Speech - Address in Reply

I noted earlier that the member for Kavel in his maiden speech talked about community spirit, and the Barossa is certainly full of that, and the broader Schubert electorate is certainly full of that. I am so proud that they have given me the opportunity to continue to be their local MP.


Tuesday, 15 May 2018 


The Hon. S.K. KNOLL (SchubertMinister for Transport, Infrastructure and Local Government, Minister for Planning) (20:13): First of all, I would like to say that it was quite a privilege to be sitting very close to the Governor as he gave his speech, which really outlined what South Australia could look forward to doing over the next four years. It was a very strong, detailed and matter of fact speech, in my view, and one that delivered a very clear set of policy achievements that this new government is seeking to achieve.

I was sitting there watching the Governor undertake his task, a task that he executes with a great degree of humility but also with an understanding of the importance of his role in that institution. We were lucky enough to catch up with him later that evening to have a more fulsome discussion about that. What struck me about this man and why he is so perfect for the job he is in, is that he genuinely respects the institution that he holds.

As a new cabinet with a new Premier, we are also very keen to uphold respect for the institution. It is something that the new Premier has, dare I say, drilled into the new cabinet, to ensure that we hold for this man the greatest of respect, not that we need that prompting because he is a man of such great stature. His personal experience leads him to appreciate the role that he now has, that in our democratic institution he has the opportunity to provide the great balancing power that is given to our head of state.

In fact, one of the most beautiful things about the constitutional monarchy that we exist in is this idea that there is a day-to-day government that deals with the business of changing laws and helping to improve people's lives. As a counterbalance to that, you have a Governor who wields this massive stick, and that massive stick is that he can, on authority from the Queen, sack the government of the day. However, it is a power that he never uses. In the history of Australia, it has only been used once. Interestingly, it helps to provide that beautiful balance.

I know that there will be a debate about whether or not Australia should become a republic. The most difficult thing that I grasp and the most dangerous thing that I think would result from a change of our head of state would be the fundamental change in the way this power balance exists. Some may deride our monarch; I am not one of those. I am not a royalist, but I like the fact that there is somebody who is outside of the party political sphere and who takes very seriously her job as the head of state for the entire commonwealth, someone who again holds massive power but is deferential and humble enough and takes seriously her responsibility to the entire commonwealth.

Therein lies a beautiful balance of power, a shared power that does not exist under more aggressive republican models. In fact, what scares me most about those who seek to push a republic agenda is that we would invest what we now have a shared power in a much more individualised power in a head of state. I think that is extremely dangerous and one of the main reasons that we need to stick with the system that we have, because it delivers to us beautiful people like Governor Hieu Van Le, with his ability to embody the position that he holds and provide that great counterbalance to what I am beginning to understand is a serious and awesome power that ministers in cabinet hold.

I would like to break up my speech tonight into a couple of parts, one to deal with the election, both at a state and local level, and also to understand the first couple of months of being a minister of the Crown in Her Majesty's government. It is an awesome honour and one that I will touch on.

I must admit that the 2014 election for me was quite different. I was off on my own trying to retain what is otherwise a beautiful, conservative seat, really detached from the rest of the state campaign, whereas this time round it was completely different. What stuck with me and stood out for me most through the campaign, including the pundits and the hurly-burly of the day-to-day politicking and also the doubt that I am sure every MP and wannabe MP has, was the confidence of the new Premier.

It continually amazed me, in the number of conversations I had with him over the journey, that he was resolute and understood that we were going to win this election. He had a confidence that I think is one of the main reasons we won the election. It showed clearly that he was ready at this time and in this place to come into this position. It was brilliant to watch, and it is even more exciting now to follow him and to be part of his cabinet.

Something that I do not think has been fully appreciated is the journey of the last 16 years. We have seen a number of members retire at this election—Isobel Redmond, Steven Griffiths, Michael Pengilly and Mark Goldsworthy—MPs who spent their entire career in opposition. It was a long, torturous and difficult opposition time for this Liberal Party. We stood here after 16 years on the precipice needing to decide whether we were a party of government or whether we were not.

We cannot, as a party, underestimate the fact that it was our leader, Steven Marshall, who brought us out of the wilderness. He is a man who was able to unite the party and bring discipline to the party. As somebody who served in his shadow cabinet, that discipline was unrelenting and complete. He had everybody focused on heading in the same direction, bringing together the lay party and the party organisation, together with the parliamentary team, in a way that I do not think has existed over the past 16 years. He is the man who genuinely put the South Australian Liberal Party back as the natural party of government, and he is the man who has helped to bring about, as he says, a new dawn for this state.

For all those doubters—and I know there were, of course, many—I used the phrase before the election quite often that you are a bunch of losers until you stop losing, and we did not lose. We won and that completely changes the tenor of our party going forward. The shared joy that this party room feels is something that we need to hold onto for as long as we can, and I am certainly going to do my part to ensure that that is what happens.

We all did our part, and there were many people across the spectrum of the party who played their part, but in the end we ran presidential-style campaigns and our leader put paid to any suggestion that this Liberal Party was anything other than ready to help turn our state around. We did that by embracing new technology, which there has been much talk about, including on Sunday from Christian Brothers College's other recent notable graduate, Mr Matt Abraham. He suggested that somehow we stole an election through big data. It is borderline offensive but, more than that, it is wrong.

It is interesting. You can have all the best technology in the world. You can have the most sophisticated systems in the world. You can find out and get to the heart of what people are thinking, or at least what we think they are thinking, but, at the end of the day, all of that does not matter unless you pick up the phone and call them or go and knock on their door. All that technology does is to make sure you know who the right people to talk to are, but you still have to go and talk to them. That is where I think people fundamentally misunderstand how far this Liberal Party has come.

We did not steal an election. We did not hoodwink an election. All we did was listen and use technology to be able to listen in a broader meta concept. We then helped to reflect back to people the type of government that they wanted us to be, and then we delivered. It was exciting to watch because we have brought ourselves and our party into the 21st century.

I saw candidates campaign with a discipline and a focus that certainly technology helped to aid, but at the end of the day I would hazard a guess that we doorknocked double the number of doors we did in the previous election. In fact, by my very rough calculations, I think about a third of the electorate across the state was touched personally by members of the Liberal Party over the course of this campaign.

I would like to acknowledge the new members in this place. I think we have begun a level of rejuvenation that is exciting to see. The election of 2010 brought with it a great crop, 2014 also brought with it a great crop, if we do say so ourselves, but 2018 has done so again. It is really exciting to see that rejuvenation and new talent, listening to the maiden speeches.

Through the course of the campaign, I have been out with most of the candidates and doorknocked and gone to community events. You get to know them piece by piece, but we are all off in our little worlds trying to fight our own little battles within our electorates. To hear the maiden speeches and really delve deep into the psyche and histories of our new members of parliament has been quite exciting. It is interesting because, having spoken to the member for Port Adelaide before the election, the Labor Party is quite different. They grow up knowing each other. They grow up in factions fighting each other and, as the member for West Torrens said, fighting the left is much easier than fighting the Liberal Party.

But on our side of the house is a grassroots decentralised party, and many of the people who come before us are not hacks or stalwarts. They are new fresh blood that has come into our team and that makes it even more exciting. We have new members for Davenport, Narungga, Kavel, MacKillop, Heysen, Morphett, Elder, Newland, Colton, King and Waite, although we will put an asterisk next to that one. This new talent, this new team that has come through, is really going to underpin the longevity of this government.

I have often boasted in speeches to the public about the broad depth of small business experience on our front bench. Whether they be former irrigators, former outback roadhouse operators, physiotherapists, modelling agency owners, furniture manufacturers or humble sausage makers, we have an eclectic mix that brings a very different set of skills to our parliament.

We have now been joined by the greatest ever Paralympian that Australia has ever had, a microbiologist whom you cannot argue the science with because he knows it, and a former AFL player who still barracks for the wrong team, but all can be forgiven in the broad church that is the Liberal Party, through to a couple more lawyers—unfortunately, we do need a few of them—and a whole host of people who bring different experiences.

What excited me about listening to these maiden speeches was that these people are not of government. They are not within government. They are people with broad real-life experience, some younger, some older, some from the city, some from the country. It really does help us to be in touch with the people. I would hate to be part of a party that is so monocultural that there is a tried and tested path from union official and staffer through to the parliamentary ranks, because I think you do lose touch with what broader society means and the constructs that exist within broader society.

I would also like to make mention very specifically of two members who are not in this place, who gave their all and whom I hope will join us in the parliamentary team at the earliest available opportunity. One is a man called Steven Rypp, who I am sure everybody was trying to chase when it came to KPIs. Everybody in the Liberal team understands that our Premier measures everything and we are judged against our performance. On those metrics, Steven Rypp should be sitting amongst us as much as anyone else. I applaud him for his effort. As a Liberal Party, we are, I think, getting a lot better at thanking those who did not make it, as well as thanking those who did.

The other one is Kendall Jackson, who for a second time had a crack at becoming the member for Frome, who has grown and learnt and is somebody who still has not given up. That is something I applaud because I know that these campaigns take it out of people. For those two, as well as the many others who did not get there, I say thank you very much on behalf of myself for the great work that you have done and the pleasure it was to go out and knock on those doors with you.

Then we won the election. I was expecting it to be a long night in front of a computer. For a nerd who likes his numbers, the election was rather boring because it was all over by 9.30, so there was nothing left to do but go to the pub. It heralded with it, as the Premier said, a new dawn for South Australia, and little did I know how bright that sunrise was going to be. On the Wednesday afterwards, I got a very curt phone call from the Premier's office saying, 'The Premier would like to meet with you at 3 o'clock this afternoon.' I thought, 'Well, that's my afternoon done.' I was thinking slightly more executory, but that is not the way it turned out.

The Premier said, 'Stephan, I need you to do this job,' and he listed off the portfolio responsibilities, each one seemingly weighing heavier on my shoulders than the last. He said, 'Your wife is going to hate me, but that is the job I want you to do.' When the Premier says 'Jump,' you say 'How high?' It is an awesome honour and one that I will never forget, and my colleagues will not allow me to forget, especially in relation to the many hundreds of election commitments that we have made.

What I have come to learn over the last eight weeks is that we members of the cabinet are the synthesis between the public who know what they want and a Public Service who know what they want. It really is the job of the minister, as I understand it, to provide that balance between the two. We hire experts—public servants with long-term experience who have become experts and professionals in their field—who provide this expert advice to government, advice that the vast majority of the time we should heed. But on this other side we have an electorate who said, 'No, hang on. We voted for you, and we voted for you to do these things.' In business I learnt very early on that the customer is always right. When it comes to democracy, the voters are always right.

The role of minister is really where we have a job to deliver what the people want whilst also heeding the advice of the department. In fact, as I am given to understand, my office is going to deal with 3,000 to 4,000 pieces of correspondence over the next 12 months. I say to the public, now sitting on this side of the aisle, the amount of time and effort that goes into ensuring that the public understands what its Public Service is doing, I think, is awesome.

To understand that process of a ministerial office delving deep into a department for a response to a sometimes obscure question, and the seriousness and respect with which they are treated is something I am in awe of and something that I think the voting public, if they understood, would be in awe of. We do not always get it right and already I have signed off on letters that do not give people what they want, but still the government should be there. It should be open and transparent, and it should be accountable.

I have also, in my very short time, been exposed to some very good people both within the department but also as we build our ministerial office. I want to say an introductory thankyou but also a prospective thankyou to those members who have already joined the ministerial office in Sarah Taylor and Courtney Nourse. There is going to be a lot of work for you to do but please know that we are going to be doing it in service of the beautiful people of South Australia.

The only way that I have been allowed to be a minister of the Crown is by the express consent of the people of Schubert. They are some of the most beautiful people that anyone would meet. I am not going to brag about this being the best electorate in the country, but it was said by the former member for Schubert quite often that this was the best electorate in the country. I thought he was talking about the fact that these people are loyal to the Liberal Party. I thought then that maybe he was talking about the fact that the Barossa makes a better glass of red wine than anywhere else in the world. But he was actually talking about the people.

I noted earlier that the member for Kavel in his maiden speech talked about community spirit, and the Barossa is certainly full of that, and the broader Schubert electorate is certainly full of that. I am so proud that they have given me the opportunity to continue to be their local MP and hopefully, more than hopefully, this new Liberal government is going to deliver what it said it would deliver. Interestingly, most of the things that we need to deliver are in my portfolio, so that might make things a little bit easier.

I want to go through those commitments because I think it is very important to put on the record so that the electorate can have comfort that we have not forgotten, as the cynics within the voting public might think that post election suddenly these promises vanish. I can tell you very clearly that they do not and I know that each member of parliament on both sides of the aisle is going to make sure that they do not.

We, and the Barossa, committed to a number of things. The first of those is around sealing the Lyndoch Road, which is a $500,000 commitment by the new Liberal government towards the sealing of a seven-kilometre stretch of road. It might not sound like much and it might seem strange that we picked this one road out of thin air, but it is a road that holds strategic importance for the thousands of people who live in the southern Barossa who have seen the northern ends of the valley kick along in leaps and bounds with tourism increasing and cellar door numbers swelling and who feel that they need a piece of the pie.

The answer is genuinely that people do not drive their way anymore. The sealing of this road will unlock millions and millions of dollars worth of investment at the southern end of the valley and open up some of the most beautiful and picturesque parts of the Barossa again to the tourist trade. It is something I am extremely proud and eager to see delivered as soon as possible in conjunction with the Light Regional Council.

We then have the perennial issue of the Barossa hospital, and it was interesting that the local newspapers did not even wait because in the edition immediately following the election the headline on the front page read, 'It's time to deliver,' and I am under no illusion that my electorate expects anything less, as do all our electorates. But the business case study into the Barossa hospital is one that I am going to be watching with extremely close interest.

I must admit that I have not bothered the new health minister as yet, since his brow has become more and more furrowed as he has learnt of some of the difficulties within his portfolio, not the least of which was a budget overrun to end all budget overruns in the Central Adelaide Local Health Network.

The other local commitment we had was in relation to dog parks, an issue that started because a local young woman called Kelly Adams came to my office and said, 'Stephan, this is an issue.' It is an issue I had read about on Facebook community chat groups around the place and heard people talk about, but I had never been able to pin down somebody who would help me in a campaign to deliver this. Kelly did just that, and we had a petition signed by over 800 people.

We had numerous meetings at dog parks and meetings with council and, after fighting for about three months, the Liberal Party came on board and delivered $100,000 to establish two dog parks in the Barossa. Excitingly, work has already begun with the council to identify where those dog parks are going to be delivered, and I look forward to taking my little spoodle, Molly, down there for a walk. Molly will not enjoy her time at the dog park. This will be the first time she has been taken for a walk in a long time. That said, she needs to understand how I have helped deliver her a better future.

We then have the broader issues that I think we need to deliver for our region. I am taking a bit of licence here, but the two biggest issues that regional MPs will bring to this place are roads and mobile phone blackspots. In the absence of public transport, in the absence of other forms of self-motored transport, whether they be bikes or walking, you need a car to live in the country. When you rely on that as the only mode of transport to get around, you pay a little bit more attention to what your roads look like. There is a vast network of roads across country South Australia and it needs a lot of help.

As the Minister for Transport and Infrastructure, I know very clearly that it is my job to deliver. That is why I am extremely proud of our Royalties for Regions scheme and our regional road and infrastructures fund as ways to deliver that. It is not going to be quick and it is not going to be easy. A local MP came to me the other day and said, 'Steph, I just need you to shoulder seal 200 kilometres of this road and then I'll be happy.' He was deadly serious. He is right, but he is not the only one, and the enormity of the task ahead of us sits very heavily on my shoulders. But all regional South Australia needs us to deliver, and that is why this regional road and infrastructure fund is so important to be able to do just that.

We also need to deal with mobile phone blackspots. Again, this is an issue that really hurts regional South Australia. If you really want to help unlock the potential and the small business potential of regional South Australia, mobile phone data and telecommunication services are key. In this world where internet start-up businesses can happen from someone's bedroom, there is no reason that that bedroom cannot be in regional South Australia. That is why I am so proud that, together with my colleagues, including the member for Mount Gambier, we have been able to help get a $10 million commitment to deliver this. I look forward to working with the telecommunications companies, which I understand have been supportive at this very early stage, but the federal government also needs to come on board.

I could use this as an opportunity to belt the former Labor government for being so pathetically recalcitrant that they ignored regional South Australia, but I will not. But there is work that needs to be done and these measly sums of money are going to deliver product benefits that will far outweigh their cost. If we want regional South Australia to thrive and grow, then this is the way to do it to give hope to a young generation that they can actually start and grow businesses and have a broader range of professions they can tap into in regional South Australia.

I always give this one experience as an example. I was lucky enough to fly on a small charter plane with the member for Stuart, who took us around his electorate. It is the only other time that my steel-capped boots have seen any use, other than at my Northern Connector visit the other week. We went across to a station, the name of which escapes me right at this second. The member for Stuart will be able to tell me what it was.

The Hon. D.C. van Holst Pellekaan: Which trip was this?

The Hon. S.K. KNOLL: 2015.

The Hon. D.C. van Holst Pellekaan: We went to a few. We went to Cowarie Station.

The Hon. S.K. KNOLL: Cowarie Station.

The Hon. D.C. van Holst Pellekaan: Yes. The Oldfields, Sharon Oldfield.

The Hon. S.K. KNOLL: We met the Oldfields out there. Sharon's daughter was taking us through how she learns, how she studies—

The Hon. D.C. van Holst Pellekaan: Ashlee.

The Hon. S.K. KNOLL: —Ashlee—and how she interacts with her friends. She was dead keen to show us this four-minute video that some mates from the region had put together as they were drafting sheep. There were dirt bikes, and all sorts of stuff was happening in the video. I think the nearest house was 50 kilometres away—

The Hon. D.C. van Holst Pellekaan: 50 to Mungeranie.

The Hon. S.K. KNOLL: —yes, 50 kilometres away, and here she was connected to her friends via the internet. It really shows that this is a way to unlock regional South Australia, help it to be connected to the rest of the world and, in doing so, provide opportunities that will really help our state reach its full potential.

Lastly, I would like to go to a few thankyous, if I can, Mr Deputy Speaker. From a local electorate point of view, I would like to thank the other candidates who ran in the race out in the Barossa. Certainly, Paul Brown from the Nick Xenophon team had a tough time of it, as did David Haebich, the Labor candidate. Both were earnest and good fun to have on the campaign trail, as was Rikki Lambert from the Family First Party. Unfortunately, Mr Irving from the Greens was nowhere to be seen. I enjoyed that there was actually a contest out in Schubert, and I think the electorate is all the better for it.

There are two people I would like to thank. The first of those is a man called Steve Balch. Steve is a new man to the Barossa Valley, but he has taken to the local community with gusto, especially in Lyndoch. He is a former MP from Darwin and brings with him a wealth of experience. He is a beautiful man, and I really appreciate the help he has given me. The second person I would like to thank is a girl called Courtney Nourse, who has been working with me for the past four years. She is in the gallery, hiding out the back; I think she is expecting a mention. Courtney worked day and night with me during this election campaign. She ran the office during the day and then at night and on weekends was out with me campaigning.

I made a remark that, for the last couple of months leading up to the election, I saw more of her than I did my family, and I think both of us were very keen to spend some time apart. Courtney is a committed Liberal who shows a dedication to this party well beyond her years. She is someone who, unfortunately, is going to be working with me for a while, I think, for better or worse for both of us. I could not have done it without her. Really, it was the two of us taking on the rest of the world. To everyone else who helped during the election campaign, I would like to say thank you. Many volunteers helped out on election day, including members of the Knoll family and the Heysen family—many under duress but, nevertheless, thank you.

With the last 60 seconds, I would like to say thank you to Amy and the two girls. I think that Amy is a bit conflicted in the sense that she really wanted me to win and she really wanted the Liberal Party to win, but she knew the sacrifices that she was going to be asked to make. Those sacrifices are now coming into play, and we sit here tonight in this chamber debating the Address in Reply being away from our families. This is going to happen. We have 17 sitting weeks between here and the end of the year, and we are going to do the good work for the people of South Australia but, as we all know, it is our families at home who pay the price. To my girls, can I say that I will not waste my time away. I will get home as soon as I can, and I really thank you for all the support you have shown over the last four years.