Labor leader Peter Malinauskas has claimed victory in the South Australian state elections over the weekend, ousting the first-term Liberal government led by Steven Marshall.

The election result will have big implications for businesses across a number of sectors including construction, energy, transport and urban development.

In the lead up to the state election, a number of planning, energy and sustainability policies emerged as major campaign issues. These included the recent privatisation of South Australia’s rail services, the construction of new hydrogen facilities and the future of the state’s planning laws

The election result is also noteworthy for the return of Tom Koutsantonis as the main government minister overseeing energy, transport, infrastructure and mining.

In the previous Labor state government, Koutsantonis was a key architect of the state’s renewable energy policies, including the construction of the Hornsdale Power Reserve big battery.

Here’s a roundup of six of incoming Malinauskas government’s key policies around sustainability in the built environment:

1. Public transport

In July 2019, the Marshall government announced plans to privatise the operation of train and tram services. (Bus services had previously been privatised in 2000 by then-Liberal premier John Olsen.) 

This led to Keolis Downer taking control of the networks as part of a 12-year contract worth $2.1 billion.

Not surprisingly, the move was heavily criticised by Koutsantonis, who vowed to reverse the decision if Labor won office.

During the campaign, Malinauskas pledged to create an independent commission of inquiry into the return of public transport services within the first 100 days of taking office.

The commission will investigate the best method to reverse the privatisation of public transport, including metropolitan bus services.

2. Planning regulations

The outgoing Marshall government overhauled South Australia’s planning system, replacing all of the state’s 72 development plans with a single statewide Planning and Design Code.

The new code provides a single policy for assessing development applications across the state. It replaced all 72 development plans that had previously been used to assess development applications, and also introduced a new statewide online planning portal.

However, the introduction of the new planning system experienced a number delays, and faced strong opposition from some grassroots community groups.

In 2020, Greens MLC Mark Parnell tabled a petition opposing the reforms in the state’s upper house. The petition, which attracted 13,928 signatures, was organised by Protect Our Heritage Alliance. It complained that the code allowed “inappropriate high rise developments” and “weakening of protections for heritage items”.

Malinauskas has pledged to review the code, in order to encourage “planning decisions [that] encourage a more liveable, competitive and sustainable long-term growth strategy”.

The review will address concerns raised by industry groups and local communities, including:

  • protecting the character and heritage of local communities
  • ensuring greater tree canopy coverage and green open space
  • providing certainty to business, industry and communities by implementing appropriate design standards
  • improving the e-planning system

3. Infrastructure

A signature reform for the outgoing Marshall government was the creation of an independent advisory body for infrastructure projects called Infrastructure South Australia.

The agency was tasked with developing a long-term state infrastructure strategy, and prioritising major projects based on community need.

In the lead-up to the election, Malinauskas said he had “no plans to disband” the agency, and acknowledged that “it’s got a place”.

However, Koutsantonis was critical about the Liberal government failing to add a single project to Infrastructure Australia’s National Infrastructure Priority List during its term in office.

“You have got to ask the question: If not one single infrastructure project can be added to this priority list in an entire term of government, what are Steven Marshall and Corey Wingard actually doing?” Koutsantonis said in a statement at the time.

“Fast-tracking infrastructure projects would create jobs and provide a much-needed economic boost for our State.”

4. Cars and roads

So what infrastructure projects does the incoming Malinauskas government want to fast track?

A big one is the duplication along the Main South Road, which is the major arterial road that connects Adelaide to the Fleurieu Peninsula.

Malinauskas pledged a total of $125 million to a series of upgrade projects along the route:

  • reinstating the full duplication of Main South Road between Seaford and Sellicks (this had been announced and funded by the previous Labor state government in 2017)
  • adding an additional lane to the Main South Road duplication project between the southern suburb of Aldinga and Sellicks
  • providing grade separation at Aldinga Beach Road and Aldinga Road (the Marshall government had proposed a roundabout at Aldinga Road)
  • delivering three overtaking lanes between Myponga and Cape Jervis

Along with a big investment in roads, Malinauskas made a number of additional commitments to win votes from motor enthusiasts, including:

  • provide $2 million for grants to registered classic and historical car clubs
  • expand the conditional registration scheme for classic and historic vehicles
  • reinstating the Adelaide 500 and the Adelaide Motorsport Festival

On the upside, at least a few more of the cars using the upgraded road will be powered sustainably, with Malinauskas pledging to scrap the Marshall government’s tax on electric vehicles.

5. Hydrogen

Along with motorways, the big infrastructure commitments from Malinauskas are in the area of hydrogen energy.

In the weeks leading up to the election, he committed to building a 250MWe hydrogen electrolyser facility, along with a 3600 tonne hydrogen storage facility and a 200MW hydrogen power station.

Labor claims the new facilities will be operational by 2025.

However, it is unclear at this point whether these commitments will replace policies from the outgoing Liberal government that led to the state securing $20 billion of new investment in hydrogen.

6. Conservation

Finally, the incoming Malinauskas government has said it will fund a number of conservation parks, with a focus on wetlands and marine conservation areas. These include:

  • Funding to protect Adelaide’s coastlines 
  • conserving wetlands through the creation of the Aldinga Washpool Conservation Park 
  • a commitment to the Murray-Darling Basin Plan 
  • investing in national marine parks and sanctuary zones
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