Motions: Cross-Border Commissioner

Wednesday June 20, 2018

Mr BELL (Mount Gambier) (11:00): I move:

That this house—

(a) urges the state government to introduce a cross-border commissioner to advocate for and develop solutions to assist business and communities who are located on the state’s borders;

(b) acknowledges the benefits New South Wales has experienced in the appointment of a cross-border commissioner; and

(c) urges the Minister for Regional Development to assist regional South Australia by the appointment of a cross-border commissioner.

There are a number of communities along the South Australian state borders that interact very closely with communities that exist just over the border. That invisible line that marks the moment when you cross over from one state to the other should not be a barrier for business to trade and operate, for patients to seek treatment, or for children to receive education and transport, yet it does.

The role of a cross-border commissioner is to advocate for communities that are located near another state border for positive outcomes for that community, to build and strengthen the ties that exist between the communities and the two states. In South Australia, we have a number of seats that border a different state, and I hope that each and every one of those will be making a contribution to this. They are the seats of Flinders, Giles, Sturt, Chaffey, Hammond, MacKillop and, of course, Mount Gambier.

Different regulations and legislation exist between the states and territories of Australia, reflecting each state's unique lifestyles and communities that exist within that state. However, this then becomes challenging when people who are running businesses across a number of states are dealing with multiple licences required to operate in each state and ensuring compliance with the differing regulation and legislation that exist between each state.

Local businessman David Tye, from Tye's Plumbing in Mount Gambier, faces that exact challenge. For his business to complete work in Victoria, which is just 30 kilometres away, David is required to have dual licences, which of course means two lots of licence renewal fees and charges as well as differing installation and compliance regulations between the two states. Obviously, David needs to ensure that his employees are aware of those differences because they have insurance consequences if they are not installed to that state's specifications.

Business operators, no matter where they are, would like less red tape, yet on border communities, such as Mount Gambier, this seems to be the reverse when dealing with populations just over an imaginary line. When difficulties arise for a business owner, it is often difficult to know who to turn to. The establishment of an office will finally provide some place for the public to turn to for help. It will be an opportunity for the commissioner to present the views of the public to government agencies, in Victoria, South Australia, Northern Territory and Western Australia, to effect change for the benefit of South Australians, in particular those living near a border region.

The commissioner will be a voice for those communities to raise awareness and to effect change. It is quite a common topic of discussion, when you start talking to business owners, that simple changes to regulations that we could make in South Australia, in partnership with Victoria, would see something closer to a seamless approach to both states conducting business with each other.

We are not alone. This is not a new concept. In fact, New South Wales appointed a cross-border commissioner in March 2012. Steve Toms was the initial cross-border commissioner and held that position for over two years. The current commissioner is James McTavish, and, on my invitation and that of our Local Government Association, he attended Mount Gambier last month to outline the benefits of the establishment of a cross-border commissioner with businesses and government leaders and representatives. I thank the current minister for having a person in that meeting who was reporting back to him.

During his visit, James McTavish indicated that in his experience jurisdictions have not considered a regional approach in their strategies. Having a person who is responsible for identifying issues that are common or unique to border communities means that constituents can have their issues raised and dealt with in an accountable manner, obviously facilitating greater trade and economic benefit for the people in each state. A number of issues James McTavish indicated that benefited from stronger cross-border collaboration included child protection, regulations around the environment, access to vocational education and training, aligning biosecurity regulations and transport, just to name a few.

The New South Wales Cross Border Commission has developed a number of strategies. Some of these strategies include advocating for the inclusion of cross-border issues in government agency strategic and business plans, enhancing awareness of cross-border issues with government agencies through regular and targeted communication, representation of the state at cross-border forums, providing advice on complex and sensitive issues and providing a conduit for addressing cross-border issues that arise. He indicated that these issues normally arise at a council level but do not seem to make it to the state government's agenda.

Strategies also include developing and implementing systems to better identify, analyse and resolve cross-border issues. He has given lots of transport examples between Queensland and New South Wales, particularly around schoolchildren and their ability to move between the two states to access a school. This is quite relevant to Mount Gambier. Students from Dartmoor, just over the Victorian border, nearly always access schools in Mount Gambier, yet the bus cannot go the five kilometres to pick them up. These types of issues are identified and addressed through a cross-border commissioner.

Other issues addressed include utilising joint organisations and regional organisations of councils to identify, analyse, consider and resolve appropriate local and regional issues that assist local government collaboration—basically, getting the local councils and government associations to work closer together. Also included are enhancing government regional leadership, senior management and local government networks to consider and resolve appropriate cross-border issues, and developing and co-ordinating mechanisms for information flow between jurisdictions to business and communities.

Also identified was providing recommendations to government about prioritised cross-border issues, advocating for innovation in service delivery to more effectively and efficiently support cross-border areas, monitoring and providing input where appropriate into commonwealth and state government reviews and inquiries, developing and implementing a program of regular face-to-face and electronic consultation with local, regional and state business representatives, and identifying key barriers and enablers for economic development in cross-border areas.

Tourism is one of the main areas where I see South Australia benefiting, and, in our case, Victoria also benefiting. We are always thinking about trying to get visitors to the Great Ocean Road to continue on to Mount Gambier. However, it can be a two-way street, with us promoting visitors or tourists from Adelaide to continue into Victoria along the Great Ocean Road for a reciprocal tourism co-operation. Other strategies include advocating for the attraction, development and retention of a skilled workforce in cross-border communities; advocating for a simplified regulatory environment for businesses; and advocating for a reduction in regulatory duplication in cross-border areas.

It is pleasing that both the Liberal and Labor parties of Victoria have not only indicated strong support for a cross-border commissioner but have actually pledged money to it. The Victorian Coalition has pledged $4 million over four years for a cross-border commissioner, to be located at Mildura. The Andrews Labor government indicated in their 2018 budget paper, as part of their commitment to regional Victoria, $760,000 to establish a cross-border commissioner for 18 months to streamline regulatory and licensing requirements and to reduce barriers to service for Victoria's border communities.

My office regularly has constituents requesting assistance to deal with anomalies that exist between Victoria and South Australia. Only last week, I had a farmer visit my office regarding the regulations surrounding the storage of a firearm. This farmer's principal place of residence is in Mount Gambier, yet his farm is located in Victoria, just 28 kilometres away. For the last 30 years, he has stored his firearm in a locked safe in a farm shed at his property in Victoria. The property has a residential home on it, in which his brother lives, and the shed is located behind his brother's house.

This week, he has been notified that it is a legislative requirement to store the firearm at his principal place of residence at Mount Gambier. This would now mean that the farmer is required to remove his guns daily from storage at Mount Gambier and drive with them, once they have been appropriately stored in his motor vehicle, to his farm in Victoria on the off chance that he may be required to use a gun at his farming property.

Another example is recent correspondence I received from Mayor Anita Rank of the Glenelg shire. The Glenelg shire is located just over the border, in the south-west corner of Victoria, and includes the towns of Portland, Nelson, Casterton, Dartmoor and Heywood, just to name a few. In the shire's letter, the mayor indicated their strong support for the Victorian state government's implementation of prescription-monitoring legislation through parliament. The legislation will enable real-time monitoring of prescription medication and track patients' prescription history. The mayor goes on to say, 'Council seeks your support in advocating for the introduction of a real-time monitoring system,' to prevent patients, particularly those living in border communities, engaging in cross-border prescription shopping and to help save lives.

The Limestone Coast Local Government Association have recognised the value of the appointment of a cross-border commissioner, and at their meeting last Friday, they moved a recommendation to:

Support the member for Mount Gambier Mr Troy Bell MP in his calls for the South Australian Government to introduce a Cross Border Commissioner to advocate for and develop solutions to assist businesses and communities who are located on the State's borders.

This recommendation was supported. I call on the state Liberal government to appoint a cross-border commissioner who can liaise with people within the communities that live near the border and the growing number of other states that are appointing a cross-border commissioner—to be able to liaise with those cross-border commissioners—about the issues that affect the everyday lives of people living near a border and bring to the attention of the government those issues affecting them. This is a chance to remove barriers that currently exist.

I urge the Minister for Regional Development to advocate, lobby for and appoint a cross-border commissioner who can identify and resolve issues that communities experience living in close proximity to a neighbouring state border. I encourage him, as the Minister for Regional Development, to assist those communities in regional South Australia by providing them with a tool in cross-border areas to promote strategic growth and economic development. I commend this motion to the house.