Emergency services levy


Mr DULUK (Waite) (11:46): I move:

That the third report of the committee, entitled Emergency Services Levy 2019-20, be noted.

The Economic and Finance Committee has an annual statutory duty to inquire into, consider and report on the Treasurer's determinations in relation to the emergency services levy. The committee has 21 days in which to report on the written determinations after they are referred to the committee.

This year, the committee received the Treasurer's Statement on 24 May. The Emergency Services Funding Act 1998 requires the statement to include determinations in respect of the amount that needs to be raised by means of the levy to fund emergency services, the amount to be expended for various kinds of emergency services and the extent to which the various parts of the state will benefit from the application of that amount.

The services funded by the emergency services levy as defined in the act are the South Australian Country Fire Service, the South Australia Metropolitan Fire Service, the South Australian State Emergency Service, Surf Life Saving SA, a member of Volunteer Marine Rescue SA and a service provided by the South Australian police department related to, assisting with or incidental to those organisations I have listed.

On 29 May, the Economic and Finance Committee held a public hearing and invited representatives from the Department of Treasury and Finance, SAFECOM, MFS, CFS and SES. The witnesses provided the committee with details on the proposed levy for 2019-20, and we are debating what was tabled. I would like to take this opportunity to acknowledge the tremendous work our volunteer and paid emergency services responders do for our community, which we rely on, whether it be the CFS or MFS, Surf Life Saving or those who put themselves at the front line to protect our community.

In particular, I would like to recognise the Sturt SES Group in my community, whose members look after an area that covers approximately 320 square kilometres, and the Sturt CFS Group, comprising five brigades, including Belair, Blackwood, Cherry Gardens, Coromandel Valley and Eden Hills. These groups are made up of local volunteers who work incredibly hard to protect the people living in my electorate of Waite by attending to fires, vehicle accidents and rescues, amongst other situations.

On another note, I would like to congratulate the Coromandel Valley Country Fire Service, which celebrated its 80th birthday on 25 May. Every single volunteer past and present at the Coromandel Valley CFS has shown extraordinary dedication to their local community. It was great to be there and to present to Peter Magarey his 10-year service medal. Peter's grandfather was a founding member of the Coromandel Valley CFS when they started with an old truck and a couple of hessian bags, as the story relates, to put out fires in the orchards around Coromandel Valley at the time. It is fantastic to see that organisation still serving the community to this day.

The committee notes that the total expenditure on emergency services for the 2018-19 financial year is estimated to reach $324 million, which is higher than the $318 million that was originally projected. The committee notes that the total expenditure on emergency services is projected to be $326 million in the 2019-20 financial year, funded in part by the $145.8 million component through fixed property ESL payments on private land net of government-funded remissions.

The target expenditure is $1.7 million higher than in 2018-19. The committee was told that this takes into account a $7.6 million increase in the Community Emergency Services Fund expenditure, including $2.5 million of additional funding for the Department for Environment and Water for coordination of policy and planning for flood mitigation, prescribed burning on private lands, and support for bushfire response on private lands in regional areas. The additional investment in this year's ESL is just another example of how the Marshall Liberal government is supporting our regional communities, which we know is so important.

There is an additional $1.6 million to the MFS for PFAS investigations and $1.1 million for the CFS heavy vehicle compliance program. This includes the cost of our election commitments, which further increases emergency services expenditure. Once again, in this year's state budget there is additional money to support the CFS in terms of building replacement and asset replacement, which is so important. These costs will be funded outside of the rate-setting process to remove any impact on emergency services levy bills.

The committee notes that the remissions for general property, which were introduced in 2018-19, will continue in 2019-20, reducing the effect of ESL bills paid by property owners. These remissions will reduce 2019-20 ESL bills by $90 million for South Australian households, consistent with this government's election commitment—and, more importantly, consistent with our approach and desire to assist families and households with cost-of-living pressures.

We saw the previous government use ESL as a cash grab to fund various pet projects and not reinvest it into our emergency services. However, we as a government are giving money back to South Australian households and at the same time we are investing additional money into emergency services, which is fantastic.

The committee notes that the government will pay $129.5 million into the Community Emergency Services Fund in 2019-20, reflecting amounts equivalent to fixed property levy revenues forgone through remissions and pensioner concessions, in addition to contributions on its own property. The committee also notes that cash balances for the Community Emergency Services Fund are expected to be $26.8 million by 30 June 2019.

The committee has fulfilled its obligations under the Emergency Services Funding Act 1998. I would like to thank the members of the committee for participating in the process in terms of the determination under the act. One of the most important things for the committee to note, as I said earlier, is our desire to reduce cost-of-living pressures, and that is why $90 million a year is coming back into the pockets of South Australians through our management of this process.

I would also like to thank the departmental representatives from Treasury and Finance, the Chief Executive of SAFECOM and the chief officers of the MFS, CFS and SES who assisted the committee reporting on the Treasurer's determinations. Therefore, pursuant to section 6 of the Parliamentary Committees Act 1991, the Economic and Finance Committee recommends to parliament that this report be noted.