Tuesday, 23 September 2008 21:55

Address In Reply - SA Parliament

Reprinted from HANSARD

Dr McFETRIDGE (Morphett) (12:25): I enjoy seeing and participating in the formal opening of parliament, with its pomp and ceremony, because it does reinforce in the minds of South Australians, particularly members of parliament, that we are in a very privileged position by having a democracy that works in the way it does and by having members of parliament who do their best to improve the lives of citizens. Part of that process is having a Governor who reads out the government's program. The judiciary, which is an important part of the process of running this state, also comes along. It is an interesting procedure. Unfortunately, on this particular occasion when the Governor was reading the government's speech it did not give many surprises. In fact, it was a bit same old, same old.

Having said that, I congratulate His Excellency Kevin Scarce on the fine job he is doing as Governor of this state. He comes from a fine military background and I have watched him grow in the job. Far be it from me in any way to be constructively critical of a governor, but he is doing an excellent job. Like me, he is a northern suburbs boy. Kevin went to Elizabeth High School. He attended Elizabeth West Primary School. I went to Elizabeth South Primary School, Salisbury Primary School and Salisbury High School. We have a lot of empathy for the people of the northern suburbs; and I will say more about that later in my speech.

The speech presented by His Excellency outlined a number of issues, items of interest and projects, which have been highlighted by the government. I will go through them in my time today. The number one issue is water security. Many years ago the Labor government came up with a 20 year plan for waterproofing Adelaide. I am not sure exactly what it was called, but a number of issues were raised then. Nothing seems to have happened. I remember that one of the first functions I attended as a member of parliament—I gatecrashed it actually—was a seminar at the Grand Hotel at Glenelg just after I was elected in 2002. It was the Australian National Committee on Large Dams (ANCLD) seminar.

They were talking about water security in South Australia and water security generally in Australia. I vividly recall a presentation by a fellow associated with management of the Murray-Darling Basin. I do not remember his exact title, but he was talking in 2002 about the dire plight of the River Murray. In fact, he described the River Murray as 'not a river but a series of long lakes that were being very poorly managed'. The River Murray is not a new issue but, unfortunately, it has been poorly managed by governments generally in Australia and, with the influence of a terrible drought, we are seeing this river system suffering badly.
The issue of water in South Australia is something of which I have been very aware. In my beachside electorate of Morphett, Sturt Creek, Brownhill Creek and Patawalonga Creek empty into the Patawalonga Basin—which was once the second most polluted river system in Australia. It has been cleaned up and it is now a great place to play and walk around. But every year millions of litres of stormwater still pour down the creeks, the concrete channel (which is now Sturt Creek) and Brownhill Creek and through the Patawalonga system out to sea.

I have been raising this issue in this place for a number of years. In fact, my first press release was over four years ago on 26 April 2004. I put out a press release headed '18,000 Olympic swimming pools down the drain at Glenelg'. The press release stated:
With all the issues facing the River Murray it is a huge disappointment to see this treated wastewater going to waste.

The press release included a chart which showed the amount of annual flow that was being reused. The annual sewage flow going into the treatment plant at Glenelg was over 18,000, nearly 19,000, megalitres but only 10 per cent was being reused in 1988-89. That decreased to about 7 per cent in 2002-03. It was a terrible waste of water. B-grade water was going out to sea, and we know about the damage it causes—hopefully, not irreparable damage, but one does worry about the millions of litres of treated water going out to sea.

On 15 September 2006 (a little over two years ago), I received some more updated figures on the outflow to the sea, and it was a disgrace to see very little improvement. In fact, the wastewater reuse options, in percentage terms, had decreased: in 2005-06 we were using only 6 per cent of the water from the Glenelg Wastewater Treatment Plant. It was an absolute disgrace to see that happening.

To further confuse the issue, in 2004 SA Water, in its wisdom, introduced a policy of cost recovery for water supplied from the wastewater treatment plant at Glenelg. A number of organisations were using that wastewater. They included the golf clubs and Adelaide Shores, the baseball club through Adelaide Shores, I think—and, certainly, the City of Holdfast Bay was using some of it—but it was still only about 7 per cent of that wastewater.
In an effort to improve the use of wastewater, SA Water then put the B-grade water through some further treatment and sterilised it. It did not change the nutrient or mineral levels, but it killed off some of the pathogens, so that primary contact with humans would not be such an issue. It treated the water to become A-class water but, in the process, it increased the price of the B-grade water from 2.5¢ a kilolitre to 25¢ cents a kilolitre, and for A-class water up to 41¢ a kilolitre. That was a 1,600 per cent increase in the price of water. To me, that is not an incentive to buy water.

Also, this pricing policy was not spread out over all the potential users: it was just concentrated on the few which were targeted and which had been using the water. No wonder the golf clubs then went off to the federal government, and they received some quite sizeable grants to start storing and reusing stormwater through aquifer storage and recovery. The wetlands at the Glenelg golf course are looking really good now; they are being developed and the aquifer storage and recovery are starting to work well.

However, it is disappointing that we see profit before pollution in this case. The wastewater that is going out of Glenelg Wastewater Treatment Plant is not being used anywhere near to the extent that it should be used. We are now starting to rely on desalination plants and other sources of water when we should be reusing and recycling of all forms of water—not only stormwater but also water from the wastewater treatment plants.
The pipeline to the Parklands that is being built by the state government (with some money from the federal government) is certainly a step forward. However, I would have liked to see (and I am certain that at some stage either the Charles Sturt council or West Torrens council had these plans) the water not being piped straight to the CBD but a pipe laid from the Glenelg Wastewater Treatment Plant along the bed of the Torrens River (so you would not see it) up to the headwaters. So, that wastewater would then come back down the Torrens and be able to be pumped out by community groups, sporting clubs, councils or industry; and whatever was not pumped out would then continue down through the wetlands to Breakout Creek, with far less water going out to sea. There would also be the advantage of the continual flows going down the Torrens that perhaps would have reduced or eliminated the algal blooms we frequently see.

I understand that the City of Onkaparinga is conducting a pilot study with Flinders University on exactly the same process in the Onkaparinga River: putting the treated wastewater from the Christies Beach Wastewater Treatment Plant up the bed of the Onkaparinga River and allowing it to come back down. This is A-grade treated water. It is quite safe for primary contact, and diluting it with the natural flows and increasing the natural flows is something that I think certainly needs to be looked at. I congratulate the City of Onkaparinga on that initiative.

When one sees the reuse of wastewater going from 11 per cent in the late 1990s to only 7 per cent a few years ago, one will realise that something is wrong. Not only would I like to see the wastewater from Glenelg coming to the Parklands in the CBD (which I think it is a good initiative, and it is a good thing that the government is building that pipeline), but I would also like to see opportunities for users on the way—the councils and sporting clubs—to take some of the water from that pipeline so that more could be used, with less going out into the gulf. I will not be happy until we are using 100 per cent of the treated water from Glenelg. There is a huge opportunity for us there, and I think everyone in this place would support the reuse of that treated wastewater.

On the subject of wasting water, stormwater is another big issue for us, and I mentioned the Patawalonga and its pollution. That has been changed. I recently visited Singapore and Holland to catch up with two partners working with Flinders University in a stormwater project. Flinders University is using a special sol-gel technology to purify stormwater. It is working with the National University of Singapore, the Public Utilities Board of Singapore and also Deltares in Delft, Holland, to develop ways of redeveloping stormwater channels and purifying stormwater so we can turn these concrete canyons that now carry polluted water to our coastlines into pristine, natural creek-like environments with the ability to not only carry the water that is required but also filter the water in the process. I congratulate Flinders University on the fine work it is doing.

I should also say that the South Australian government entered into a memorandum of understanding involving just over $1 million with Flinders University, an Australian company (United Water International), the National University of Singapore, the Public Utilities Board of Singapore and the Dutch water experts known as Singapore-Delft Water Alliance in Holland to ensure that this project goes ahead in Singapore. We should reap the benefits here, because the people at Flinders University are working exceptionally hard on this project for the good of not only South Australians but also the whole world—and that is not being overly enthusiastic about the project.

The Governor's speech highlights some of the good things that are being done in South Australia, but things could be done better. The solar power station at Coober Pedy that is being promoted by the state and federal governments is a good move. Renewable solar energy is something we should be looking at. However, the one that I am really concerned about is the solar power station (the sun farm) at Umuwa in the APY lands, which has been in place for a number of years. I think it was in 1995 or 1996 when it was first promoted and built at a cost of about $16 million. There were some issues—there was a lightning strike which put it out of action for a while—but there are continual breakdowns. Even as recently as three weeks ago, the Umuwa sun farm, which has a potential output of 300 megawatts, was only putting out 200 megawatts. It is a disappointment that we are not maximising the output from our renewable energy sources, and I look forward to watching the facility at Coober Pedy being developed.

The residential energy efficiency scheme is mentioned in the Governor's speech and, certainly, we are encouraging all people to build houses which are energy efficient and to use appliances which are energy efficient. However, the problem I have with this residential energy efficiency scheme concerns hot water services. A number of plumbers have come to see me about the inflexibility in the regulations for installing new and replacement hot water services. According to the Housing Industry Association, the cost impact on regulatory change highlights the mandated use of gas hot water units.

The committee that examined this has assigned a cost of $450 for the additional labour and material components for these hot water services. That may be a short-term pain for a long-term gain—I hope so—but the problem is that the cost is $450 in the case of a new house being built but, in the case of the replacement of a hot water service, it can be many thousands of dollars because the availability of gas to the site can be a real problem. So I ask the government to look at that and talk to the plumbers about some of these issues so the plumbers will not get the response I have been told they are getting from SA Water, that is, 'You are a plumber, you work it out.' That is just not good enough.

In relation to the sun farm and energy efficiency, I need to raise the issue of renewable power in South Australia. We are very proud of our input of renewable power into the energy system, particularly wind power, but I am aware of a fair bit of green washing that is going on, with claims that you are more carbon neutral and greener than others. I would love to see an audit of the amount of green power that is being produced and sold Australia wide; perhaps one has been done and, if it has, I hope whoever hears or reads what I have said will bring it to my attention.

I know that all retailers (and governments, in some cases) are selling green power, but I would like to know whether the supply is keeping up with not so much the demand (as the demand is there) but the amount of green power that is being sold. It would be an interesting equation. I hope that all the green power that is being produced is sold so that the price can come down. I hope that is the case and that green washing is not going on.

I turn now not to the greenhouse effect but to the greenhouse. On page 7 of his speech, the Governor states that 'Adelaide will become home to a new "super greenhouse"—the Plant Accelerator'. This is a very exciting project for South Australia. I was at the Waite Institute, where I was briefed on the plant accelerator centre, which is part of the National Plant Phenomics Facility. It is a terrific facility for South Australia, and I congratulate the state government on the $10 million it has contributed, together with $15 million coming from the former federal Howard government, which had the foresight to put money into the plant accelerator and the National Plant Phenomics Facility.

This facility gets away from the fear factor and perceptions of genetic modification. What we are looking at here is not the genotype but the phenotype, which is what the plant actually looks like. The Plant Accelerator Centre deals with 160,000 plants a year and makes comparisons of things like the way they grow and their leaf area. The centre can compare many factors so that the very best plants can be selected for propagation and, hopefully, overcome issues such as salinity and drought tolerance. It is a terrific centre, and I encourage members of this place to visit both the phenomics centre and the plant accelerator at the Waite Institute; they are really worth seeing.

Before talking about transport, my portfolio and area of real interest, I point out that the Governor's speech mentions the Marjorie Jackson-Nelson Hospital. On this side of the house, we do not believe that that is a good thing to be building at this stage, as we think there are better ways of improving health outcomes for South Australia. My concern is the cost of the rehabilitation and relocation of the Adelaide rail yards. I FOI'd some documents about the contamination levels there, and there is a whole index of poisons and toxins. It is a veritable toxic waste dump which, unfortunately, is the legacy of many such industrial sites. It will cost millions of dollars to rehabilitate the rail yards: I think the government has estimated $162 million, but it may be closer now to $200 million, but watch this space. It will be a difficult and complex issue to address, without the added problems of determining where the rail cars will be relocated for refuelling, maintenance and improvement of the public transport system.

Linked with transport are the GP Plus centres mentioned in the Governor's speech. These will open in 2010 at Elizabeth and Marion. The centre at Marion will be a good thing, but the problem is that Marion has one of the largest, if not the largest, shopping centres in Australia. In addition, the state aquatic centre will soon be built there. It is a very busy precinct.

The changes that have been made to the Oaklands Railway Station are better than what we had, but certainly nothing like what we should have had down there. Grade separation and a redesign of the whole precinct for the integration of buses, private vehicles and trains is something that the next government will have to grasp, even if this government does not. It is a problem that we will all have to face. I would like to see what can be seen in Holland, Singapore and the US—a bipartisan approach to transport so that long-term plans can be developed, because the problem will not go away. Certainly, the Oaklands Interchange is a problem that will only be exacerbated by yet more pressure on that precinct through our GP Plus centre, though a good thing in itself.

Regarding public transport, on page 8 of the Governor's speech he states that the program to rebuild South Australia's public transport system will see the extension of tramlines from City West to Port Adelaide and to Semaphore. As everyone in this place knows, I am a tram fan from way back. I would love to see a network in South Australia, but what I do not want to see is an extension of the tram to the Entertainment Centre as the first priority.

An integrated approach to a light rail network is needed. We could have a far better network than this government is proposing. We are going to end up with seven different types of rolling stock. We are going to end up with new electric trains, converted and refurbished diesel to electric trains, new hybrid train trams, we are going to have additional light rail vehicles and we are going to have a new ticketing system. I will talk about the ticketing system in a minute, but I now want to talk about the trams we are getting.

I hope that the minister comes in here this afternoon and says that the information that I have been given—the information on rail websites—is all wrong, namely, that we are getting 20 year old communist era clunkers to help relieve the congestion in South Australia. This is just not good enough. I hope it is wrong, and I hope that the minister comes in here and tells me that this is wrong and that he has better trams. I know that the minister is looking for some readily available trams for commuters to ride on. The talk in the department of transport is of readily available trams, and the acronym being used is RATs. So, South Australians are going to become rat-catchers. I just hope that that is not the case. South Australians deserve better from this government and from this minister.

Certainly, building our own trams is something that is not beyond us here in South Australia. We can build air warfare destroyers, but we cannot build trams. I was in Portland, Oregon, a few weeks ago talking about the Trimet system. I went to the Oregon Iron Works, which is building seven trams on licence from Skoda—and they are very good trams. The Americans can build them there, putting in American components, but we cannot build trams here. Those trams are being built for about $US4 million which, on the current conversion rate, is probably about $A4.5 million, yet we go and buy trams for $6 million each. We should be building our own trams here. We can build heavy rail at Port Augusta, at EDI up there, yet we are not building our own trams here.

I suggest that the Premier not only ride the trams and streetcars in Portland, but actually go to the Oregon Iron Works to see what they are doing there. He has been to Portland; he should go again and look at what is happening at the Oregon Iron Works. It is an opportunity that is being missed.

The Governor's speech points out that a record level of investment is being made in roads. We are getting some changes to the way intersections work. We have a new underpass where the Bakewell Bridge was and we are getting an underpass at Anzac Highway. It will certainly make driving in and out of Adelaide a bit easier for me. But the big problem is that, in a letter from the government to the residents of the Port Road, Grange Road and South Road area, we are now informed that no major construction work will take place on South Road for at least three years. The excuse is that they are going to spend the next three years doing a plan on the north-south corridor. I thought that had been going on for a number of years now, and that the infrastructure plan that this government had put up was all part of that whole north-south corridor redevelopment. But, no, there is an excuse to do nothing now. Action for the future is something that this government is not fulfilling when it comes to roads.

I would love to see some more money spent on state government roads. Certainly, some of the roads in my electorate, which are state government responsible roads, should be renamed Rodeo Drive or Rodeo Road, because it is like riding a bucking bronco as your car goes over the bumps, lumps and dips on those roads. It is really an atrocious thing. I noticed that some parts of Tapleys Hill Road in the Labor electorate are being done up, but when it comes down to Morphett, Brighton Road is really missing out. Oaklands Road is also another road that is missing out badly.

The public transport system in South Australia needs to be looked at in an integrated fashion, as I have said before in this place. We read on page 10 of the Governor's speech about the 25-year rolling supply of broadacre land for the government's purpose of extending residential developments and expanding the urban growth boundaries, yet we see very little in the way of meeting the need to urgently extend the public transport corridors. There is some talk from this government of going down to Seaford and buying some land, but there are no time lines. I went out and caught the 7:45 train in from Gawler the other morning. It is a slow coach; it is not the express. I went out and saw the problems they are having out there first hand, yet, what do we get? We get the government expanding the urban growth boundary north.

The Hon. M.J. Atkinson: And resleepering the Gawler line and making it electrified.

Dr McFETRIDGE: The government will resleeper and electrify that line, but in 2016—in eight years' time. It cannot be done overnight—I know that—but why would you leave one of the main pressure areas until almost last? When it comes to building expressways and highways, an issue has come up which will affect even the householders of this state. I am told by civil contractors that the main contractor for the northern expressway (Fulton Hogan) is a very good company.

It must be a very good company because it is paying up to 25 per cent above award wages. That is a good thing for the workers if they can get it, but the problem it has created is that other civil contractors cannot keep their employees because they are paying award wages and trying to look after their employees.

If they have to match the wages being paid by Fulton Hogan, they will pass on those costs to the end user, which will be the developers and the householders when they buy their block of land. So, housing affordability will decrease because of the action of this government in using an international New Zealand-based company. I do not know the full economics of that, but the government has an interesting problem. I just hope that the government can sort it out before South Australians end up paying for the rush in getting some of these projects done and dusted before the next election.

Page 12 of the Governor's speech mentions the Royal Institution of Australia, the first satellite operation of the Royal Institution of Great Britain. I visited the Royal Institution in London when I was there a few weeks ago. We had the official opening. I crossed to Santos at about 1 o'clock in the morning here for the opening of the Royal Institution in London. I thought that since I was going there I would have a quick look at it. Unfortunately, it was still a building site. A couple of rooms were finished. When the Queen opened the building at the live cross it was obviously all finished and very nice. I went to the lecture theatre where the main presentations have been given for many years. The disappointment was that it is only partly finished. But I congratulate all those associated with the Royal Institution in South Australia. A very good university friend of mine, John Yovich, who was the executive dean of the vet school, is now head of the Royal Institution of Australia, and I know that he will steer it along the right course.

Page 14 of the Governor's speech mentions 10 new trade schools, and this is something that I need to raise. A few weeks ago I was in Port Augusta, where I used to teach at the high school—technical studies, woodwork and metalwork. I met a lot of good Aboriginal families, and that is where I got my passion for Aboriginal affairs. I went to the tech study centre there, and it is an absolute disgrace. But that is not due to a lack of teachers' enthusiasm; it is due to the lack of funding and determination by this government to foster technical education in our schools. If you are going to make them work within the schools, 10 new trade schools are great, but you must walk before you can run. We need to provide good education. There is a lot more that can be said about the Governor's speech, and a lot more needs to be said.
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