Council rate concessions

In Parliament - Wednesday, 14 October 2015

Mr DULUK (Davenport) (15:36:28): I rise today to condemn this incompetent and wasteful state government on the way that it has completely mishandled and politicised the new cost of living concession. As many of my constituents in Davenport have said to me, there was nothing wrong with the old council rate concession. Administratively, the old concession being applied to council rates a was very simple one.

The old concession system did not require extra public servants to be brought in to administer it, or a special hotline which will hang up on you when it has been flooded with calls from thousands of concerned South Australian pensioners. The old system simply made a payment to councils from the state government, which councils then deducted from rates and fees that they charge—simple and understandable.We are all aware that the state government has spent most of this year scaring our pensioners that they would be worse off because of changes to the council rate concessions, even though they knew full well that they would cover the gap, as every other state government around the country has done. The state government will take any opportunity to blame someone else for the problems that they themselves have caused.

My electorate office has been inundated with constituents who are perplexed at why they are required to fill in multiple pages' worth of forms with a wide variety of questions ranging from the standard set to questions asking whether or not they have a home rental agreement with Housing SA. Understandably, most pensioners have been left confused and distressed by such a bureaucratic approach.

Documents obtained under freedom of information put to bed any notion that the Premier's advertising campaign was not for political purposes. I have received documents from the Department of the Premier and Cabinet, under FOI, that reveal that the department's usual monthly Australia Post invoice is approximately $4,000. However, department officials noted that the invoices issued in May this year amounted to $94,000, which is attributed to letters scaring pensioners about their concession changes—$94,000 to scare our pensioners. In other words, the Premier's office spent over 23 times their usual monthly amount in postage to scare South Australian pensioners about a cut to a concession they never seriously intended to make.

Other costs in distributing the government's political propaganda included $27,000 spent on printing these letters. That is not to mention how many countless staff hours were wasted in the respective departments of the Premier, Treasurer, and Minister for Communities and Social Inclusion. To illustrate the point, I refer to lengthy correspondence between staff in the Premier's office and other government advisers, and even a former minister now on the backbench (member for Newland). I quote from an email sent from one of the Premier's advisers to the honourable member:

Dear Tom, Jay would like you to review the attached letter and provide feedback. It has done the rounds through our office and the Treasurer ' s office, but he wants your input. This letter is t o go to all council rate concession recipi ents, so roughly 178,000 households. It is in response to the lies the Libs have been sending out regardi ng concessions cuts. It might b e a little wordy and technical so need a little advice …

I tell you what: I cannot understand why the member for Newland is not on the front bench anymore. He could have been a lot better help to the Premier and his staff if there were not several more draft versions of the letter.

The Hon. A. Piccolo interjecting:

Mr DULUK: It's alright, Tony, you won't be on there for too much longer. The email correspondence from the member for Newland across to the department seems to extend for well over a month, and numerous drafts of this scare campaign letter from the Premier are shared with advisers from the Premier and Cabinet, Primary Industries and Regions, Treasury, State Development, and the list goes on.

So, the whole state government, all the bureaucracies, has been involved in the drafting of a letter for a cut that was never going to happen. It is just an absolute shame. One really does wonder why it took so many dozens of government advisers over one month and over $100,000 to write, print and post one letter. Instead of wasting thousands of dollars on a government scare campaign, they should be investing in the real needs of South Australians, including that of job creation.

The government should be taking the responsibility for SA's economy being in freefall. We saw this week that another 200 jobs have gone from Santos, on top of hundreds of jobs lost at Leigh Creek and Port Augusta just last week and the many thousands of jobs lost throughout the South Australian economy since Labor promised 100,000 new jobs in 2010. This government is out of touch, wastes taxpayers' money every single day and should be taught a lesson at the next election.