South Australia’s new Child Protection Minister, Rachel Sanderson, has come under parliamentary fire for finding time to play golf, but failing to meet with key statutory office holders in her portfolio.
The Labor Opposition pursued Ms Sanderson over her participation in a golf day, hosted by Adelaide’s Lady Mayoress on a Friday last month.
A week out from the event, on a Friday morning, Ms Sanderson tweeted a photo of herself practising for the event, but the tweet was promptly deleted.
In a fiery Question Time on Thursday, Deputy Opposition Leader Susan Close asked the Minister whether it was appropriate to be playing golf in work hours.
@alpsa tweet: Rachel Sanderson is paid more than $300,000 per year to protect our most vulnerable children. She is not paid more than $300,000 per year to play golf, particularly when she hasn’t even meet with key statutory office holders.
Ms Sanderson hit back saying she works from when she wakes up in the morning until when she goes to bed.
“We have functions until 10 or 11 at night, all weekends, up to eight functions in a day,” Ms Sanderson told the Parliament.
“It was part of a charity golf day. I had one hit.”
But Ms Sanderson later returned to the chamber, to clarify that the event was not for charity.
In further questioning from Labor, Ms Sanderson revealed she had not yet met with the Commissioner for Children or the Guardian for Children and Young People since her appointment to Cabinet.
“I have not at this stage had a chance,” the Minister said.
“They are on my list to meet.”
Ms Sanderson told Parliament she had met both officers while in Opposition, and has a list of about a hundred people to meet with.
The Minister said her first priority was to meet with Department of Child Protection staff, including some regional staff who had not seen a minister for several years under Labor.
Ms Sanderson was sworn in as a minister seven weeks ago.
The new Premier, Steven Marshall, decided the Minister should have the sole responsibility for child protection, arguing the portfolio was too important to have a minister distracted by having multiple portfolios.
The Opposition’s child protection spokeswoman, Jayne Stinson, questioned Ms Sanderson’s priorities.
“The Minister is paid more than $300,000 a year to protect our most vulnerable children and yet she’s been spending her time on the golf course,” Ms Stinson said.
Ms Stinson said she became aware the Minister had not met with key stakeholders through her own attempts to meet with them.
“I think after about seven weeks now there should be time in the diary to be able to meet with those stakeholders,” she said.
“I’ve met with those stakeholders.
“There’s been time for me to meet with those stakeholders, but hey, I haven’t been playing golf.”
Ms Stinson said she had not yet met with the Guardian for Children and Young People because the Guardian preferred to meet with the Minister first.