REPRESENTED for the first time at the 1997 elections, the electorate is dominated by the Barossa Valley.
It is a safe Liberal seat that will be vacated at the election with the retirement of Stephan Knoll, who stood down in 2020 after being targeted by an ICAC investigation into travel allowance claims.
Candidates in the upcoming election are Liberal Ashton Hurn, Labor's Connor Watson, The Greens' Beverley Morris, independent Lea Rebane, One Nation's Phill Mueller, The Nationals' Bruce Preece and Family First's Alfred Gerhard.
Stock Journal asked candidates the following questions:
What do you believe is the biggest challenge facing Schubert?
HURN: Schubert is an economic powerhouse of the state and for that to continue we must turn challenges into opportunities. Delivering a long term water security solution for our region, doing more for health including a new Barossa Hospital as well as boosting trade and market access for our primary producers are just a few of the projects that will help secure a strong future - and the Marshall-Liberal government is continuing to drive progress on them.
MORRIS: The biggest challenge for us all is adapting to the impacts of climate change, such as heatwaves, droughts, severe storms and floods. For the people of Schubert, the devastating bushfires that swept through parts of our electorate in recent years serve as a strong indicator that extreme environmental events are becoming the norm.
Being at the frontline of these impacts, many of our farmers and viticulturists are doing their best to innovate and adapt, but they will need plenty of support as they strive to implement resilient, productive and sustainable farming systems, technologies and practices. After all, genuinely sustainable agriculture is fundamental to supporting rural communities, which are a vital part of Australian society.
PREECE: The biggest challenge facing Schubert at the moment is the provision of health services across the region. Time after time we have had a hospital promised to us and it hasn't been delivered. The lack of ambulances in the region is a particular problem, we're growing quickly and the infrastructure needed to support the regions growth hasn't kept up. Seven years ago we lost our children's dental clinic and despite promises to return it, it still hasn't happened.
What do you see as the major issue affecting SA agriculture? How would you rectify this?
HURN: Farmers need the infrastructure to move goods and the markets to sell them. The Marshall government has addressed both sides of the equation by investing in regional roads as well as doing what it can to boost export opportunities. However, opportunities to sell your product only exist if you have the workforce and the water - and I'm pleased the government has made inroads in addressing workforce and water security challenges. Much like with the recent $70 million fight against the latest fruit fly outbreak, the Marshall-Liberal government has proven that it will stop at nothing to keep our agricultural industry flourishing.
MORRIS: As I see it, the major issue affecting SA agriculture is how to remain viable as we adapt to the effects of climate change. Farming can be demanding enough without the added burden of developing new methods and new ways of working. Against this backdrop, government needs to listen carefully to farmers' ideas, insights and needs, and work with them to develop positive economic and environmental outcomes.
My understanding is that many farmers appreciate the benefits of regenerative agriculture, whereby soil carbon and organic matter is enhanced through a range of practices, such as zero tillage, rotational grazing, bio-diverse plantings and retention of remnant native vegetation. No climate change discussion would be complete without the mention of water security. With increasing season-to-season and long-term rainfall variability, modern farming practices are increasingly relying on soil moisture monitoring devices and modelling software, which help to manage the accuracy and efficiency of irrigation systems.
Over-allocation in the Murray River system is also a perennial cause for concern, especially with the failure to secure a fair allocation for the agricultural and environmental needs of SA. I am mindful that climate change is yet another stressor impacting our rural communities, and that the government needs to provide more support, rather than the winding back we have witnessed in recent years, for people experiencing mental health issues in rural and remote areas.
PREECE: I believe that the major issue affecting SA agriculture is the concentration of exports to one or two major players. With China rejecting a number of the Barossa's exports we need to ensure our export markets are more diverse and that we no longer rely on one or two key markets. I would want to put in place strategic plans for the state to ensure that our export markets are never again so concentrated.
Do you think enough funding is being directed to regional infrastructure, eg roads and health facilities?
HURN: After 16 years of essentially being ignored under Labor, regional communities like ours are back in the spotlight under the Liberals and the extraordinary contribution the regions make to the economy is valued again. For example, for the first time ever there's money in the State Budget to deliver a new Barossa Hospital which is all part of delivering better health services closer to home instead of Adelaide. We've also put a huge focus back into upgrading regional roads to ensure our world class products get from farm gate to market as quickly and safely as possible, but there's absolutely always more to do be done.
MORRIS: I have seen how the Torrens Valley Road from Mt Pleasant to Adelaide was in very bad condition until recently, on the eve of the election, where the most terrible patches have been repaired. If an effective, properly funded and ongoing maintenance program had been in place, it would have alleviated the need for residents to complain, or for accidents to occur, before problems were fixed.
There are numerous examples in the region of poorly designed intersections, where there have been a number of serious accidents and near misses, and the situation has been compounded by population increases in recent years. Where there is a push to increase the population through new housing developments, appropriate planning, roads and infrastructure ought to be in place to cater for and meet the associated increase in demands.
For decades there has been talk of a new hospital for the Barossa, which would be wonderful for residents in the area and would streamline services. If elected, I would actively strive to gain proper funding to maintain and increase services and staffing for the existing hospitals in my electorate, rather than the shutting down of mental health, maternity and other services that we have seen in recent times. The recent destruction of parts of the Gawler-to-Nuriootpa rail line without fair community consultation was a sad example of this. It is clear that funding, maintenance and community consultation, regarding regional infrastructure, is essential.
PREECE: No, there isn't enough funding being directed to regional health, roads, rail or education. The Nationals have a plan to return our resources to the bush and we will be fighting to ensure that regional health, emergency services and regional infrastructure are properly funded before we see proposals for things like a 660 million dollar stadium. It's not acceptable that lives are put at risk to build monuments.
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