Mr PEDERICK (Hammond) (16:55): I rise to make a brief contribution to the Plebiscite (South East Council Amalgamation) Bill 2022, which involves the District Council of Grant and the City of Mount Gambier in organising a plebiscite for the good people of those two council regions to vote on whether they amalgamate those two councils.
Council amalgamations have had varied success over time. In my home council, the Coorong District Council, many years ago when the amalgamations happened in the round that reduced the councils to the 68 we have now in South Australia, we saw the amalgamations of the District Council of Meningie, the District Council of Coonalpyn Downs Council and the District Council of Peake.
Generally, it has been reasonably successful, but then it depends on the administration. It can depend on the councillors, obviously, and it can very much depend on the CEO and the mayor. In regard to the council that was created at that time many years ago, it has had a pretty reasonable run of mayors and chief executive officers. But I was disappointed, and that is being polite, prior to this current council when Councillor Mayor Neville Jaensch was the Mayor of the Coorong council and he did not seem to have any vision south of the motorsport park at Tailem Bend. Because I live at Coomandook, that affected me significantly, as it did many other people of the council district.
The council runs now down from Tailem Bend up near the weighbridges on the Princes Highway—people would be aware of those—down past Tintinara, obviously encompassing Meningie and out through the Mallee, with its boundary on the Southern Mallee District Council around Jabuk on the eastern side of Peake.
As the local member, but more as a concerned ratepayer, before the last council elections four years ago there were many meetings run in the area, and I chaired a lot of them, regarding what was happening, or more accurately what was not happening, in regard to what we call one of the main jobs that council should do, which is looking after our roads. At those meetings I witnessed 500 people, and some of those would have been multiple attendees, I will say that, and there were a couple of meetings I could not get to for various reasons. There was a lot of angst.
We saw a change of council, we saw my good friend Mayor Paul Simmons come in, and I wish him all success in this next council election. I note there are many people standing for election in the Coorong District Council, and I applaud that, that we have so many people standing.
I note in some other council areas some people were elected because they were the only candidate and in some areas there were not enough candidates. That would cause issues. I guess it is a by-election. Things have been righted and I applaud that.
You do have to have a good attitude, especially when you have a bigger council, because there is a lot of push and pull about what areas you look after. In the case of the Coorong council, there is a lot of push around Tailem Bend, and Wellington East is a very big community on the eastern side of the River Murray. I think it is the second biggest community in the Coorong council. Whether it is elected members or whether it is the administration, they have to be cognisant of what everyone wants.
For a long time, even when this came up for discussion on the radio this week, it did seem that roads, rates and rubbish were the main things councils looked after, but councils look after a lot of other things. Some people would say there is duplication with state services, some would say there is duplication with federal issues and some would say there is duplication with international issues.
The people on the ground paying their rates, which are going up every year, want to see action on the ground. They want to see their libraries work, they want to see their roads graded and they want to see their rubbish picked up. We now have the three bin service in Coorong council, and my back road, Parkin Hall Road, is on the run for the three bin system. I only use the recycling bin and the rubbish bin, and it is a very handy service to have. It will be very interesting to see how these council elections go.
Furthering the debate around the bill in question, I really question the Malinauskas Labor government putting its will onto the local people who did not know this was coming. The councillors did not know this was coming and the mayors did not know this was coming.
When I was elected in 2006, the former member for Croydon, the former Attorney-General, the former Speaker, Michael Atkinson, on budget day (which was in September that year because it was an election year) announced on the front page of The Advertiser that Murray Bridge was going to host the new men's prison and the new women's prison—two prisons to be built there and a $550 million project.
Again, as the new local member, I had not been advised, the mayor had not been advised and no-one in the system had been advised. What happened after that was that there were public meetings and there were protests. The Public Service Association was involved. The prison officers rebelled because they wanted to stay working where they were. Obviously, we have a medium-security prison in Mobilong but, as far as the men's prison goes, this would have been the Yatala replacement. Well, long story short, it all fell over.
It was a very interesting time because on one side I could see the benefits of the employment, because I see the benefits of the employment that Mobilong brings, the prison there at the moment, but people were concerned about where the prerelease was going to happen and what families may move into the district. There were a whole lot of problems, and in the end, because it had come from a level of no consultation, it fell over. I gave many speeches on it. I could see the benefits but, because of the way it was rough shod over the community, I could see the many reasons why it should not happen, and that is why it did not happen in the end.
Certainly, with regard to communities—and probably more so the far-flung communities of our state, including the communities of the West Coast, with over 700 kilometres to get to Port Lincoln in the good member for Flinders' seat, or around 440 kilometres to go down to Mount Gambier—the good people of those far-flung regional areas do not like being told what to do by anyone. That is why you will sometimes see some interesting electoral results and sometimes other decisions made, but they certainly do not like being dictated to. They are a long way from the hustle and bustle of the city. They have a great place to live, work and play, and they do not want to be told what to do.
To me, this has landed at their feet out of the blue. We have had an eight-week break from the parliament—and we have had plenty else to do, mind you—yet there has not been any consultation over the eight weeks that this was coming and, all of a sudden, the Premier has thrust this into the limelight this week. It has to be barrelled through this house, going beyond the normal conventions of giving us a couple of weeks to look at the legislation, form a proper opinion and get some feedback from stakeholders. In the end, we have had to rush it.
I commend a shadow, the member for Flinders, for the rushed work he has done and the brief consultations he has had a chance to do, and I thank the rest of the team for getting organised for this debate. In winding up these comments, you have to be careful what you wish for, especially when you deal with the far-flung communities of this state. If this proposal to have a plebiscite does get up, I think a lot of people will vote it down on that basis because they will feel they have been dictated to. We will have quite a few questions on this, and I look forward to the debate.