State Library Funding Cuts Must Be Shelved

Legislative Council
Wednesday 21st of SEPTEMBER 2016


State Library of South Australia

The Hon. T.A. FRANKS ( 16:01 :32 ): I move:

T hat this council—

1. Expresses support for the State Library and notes the unique cultural, historical, educational and social benefits that the State Library brings to the state of South Australia; and

2. Notes that the proposed Weatherill Labor government cuts to the funding of the State Library of South Australia will result in job losses and the diminution of access to a wide collection of services to a diverse range of communities.

It would be no surprise to members of this council that the proposed cuts to the State Library have indeed caused great concern within the community. I have to echo the words of the PSA, who do not just fear for the jobs of their members but, indeed, fear that South Australia's cultural and historic records are at risk.

A library is far more than a collection of its books, archives and documents. It is indeed a place that can bring out people such as Keith Conlon—well-known to members of this council and the South Australian public for his work through Postcards—and get him in support, because he knows just how important the history of South Australia is to the future of South Australia. His show, Postcards, is an example of just how important the State Library is. The use of the—

The PRESIDENT: Order! The cameraman may not be filming, but I am not aware of that, and the cameraman is scanning around the room. I am sure you have been advised by the staff that you are only to focus on the person who is on their feet. I would like to be sure that that is the case. You are to be focused only on the person speaking. Thank you for that.

The Hon. T.A. FRANKS: I draw the members of the council's attention to that work of Postcards. I just have to say that sums up why this issue so important. The work of Postcards, of course, promotes South Australia. It promotes one of our key initiatives: to create a future for this state. The work that Mr Conlon can do through that program and through similar initiatives is only made possible by the expertise of those staff who work in our State Library, ensuring that these things happen.

The library is more than simply a collection of books. We have a strong, rich and vibrant culture in this state and much to be proud of. We were the first place in the world to grant women the right to stand for parliament, and although the Hon. Gail Gago has noted that we have not quite got to 50:50 yet, I am hoping that potentially we will soon. That is something to be proud of.

We were also the first state in the nation to pass legislation to prevent discrimination on the basis of race—again, something to be proud of—and the first to decriminalise homosexuality, which is again, I believe, something to be proud of. These are things that we should maintain a connection to, and the way that we maintain a connection to that history is through the valuable asset that we have in this state: our state library.

We also have a strong and abundant Aboriginal culture and we are home to a diverse range of migrant communities. We have many valuable and exciting stories to tell. Many stories have not yet been told, but one that has, and that members would possibly be familiar with, would be the story that even Adam Goodes himself did not know of his own family tree, that was brought to life through the program 'Who do you think you are?', again facilitated by the work of the State Library. He was able to learn about his ancestry through the resources there.

In an age where we believe that everything is at our fingertips on the internet—or the 'interweb' as the Hon. Ian Hunter is known to say—it has never been more important that we nurture our children to be critical thinkers and learners. I say that cognisant of the campaign slogan that has been adopted as part of this campaign, which is, 'Google can bring you back 100,000 answers, but a librarian can bring you back the right one.' This is why the State Library is so important.

The cuts will, of course, impede the library's ability to offer vital community services. I note that recently on ABC radio, minister Jack Snelling attempted to claim that somehow budget cuts will not affect access to the State Library's resources. Indeed, he attempted to argue that they would increase access and enhance the offerings of the State Library. I did remark on Facebook that I wondered what flavour the Kool-Aid was that the honourable minister had drunk that morning, because it beggars belief that one can have cuts to staff and cuts to the budget and somehow end up with a better product, given this is an institution that has faced significant cuts over previous years. Indeed, the current library budget is in real terms less than it was a decade ago.

These cuts, of course, translate to jobs. Those jobs are specialised and are a valuable asset to our state. Those jobs are the very jobs that Treasurer Koutsantonis has promised to protect. In this year's budget, Treasurer Koutsantonis, when he announced a 1.5 per cent cap over the next three years on public sector wage increases, noted that he was not asking the public service to take a pay cut, and that it was the jobs that we had to focus on.

Observing that savage public sector cuts over the past few years had actually seen us in the state that we currently are, he said that now is not the time to cut public sector jobs with that trade-off of the capping of the 1.5 per cent increase in enterprise bargaining. For once I agree with Treasurer Koutsantonis: now is not the time to be letting public servants go. Those are the words of the Treasurer and those are words that I support. I wonder if the Minister for the Arts has actually got the memo from the Treasurer, because they are singing from different hymn sheets on this.

It looks like we will be facing a loss of some 20 full-time staff positions and I know that there is great concern that the library will not be able to fulfil its service charter with cuts of this magnitude. For the information of members, the services that they currently provide include a free service for people learning English as a second language. That will not be replaced should the library go. Other groups which recently came out in a rally to support the library were those from Sister Janet Mead's Adelaide Day Centre. Those people were there to stand up for a library that supports them. It is not just the professors or the historians but also the family archivists who will suffer as a result of these short-sighted cuts.

I ask and call on the Weatherill government to take pause to reflect on the impact of this short-sighted strategy and to look across the border to Victoria where not only the arts but also libraries have been boosted in their funding, to look at our state strategic priorities and to invest in the very institution that will support the promotion of South Australia and that will showcase our history. If we want to see tourism boom then we need to be protecting the State Library.

We also need to be investing in a creative and clever economy because, if we are simply going to rely on brawn rather than brains, we are going to struggle to compete. This is an area where we should be investing and supporting these particular staff and also ensuring that the community's expectations are accounted for in the consultation process. I note that there has only been a three-week consultation process; that is certainly not enough for an institution as important as the State Library. That is partly why I have moved this motion here today.

I move this motion to draw the attention of members not just of the opposition and crossbench but also members of the government as to the importance of this institution and the short-sightedness of these particular cuts. They fly in the face of what Treasurer Koutsantonis has promised in the most recent budget and they need to be repealed before they are implemented. With those few words, I commend the motion to the council.

Debate adjourned on motion of Hon. T.J. Stephens .

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