OPINION | South Australia’s impossible government makes the state a very unattractive place to invest

A ferry operating between the South Australia communities of Wallaroo and Lucky Bay (Photo: Spencer Gulf Searoad)
A ferry operating between the South Australia communities of Wallaroo and Lucky Bay (Photo: Spencer Gulf Searoad)

The settlements along south-eastern Australia's Murray Darling river system exported and imported cargo to and from Adelaide for 70 years until 1925, despite the Murray being navigable for 970 kilometres and to a height of 36 metres above sea level.

Government negligence in addressing safe ocean access through the mouth of the Murray River meant ongoing tragic losses of vessels and human lives by illogically economically and environmentally irrationally forcing the cargo onto an emerging road and rail system.

At that time, why do you think that the South Australians never engineered a safe outflow location of the Murray as the Victorians did at Lakes Entrance 15 years earlier in 1910? Lakes Entrance is now a thriving maritime and tourist city thanks to the engineered ocean access.

Unlike most major overseas river systems that dominate low emissions and cost effective transportation, reducing road and rail emissions by up to 96 per cent per tonne/km, the Murray Darling system's transportation potential has been ignored.

"Why is the SA government hampering the operations of viable and environmentally positive local maritime businesses?"

The maintenance dredging at Lakes entrance was done for 30 years by side casting the littoral drift by the Victorian state government-owned side casting dredger April Hamer. It continues to be very effectively maintained today by a by-pass pumping system and occasional dredging. As a result, the Lakes Entrance channel continues to be usable by vessels up to 100 metres for servicing the Bass Strait oil rigs, fishing, recreation, and Victoria's new offshore windfarm installation vessels.

Why would the proven effective April Hamer – which was bought by Lucky Bay in South Australia 12 years ago to keep 20 metres of an allocated 60 metres wide channel clear of littoral drift sand build up – be prevented from being used as designed? This restriction results in a shallow channel, and the local grain transhipment barge cannot fully load and is presently struggling to export this season's bumper grain harvest in an efficient and orderly manner.

Franklin Harbour Mayor Rob Walsh says the Eyre Peninsula grain farmers have had their best economic return in decades because of transhipment from Lucky Bay, but ponders why the channel cannot be cleared by the machine that is fit for purpose.  That would enable double the load of grain to be carried on each trip. Why indeed?

What is the South Australian government up to? Why is it hampering the operations of viable and environmentally positive local maritime businesses? Is it imperative to be a state government crony to succeed? Or is it just maintaining the state's tradition of incompetence and corruption that has bedevilled it since it was established as a "free colony" in the nineteenth century?

"The bureaucrats of autonomous departments seem very content with SA's well-deserved moniker as the 'mendicant state'."

Why was the Lucky Bay ferry, after running for several years, made to dog leg around the Wallaroo Port limits, thus increasing its voyage length, fuel and emissions, for not agreeing to pay a vessel traffic monitoring system (VTS) fee of $7,000 per month to the SA government, when no other ferry in the country pays this nonsense fee for criss-crossing shipping channels in every other port city? Why, again?

Why did the SA government evict the successful and very reputable Adelaide Ship Construction International (ASCI) from its premises because, allegedly, it competed with the government-owned ASC? ASCI was located on the opposite side of the Port River and was downstream from ASC. ASCI built trawlers and tugs profitably while ASC built warships very unprofitably.

Why, also, was the late Grant Mackenzie prevented from establishing his self-funded Ro-Ro cargo shipping business that was intended to directly link Kangaroo Island with Port Adelaide? Was that to protect the existing, less convenient, and very expensive monopoly ferry service?

South Australia's treatment of investors is so poor that it is no wonder its population grew by only 50 per cent over the last 50 years, languishing well behind, for example, Queensland's 185 per cent growth over the same period.

A friend of mine thinks so, and as a serious investor in SA from 2005 onwards, he regrets not taking the advice of his ex SA mates in Queensland to stay well clear of the place. He is convinced that too many of the bureaucrats of autonomous departments are out of control and many are certainly anti-development, anti-business, anti SA, and are thriving under ongoing weak political leadership. They seem very content with SA's well-deserved moniker as the "mendicant state".

Again, why?

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