern manufacturing proposals and other industry development assistance in key sectors—for example, plant protein, space, defence and hydrogen, which has emerged as an area of future growth.

The $4 billion stimulus package has been received very well, and we are also making sure that we provide lower costs for South Australian businesses. If we can do that then businesses have a better chance of continuing their good work during what has been quite a challenging time and, of course, we want them to grow, we want them to put on more people and we want them to put on apprentices and trainees if they are able to as well. We are still continuing our good work in the jobs and skills area and, amongst other things, we see $69 million over two years for the extension of the existing JobTrainer fund, which is a national partnership agreement with the commonwealth, until June 2022.

A key pillar of the budget is the $163.5 million mental health package. I think that has been exceptionally well received already, as I talk to people. I particularly want to pay tribute to the good work that the Minister for Health is doing in regard to the Modbury Hospital. I know that it is especially well received by the member for Newland and the member for King and also by all of us who share a constituency in the inner north-east and outer north-east of our state because it is a vital hospital. Recently, I was able to tour that and see the great work the government is doing.

In the remaining time I have, I also want to pay tribute to our government plan to fix ramping and ease pressure in our hospitals. I know our four-point plan will go a long way to fixing ramping and also easing pressure in our hospitals. I commend the bill to the house.