Ms COOK (Hurtle Vale) (12:00): I rise to make a contribution to the Address in Reply. I indicate that I am not the lead speaker for the opposition, but I am very happy to kick this off and be the first speaker for the opposition on the Address in
Reply. Hopefully, my two new knees that I received over summer will not give way. I may sit down early, but I would prefer to stand. I will indicate if I am required to finish speaking from a seated position.
The government's speech, written for His Excellency, yesterday told us that after two years there was no new vision from the government to contribute to the state. This new radical legislative agenda gave us nothing new, and certainly nothing radical. To my mind radical, by definition, refers to complete and total social or political change and also is commonly linked to a very progressive agenda. I do not believe that that is actually what occurred yesterday. I heard a summary of delivered programs and some continuance of the previous parliamentary agenda but certainly nothing new to solve the so-called headwinds and the problems in this state. I most definitely heard nothing new or nothing visionary to support the vulnerable people in our community. In fact, not surprisingly, they barely rated a mention.
In terms of something that has been discussed, employment, I would like to talk specifically about youth unemployment. The government purports to have maintained a solid growth in employment in this state. While we hear that the numbers indicate a solid and steady rise in unemployment, we do not hear youth unemployment being talked about very much, the young people in South Australia who are facing terrible barriers to employment. Over the past two years, the fact is that since this government came to office youth unemployment has increased to 14.3 per cent. That is up from 11.5 per cent in March 2018 when the Liberals came to office. I do not think that is any kind of figure that you can hang your hat on.
We have seen many cuts to job programs, specifically youth programs. In terms of apprenticeships, which is one of the main visions spelt out by this government, they say that it is much easier to get apprenticeships, that we are growing apprenticeships. But I can tell you that just saying something does not actually mean it is true. In fact, my son is one family member who has struggled to attain and secure an apprenticeship. The increasing numbers in the tens of thousands is certainly not something we are seeing and not something that we see benefiting our young people.
Many people come into my office, and the young people I hear from are facing the usual let-downs, the usual disappointments. They may be offered trials, they may be offered a go at an entry position in a company, but often their employers are not able to keep them on or suddenly give them any long-term commitment. Part of this may also be due to the housing and building industry struggling significantly at the moment. Sadly, it seems to have all but ground to a halt in the last two years since the Liberal government came to power.
Around a dozen builders have gone belly up and out of business in the last couple of years. I think that is pretty disappointing. That is under this Premier's watch. I think it is shameful and that more needs to be done about this. The building industry, rightly, is worried and concerned about the future, and that flows on to young people trying to get apprenticeships. People in the public—parents, family members—are not buying that rhetoric either. I think more needs to be done about this. All we are hearing is the good news and not the reality underneath it.
Today, in The Advertiser I saw that there are more cuts to TAFE programs. That is a worry. We have seen many skilled teachers leave TAFE. I have been approached by a number of them who have said that their programs have been cut, and they are very worried about the future of young people being able to access the nurturing and supportive wraparound services that are provided by TAFE.
What does that mean for the future skilling of South Australians? I do not think it is something that we can be confident about. I think more needs to be done to invest in TAFE. The Liberal government can use whatever language they like in speeches, but TAFE needs a true and new action plan; it needs real investment. That will give us more confidence for the future. We heard a statement in the speech that young people are not moving out of the state any more.
The Hon. S.K. Knoll interjecting:
Ms COOK: The statement was there: prove that. I am still hearing from parents and families that young people are leaving to seek employment. Quite honestly, this has happened for many years and it will continue to happen, in order to access industries and jobs that are present in the Eastern States, where there is a bigger population and a bigger economy of scale in terms of providing these starting point jobs in many industries.
I do not think that is a bad thing, in order for people to gain experience in some of these sectors in starting point jobs, as long as we can entice them back. Let's make sure they do not stay there. Let's make sure that people know that South Australia is the place to raise families, it is the place for you to bring your children up. Bring those young people back to South Australia. That is what is really important. Also, do not just make this blanket statement that 'in two years, we have done this', and not back it up with anything. Where are the facts? We want to hear what is really truly happening.
The Hon. S.K. Knoll interjecting:
Ms COOK: The minister over on the other side cannot keep quiet as usual. The businesses that we need to attract these young people to stay, and that we need to develop, are the ones that the Labor government actually started developing: the high-tech industries, the medical devices sectors, the growth, the innovation, the entrepreneurship. This is not a new thing that is happening. This was started at Tonsley.
I was watching and learning and being part of the evolution of that with NVI Flinders, with a whole range of other companies that were start-ups at Tonsley and saw that development. Yes, that has flowed on now, and we hear about Lot Fourteen being another new space to do that. That is great; these places do work. We started that and you are continuing it; that is great. This is nothing new. Just because you say it is does not mean it is true.
One of the things that really does concern me as well regarding employment, obviously, is the capacity for people with disability to participate in the workforce. We know that there is an extremely low level of participation for people with disabilities. People with disabilities cannot always work a full day, and there are many challenges and barriers to this. The government needs to be the gold standard and set the benchmark in terms of providing the capacity for people with a disability, or people living with disability, to participate in the workforce.
I was really pleased to hear, again, the comment that the Aboriginal participation level in the workforce has increased. I missed hearing actually what the data was around that. I do not know whether that was said. It possibly was not, but I will be keen to look that up. If it has increased, that is fantastic. What we also need to see now is people with a disability improving and increasing their capacity to participate. If they can only work several hours a week, then what we need to do is increase the ways that we can contribute towards job sharing programs, the ways that we can provide smaller periods for people to participate in the workforce.
It not only creates that level of confidence and assurity that you get from having a job, but it also develops a whole range of additional social connections that, as we know, are the number one way that you can increase your life expectancy, and that is through social connection and friendship. You can do that most definitely through the workplace. I did not hear anything about disability employment support in yesterday's speech. There was not much at all about people living with disability. There was a small amount in respect of housing, I believe; there was something stated. But I certainly did not hear a plan.
As we know, we have been through what is being touted as Black Summer. I do not think it has finished. I am certainly expecting that we will have more terrible incidents of bushfires. My heart goes out to them and my sympathies are with people, but I will speak more to the bushfires given the opportunity through another motion.
I want to thank all the volunteers and workers at the coalface, on the ground and behind the scenes who have already been mentioned in the past couple of days by members in this place and in the media. I also pay particular thanks to the public sector employees, through the Department of Human Services, who have at the last minute dropped everything and gone to the fire front and set up relief centres. They have been available to provide support, to help navigate bureaucracy, to try to access what is available for relief and support.
I think we need to think about those people as well because we think about the people on the fireground who have seen things you would never want to see, and I think some of the members have described that to us incredibly. These people have to listen to these stories of trauma and devastation over and over again. I know members of parliament have as well and I think we have seen some members on TV giving powerful representations about what they are listening to and what they are seeing.
I was completely shattered when listening to the member for Mawson yesterday in his recounting of his journey through KI. To the public servants who are doing this and hearing them still every day in the relief centres, thank you. I hope that the government works to ensure that not just victims and first responders but volunteers and Public Service employees who are providing this help get some ongoing support and welfare into the future and some much needed respite after the fire season finishes.
Contributors to the debate around bushfires and what has been happening have a range of opinions being put forward. I proudly support the science and evidence and pay much attention to climate science and the evidence-based climate change approaches that are being discussed around bushfire contributing factors. I know there are other things as well around management of the environment that need to be taken into account and I look forward to hearing the input into the inquiry around this.
Yesterday, we heard some focus on environment and emissions in the agenda that was set out via the Governor. Broadly, with this National-Liberal Party alliance across Australia, they certainly have some very vocal people—and I guess many would call them troglodytes—who do not support the progressive science and evidence around climate change. There are many of those people who are getting some voice, sadly not just in Australia but nationally, so I did chuckle a little at the Liberal Party here spelling out its vision for lowering emissions and climate change.
I am sure members will recall the opening speech of the Second Session of the Fifty-Third Parliament, when the Hon. Jay Weatherill announced Labor's establishment of a target for 50 per cent of our electricity to be generated from renewable sources by 2025, I believe it was. We talked about the carbon neutral economy, autonomous vehicles and a whole range of progressive energy solutions and targets. Of course, it was welcome yesterday that we heard this being repeated by the current Liberal government.
This is a commitment that we made as a Labor government because it is both good for our environment and the right thing to do for the transitioning economy, which affects employment and a whole range of things for our young people. What the current Liberal government have done is stop it, copy it, rename it and claim it as their own, but the electorate knows this. The electorate sees through the smoke and mirrors. Just because you say it is true does not mean it is real. Again, people know that this is an ongoing piece of work that was started under the previous Labor government. We welcome the government adopting our policies.
Another issue around the environment and energy that I welcomed being repeated yesterday—not new: repeated—was the Housing Trust battery scheme, the Home Battery Scheme and virtual power plant. I am really pleased to see that the government is committing again to continuing these great initiatives that were started under the Labor government. I refer people, however, to Housing Trust properties and the way many of them are constructed. We know that older homes struggle to support solar panels on their roofs. We know that many of them have been said to be unable to have solar panels.
I look forward to seeing the maintenance program assessment that was started under the former Labor government, per the report being completed, so that some of these issues with ageing stock might be addressed. They are going to have to clearly address it. I believe it was a $75 million commitment over maybe 10 years for additional maintenance. I do not know about you but, doing the maths, it is not going to get you very far. It is not going to get you very much maintenance and it is certainly not going to get you very many new roofs. We all know how much a new roof costs.
There was zero money in that breakdown—that is, nothing—to be invested in public housing or new builds for public housing. We did see some investment in houses to be sold, but we did not see anything from a public housing point of view. It will be interesting to see how that massive increase for solar panels is going to appear. I look forward to watching it and hearing more from the department on that.
This brings me to the housing strategy. In his speech, the Governor mentioned the housing and homelessness strategy. Where do I start? The speech yesterday was full of many deliverables, lots of small ones, tens of thousands of dollars. They are really small target projects, which are welcomed in local communities. They certainly add up, and we expect a government to have locally targeted projects—I think that is great—but we had a half a billion dollar housing strategy.
It was released at the last minute last year and not much was said about it. Yesterday, there were a couple of sentences on it. It was probably the biggest announcement of investment last year in terms of the community, and we had a couple of sentences. There was not much to say about it, I would say, because it is shocking and it is terrible. Affordable housing outcomes are important but, as a government, you work in partnership with people, with the public, the punters who need the housing and the builders to make sure the settings are right and the opportunities are available for these people to go out, because they can talk and they can access a loan.
We need to make sure those settings are right and, if those settings are right, they can then access the housing and buy an affordable property. However, I am not sure that we should be buying them from the government and I am not sure that the government should be building them in competition with the private sector. What we need to see is investment in public and social housing at a much bigger rate.
The lack in the strategy of any public housing builds shows a lack of compassion and care by the government for those less well off than most. While I appreciate all governments have sold a number of houses—and this happens nationwide in order to refresh and renew stock and to change the way that communities invest in affordable properties through the social and public balance—the Treasurer in the other house has been the biggest seller of public housing in the history of this state.
I have said this before in this place and it is on paper. It is on the record. The numbers are in Hansard. I have put them there, and I am very happy to share them with any member who would like me to send them to them. The current Treasurer in the other place has been the biggest off-loader of public houses in the history of this state. I will have far more to say on housing and homelessness as we continue to consult with the community and with service providers over the next two years.
In respect of disability and people living with disability, the environment is vitally important and I welcome the reannouncement by Liberal government of the discussion about the banning of single-use plastics. We on this side of the house are committed always to ensuring that we re-use, repurpose, recycle and minimise the use of throwaway items, and we welcome the discussion in the last parliament and look forward to seeing the bill.
However, as the spokesperson on this side of the house for people living with disability, I want to make sure that people who require and must use single-use straws and other items to ensure they have quality of life and are able to access hydration and nutrition in a dignified way have access to those products in a way that is not embarrassing, in a way that is dignified and in a way that is publicly understood. This has been raised with me alot by the community I engage with and we will be watching carefully and consulting with the sector and the community to ensure best outcomes.
In terms of disability, the rollout of the NDIS has been, shall we say, problematic from a federal and a state point of view. South Australia does lag behind in many of the measures and that is shameful. We should not be accepting that. We have seen many things that have been a much bigger challenge in terms of the NDIS, and I cannot count how many times I have spoken about the taxi voucher scheme in this place.
There has been an ending of it, a reinstatement of it, a reannouncement of it, a change of it, a resetting of it. A number of pieces of communication have gone out to people in the community. There is incredible ambiguity and confusion in the disability community about this scheme, so I have begun to
pull this together in one document and I will gladly present it to the minister for disability in the other place, and the Minister for Transport in this place, to see if we can work with the community to ensure that people really have a fair go.
As we know, the Community Visitor Scheme, which was started about five years ago by the Labor government, has worked beautifully in order to highlight and, in fact, save the lives of people with disability living in institutionalised care. We have seen a transition of people to different types of care, which is fantastic, but we still know there are issues. What we have seen since the withdrawal of funding from the Community Visitor Scheme and going into NGO and privately owned facilities is a lack of voice for those people and a real risk that issues are not being identified.
We have not heard anything about any reinstatement of or change to that, so we will certainly be working on that this year, as a plan moving forward, to ensure that everybody, no matter where they live, has a voice and equal access to advocacy in this community. A statement was made yesterday that this government has delivered the Disability Inclusion Plan.
This government has delivered the legislation that was started under the previous government two parliaments ago. The document has been delivered. There has been consultation on and conversations about the document. We have not seen any delivery investment at this point. We do not know of any jobs that have been put in place specifically in the department to make sure that this is broadly implemented in an effective way, so I question how committed the government is to actually doing something that ensures real, true and full inclusion for people living with disability. I look forward to hearing about that.
As a woman and as a registered nurse, I thank the Attorney-General for bringing the issues of abortion law and abortion reform to this house. I do not think people understand this until they are fully confronted by it. It is the worst time in someone's life and it should never be part of the legal process. This must be part of the Health Care Act. Abortion care is health care, and that must be spelt out absolutely and finally in South Australia.
For decades, we have been one of the most progressive states in terms of these reforms; let's catch up to the others now. This will be contentious, and many people will be upset by this debate, but I hope that members see why this particular part of the reform is necessary. I am very pleased to be the person who in this house is carrying the Health Care (Health Access Zones) Amendment Bill, which will make it safe and more dignified for people accessing abortion care.
A big ongoing issue I have as a registered nurse is hospital car parking, but not just for our public sector nurses. As I highlighted in the media last week, with the help of some people who wanted to make a statement, people are having difficulties parking in the Flinders Private overflow car park, which has been made available on DPTI land. There were sudden, last-minute changes to the way they could access that car park. They were being forced to walk down a very dark path with potholes, on dirt, across 10 lanes of Main South Road Darlington upgrade traffic. This has been going on for four years, with many iterations of car parking options.
It was highlighted last week by nurses who have to pay 130 per cent more than they had to two years ago for the privilege of parking, because the government said they were going to reduce hospital car parking costs but they have actually jacked it up. This was reversed. I thank the minister, if the minister was involved in this decision at all, or his officers and his department, for reversing that decision and making access to car parking for nurses in our southern suburbs much safer and easier. It is a great outcome, and it took only two days, which is perfect. Thank you for that.
In summary, the reset is very much a review of what was happening and what is still happening. We have seen things such as council rate capping. It is being done to bring the cost of living down. The best way of doing that is to take away the bin tax because, once you put the bin tax on, council rates went up by 1 per cent to 2 per cent. I do not think it is council rate capping that is the issue. There was the GM modification and there was the shop trading deregulation. All these things are being refreshed.
You say that this is why we have had to spend tens of thousands of dollars on pomp and ceremony, stopping people from being able to access their trams and their public transport and holding up the traffic and the court process because all the judges had to come and sit in the parliament. The MPs are not doing their work, we have started parliament later and we have missed a day. I think it was just an ostentatious waste of time in order for you to shove a couple of bills back on the paper, bills that are not actually going to go anywhere. With that, I conclude my remarks and I thank you for the opportunity of providing an Address in Reply response.