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Motion: Select Committee on Poverty in SA – Second Interim Report

The Hon. T.A. FRANKS: I move:

That the report be noted.

I am very pleased to bring forward this report. It is the second interim report of the Select Committee on Poverty, which I chair. I want to start by acknowledging the work of other members of the committee. It has been a very bipartisan and consensus-driven committee. I thank a newer member, the Hon. Nicola Centofanti, who was appointed on 7 April 2020. I note that the Minister for Human Services served on the committee between February 2020 and April 2020. I thank the Hon. Frank Pangallo for his service ongoing on the committee, the Hon. Irene Pnevmatikos as well, and previous member the Hon. Terry Stephens, as well as newer member the Hon. Russell Wortley.

The secretary to the committee is Emma Johnston. She has done some superb work in keeping us on track, despite the pressures of COVID, which have thrown somewhat of a spanner in the works, not just for this committee but for many of the parliamentary processes. In particular, I commend the research officer to the committee. We are very fortunate to have Ms Sue Markotic as our researcher. She has produced yet another fine report.

This particular part of this committee's work on the poverty inquiry has focused on the Hutt St Centre. Previous work of the committee has looked more broadly at poverty but this looked at the attacks on those who support those who are in poverty in our state. The Hutt St Centre, it will come as no surprise to people in this council, has indeed been the subject of some unprecedented and unusual attacks in both the media and elsewhere on its work.

The committee finds, notes and supports the Hutt St Centre in remaining in its current location. It commends the important work that it does towards reducing homelessness and providing a broad range of essential services to assist the most vulnerable members of our community. The committee supports the approved redevelopment of the Hutt St Centre and considers that this will improve the operation of the facility and enable better flow-through of clients.

I know the Hon. Frank Pangallo has had a tour. The President, the Minister for Human Services and I attended the opening of the refurbished centre on the weekend. It certainly is—

The Hon. J.M.A. Lensink interjecting:

The Hon. T.A. FRANKS: Indeed, Uncle Moogy again did the welcome and did a wonderful smoking ceremony in the courtyard. Other members of parliament, the Leader of the Opposition and others, were also there in attendance. It is a tribute to the fine work of the Hutt St Centre that it has such cross-party and cross-sector support. It was a very good day.

I was very pleased to see in the refurbished centre the gorgeous little children's play space, but I note that that play space is currently overlooked by CCTV, which I assume will now be removed from the St Andrew's Hospital because it is overlooking a child's play space. I will no doubt reflect somewhat more on that as I make some further observations on this report.

The committee notes the independent review commissioned by the Adelaide City Council, which examined the planning laws as they relate to the Hutt St Centre, and it noted the review of the council's conclusion that the centre has not contravened any planning laws or land use regulations. The committee has recognised that, while the Hutt St Centre provides an important service, it does not and cannot address the complex range of social problems confronting many individuals, such as those experiencing severe mental illness and drug and alcohol addiction. Yet, often the blame for anything that happened near Hutt Street was placed at the feet of the Hutt St Centre.

The committee heard from SAPOL, and accepts the evidence of SAPOL, that the precinct around Hutt Street represents a very low and steady rate of crime in the area, compared with other inner city retail and dining precincts. It also recognises that comparing crime data between local areas can be difficult and is not necessarily helpful in addressing community concerns. The committee accepts that the crime data can be affected by changes in policing activity, crime recording practices and the willingness of the community to report crimes.

The committee also absolutely endorses the evidence from SAPOL, through which we heard that the Hutt St Centre is not responsible for causing any increased criminal activity in its precinct. To quote the Assistant Commissioner of Police, Paul Dickson:

The effects of poverty are seen on our streets every day. We see people walking and sleeping rough in doorways, car parks and in our Parklands. These impacts don't only occur within the CBD. Within the Adelaide CBD this experience is not contained to any one particular location—it can be seen in many areas, such as West Terrace, North Terrace, Rundle Street, Whitmore Square, Hutt Street and the South Parklands.

As he goes on to say (and I concur):

To be honest, we have analysed this issue to death. There clearly hasn't been an increase in crime rates or an increase in behavioural issues in that part of the CBD.

'That part' being the Hutt Street precinct. The data showed that the claims made through media, social media and other avenues were erroneous.

The committee also notes that there may be incidents of antisocial behaviour that are of significant concern to residents and retailers, but they are not always responded to or recorded by police, and there is further ongoing effort to be done by SAPOL, the Adelaide City Council and the Hutt St Centre to engage local residents and retailers to appropriately address complaints and issues as they happen. Improved dialogue is the way forward.

It is of concern, I believe, that the Adelaide City Council saw fit to employ a private security officer for some 71 days or so. Despite the expense that put on the ratepayers of the City of Adelaide, it certainly did not find any significant issues of criminality being caused by the Hutt St Centre. I would have suggested that a better investment of that money would have been to create and support community efforts to engage with the centre itself.

Some of the refurbishments that have now been done at the Hutt St Centre in and of themselves will alleviate some of the problems of people out the front of the centre, because now they have more space out the back. The centre has been gussied up, if you like, and it is a beautiful centre now, where it was a collection of a range of somewhat ageing buildings that had been there for many decades.

The architects and designers have done an outstanding job of bringing the Hutt St Centre into a new era, where I hope that the 'hug street' part of Hutt Street will prevail over some of the hateful and hurtful representations we have seen of Hutt Street in these past years. With those words, I commend the report to this council and I look forward to the further work of this committee as we investigate other areas of poverty in this state.

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