Regional South Australia

Wednesday July 06, 2022

Mr BELL (Mount Gambier) (12:14): I move:

That this house—

(a) recognises the importance of South Australia's regions to the state's economy; and

(b) recognises the opportunity presented by the COVID-19 pandemic to shift workforces outside capital cities.

Over the last two years, Australia has experienced a monumental shift in the way we live and work because of the pandemic. For many of us it is the first time that people have worked from home when centralised offices closed down. It has obviously spawned the advancement of technologies that were probably already there, but the adoption had a much greater uptake through the pandemic period. Now we are looking at a post-pandemic era and there is a vast opportunity to change traditional work practices, to rethink the way that we operate.

One of the most frequently heard sentences during my eight years as the member for Mount Gambier has been that 'the government stops at the tollgate', and I am thankful to see that there is a change in attitude and a change of focus.

One of the great premiers of South Australia, Sir Thomas Playford, understood the concept of building the state through building the regions with investments like the Whyalla pipeline, Kimberly-Clark in Millicent, woods and forests in Mount Gambier, and major economic drivers like the Port Augusta power station. They all fuelled massive investment in regional areas, which led to jobs, population growth and the services that come along with that. It is time to try to take that philosophy and continue growing our regions through investment in regional South Australia, which again has the flow-on effect of population increase, because that is where the jobs are, and fuelling the state's economic prosperity through growing our regions.

I think it is a really wonderful time to look at those opportunities, and I am excited by the investment that this state government is making, not necessarily just in my area—for example, the hydrogen project when you fully understand what that is aiming to achieve. It will be a very important piece of government stimulus, government injection of funds, into the Whyalla and Upper Spencer Gulf communities, and that will see jobs being created and investment from outside. Countries like Germany that want to look at getting off Russian oil and gas are looking at hydrogen as a sustainable fuel for their country going forward. South Australia will pay an incredibly important role around that progress going forward.

In terms of the Limestone Coast, obviously forestry is one of our major employers and something where, again, I have seen substantial investment going forward in this state budget towards not just the forestry of today but the forestry of the future. Investment in innovation, training and skills is greatly welcomed in my electorate because that is where the jobs are going to be, which then leads to population growth and then leads to additional services being put on.

I also challenge that in terms of industries. We have an ability with modern technology to really promote our regions as a great place to work and a great place to raise kids and to enjoy a lifestyle here in South Australia. I think that the state government could do more in terms of promoting our regions as a place not just to visit but to relocate and to enjoy the benefits that regional life offers for many people.

The Minister for Health was talking in here in answer to a question I posed a couple of weeks ago that, at home, we are 70 full-time equivalent nurses short in our hospital system. That is 70 full-time jobs ready to go. I talk to teachers and principals, and there are good job opportunities in the Limestone Coast region. In fact, some principal positions are getting paid up to $160,000 a year to attract that type of talent to our region. Also, police always have an issue and are continually recruiting. The jobs are there.

What I would like to see is a concerted effort, not just for my region but for all regions, and a working together of state government, local council and these agencies promoting the benefits of working and living in regional South Australia. Whilst we are making good headway, I think that investments like the hydrogen project and investments in forestry in the South-East are certainly steps in the right direction as a way of promoting and encouraging people not just from within the City of Adelaide and South Australia but from all around Australia—and potentially the world—to come to our regions and enjoy the benefits.

I think we have an amazing opportunity in a post-pandemic world to really grow our state through growing the regions.