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Wednesday, 12 February 2014
Page: 201

Dr SOUTHCOTT (Boothby) (13:11): Firstly, I would like to congratulate the Hon. Bronwyn Bishop, member for Mackellar, on her appointment as Speaker of the House. In speaking about the campaign, I would like to thank the voters of the electorate of Boothby for the privilege and honour of representing them for a seventh term in parliament. Representing the most marginal coalition seat in a hung parliament meant there was always a lot of interest in the campaign and in the seat. The previous parliament was a tough three years where every vote was important and the difference between being in government and being in opposition was only one seat. This was my seventh election campaign. The way everyone combined—the staff, Liberal Party members, my supporters, state members and candidates and state and federal secretariats—was exemplary. It was a model campaign.

I would like to thank my electorate staff who really put in the hard yards and went the extra mile during the campaign: Ann de Cure, Ryan Post, Matthew Hee, Marion Themeliotis, Zoe Darling, Tom Schinckel and Courtney Nourse. Of my volunteers, again who gave up hours and hours of their own time and who were so keen to see a change of government, I would like to mention a couple in particular: Bill Heycox, Fran Southern, Paul Gesti, Matt Shilling, Graham Copley, Ralph Walker, Sam Croser, Kathy Hee and Janet Hillgrove.

The campaign relied on hundreds and hundreds of volunteers—old friends, new friends and people who were desperate to see a change in government. I would like to thank the state and federal secretariats, state director Geoff Green and deputy state director Matt Halliwell for their assistance throughout the election and for their prompt guidance when it was needed. I would like to thank Brian Loughnane and Julian Sheezel for their interest and for their words of advice.

I would like to thank the state members and candidates, all of whom played a role in the campaign: Iain Evans, Duncan McFetridge, Martin Hamilton-Smith, and the state candidates David Speirs, Caroline Habib, Sam Duluk and Cory Wingard. I would like to thank the Prime Minister, the Deputy Prime Minister and the Deputy Leader of the Liberal Party and Minister for Foreign Affairs, all of whom visited the electorate last year and who greatly assisted the momentum in our campaign. I would like to thank all of the other ministers who visited over the previous three years.

Lastly, I would like to thank my family. I thank Kate for her enormous support over the last 15 years, and I thank my two youngest volunteers, Henry and Georgina—Henry at 11, and Georgina at nine—who again were very much our secret weapon.

This was an important campaign. The 2010 election had been close, so we knew that every vote counted. The electorate of Boothby is a great electorate to represent. It has terrific institutions and schools—including Flinders University and Waite Agricultural Research Institute—and important hospitals like Flinders Medical Centre and Daw Park.

One of the major issues was the lack of investment in infrastructure that we saw in the south. I had been fighting for six years to see South Road become a non-stop north-south corridor. One of the issues in Adelaide is that unfortunately the state made a decision 40 years ago not to invest in expressways or freeways. When you travel around Australia you realise that the road infrastructure in Adelaide is particularly poor. We do not have the expressways or freeways that other capital cities do. One of the things that Adelaide desperately needs is a non-stop north-south expressway. The RAA identified this in their 2005 report.

There have been various promises made over the years. One that I have been particularly focussed on which has been promised since 2006 is having a grade separation at South Road and Sturt Road. All the traffic surveys show that this is the major cause of delay on South Road now that Grand Junction Road and Cormack Road have been dealt with by the superway.

In my regular surveys, doorknocking and listening posts, traffic congestion is often at the top of my constituents' concerns. Adelaide used to be known as the 20-minute city. Now what we see is increasing traffic congestion because of a failure to invest in infrastructure going back decades. So I was particularly pleased in late April when the now Prime Minister Tony Abbott made an announcement that, working with Infrastructure Australia and the South Australian government, we would invest $500 million in federal funding to improve South Road where it connects to the southern expressway—that is, having an interchange of the southern expressway going onto South Road and grade separations at Flinders Drive and Sturt Road.

We are also providing the funding for the South Australian government to complete the business case for the Darlington Interchange project. This is a project that state Labor first promised in 2006—eight years ago—and there has been no progress on it since. It is very important, if we are to build the roads of the 21st century, that we start to address the major bottlenecks on South Road. We need to see this project underway as soon as possible. As I have already said, we are allocating $500 million to complete the Darlington Interchange and the Darlington project as a priority.

We are committed to upgrading the entire South Road within a decade, and it is expected that more funding in the coming years will be allocated to get the Torrens to Torrens project completed and additional upgrades underway. However, the Darlington upgrade is the priority. This is what we need to improve our productive capacity in the future.

One of the other major issues during the campaign was the issue around cost of living. One of the most important things this parliament could do is abolish the carbon tax. We are trying to abolish the carbon tax, and this is an important thing. All families bear the cost of the carbon tax. It is our bill to cut your carbon tax bill. Scrapping the carbon tax will mean that families on average will be $550 better off next financial year. Electricity bills will be $200 lower a year, and gas bills $70 lower a year. Abolishing the carbon tax will provide a stimulus to jobs, it will provide a stimulus to the economy, and it will reduce the pressure on families' costs of living. I saw in my electorate how the carbon tax was damaging to businesses. When the Belair Hotel was hit with their first electricity bill under the carbon tax, they saw their off-peak power rate increase by 45 per cent as a direct result of the carbon tax.

Another initiative that I am particularly pleased to see come back is the Green Army. The Howard government implemented the Green Corps program as a way of employing young people in environmental projects to preserve and restore our natural and cultural environment. Green Corps provided young people with improved career and employment prospects through accredited training, on-the-project training and personal development, while participating in environmental and heritage projects. Over the life of the Green Corps program, participants propagated and planted over 14 million trees; they erected more than 8,000 kilometres of fencing; they cleared over 50,000 hectares of weeds; and they constructed or maintained more than 5,000 kilometres of walking tracks or boardwalks.

The coalition will create a standing Green Army that will gradually build to a 15,000 strong environmental workforce. We will create and properly resource the Green Army as a larger and more lasting version of the former Green Corps. It will be Australia's largest ever environmental deployment. It will mark the first time Australia has approached environmental remediation with the same seriousness and level of organisation that we have long brought to bushfire preparedness and other local and regional priorities.

I have had a number of projects submitted to me as possible Green Army initiatives: the removal of weeds and olive trees in Marino Conservation Park; maintenance of Belair National Park, including the creek which runs from the park through Glenalta, Hawthorndene and Coromandel Valley to Sturt Creek; the creation of a wildlife corridor between parks and open spaces to plant native trees and provide nesting boxes for wildlife; the removal of weeds along main roads and railway lines; and installing benches along trail walks to encourage people to go out and enjoy the parks of Boothby.

Mitcham Hills will be one of the first sites nationally to benefit under the coalition's Green Army. The Mitcham Hills has a lot of undergrowth, a lot of woody weeds, which lead to a fire hazard. The Minister for the Environment has announced that a coalition government will undertake feral olive and woody weed eradication in the Mitcham Hills as part of its commitment to build a 15,000-strong Green Army nationwide.

Woody weeds and feral olives create significant amounts of bushfire fuel throughout the Mitcham Hills. Last weekend we saw how one spark can start a bushfire when on Saturday morning a blaze started in Belair, an 850-hectare national park. Fortunately, the CFS, the SES and SAPOL responded promptly and the blaze was contained to three hectares.

Another major issue that the state of South Australia faces is the economy. We continually lag in all measures compared with other states. We have seen 27,000 jobs lost over the last four years. We need to create an environment whereby businesses feel confident to invest, grow and employ new staff. Abolishing the carbon tax will help that. Reducing red tape will help that.

Building our infrastructure such as South Road will improve the productivity and the economy of our state. I am pleased that, while the news was very bad that Holden has decided not to continue manufacturing in Australia, the Prime Minister has acted promptly by establishing a South Australian review panel, including some eminent South Australian businessmen such as Raymond Spencer and Robert Champion de Crespigny.

The Waite Institute in my electorate is an area where we have a competitive advantage. South Australia has always been good at exporting grain—wheat—and wine. The Waite Institute is a world-best scientific facility in the areas of ag science and genomics which is providing an enormous competitive advantage. The approach the government will take is: backing our strengths.

With the new SAHMRI, South Australia has the potential to develop a biotech precinct in the North Terrace area in the same way Parkville in Melbourne is a long-established biotech precinct, and in the way Brisbane is. Adelaide has the opportunity to build on our existing strengths—Australia's renowned excellence in research, in clinical trials—and we need to foster a climate where that can occur.

In my electorate of Boothby, the former site of the Mitsubishi car plant at Tonsley Park offers enormous opportunities. Flinders University have moved a number of their functions—computing science, engineering and maths. Flinders University have existing strengths in the area of medical devices—and this is another area where South Australia could become a centre for innovation and, again, focus on something that we do well.

In the area of health I was very pleased in the last parliament to focus very much on primary health care. The GP superclinics were something that I was heavily critical of, because I believe it was a misguided policy. It distorted the whole market for investment in general practice.

When we look at Australia's primary healthcare system, we have a good system but I believe that we can do much better in areas like diabetes, cardiac failure and COPD. There are a number of chronic diseases where we could have better incentives to make sure that people get the gold standard. We have a good primary healthcare system, but I believe it could be better and that is something that I will be focusing on in this next term of parliament.

In the area of PBS listings, Australians should have timely access to innovative new treatments that are safe, effective and cost-effective . Subsidisation of new medicines through the PBS was for a long time a stable, bi partisan process that was widely respected here and abroad. It was understood by all the participants.

The PBAC was put in place to advise governments and make recommendation on new medicines. Yet what we saw under the previous government was a chaotic process. They signed a memorandum of understanding with the sector to provide policy stability in return for savings and then, within months of signing that memorandum, they deferred the listing of seven medicines and a vaccine that had been recommended by PB AC and would have had to have gone to c abinet for approval. It was chaotic decision making. There was no clarity for businesses. There was no clarity for consumers.

The coalition has said we will restore the PBS process to a stable, apolitical, evidence based approach. The PB AC will return and its recommendations will not be ignored . The health minister will have authority to list lower cost treatments that have been recommended by the PBAC without cabinet approval f or medicines that do not cost more than $20 million in any year over the first four years of listing s. Priorities and accelerate d clinical trial reforms will a llow new medicines to be tested and will provide faster access to treatment for patients . We need to restore transparency, certainty and confidence to the process for listing medicines on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme.

In the area of private health insurance we see that private health insurance plays an important role in taking pressure off the public health system. We will reinvest in private health insurance once fiscal circumstances allow . The current g overnment understand s that private health insurance plays a key role in reducing waiting lists and keeping pressure off the already struggling public hospital system. It allows people to have a choice of doctor, a choice of specialist, a choice of surgeon, a choice of anaesthetist , a choice of allied health practitioner and a choice of hospital. The coalition has always recognised this and will continue to fight for the role of private health insurance in our health system.

In my electorate this is a key issue. Seventy-six per cent of voters hold some form of private health insurance, and this has always been a big issue in every election that I have fought. Two thousand residents in my electorate petitioned to have the private health insurance rebate retained intact. This is something that the previous government promised to do and then broke its promise in 2008, 2009 and 2010.

In conclusion, I would like to thank the voters in Boothby for the opportunity to serve them in parliament. It is a great honour, and I look forward to representing them over the next three years.