QUESTION: Helping struggling families this Christmas by funding Foodbank

During Question Time, Mark asked the Treasurer whether the Government would help struggling South Australian families this Christmas by delivering an urgent contribution to Foodbank now, ahead of a longer term commitment to be considered as part of the next state budget.


The Hon. M.C. PARNELL: Prior to the last state budget, the charitable food distribution body, Foodbank, put in a modest bid for $10 million over four years, which it needs to keep perfectly sound food out of dumpsters and to get it into the hands of charities where it can be distributed to those who need it.

For only $2½ million per year, the organisation could maintain and expand its distribution outlets, vehicle fleet and various programs, including the school breakfast program. After four years, it would be self-funding. To date, the South Australian government contribution has been a modest $250,000 per year, which does not compare well with the recent Victorian government announcement of $58 million, up from $14 million. Even the federal Liberal government has seen fit to reinstate its modest funding contribution of three-quarters of a million, after earlier deciding to cut funding.

Because the Foodbank organisation relies so heavily on volunteers and sponsors, public funding is leveraged hugely, up to 100 times, with the South Australian service providing $25 million of value to South Australian families.

My question of the Treasurer is: will the government help struggling South Australian families this Christmas by delivering an urgent contribution to Foodbank now, ahead of a longer term commitment to be considered as part of the next state budget?

The Hon. R.I. LUCAS (Treasurer): I am sure all members in this chamber would support the wonderful work that Foodbank does in South Australia. We commend those associated with the organisation for the commendable work they do in South Australia. The answer to the question is that there will be no further decisions taken by the government in relation to further funding other than what the appropriate agencies might already have funded or is within their contemplation. The appropriate funding bodies—and I am not sure which particular government department or agency—

The Hon. J.M.A. Lensink: Mine.

The Hon. R.I. LUCAS: Human Services?

The Hon. J.M.A. Lensink: Yes.

The Hon. R.I. LUCAS: Human Services, I am advised, funds Foodbank. The way the budget operates is that the budget allocates appropriation to various departments and agencies, and ministers in the departments do their very best with, as we said on 4 September, cleaning up the mess that we made—that we inherited, I should say, from the former government—and keeping all the promises that we made at the election.

From my recollection, there was no specific commitment given prior to the election in relation to increased funding to Foodbank, but I will certainly have that checked. Whatever commitments the government has made to Foodbank, we will continue to adhere to, but there is certainly no capacity within the current budget formula to be making ad hoc decisions between now and Christmas in relation to additional funding.

The issue in relation to commonwealth and other contributions from the other states, I have no direct knowledge of. If there is anything useful that I can add in addition to the answer that I have given to the honourable member, I will bring back a further reply, but I suspect there isn't anything useful that I can provide in addition. I have answered the question that there is nothing in contemplation.

In relation to next year's budget, the 2019-20 budget, bilaterals will commence early in the new year, and I would imagine submissions for additional funding for this particular worthy cause, and indeed many hundreds of others, will be channelled through departments to respective ministers and ultimately will be considered by the government as it formulates the 2019-20 budget, which will be brought down much earlier this year, at the normal time, sometime in June.

Any particular submissions for Foodbank will be considered by ministers and the government in the context of bilateral discussions, commencing in March and coming to a conclusion with the announcement of the budget in June of next year.