Appropriation Bill 2014
Speech to Parliament
July 24, 2014
Mr WINGARD ( Mitchell ) ( 17:52 :02 ): Unlike the member for MacKillop, this is my first budget estimates reply speech, and it was an interesting experience for me as well.
There were, as a few members have pointed out today, a number of longwinded speeches setting the scene for some of the questions, and some of the replies were very interesting as well and quite longwinded.
Perhaps the journalist in me was a little bit frustrated at times when the answers that were forthcoming did not perhaps answer the questions as such but were rather just a blurb or a statement related to the question. I know the member for Colton was a bit unhappy as I pursued a couple of questions when I thought the answers were not acceptable. I think in a perfect world answers fitting the question would be the ideal scenario.
I commend the Minister for Transport for not giving a longwinded speech before he started, but he is a very smooth professional who is very skilled in giving a longwinded answer without perhaps answering the question. One of those questions I found most interesting was about the new 'fun tax', as it has been labelled in public land, and that is the transport levy on events happening in and around Adelaide with over 5,000 people in attendance.
He was asked to list the events that this would be associated with, and his answer I think went for two to three minutes, maybe a little bit longer, potentially four minutes. It was very articulate but it did not actually list for the people of South Australia which events were going to be hit by this tax. I found that a little disappointing and I think the people of South Australia deserve better, and they deserve to know which events are going to be hit with this tax. The government has brought it in and it is in the forward estimates raising $1.7 million, from memory, over the next 12 months, and then upwards of $3.89 million and up to $4 million, I think, in the last year of forward estimates.
The figure is there. The government clearly knows what events it is going to hit and how it is going to raise its capital—it has budgeted for that—but they would not come forward and tell the people of South Australia where this tax is going to be applied, to which events it is going to be applied, and how they will be paying for it. I was a bit disappointed that the minister suggested that it was not a tax, and I find that a little bit offensive to the people of South Australia. He specifically said that it was not a tax or a levy, but I think the people of South Australia are smarter than that and they understand what a tax or a levy is and that, when you put a fee onto something, it will come back and people will have to pay for it.
Cleverly, he did make mention that this fee was going to go to the Stadium Management Authority in the case of football at AAMI Stadium. He said, 'We're going to put the fee onto the Stadium Management Authority', passing the buck to them. Of course, we all know that the Stadium Management Authority will have to pass it on to the people who use the Oval, be it the Crows or the Power or whoever using the stadium, and then they will have to pass it on to the football fans. It is very clear how it is going to happen. It is a tax, it is a levy, and it is getting passed down the line.
The DEPUTY SPEAKER: Order!
Mr WINGARD: Sorry, Deputy Speaker.
The DEPUTY SPEAKER: Keep going. It is you we want to listen to.
Mr WINGARD: Sorry?
The DEPUTY SPEAKER: It is you we cannot hear.
Mr WINGARD: Thank you. As I was saying, we know that it is a tax and a levy, and it is going to get passed down the line. It is very clear how that is going to go. It was a shame that the minister would not tell us which events it was going on. He did mention the football, and we know that it is going to start there, so all football fans will have to pay this fun tax or fun levy. It is not directed at the Stadium Management Authority.
It will have to be passed down to the football fans at the end of the line. That was one of my experiences throughout estimates. Again, it was the question that was asked. If the people of South Australia could know which events are going to be hit by this tax or levy, they would be greatly appreciative to receive that piece of information.
Some other stuff came out of estimates which I thought was very interesting as far as answering questions were concerned. We did have a chat with the road safety minister, and it was great to have the police here and to have them answering questions, and they were most informative in their answers. There were a number of questions that were asked of the Minister for Road Safety about the Motor Accident Commission, and he was point blank in his refusal to answer those questions.
There are a number of key issues because of the change in the MAC funding, which was outlined in the budget. It was raised that the MAC was going to be disbanded, sold off or shut down and that the money would be taken out and put back into revenue and other projects. There were some questions asked about how the future funding would happen for MAC projects. I think $12 million a year is currently spent on the Motor Accident Commission in advertising and also education programs and community programs.
The state rescue helicopter is sponsored to the tune of around $200,000 to $250,000 a year, from what I am led to believe. There is great sponsorship in community football as well in the country regions of South Australia. I think that is to the tune of $200,000 as well. Where is that money going to come from and is it guaranteed in the future now that MAC is being shut down?
Schoolies is another one. I really wanted to ask the road safety minister about that one because I think that it is vitally important. Schoolies do a marvellous job, in conjunction with a number of charities that help put that on. That is funded to the tune of $400,000 a year. There is also the education the young people are given down there at Schoolies Weekend. I must say that I have a boy in year 12 this year, so he is going to be part of it. I have watched it unfold over the past couple of years with my children, and the job they do, and the safety element that is put into Schoolies, is absolutely outstanding. So, I am really keen to make sure that, with the sale of MAC, that funding can continue to that program. I seek leave to continue my remarks.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
(Continued from 24 July 2014.)
5 September 2014
Mr WINGARD ( Mitchell ) ( 11:01 :58 ): When we last met, I was partway through my response and to continue would be greatly appreciated. I thank you very much for that. We were talking about estimates and the experience that was estimates. I mentioned those opposite and those we questioned and spoke with, and what an experience it was to get responses, some more in depth than others, and we will follow up with some more of those questions as we go through.
We talked about the Motor Accident Commission with the Minister for Road Safety. He was a bit loath to talk about the Motor Accident Commission, which was somewhat disappointing, because we had some questions. We wanted to know about future funding, given the sale, closure or shut down of the Motor Accident Commission. There were a number of key issues that we would have liked addressed as far as funding for the long-term future of some projects. We talked about Schoolies and about a number of other community grants that are made through the Motor Accident Commission, so hopefully we will be able to find out a bit more about that in time.
Another program we discussed was the greenways cycle paths, this time with the Minister for Transport, and we did not quite get it nailed down. Whilst the suggestion was that the Greenway cycling program was complete and no more money would be spent on that, speaking with a lot of people in and around that program, the suggestion is that there are still a number of sections, corridors and intersections that need to be fixed up as far as the Greenway cycleways are concerned. Hopefully again in time we will get a bit more information about that.
Other factors that come to the fore out of estimates are things like fines, penalties and fees that come from travelling on public transport. I know fare evasion is being looked at very much in depth as far as the budget is concerned. We talked about that and we were wanted to know more about how these fines, fees and penalties are implemented and, as far as fare evasion goes, how much money has actually come from any fines and fees that have been imposed on fare evaders. That is one of the big things.
We also talked about road maintenance, and we know that in South Australia—and this ties in transport and road safety—road maintenance has been massively underfunded and there is a huge backlog. We did not get an exact figure on what the backlog was; suggestions are $400 million is the figure for backlog on road maintenance. We know what a big part this plays in road safety, as well. A lot of country and regional people are not overly happy with the push to lower the speed limits. I can understand why: because there is a feeling that lowering the speed limit is a bit of an excuse for not maintaining the roads as they should be.
When speaking with some people in the department, I was given an interesting diagram with four pictures on it outlining different roads across the state and which ones were better than others. All of them had the same speed limit. It is quite incongruous that you can have a double-lane freeway with a big barrier down the middle—which would be arguably the safest road—which has the same speed limit as a road that only fits pretty much a car and a half which has no shoulders on the road and is in quite a state of disrepair.
I think a push to eventually assess all those roads and work out where they sit and which ones are safe enough to have the maximum speed limit and which ones need to be looked at is really important. Road maintenance across the state, both in the metropolitan and country areas, is very important and it is something that we are really keen to explore further. We did not get the full opportunity during estimates to do that, and that was somewhat disappointing.
Upon speaking with the Minister for Road Safety there were a number of issues that we brought to a head and a couple of things that perhaps were not dealt with as well as they could have been. He was questioned at times and got a little bit upset with me, but I think that is the point of estimates: to ask questions and find out exactly what is going on.
We talked about cost recovery for special events and are still waiting to find out which events will be hit with the fun tax. There was a fair conversation with the minister about whether it was a tax or a levy or whether, in fact, public transport was free. He did go on to say that event organisers would be charged $2.5 million for these events across the way—so the charge is going on and someone is going to have pay that charge. On the one hand he was saying it was free and on the other hand he was saying that there is a substantial cost that is going with that, which I found to be quite interesting.
I read in The Advertiser yesterday that it appears the Stadium Management Authority is being made a scapegoat or the bad guy in this scene, and it will have to impose that fee on the people who hold events. Clearly we can see that it is being passed down the line, and I think people just want to know and to be told up-front, 'This is what we are doing; this is how we are going to get the money back; and this is will be the process: a tax/levy.' It does not matter if you have to recoup the money. I know that public transport certainly will not be free for those events anymore and it will be passed on to the people.
We had a look at a couple of other things as well and we did not quite get a full answer on the cost of the bus strikes in the lead-up to the last election in February 2014 when the SouthLink company and bus drivers walked off the job. We are trying to establish how much that cost and who foot the bill for that too. So we will inquire about that a little more and try and get some information.
Still on the public transport side of things, we were keen to look at the rail revitalisation, and I know a number of electric trains have been ordered. There is a bit of a backlog and a delay in the delivery of those, so hopefully we can find out a little more information about when they are coming through. Of course, with the Gawler line not being electrified, it is still one that intrigues me and the people of Gawler.
The minister recently put out some figures on increased patronage on the trains and was spruiking quite a high number. An interesting fact was that on the electrified Seaford line—the main electrified line, if you like—in the last six years there has been a 35,000 person increase on that line. There was an increase in patronage on the Gawler line to the tune of 100,000 and that was the one that was ignored. It got the gantries and the poles for electrification, but no more.
It has been shelved at the back end of forward estimates and I know the people of Gawler are very keen to find out why that was on-again off-again, on-again off-again. There has been a lot of rhetoric about that one, but we still have not found out why. With the proposed electrification of the whole network the trains were ordered accordingly but, of course, we probably do not need quite as many electric trains now so we are just trying to find out what the expenditure of that money is going forward.
We have also talked about the Millswood station, and we are trying to find out a bit more information on the cost of the upgrade. It has since come to my attention that the cost of that upgrade is going to be upwards of $400,000. That is what I am led to believe. Again, I am just seeking clarification on that from the minister himself. It is a fair bit of money to spend on a trial operation for the Millswood station when it may not go ahead full-time into the future, which will be interesting to see.
Equal to that, we had quite a bit of money spent on the Wayville station. I think it was upwards of $16 million. We are just waiting to see how effective that will be, having the Millswood station. With the Millswood station, I have read that only certain trains are going to stop there. It is perhaps not overly clear to the local residents, who are going to get this trial, which trains are going to be stopping there and how that is going to work. So let’s hope we get an effective trial for the cost of that project.
The other matter is the bus fleet. A number of people have come to talk to me about buses in recent times. Again, hopefully I will be able to put a couple of questions to the minister in time as we find out about the bus fleet and just how it is working for disabled people. A lot of people who are looking for disability access are coming to me with a few questions wanting to know how we can get some regularity in the disabled buses that are coming, when they are coming.
I know a lot of it now goes through the metro website, but I am hearing from a lot of people that it is not 100 per cent clear as to which buses are rocking up when and whether buses with disability access are coming at the time they are supposed to come and, equally, when they are not scheduled to come, one will rock up. It makes it very hard for people with disabilities to access the public transport system, so hopefully we can do a bit more work on that. That would be fantastic.
There are a couple of other things that I had briefings on. I am still waiting for some clarification on this but, on the trains again, the new train horns are quite distressing to a lot of people along the Seaford line. There has been a change in the pitch and tone of the horns on the new trains coming through. That was something that was going to be addressed, but we just did not get a chance during the estimates to ask a few more questions about that and to find out exactly when they will be changed. I note that the trains actually get shipped back to Melbourne for their first service, I think, and there was a suggestion that the changing of the pitch and tone of the horns would be implemented at the same time.
I talked before about the Adelaide Metro website. When it is up and operational it is absolutely ideal. Some people have said to me that at times it is not fully functioning and at times it does go down. That is always unfortunate, so trying to streamline that would be fantastic for users of public transport.
The other thing that came to my attention—and I put the question to the minister and we will see whether we can get a response on this one—is that, in the budget, there was a line talking about metropolitan public passenger services and the response times for the Adelaide Metro Infoline. Interestingly, there was a change in the call-answering rate. It was set at 30 seconds—that was the target set for people taking calls for public transport services on the Adelaide Metro Infoline—but it has now been moved back to a 30-second ring before the call is answered. Now it is a 120-second ring. I am just not sure why people are expected to wait on the line for two minutes before their call is dealt with. We will try to find out the reason for the change in that standard and why it has dropped from 30 seconds to two minutes. That seems quite interesting as well.
There are a couple of things as I finish up. As we have talked about, the estimates process is an interesting one. It was great to be able to speak with the ministers and ask them questions. I did mention when I began this speech the other week that some of the ministers notably were fantastic and only took questions from our side, and I commend them for that. The Minister for Road Safety did take a number of questions from his side for which, it appeared, he had prepared answers. I know it is part of the process but it could perhaps be deemed to be a bit of a waste of time when we could have got to a few other questions.
The Minister for Transport did a very good job of answering questions. He was very forthright—perhaps not forthright, more so in lengthy in his answers; that is probably a better way of putting it. He had a fair bit to say about his answers and perhaps did not drill down on the specifics of the questions. I will follow those up with him, and I am sure he will get me more detail in time—well, at least I hope he will. Again, some of the key points, as far as the 'fun tax' is concerned, are: which events will be hit with that tax or that levy, which events will have to pay the extra funding? As we know, it will be events over 5,000 people in the city, and a couple of other stipulations go with that, but getting the detail would be absolutely outstanding.
With a bit of time wasted, we did not get to ask about pedestrian rail crossing access, and we would be happy and very keen to follow that up. We know there has been a little bit in the press recently about pedestrian crossings and also car and bus crossings. A bus was just recently caught at the intersection of a railway crossing, and in fact the bus driver got out and tried to wave down the train while people were still on the bus. We are keen to find out a bit more information about that, how that situation can arise and how we can prevent it in the future.
It is the same issue for people crossing intersections. I know there was an incident at the Woodlands Railway Station recently, where someone was hit because they mistakenly thought the path was clear; we would like to find out a bit more about that. The double-decker bus experiment is another matter I was keen to ask about because there is still talk about the double-decker bus running through, potentially, the Adelaide Hills. We just want to make sure that that is the best location for the bus, and we also want to know how much it will cost to run it through there and make sure all the preps have been done. Whilst estimates was a great experience from my perspective, and it was a good chance to ask questions, it would have been good to ask a few more, but we will use the house to do that in time.