Wednesday, 13 October 2021                    HOUSE OF ASSEMBLY                                    Page 7715 – 7718

The Hon. G.G. BROCK (Frome) (12:41): I move:

That this house recognises the history of Port Augusta and the great benefits that Port Augusta has

contributed to—

(a) the state of South Australia;

(b) the education for students in rural outback South Australia;

(c) medical services for people living and travelling in outback South Australia;

(d) the national railway networks over the years; and

(e) the welfare of Indigenous people living in Port August and outback South Australia.

Today, I would like to talk about another great, proud city from the Upper Spencer Gulf: in this instance Port Augusta. Let me say that the three cities in the Upper Spencer Gulf—that is, Port Augusta, Port Pirie and Whyalla—are the backbone of the history of South Australia. As I say, this is the second one; I spoke about Port Pirie earlier, and now this is Port Augusta.

The City of Port Augusta has a very, very proud history. In the words of the late Mayor Joy Baluch, Port Augusta is the centre of the universe. It has also been well known as the crossroads of Australia. Forty years after Captain Matthew Flinders explored the area around Port Augusta, pastoral leases extended from the Flinders Ranges north to Leigh Creek. The survey of the harbour and the layout of the township, which it was then, was carried out in the mid-1850s by Thomas Elder, a wool merchant and also an MLC in the parliament.

Small vessels delivered supplies to the port, and these goods were then distributed through the Pichi Richi Pass or sent on to the Western Plains. At this period of time, about half a dozen 300 to 500-tonne ships left the port each September bound for the sales in London, bearing in mind at that particular point the only opportunity of getting stuff out was by the port. By 1900, Port Augusta’s wheat industry was significantly impacted by the dry seasons, and the number of ships visiting were reduced dramatically. Therefore, this was the start of a very vast rail network which shielded the community’s economy.

By 1878, the building of the Northern Railway and the Pichi Richi Railway and also the increase of people increased the business activity of Port Augusta and close proximity, which was the reason for the township’s population being increased by 2,000 by November 1878. The extension of the rail network was extended in 1879 and completed to Quorn and then, in 1891, further to Oodnadatta. Can I just also reinforce that I love both of those communities.

In 1912, the commonwealth government commenced the design to connect Port Augusta with Kalgoorlie in Western Australia. With the outbreak of the war in 1914, the importance of the railway network was critical to the effort of Australia accessing the materials and workers critical to the war input. By 1916, more than 3,400 workers were employed on the project, laying the 1,693-kilometre rail system with over 2.4 million hardwood sleepers being used—over 140,000 tonnes of rail. This line was completed on 17 October 1917, and within five days the first passenger train left Port Augusta, arriving at Kalgoorlie 42 hours and 48 minutes later. That must have been a very trying journey across there. I would assume that the visibility and scenery around it would have been really interesting.

This line was extended north from Oodnadatta to Alice Springs in 1929, with the final section to Darwin being completed in 2004. Sir Thomas Playford, the Premier at the time, established the Northern power station, utilising at this stage the very good coal available from Leigh Creek. This was being built to maintain sufficient power to the Adelaide metropolitan region.

The Thomas Playford power station was completed in 1957, with 90,000 kilowatts of generating capacity and two 132,000-volt transmission lines to transfer the power to Adelaide metropolitan area, as mentioned earlier. The power station has since been decommissioned due to the owner at the time looking to dispose of their only coal operating power station, and since then Port Augusta has been the focal point of attention for renewable energy projects, not only by Australian proponents but, more importantly, international attention.

Let me also reinforce my agreeance with the opportunity for renewable energy projects. I think that this is the way we have to go with climate change and so forth, but the renewable energy projects from both sides—and I commend the introduction of battery storage, because without battery storage renewable energy is not very valuable at all, because we have to store it when we do not use it. Port Augusta and the Upper Spencer Gulf is the best location in the world for any form of renewable energy projects, and this will continue into the future with the international media focused on this location.

I have been to quite a few conferences, especially in the Upper Spencer Gulf. Ross Garnaut, who as we all know is a world-renowned expert in renewable energy, has indicated that Port Augusta, and the Upper Spencer Gulf in particular, is the best place in the world for any renewable energy projects. I congratulate everyone on focusing on that. Every time I go to Port Augusta and travel up that way—and I know that the member for Stuart sees this every time he goes home—I see the great powerlines around what was known as the DP Energy on the south side of Port Augusta. It looks really terrific. I must admit that sometimes you are looking at it and it is a bit of a distraction on the highway; however, we will get used to all of that.

As I said, Port Augusta is the best location, and that area is the best location in the world, for any form of renewable. Port Augusta is well known for its varied cultural population and, as the member for Stuart has stated in the house previously, there are several different nationalities in the city who live and work in the city passionately and collaboratively together. We cannot forget the very great important contribution to our Indigenous population, with the Davenport Reserve on the eastern side of the city.

When I was living there years ago, I had opportunities to go out and look at that, but I know that the member for Stuart is a great supporter of that area on the Yorkeys Crossing Road. Port Augusta is also well served with education, with Port Augusta West Primary School, Wilsden Primary School, Port Augusta Special School, Christian colleges and a great secondary school there on the approach into Port Augusta. Congratulations to the government for spending some money on the Port Augusta Secondary School there. Every time I go through there it is progressing very well, and we need to be able to look at the opportunities to get as many education facilities in the Upper Spencer Gulf as we can.

Port Augusta also has a TAFE. I hope that this government, and the next government, stops any more cuts and raises the importance of these facilities to regional people and does not carry out any more reductions but in fact increases the learning opportunities. Whilst we have the opportunity for great facilities in Port Pirie, Port Augusta, Whyalla or any regional area, we have to have the courses in TAFE to be able to utilise those subsidised courses. I have said in this house before that regional people cannot afford to come down to Regency to access those certificates I, II and III in order to gain employment.

I know that my younger grandchildren believe in Zoom and things like that, but I am certainly not a great fan. I would rather have tutors in the room. I know for a fact there are some regional TAFE facilities that have to get a certain number of students in the classroom to make the course viable. My comment in relation to that is if one course has to have 15 students to be viable and they only get six or eight and another campus somewhere else may also not be able to get 15 students, they utilise the visual opportunities of both those facilities to enjoy the opportunity to gain those certificates.

Port Augusta is also home to the School of the Air. When people outside think about the School of the Air, they do not realise what it does. It allows students who live in regional and rural locations, where there are no actual schools, to carry out their education. Years ago, I had personal experience of this system when my late father was trapping rabbits at Lake Frome and we had to utilise the School of the Air to carry out our education. That is many, many years ago, but that was the only way we could get an education. I must admit that it was very hard to do that, but without the School of the Air some people in remote locations do not have the opportunity for education and they do not have access to the internet.

The Uni Hub started in Port Pirie and they are establishing a facility in the city of Port Augusta and they will work collaboratively with Port Pirie and Kadina. The Uni Hub is an addition to the university in Whyalla. It is mainly to do with tertiary education and hopefully they can work together with the community, the councils, the state government and the federal government. At the moment, the federal government is providing funds for the operation of the Uni Hub across Upper Spencer Gulf in particular and Kadina. Going forward to the next election, I encourage both parties to put money towards the operation and sustainability of the Uni Hubs in both Port Augusta and Kadina.

We cannot forget the great work that the Royal Flying Doctor Service does, servicing not only the outlying pastoral locations but, very importantly, any medical issues associated with the vehicular traffic in the vast outback and the network. We understand that there has been a lot of traffic up there. We see a lot of advertisements showing the new Royal Flying Doctor Service aircraft, but we certainly need to make certain that that service is available. When I was living in Port Augusta, prior to returning to Port Pirie many years ago, I recall visiting the aircraft base at the airport. The carrier at that particular time was Pagas Airlines, a very small operation but with very dedicated staff.

With regard to medical services, Port Augusta has many GPs who service the population and also, very importantly, the hospitals located at the southern end of the city. Both my daughters Hayley and Marissa were born in Port Augusta, even though we had returned to Port Pirie before Marissa was born. We were in Port Augusta visiting friends and, due to complications, my late wife had to be admitted to the hospital for the birth of my younger daughter.

My original appointment to the area was as an area manager for BP Australia, similar to the member for Stuart. We both worked for BP Australia in different organisations. I was living in Port Pirie at the time and then I was transferred to Port Augusta. I had the opportunity to go into sales and marketing in Adelaide. Then I did my training. I had only been married six months and they told me I was going to be allocated to a territory. I was allocated to territory 336, as it was known at that particular time. They told me I was going ‘to Port’ and I thought it was Port Pirie. I thought, ‘This is terrific; I’m going home,’ but they said, ‘Port Augusta.’

Whilst the impact was not really good at the time, we went up there and made many friends. The territory, as I said, was known as territory 336. It was the largest BP territory in the world at the time. At that particular time, as I say, we were servicing all the areas at the top. I used to get in the Toyota LandCruiser and travel to some of the areas up there, a lot by road. Similar to the member for Stuart, he has a fairly large area up there at present.

In those days, in my day, there were no aircraft servicing those locations. I would be away for two or three weeks at a time seeing some of the scenery in the north. We are getting away from Port Augusta, but that is my connection to Port Augusta. I think Port Augusta has a great facility. However, at that particular point I was a bit frustrated. There were no challenges, so I then took on a roadhouse at Port Augusta in a partnership. We increased trade dramatically whilst diversifying the products and services available.

Port Augusta, as with other cities in the Upper Spencer Gulf, has suffered with an image issue, and I restate that these issues are not warranted; they are unwarranted. The communities of Port Pirie, Port Augusta and Whyalla do not deserve this image, and nor do the other Spencer Gulf cities. The outside media portrays those three cities with a lot of bad image. They are very capable cities. They are great cities.

Before closing, there are three current state members of parliament in the community at Port Augusta, Port Pirie and Whyalla—forget political allegiance. The three Upper Spencer Gulf cities have most of their meetings in Port Augusta these days. The three Upper Spencer Gulf city mayors and CEOs get together on a regular basis and work collaboratively together. On three or four occasions, the three state members get up there with the CEOs and mayors of the three cities and work collaboratively together and in a positive manner to ensure that we have their voice in parliament, on both sides of politics, to ensure that we get that message across.

I congratulate all the people involved with the city of Port Augusta, and its history, and I ask that the house endorse this notice of motion.

The Hon. D.C. VAN HOLST PELLEKAAN (Stuart—Minister for Energy and Mining) (12:56): It is a pleasure to support this motion. The motion talks specifically about education, medical services, railway networks and Indigenous affairs in Port Augusta, but let me say that Port Augusta is all of those things and much, much more. With regard to education, we are blessed in Port Augusta to have six public primary schools. Port Augusta Secondary School is an outstanding facility in which our government is investing about $6 million in upgrades at the moment.

There is the Port Augusta Special School and two independent schools: Caritas College, which goes from reception to year 12; and Seaview Christian College, which I think goes up to about year 10 now—a fantastic institution. It started with younger children and then, with every year that goes by, those children are in a higher year, and they have made a significant impact.

The School of the Air is a very famous institution that remains incredibly important. Remote and Isolated Children’s Exercise (RICE) is another important educational and care institution in Port Augusta that supports families in not just an educational sense but very broadly, particularly families of younger children. The Isolated Children’s Parents’ Association (ICPA) is another organisation that is essentially outback, but in some southern areas as well, and based around Port Augusta. As the member mentioned, Uni Hub is also a very important institution.

Of course, our government is also focused very strongly on traineeships and apprenticeships. I have to give great credit to Minister Pisoni for his work in that area—there are a large number of apprenticeships and traineeships in the area.

With regard to medical services, the Royal Flying Doctor Service is a national icon, and internationally recognised for the fantastic work that it does with South Australia and the Northern Territory. It is based in Port Augusta but is still doing very important work from there into New South Wales, Victoria and occasionally even Tasmania, I am told, out of Port Augusta. With regard to medical services more broadly, it is an important regional centre for the north of the state. Attracting GPs is a challenge in Port Augusta, as it is all over country South Australia, and it is a matter that we are addressing.

The member has spoken about the railway heritage, and that is something that we are very proud of in Port Augusta. It continues to be an important railway hub with an active train station in Port Augusta, attracting a lot of interest whenever the Ghan or the Indian Pacific come through Port Augusta.

The welfare of Indigenous people living in Port Augusta and outback South Australia is the last topic on the member’s list. The member did refer to the Davenport Reserve; we call it the Davenport community. I seek leave to continue my remarks.

Leave granted; debate adjourned.

Sitting suspended from 13:00 to 14:00.