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Planning, Development and Infrastructure Bill

The Hon. A.L. McLACHLAN ( 11:41 :52 ): I thought I would make a contribution at the third reading, so I rise to speak on the Planning, Development and Infrastructure Bill at the third reading. I have listened carefully to the debate at the second reading and committee stages and participated on those issues that have been of interest to me. I acknowledge the diligence of my colleagues, especially the leader of the Liberal Party in the chamber, and the crossbenchers. We do not have the benefit of a coterie of advisers and staffers to hold our hands.

My reflection on this bill’s progression through the Legislative Council is that the government has never provided the members of this chamber with a complete working model of its new planning regime for us to understand its practical effect and test the same through debate. I am not naive. The government has sought to walk a well-trodden path. They have attempted to create an artificial sense of urgency, and attempted to force the bill through the chamber at an unseemly pace.

The extant planning regime continues to function in an acceptable fashion and has done so for some time. There is no urgency. This time-honoured tactic has been employed with reckless indifference to the personal impact on those handling the bill who do not reside on the government benches.

The bill is seeking to legislate a new planning code, legislation that covers the field of planning. If the government had respect for this chamber and the community it represents, the legislation would have been presented along with a draft of, at the very least, the charter for community engagement, the planning code and the regulations.

On my calculation, there are up to 46 different areas in the bill that will require regulations to be created. Again, this is an old tactic: show the chamber nothing of the ancillary documentation where the operational detail is hidden, and force the chamber only to debate the overarching legislation. In other words, focus attention on the legislation, not the practical implications contained in regulation and other ancillary documentation.

This chamber has had to endure much criticism of its role in the democratic life of South Australia from the Minister for Planning. He does not see our value, yet this bill was amended over 200 times in the parliament by the government itself. Many of the additional amendments by my party and the crossbenchers of this chamber were accepted by the government.

The progression of this bill through our chamber should serve as an instruction to the minister and those who are like-minded that the Legislative Council is a necessary and vital part of the state’s democratic fabric. We have sought to repair the faults of the bill and ensure that all of the voices of our citizens were taken into account when considering the bill. If this chamber did not exist, then none of the improvements to the bill would have been identified or implemented.

The debate on this bill and the philosophy that underpins the bill brings to mind the experience of the city of Paris in the 1800s, for the bill seeks to take away the local and democratic engagement in planning decisions and centralise them and employ bureaucrats to exercise their judgement and make decisions.

The Labor Party is applying its socialist values to centralise decision-making in the hands of a few and impose its view on the majority. As a Liberal, I believe that people should participate in the decision-making that impacts their community. Napoleon III sought to rebuild Paris in accordance with his vision for the city, which at that time consisted of narrow and congested streets. He employed the bureaucrat Haussmann, who lacked vision but was a competent administrator. Together they reshaped Paris as we see it today.

However, the principles that governed the development of Paris, as recorded by historians, were despotic. The financial and real estate dealings were unethical, and the result was that entire neighbourhoods of great character were destroyed. It can be argued that Paris gained much from the development, but it also lost its medieval quarters. In essence, no-one assessed the cost of the development or examined too closely its execution. The development of Paris should serve as a lesson to us.

The essence of the bill before us should be to ensure that the development satiates the broader needs of the community; in other words, that the trade-off and compromises associated with a development are well understood and debated within the impacted community. The process of gaining community consent should be open and transparent. I am not even sure at this stage of the debate, not having had the opportunity to see a draft planning code or the regulations, that we have achieved the right balance between the need to develop our natural resources and the necessity to ensure an equitable and sustainable future for our state.

If we are to centralise our planning decisions, greater scrutiny is required on appointments to those bodies that make the key decisions. As a parliament, we need to understand more than ever before the qualifications and heuristics of those who purport to make decisions on our behalf. Why should we entrust the architectural integrity of the city to an unknown and unelected few? We see daily their handiwork on government commissions, such as the Convention Centre extension and the ANZAC walk, both projects, in my view, lacking architectural or aesthetic merit. One cannot help think that we are handing over the shaping of our city to a chosen few who I suspect lack the classical skills to make our capital city truly great, inspiring and beautiful.

At the All-Union Congress of 1946, Joseph Stalin was called ‘the father and friend of all Soviet architects’. He commissioned the construction of eight skyscrapers as a symbol of Soviet power. The architectural detail of each tower varies, ranging from the Gothic to the baroque. The architects tried to anticipate the desires and changing tastes of Stalin. Is this our future under the yoke of this bill when it becomes law? After Stalin came Khrushchev, who demanded a change in the aesthetic and opted for functional understatement.

One with a passing interest in history can see the parallels between the aims of this bill and the tenants of socialist planning and ideological theories of urban planning. However, instead of the Politburo or the Presidium, we have the planning elites appointed but not elected. Instead of the Soviet congress we have the developers and their associations or their paid lobbyists. Gone are the local councils and their intimate democratic relationship with the people they serve.

I also have a residual fear that this bill will be used to facilitate the desecration of our Parklands and our heritage buildings and suburbs. I wish to express my solidarity with the public statements of the members for Heysen and Davenport regarding their concerns on the proposed redevelopment of the old Royal Adelaide Hospital site.

There should be no contemplation of private residences on the Parklands. This is inconsistent with the sacred trust that each generation of citizen in this city must respect—that the Parklands are for all, not a few. The Parklands are for every generation, not just today’s residents.

During the debate on this bill, one line of argument stood high above all the other noise in this chamber, and that was from the Hon. Mark Parnell. The honourable member argued that it should not be easy to develop in the Parklands: it should be hard because we should endeavour to leave the city in better condition for those who come after us. I endorse this view.

Similarly, I am concerned that this bill when enacted will provide for the devastation of our heritage areas. I know that preserving heritage is not consistent with protecting and underwriting the margins of developers. Yet the priorities of this city seem to always be subordinated to the altar of profit for the few. I look forward to the day when the city seeks its own path for development for the benefit all, not for the enrichment of a few. As a parliament, our duty is to the state, which means that we are duty-bound to seek to protect those who come after us as much as we seek to look after our people today.

I fear that this bill when enacted will result in the devastation of our heritage and the degrading of our Parklands, as I have said. I support the passing of the bill only because it has been subject to proper scrutiny by our chamber. I emphasise again that what has not been released in the draft are the regulations and the code. We must therefore remain vigilant to ensure that the elites and their development companions do not squander our inheritance and the legacy we are duty-bound to ensure is placed in the hands of the next generation.

See full session on Hansard