The Hon. R.I. LUCAS (15:55): I rise to speak about the appalling performance of minister Patrick Conlon, the minister in charge of transport. Recent events highlight the problems that this poor minister has been suffering and inflicting upon the people of South Australia now for some four or five years.
I am on the record as having indicated that it was highly inappropriate for the minister to have ever been appointed originally as minister for police and also minister for road safety because of personal issues relating to the minister which I have highlighted in the parliament on previous occasions in relation to his record. Nevertheless, the Premier appointed him to those positions, although, after a couple of years, he was removed from both portfolios.
The time has arrived for the minister to be removed from this particular portfolio as well. His handling of the transport portfolio has been in one word abysmal. I think it has been highlighted in particular by the recent decision that he took to spend $100,000 of taxpayers’ money to have a knees-up or a party to celebrate the Premier’s favourite project, that is, the $30 million tram extension from Victoria Square to the casino.
The situation was that his officers were asked prior to this particular knees-up how much it would cost. They indicated that it would be only a modest amount, but they did not know. We now know why they did not know because, having pursued it, we have been made aware that $100,000 was spent on a party for the opening of the tram. An amount of $19,000 was spent on event management—what on earth would get into the head of a minister that he wanted to spend $19,000 for event management for a party on a Sunday—and $17,000 for merchandise, including show bags—I wonder whether ‘Fix it Pat’ badges were put in those show bags—and coasters to be given out. Safety and security supposedly cost $16,000, and $31,000 for marquees, vision, sound and lighting, and catering.
On a Sunday nearing summer, why on earth do we need to be spending $31,000 on vision, sound and lighting for a knees-up prior to the launch of the tram? Just to show how out of touch are both the Premier and the minister, the minister defended it in The Advertiser by saying that he had been very frugal in the amount of money that he had spent. That is, he had spent $100,000 and he said that he was very frugal in terms of how much money he spent. He then went on to say, ‘It was about a modest proceeding as you could put on while putting one on’. Let me advise the Minister for Transport and the Premier that you can put on functions with a cup of tea for much less money than $100,000. It is an indication of how arrogant and out of touch this Minister for Transport and the Premier—
The Hon. R.P. Wortley interjecting:
The PRESIDENT: The Hon. Mr Wortley is out of order. He has had his opportunity and he should listen in silence.
The Hon. R.I. LUCAS: —are in relation to these particular issues. As an indication of a minister’s competence, one of the issues which I highlight is that, having now looked at the minister’s handling of his own personal staff, I find that, in just over five years, this minister has had more than 76 personal staff in his ministerial office. That is more than 76 in just over five years.
The Hon. R.P. Wortley interjecting:
The Hon. R.I. LUCAS: Yes, career opportunities. A number of former members of Mr Conlon’s staff who have spoken to people have made it quite clear how appalling an office it is and how appalling a minister he is to work for. That is the reason why more than 76 officers have been in and out of that ministerial office in just over five years. I went back in my own mind to think about my last four years as Treasurer, and I reckon that about 20 to 30 staffers went in and out of my office during that time.
If you have a situation where a minister’s performance—and, obviously, the way in which he manages his office and his staff—is so appalling that you have more than 76 people going in and out of the office, that tells you something. My advice to the minister is (and it came from my mother originally): be nice to the people you meet on the way up because you will meet the same people on the way down.