Thomas Foods International

Mr PEDERICK (Hammond) (14:07): My question is to the Minister for Transport, Infrastructure and Local Government. Can the minister inform the house how the Marshall government is delivering enabling infrastructure for Thomas Foods International's expansion of its South Australian operations?

The Hon. S.K. KNOLL (Schubert—Minister for Transport, Infrastructure and Local Government, Minister for Planning) (14:07): I can, and I do note the member for Hammond's overflowing joy as a result of this announcement. He is not a small man so, when he comes at you with a big bear hug, that sort of thing sticks with you.

This is a fantastic day for South Australia and, in particular, for the people who live in and around Murray Bridge. They have lived under a cloud of uncertainty for the past 18-odd months as the future of the largest employer in Murray Bridge is determined. What we had this morning has put paid to any of those concerns about the long-term future of Murray Bridge. Two thousand jobs will be at the new plant once the plant is fully operational—a fantastic outcome for South Australia and a fantastic outcome for a whole host of people I would like, Mr Speaker, with your indulgence, to outline now.

Can I also, in relation to this, say that this has been quite a long road in terms of the negotiations that this government has had, both with Thomas Foods and the federal government, to come together to build what is essentially one of the very few new plants of its type built in the country at any time over the past number of decades. If I look at plants right across South Australia that slaughter stock—whether that be beef, sheep or pork—there has not been an investment of this size or scale for many, many decades.

The Hon. A. KOUTSANTONIS: Point of order: the question was about enabling infrastructure the minister is responsible for, not for Thomas Foods investment.

The SPEAKER: I have the point of order. Minister, you have begun with certain background information. I ask you to come back to the substance of the question.

The Hon. S.K. KNOLL: It is extremely important.

Members interjecting:

The SPEAKER: Thank you; I will hear the minister.

The Hon. S.K. KNOLL: In that context, I would like to not only thank the member for Hammond but also the federal member for Barker and the federal government for their help in this endeavour. But can I say that getting to the package of works that we have put together actually doesn't just involve enabling physical infrastructure, so we have put together a package of money for enabling road infrastructure as well as a package of $10 million together for enabling utilities infrastructure, whether that be gas, whether that be electricity, whether that be water augmentation. There are a number of legacy assets that are also being used from the existing Murray Bridge site.

Can I say that the concerns that Thomas Foods had weren't just about enabling physical infrastructure: they were about support from a government that was keen to see South Australia move forward. The two largest concerns that were raised were around skills, and can I say on that front that I know that the work that the Minister for Innovation and Skills has done—

The Hon. S.C. MULLIGHAN: Point of order, Mr Speaker: this is debate. The question was about enabling infrastructure.

The SPEAKER: Yes. Look, I have heard two points of order about debate. I understand the sentiments and where they are coming from. I have asked the minister to come back to the substance of the question. Saying that, I think that most of the comments are quite germane, but if I hear the minister deviating to a level that he shouldn't, I will uphold the point of order. Minister.

The Hon. S.K. KNOLL: I suppose this is what happens when you look at things in a very narrow prism, Mr Speaker. Getting this deal done was around more than just physical infrastructure. The enabling infrastructure is also about the infrastructure that government puts on the table to be able to ensure that Thomas Foods can make this decision with confidence, and skills are an essential part of that enabling infrastructure.

The ability to have a government that will sit down and work with a business like Thomas Foods to make sure that they have the skills to be able to process the stock is extremely important. But also, more than that, the issue was around getting access to labour in the first place, and the announcement made by the Premier, together with the Prime Minister, around Designated Area Migration Agreements has also given great confidence—

The Hon. S.C. MULLIGHAN: Point of order, Mr Speaker: again, debate. The question was about enabling infrastructure.

The SPEAKER: I have the point of order and, as I said to the member for Lee, I am listening very carefully. I still think that the minister is speaking within the confines of standing orders, but I will be listening carefully.

The Hon. S.K. KNOLL: The Designated Area Migration Agreement was a very important part of us being able to persuade Thomas Foods to make this massive unprecedented investment here in South Australia. This announcement today is about Thomas Foods, but it is actually about a whole lot more than just that one company. In fact, we know that plants of this size do underpin entire industries right across our country, and so for those producers of cattle and sheep and other small stock right across our state now know that they can have the confidence to invest in their businesses knowing that they've got a strong competitor in Thomas Foods which is going to bid for their product.