Do we have an Office of Industrial Hemp?

In Parliament, Questions

The Hon. T.A. FRANKS (14:38): I seek leave to make a brief explanation before asking the Minister for Primary Industries and Regional Development a question on the topic of the Office of Industrial Hemp and Medicinal Cannabis.

Leave granted.

The Hon. T.A. FRANKS: Earlier today I received a response to a previous question I asked about whether or not the Office of Industrial Hemp and Medicinal Cannabis exists under the Malinauskas government. The answer that I received in writing today does not confirm whether it does. Can the minister now confirm whether the office continues?

The Hon. C.M. SCRIVEN (Minister for Primary Industries and Regional Development, Minister for Forest Industries) (14:38): I thank the honourable member for her question and her ongoing interest in the topic of industrial hemp. As outlined in the answer to which I believe she is referring, there was a four-year PIRSA/SARDI industrial hemp trials project which was completed in 2021, and an update report was published in January of this year, and that report is publicly available on the PIRSA website.

There is also AgriFutures Australia, which commenced an industrial hemp varieties trial project in July, which is a national project with trial sites across Australia, and SARDI is a participant in these trials, with trial sites at Loxton in the Riverland and Maaoupe in the Limestone Coast. Up to 17 June 2022 PIRSA has issued 25 licences to cultivate industrial hemp and two licences to process industrial hemp.

In terms of responsibilities, as Minister for Primary Industries and Regional Development I am responsible for the Industrial Hemp Act 2017 and the Industrial Hemp Regulations 2017, which provides a licencing framework to authorise and regulate the possession, cultivation, processing and supply of industrial hemp in South Australia.

I am advised that medicinal cannabis is regulated by SA Health and the commonwealth, and of course the Department for Trade and Investment supports commercial investor and export interests in South Australia. That is typically predicated on stakeholders meeting regulatory requirements. So in terms of the official responsibilities for this matter, that is where the responsibilities lie.

The Hon. T.A. FRANKS (14:40): Supplementary question, and I will say it very slowly: does the Office of Industrial Hemp and Medicinal Cannabis still exist?

The Hon. C.M. SCRIVEN (Minister for Primary Industries and Regional Development, Minister for Forest Industries) (14:40): I have just answered a question about where the various offices and responsibilities lie.

Title: SA Motor Sports (Miscellaneous) Amendment Bill

Date: 7/7/22

Portfolio: Sport & Recreation

Link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ws6iOVVRj10 

Hansard:

The Hon. T.A. FRANKS (11:19): I rise to speak as one of two Greens speakers on this bill. The Greens recognise, no matter how we might feel about it, that Adelaide has long had a car race. The Formula One car race—which we know, according to my adviser, was ‘stolen’ by the Victorians—was last held in 1995. The then state government struck a deal to stage a supercar race in 1999, and indeed in 1999 the Sensational Adelaide 500 was held.

We also recognise that the SATC having responsibility for our races after the board was disbanded was the wrong move. Members who have been in this chamber for some time would be quite familiar with my ongoing concerns about the lack of transparency with regard to the SATC’s management of what was previously the Clipsal 500 in many years gone by, but in the time I was asking the questions about it it was the Superloop—although for one of those years it did not have a sponsor at all. We are hoping to see better transparency with the passage of this particular legislation.

Surprising no-one, the Greens are not actually fans of those motorsports that are still using vehicles powered by fossil fuels. We do recognise, however, the opportunity here is presented by bringing back the motorsports board in seeing South Australia become more involved and invested in things such as Formula E and, of course, the World Solar Challenge. We are truly looking forward to the future of motorsports coming to our state. I do recognise that the Adelaide 500 could still take place with or without this legislation, so that is somewhat of a moot point. But while this particular race is an important part of the debate on this bill, it is not actually necessarily materially affected by it, and note that with regard to our position on this bill.

However, we do want to put on record our concerns and the concerns particularly of many city residents about racing coming back to the city in this particular capacity. In fact, through our campaigning in the recent state election and discussions with the residents, many of them sure as hell do not want it back. The noise and disruption caused to them by the race has been a longstanding issue, not to mention the traffic delays, the restrictions on trade—there are frustrations not just for those within the city. Minister Bettison’s own FOIs could tell her and the Labor Party this, because those documents do reveal that the south-east city residents have long lobbied for this car race to be removed from the City of Adelaide.

When I came to this place back in 2010, in 2009 I campaigned on a Greens platform of moving the car race down to Gillman and we had done so with the local motorsports community. I note that that was before we saw The Bend, but indeed I have to say that a Port Adelaide 500, a Port Adelaide street race, would create far fewer traffic hassles in the city and place less disadvantage on the other events that we currently have.

I do also welcome, though, the removal of this race from March. The impact on the third week of the Fringe was never calculated in the economic impact of this race. We know that those sales in the third week of the Adelaide Fringe always went down, as people either had their events impeded by the noise or indeed had those particular patrons choose not to go into the city on that particular weekend.

Importantly as well, that measure would leave the Parklands alone. To that end, one of the amendments I will be moving today will remove references to the parkland from this bill and the act so that the Parklands will be off-limits for motorsports racing in South Australia. There have been ongoing concerns about the impact of motorsports on the Parklands, and in 2020 we saw the creation of a campaign group, Reimagining Victoria Park, which was forced to raise concerns about the park becoming a bitumen heatsink. In their response to the prospect of the Adelaide 500 returning to the city, they have stated:

…the present and future amenity of Victoria Park—one of Adelaide’s most heavily used and best-loved parks for general community recreation and sports—is in jeopardy because, firstly, there is inadequate tree canopy to counter the impacts of global warming and provide shade for walkers, runners, cyclists and spectators; and secondly, based on past experience, the Adelaide 500 race excludes the public from a large swathe of the park for five months each year.

That is an extraordinary impact that, again, is never accounted for in the figures or the statements. There has been regular criticism from many groups. The idea that public parklands—our public parklands, open green space that belongs to everyone—is being blocked off for months at a time for a polluting race that much of the public have little interest in and only goes for a few days. Is this striking the right balance? I have to say that we are seeing public green land being used for a private event, and I am not sure that we are getting a return for our investment that is an appropriate one. But who would know? We do not have transparency in the figures.

It is not just the noise and pollution, not to mention the congestion that city residents and others are concerned about. Again, as some members would be aware, I have previously raised these concerns in this place and in the media. Having worked as the Young Women’s Program Manager at the YWCA, which is based on Hutt Street, it is being directly impacted in that premises by the car race, and then my following Young Women’s Program Manager is doing work on the level particularly of sexual harassment and harassment that women, and particularly young women, face in the city in the wake of these races over the many years.

There is statistical and survey data that has been taken on that, as well as the actual police stats that bear some of that out as well. I would hope that these concerns that have been raised are something that the board will take into consideration moving forward, and work to provide a safe, and a safer, environment for everyone while these races are taking place in the future.

Greater transparency and accountability is also something I hope we will see from this new board. I do have some confidence, and I hope that confidence is well-founded. In the past, despite significant effort, however, and repeated questions, we have not been able to obtain information on even how many tickets are actually sold to the race. This is extraordinary.

I can go to the Adelaide Fringe impact document released just over a week ago and I can tell you not only how many tickets were sold at the past Adelaide Fringe event but what category they were on and what age the people were in those age cohorts that they were sold to. It is extraordinary that with the amount of public money that goes to this event we do not even get the ticket sales given to us, the South Australia public, who are the ones who give the social licence for this race to continue.

I will be putting forward that amendment, and I take it as a sign of goodwill for greater transparency about reporting on these events into the future. This reporting which would simply include the number and type of tickets that are sold, and also given away as gifts—I know that this is a goodwill gesture but given away to volunteers such as those who are in our CFS or emergency services, and these are very good things and you would think that in fact they would want to be trumpeting these good initiatives, but apparently, no, it is all too much for us to find out these figures in the current regime. I am hoping the new regime will be more transparent and accountable.

In summary, the Greens have not been the biggest fans of the return of the Adelaide 500. We campaigned against it at the state election. We campaigned against it at the Bragg by-election. We say it is the wrong race in the wrong place. We hope the Motorsport Board, with their more discrete attention to all motorsports, but in particular that car race, will bring a level of nuance to the debate that has not been here in the parliament currently, and certainty has not been forthcoming from the SATC.

On that note, we do welcome bringing back the Motorsport Board. We welcome them taking the management of this. I note there has been commentary made about the Premier taking on this role. I understand that with the mechanics of a new government it was appropriate that this sit within Premier and Cabinet to get the job done.

It was an election commitment with a December deadline and it seems that this government, the Malinauskas government will get this job done and will honour the election commitment. I have no quarrel with that. What I do ask, though, and I would like the government to respond to is: could they outline how the decision was made to discontinue the Adelaide 500, what bodies were involved in that decision and on what date was it made, and how was it communicated to the South Australia public? I cannot quite hear what the Hon. Tung Ngo is interjecting because he has a mask on.

The Hon. T.T. Ngo interjecting:

The Hon. T.A. FRANKS: The Hon. Tung Ngo believes that it was a personal decision. I am interested to know whether the government would concur with that. My understanding was that it was a formal decision made by a formally constituted body. So I look forward to that being placed on the record. Many in this council would probably like to pretend that it was a personal decision; it was not a personal decision. But I look forward to the record providing that detail and transparency in the second reading response, if not in the committee stage.

For those who are new to this place, I have been asking questions about the Adelaide 500, no matter who the sponsor was, or when they lost their sponsor, about things like ticket sales and about how much money we get in return for the amount of money that we spend on it, for over a decade. I am sick to death of having those questions never answered and being told it is all commercial-in-confidence and that it is all too hard.

I do thank the former minister, Leon Bignell, for his honesty when he told us at one point that Robbie Williams actually saved the race that year and, had they not had a big headliner that year, it would have been somewhat of a disaster. He told us that after the event and after that year’s race had been done and in retrospect, but that is on the public record. So I ask members to reflect on that when we continue to back events that perhaps may have had their day. I also welcome that this motorsport board may have more of an eye to the future than the SATC has had. With that, I welcome the debate.

Title: RETURN TO WORK SCHEME SUSTAINABILITY AMENDMENT BILL 2nd Reading Speech

Date: 7/7/22

Portfolio: Industrial Relations

Link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wkhwclpN8tw 

Hansard:

The Hon. T.A. FRANKS (15:50): I rise on behalf of the Greens to speak to this bill. The weeks since this bill was first introduced have been a whirlwind. We have finally seen the government consult and listen to injured workers, to unions, to business and to lawyers. This flurry of activity is the work that should have been done before any legislation reached parliament, but I suppose it is better late than never.

I want to be clear, however: this is not how we should be legislating. This process has been completely backwards right from the start, with the surprise introduction of the first bill. I want to thank everyone who approached me and my office with their feedback and concerns regarding this—and that—legislation. It is through your work and your advocacy that we have landed at least somewhere better than that original bill that was proposed.

The Greens appreciate that—although not in the original drafting of this bill—the government will explicitly enshrine the Summerfield principles in this legislation, as flagged in their amendments. I do note here that there are concerns that Summerfield could still be unpicked and that in briefings the government has committed to the Greens to coming back and making further legislative changes to fix this, should that occur. This is encouraging, but I will be asking the government to make that commitment on the record during this debate in the council so that we can have greater certainty.

We really must examine why a court decision that essentially upholds what is already permissible under the act is being treated as something that undermines the existing Return to Work scheme. The idea that because of this decision the scheme is no longer viable and that premiums must rise to unheard of heights is a joke. It ignores the history of the Return to Work Act itself. It ignores years’ worth of court decisions upholding workers’ rights to have their injuries combined for assessment and it ignores the ReturnToWork board and corporation’s fundamental mismanagement of the scheme over the past few years.

The Summerfield decision, and the Preedy decision before it, is not new. The act as written is not new. At the end of the day, the reason we are here is that this government is being effectively held hostage by its own board. Instead of having a thorough, well thought out and consultative review of the act and the scheme, we have whatever this has been over the past few weeks.

We have to ask: why has the board failed to account for the impact of the scheme with regard to the Preedy and Summerfield court decisions, particularly once it became quite apparent that the ReturnToWork corporation’s loss in these cases was inevitable? Why did they continue to waste money that could have gone to injured workers on fighting these fruitless cases? Why have they utterly failed to account for the proper implementation of what the act and the scheme envisioned in the first place when it came to the combination of injuries and assessments? These questions remain unanswered and largely, it seems, uninvestigated. During multiple briefings we have asked for copies of board minutes and correspondence covering the period of these court decisions. We are yet to receive those documents.

Further, it is quite well known that the ReturnToWork corporation has regularly failed to act not only on court decisions such as Preedy and Summerfield, it has also routinely failed to comply with the rulings of the South Australian Employment Tribunal. This has been commonplace to the extent that the tribunal have been deeply scathing of the corporation in its rulings. Even back in 2020, the tribunal was warning that unless the ReturnToWork corporation actually started complying with rulings and fixed its ‘unsatisfactory conduct’, South Australian businesses could face increased premiums as costs rise.

In Return to Work Corporation of South Australia v Leighton, the tribunal dismissed the corporation’s appeal with scathing comments about ReturnToWork’s conduct. The tribunal noted, in its decision:

A failure to comply with orders made by the Tribunal increases cost to the parties, the costs paid by employers by way of premiums in the scheme, the cost to the community more generally associated with those impacts and unnecessary costs thrown away through the wasted resources of the Tribunal. The conduct of other matters, including matters where the parties have dutifully complied with orders made, are unnecessarily delayed. There are a number of reasons as to why an occasional lapse in compliance with orders, rules and practice directions of the Tribunal may occur. However, there can be no justification for the persistent failure to comply in this matter with the associated failure to communicate with the Tribunal.

In most instances, parties are represented by members of the legal profession. That has been so in this matter. There is a professional duty to comply with orders of the Tribunal and to keep the Tribunal properly informed of important developments in the preceding. In this case the deficiencies are also associated with the corporation which is a regular party to proceedings in this jurisdiction and that is an additional concern.

The deficiencies in this matter are not isolated. Indeed, they may have become too commonplace in this jurisdiction. Perhaps the Tribunal has been too tolerant in the past in relation to the failure to comply with its orders in a timely matter. Parties should not expect such an approach to be ongoing.

Sure enough, in the years since we have not seen the conduct of the corporation improve. They have continued to fail to account for certain decisions, and we are now faced with the threat of an increase in premiums above 2 per cent unless (we are told) parliament acts, and that action (the government has been told by the corporation) should mean less access to fair compensation for injured workers because, apparently, and according to ReturnToWorkSA, too many workers accessing the compensation—that on paper, in the act, is rightfully owed them—threatens the scheme.

The scheme is broken. It needs a proper and open review. Undercutting injured workers cannot be the answer. Injured workers should not have to suffer in poverty to cover ReturnToWorkSA’s negligence. The ReturnToWork board and corporation have kept premiums artificially low by essentially breaking, or at least not implementing, the law as intended and as supported by multiple court decisions.

It is clear more than ever that the ReturnToWork board and corporation have fundamentally mismanaged the scheme, and injured workers continue to pay the price for their incompetence. If a workers compensation scheme is deemed to be unstable when it actually has to provide compensation to workers, it is not a scheme worth having and perhaps we should start from scratch. Most importantly, a government elected off the back of a labour movement should not be making injured workers bear the cost of the mistakes of an unelected board.

It has been abundantly clear, from every conversation we have had along the way in consulting and considering this and the previous bill, that something is wrong. This board has been unaccountable and lacking in transparency and has wilfully ignored and failed to account for their court losses over a series of years. Businesses have received artificially low insurance premiums while injured workers have missed out on fair compensation as a result. This cannot be how a workers compensation scheme operates, and the Greens will be having more to say about the ReturnToWork board itself, and what we can and must do to fix that, later this week.

The unionists, the workers, the doorknockers and campaigners who got this government into power probably still have blisters on their feet to show for that hard work, yet is this legislation really how the Malinauskas government thanks them for their efforts? Does the Malinauskas Labor government represent the labour movement, thanking them for their support through those years in opposition and thanking them for their hard work to get a Labor government back at both a state and federal level by immediately discarding them after those elections, by ignoring their concerns, their voices and their feedback?

Is this the future Labor said it was standing for throughout its campaign? I hope not. A future where injured workers are discarded for the whims of an unelected board, a future where the labour movement is tossed aside to placate businesses and corporations ahead of considering other options, is a bleak future. I am quite confident that that is not the future South Australians voted for.

Having said all that, the Greens do recognise that this bill is an improvement on the original version put forward and that the government has gone further to address concerns and fix problems with its suite of amendments. But what continues to be our key concern is the fact that, despite the positive steps forward, taken with enshrining the Summerfield principles and providing better access to redemptions, this bill still raises the whole person impairment threshold to be considered a seriously injured worker up to 35 per cent for physical injuries.

It is the opinion of the Greens that the 30 per cent threshold for both physical and psychiatric injuries was already too high, which we flagged during the original debate back in 2014. Even then, this means that pretty much only those with near catastrophic injuries would meet that test. I cannot imagine a 35 per cent threshold being any better for workers, even when the government argues that workers will be able to combine their injuries now, which would make the threshold more attainable for some. Arguably they already could—that is the point really—and they have already struggled to meet the 30 per cent threshold for fair compensation.

We are not unique in our concerns around the already high and about-to-be-higher threshold. Back in 2017, the Parliamentary Committee on Occupational Safety, Rehabilitation and Compensation conducted an inquiry into the Return to Work Act and scheme. That committee’s report notes the problems and inconsistencies with this threshold, stating:

The committee notes the whole-person impairment assessment is not necessarily indicative of an individual’s ability to work. The Australian Education Union and others argued by solely using this threshold it will result in workers who are unable to work but still have their payments ceased at 104 weeks as they do not meet the criteria for ongoing support.

Further, witnesses providing evidence to that committee described the threshold as an ‘actuarily devised contrivance’. I cannot see how this debate and this bill do anything other than prove that true. These numbers, these arbitrary thresholds, do nothing to aid injured workers and are designed purely for the financial benefit of the scheme and the corporation.

While we were glad to see the withdrawal of the original bill, and we voted for that to be discharged, it must be said that the current bill as it stands, unamended, has some quite serious and concerning deficiencies that would leave workers worse off. For one, the bill as introduced does not actually enshrine the Summerfield principle, which was one of the main reasons we were told the legislation would be brought forward. This is proposed to be addressed in government amendments to the bill. I do commend the work of the Hon. Connie Bonaros on this matter in particular, but it is rather a large oversight to have missed in the original version of this bill.

Further, unamended the bill would deny lump sum economic loss payments for a number of workers who sustain later work injuries after a first work injury. The proposed amendments to section 56(6) mean that any worker who suffers a further injury unrelated to their first injury will no longer receive any lump sum if their subsequent injuries are determined as less serious than their first injury, regardless of how that injury impacts their ability to work. This is deeply concerning and has been raised as an issue with us by several stakeholders, though we are pleased that the government has now filed amendments that will remove those changes.

That being said, it is concerning that this change was entertained in the first place. Perhaps this could have been avoided had the bill been properly consulted upon from the outset and not put together in such a rush. I could go on, but I want to get on with the debate today. There are multiple sections of this bill that have needed serious work over the past few weeks and, while that work has now largely been done and is reflected in the amendments that have been filed, it is concerning to think that the government has not thought to do this work in the first place, and that it has fallen on unions, businesses, lawyers and workers to identify some of the serious deficiencies and omissions in the original government bill.

The Greens do appreciate the constructive nature with which the government has handled our concerns and the concerns raised, and their willingness to make these amendments, but we, like many others, have been frustrated that the consultation process essentially has happened backwards, and that is what we are left with: trying to find small fixes for suboptimal legislation.

With that in mind, the Greens are of the view that many amendments need to get through this committee stage and be made to make this legislation more tolerable, because unamended the bill is a disaster, and we flag now that any future reviews of the Return to Work scheme and legislation, which the government has committed to do, need to be far more thorough, timely and well consulted. We cannot and we will not accept further attacks on injured workers.

I note, and I am sure others will as well, we will have many questions during the committee stage and look forward to the minister’s prompt and detailed responses, placing those matters on record. It is vital that we have complete information when voting on this bill, and the Greens will be watching and participating in that debate on the proposed amendments closely. I flag that that debate will shape our vote at the third reading.

I also note correspondence that I received yesterday from Dale Beasley, who is the Secretary of SA Unions. He wrote to me following an executive meeting of SA Unions:

Dear Tammy,

It is the strongly held view of SA Unions that the precedent set by the outcome of the Summerfield case represents the true and proper application of the law. Those principles are foundational and protecting the combining principles of Summerfield has been a central concern of the union movement as we have engaged with the government over their Return to Work Amendment Bills.

The bill proposed by the government does not have our universal support, there are many things which we advocated for and some of those things were not achieved. However, the current package of amendments do contain protections of the Summerfield principles and many other measures which we support and, importantly, the government have also committed to reviews of the system to consider its management and effectiveness, and how both could be improved in an ongoing manner.

Faced with the alternatives; the original Bill that proposed to undo the Summerfield decision, or continued litigation of combination injuries, it is difficult to see how passing the government’s current Bill with the amendments currently proposed that add protections for injured workers, could be criticised.

As far as unions are concerned, the work to improve the right of injured workers does not stop here. The Return to Work system is still one stacked against injured workers and our united union movement is committed to continue campaigning for improvements to ensure workers received the highest possible levels of support. We will continue pursuing necessary improvements to the system, be they legislative, organisational, or cultural and hope that we will continue to be able to rely on your support.

Kind regards,

Dale Beasley

Secretary of SA Unions

I share that with the council because I received that after 4pm yesterday, so I know not all members of the council may have been privy to that particular correspondence. With that, we do intend to support the second reading and participate in the committee stage and reserve our right at the third reading.