Published by The Border Watch
Regional issues to be addressed at country cabinet meetings
MEMBER for Mount Gambier Troy Bell has welcomed State Labor’s forthcoming shadow country cabinet meeting, backing opposition leader Peter Malinausksas’ comments on a targeted industry growth plan for the Limestone Coast.
The Blue Lake city will be the site of the state opposition’s first post-COVID shadow country cabinet, with South Australian Labor leader Peter Malinauksas flagging the development of a forestry policy as a personal priority.
State Labor frontbenchers will descend on the Blue Lake city on July 26 to meet with industry leaders, key stakeholders and the general public to discuss local issues.
The opposition’s main decision-making group will then travel to Naracoorte on July 27 to meet with councils, community organisations and businesses, with the visits culminating in town hall meetings.
Mr Bell, who unsuccessfully attempted to reintroduce country cabinet meetings in 2018, supported Labor’s move to hear directly from country communities.
“I support Labor showing an interest in our community and taking the time to meet with and hear from regional people,” he said.
“I see country cabinet as a way for South Australians to proactively play a role in government decision-making and to feel their issues, challenges and voices matter.
“As an independent, we need to work with both major parties to highlight issues and opportunities within our region.
“We need a targeted industry growth plan for our community.”
The last country cabinet was held in the Limestone Coast in 2015 with public functions held at Millicent, Naracoorte, Kingston and Robe.
Questions on fracking, health care and natural resource management fees dominated the public forum at Mount Gambier High School.
At the time, the then Liberal Mr Bell told the ABC the Weatherill Government’s subsequent 20-page report was lightweight and lacking in specific detail.
However, Mr Malinauskas said the 14 shadow cabinet ministers would collate and use information from the upcoming two-day Limestone Coast visit to develop policies ahead of the 2022 state election.
“The South East is an important part of the state, particularly economically and it is critical we hear from people about the issues they face,” he said.
“Shadow ministers can engage with stakeholders and community members involved with their portfolio.
“The town hall meetings allow people to ask us questions and present us with an idea, which is particularly important as 2020 is policy development year.
“We are treating policy pretty seriously and we have started the process early.
“We do not want to hear people’s ideas two months out from the election.”
Mr Malinauskas, who has previously acknowledged the sale of the forward rotations as regrettable, said he was particularly interested in the development of a forestry policy for the Limestone Coast.
“As a new Labor leader, I have acknowledged areas where we have got it wrong in the past,” he said.
“The former government made an error in relation to the forest, but you have to acknowledge it and move forward.
“What really matters now is the policy.
“We do have ideas in mind in relation to forestry and there are a range of things are on the radar, but there is still a lot of work to be done.
“We need to consider if there is a way to ensure local mills are able to maintain the supply of sawlog to be able to fulfill their potential.”
The Limestone Coast visit is the fifth in a series of shadow cabinet meetings in regional South Australia, following trips to Whyalla, Port Pirie, Port Augusta and most recently, Kangaroo Island.
Mr Malinauskas said concerns about jobs, health and education had been broadly held across the state’s regions, but expected boosting the capability of the Limestone Coast to be a significant issue.
“Jobs is always front of mind as regional communities are keen on jobs in the regions,” he said.
“Compared to other regions, the South East economy has been more robust, but what the South East represents is an opportunity for growth and a lot of potential.”
Liberal MP Nick McBride has also welcomed the shadow cabinet meeting, saying he wanted Labor to be fully aware of the issues in MacKillop so they could look after the region like they have never done before.
Community members are encouraged to attend the Mount Gambier public meeting at City Hall on Sunday, July 26 at 6pm.
A public meeting will be held at the Naracoorte Town Hall on Monday, July 27 at 6pm.