Commissioner to report directly to Premier

Friday November 05, 2021

Story by Charlotte Varcoe.

The appointment of a cross-border commissioner, pledged by Labor this week if elected to government next year, will be independent and have direct lines to the Premier, according to Opposition Leader Peter Malinauskas.

The announcement came following a shadow cabinet visit to the South East earlier this week where Mr Malinauskas spoke on a range of issues at a community meeting.

He said Labor would provide $2m over four years to create the long-advocated position which would streamline processes for border communities and reduce red tape for residents and businesses.

The opposition leader told The Border Watch a Labor government would ensure the commissioner remains independent, allowing them to "speak out" against the government if needed.

"If the government is doing something wrong, the commissioner would be able to speak out against it similar to what the small business commissioner does now," Mr Malinauskas said.

"They would be established and based in Mount Gambier as it is the state's second largest city and close to the border.

"Labor does not see the commissioner being answerable to a particular minister but rather having an independent function to speak to the government and advocate against it if it is doing something wrong."

He said the opposition party did not want another bureaucrat within the system and guaranteed the commissioner would have a direct line to himself if he became premier.

Member for Mount Gambier Troy Bell said it was a great initiative announced by the opposition leader and encouraged the Liberal State Government to follow suit.

"I would very much like to see the commissioner to be similar to the small business commissioner and am glad to hear they would have a direct line to the premier," Mr Bell said.

"A cross-border commissioner is a level of influence that we need to get things done and it is a good move and is something I have supported for years.

"Being independent, the commissioner will have the ability to influence regulation and, if Covid-19 remains around for another year, the commissioner should be a voice on the transition committee."

Mr Bell said a regional voice with common sense on border issues was a necessity and that those living in Adelaide had "no idea" what occurs along the border communities.

"Moving forward it is about working with the Victorian departments as well, especially tourism and attracting more visitors to the Limestone Coast," he said.

"I see this position as an economic driver which will end up creating jobs, streamlining processes that occur on cross border communities including fire preparedness as well."

The local member said the commissioner would not toe the party line due to being an independent position and would work more in regards to regulations rather than legislation.

Founder of the Cross Border Callout campaign Paula Gust said she hoped for the election promise to come to fruition if Labor became the governing party. "The only thing is the independent and direct contact with the premier has not happened with other cross border commissioners across Australia," Ms Gust said.

"The commissioners have an avenue to speak but that has not always been the case.

"Here along the South Australian border I would like to see it be a whole different ball game but I am not sure it will be."

She labelled the promise as "wishful thinking" and stated the commissioner would need to be employed by the government.

"This means they could toe the party line because it is what they will need to do," Ms Gust said. "But a commissioner would still be needed even after the border opens."

Mount Gambier City Council Mayor Lynette Martin stated she was pleased to see such an appointment pledged and that the value of a cross-border commissioner was a position needed prior to Covid-19.

"Whilst the value of a cross-border commissioner would be obvious in Covid times, it is also a position that has been needed prior to the pandemic given our proximity to the border," Ms Martin said.

"Given this and the challenges associated with doing business across the border it would be most welcome."