Statutes amendment and repeal (budget 2015) bill

In Parliament - Tuesday, 8 September 2015

Mr DULUK (Davenport) (16:38:33): I also rise to speak to the Statutes Amendment and Repeal (Budget 2015) Bill and to understand where the 2015 budget is and what the government is trying to do over the next 12 months. I commend them in many areas such as looking at winding back some of the stamp duty provisions and even the Save the River Murray levy which is very honourable, but we need to look at why we are where we are today and how things have come about.

After 13 years of Labor governance in this state presiding over the coffers here, there is not a lot to show for it. The situation that we find ourselves in today is as a result of poor decision-making in years gone by and a lack of financial management over the journey.South Australia today has the worst unemployment in the country at 7.9 per cent, and we are heading slowly, on trend, to double-digit unemployment. It is completely unacceptable. Over 70,000 South Australians are unemployed and many more are underemployed. Only 3,982 jobs have been created since the Labor government promised 100,000 extra jobs in February 2010; and 4,400 mining jobs have been lost since last November when this government promised to create an extra 5,000 jobs in that industry.

Our ABS figures as recently as August show mining exploration collapsing in South Australia at a faster rate than anywhere else in the country. Mining and petroleum exploration in South Australia has fallen from $647.7 million in 2013-14 to $486.3 million in 2014-15. That is a loss of over $161 million in exploration investment in mining in South Australia. That is just more bad news for the state economy.

Northern Adelaide has an unemployment rate of around 9 per cent and this is before the closure of Holden due next year. In a recent estimates hearing, the Minister for Automotive Transformation revealed that only $14.9 million of the $22 million budgeted for Our Jobs Plan has been spent in the first two years of the program and, indeed, there are many other issues on the table in terms of unemployment. We have got the closure of the Alinta Leigh Creek facility and power station in Port Augusta and, of course, all the issues at the moment with Arrium in Whyalla.

As I said before, to understand the problem today we need to go back into the past. There are many other jurisdictions in Australia right now that are actually doing very well. I was fortunate enough to be in Melbourne on the June long weekend visiting my sister and family. My sister is one of the thousands of young South Australians who no longer call South Australia home because there are not employment opportunities for them. When visiting my sister in Melbourne (and I had not been to Melbourne for a while), I could not believe how much building and development was happening in that city. One thing that struck me was the number of young people around the CBD enjoying the night-life that Melbourne has to offer as well.

I hark back to South Australia and I think: what is going on? Something is happening right in Melbourne: something is not happening right in South Australia. Quite often from those opposite we hear the blame being put on the federal Coalition government for the malaise of the South Australian economy, but it is actually quite the opposite. It is not the federal government's fault that South Australia is in the predicament that it is because that theory does not apply to Tasmania and New South Wales whose economies are leading the nation and house prices are leading the nation. Queensland is on its recovery, the Northern Territory is doing very well off historical levels and Western Australia is doing what it always does.

So we look back here to South Australia and the only thing that is different is, obviously, we have had 13 years of Labor government in South Australia that have produced six of the last seven budgets in deficit. It is 13 years of a Labor record that has seen the state have $13.2 billion of debt which, of course, breaks the State Bank record. It is 13 years of Labor government that has seen $1.4 million a day wasted paying interest on Labor's debt. We have the highest unemployment in the nation. Even Tasmania is beating us. Quite often in South Australia we have used Tasmania, given that we are two of the smaller states, as our benchmark and, right now, we are failing in our own benchmarking and it is an absolute disgrace. We have had privatisation of assets in this state—ForestrySA, Motor Accident Commission and SA Lotteries.

During that time—and this is the irony—the Labor government has received $858 million in extra funding from the commonwealth by way of an increase in GST payments; and what do we have to show for an increase in GST payments? We have seen the knife being taken to our health system. We have seen the closure of the Repatriation General Hospital. This is a hospital that has served the community so well for so many years and I think, as of today, over 118,000 signatures have been collected by South Australians to protest the government's decision; yet, what I believe to be one of the highest ever petitions signed by South Australians has been completely and utterly ignored by the government.

That goes to its hubris. It is not listening to the professionals and it is not listening to the people. Today in InDaily there was a very good article that quoted Emeritus Professor Ian Maddocks, who established the palliative care system at Daw Park hospice and is a long-time professor at Flinders University and Flinders hospital, as saying this decision to relocate the Daw Park hospice from the Repatriation site is an absolute shame and a disgrace and will not lead to better patient outcomes. I would rather take the advice of eminent South Australians, a former older—

Mr Speirs: Senior.

Mr DULUK: —Senior Australian of the Year, thank you member for Bright, than I would some bureaucrats in the department. So, we have seen a massive increase in funding from the federal government yet we have seen a Labor government in this state happy to take the knife to our public health system.

Labor, of course, has failed to deliver on numerous projects that it has promised: the Outer Harbor electrification line; the Gawler line; and, of course, the new Adelaide high school is rescoped every now and then. We are not actually quite sure when it will be built, but the promise at the last election to build the new school at the old Royal Adelaide Hospital site is not going to happen; and, of course, over the same 13-year period we have seen a $3.9 billion increase in unbudgeted expenditure.

So, we have had 13 years to paint the narrative here for the people of South Australia. We have had 13 years of poor economic management, and we are here in 2015 discussing the budgets as we did in the July session, and now the amendments and the repeal bill specifically today, and we wonder why we are where we are today.

We wonder why this government is making the decisions that it is making, and it is all basically because it had the inability to make strong, tough, needed decisions in previous years. I suppose a good lesson for all of us in this house is that you always need to be planning, you always need to be reforming; and whilst I do, as I said before, give some credit to the current Treasurer for starting to make some decisions in regard to removal of stamp duty on transactions, it is all a little bit too little too late.

Right now we are trying to put through this budget that is going to get the South Australian economy back on track. Well, it is quite the opposite. This will not be happening. In terms of some other indicators, we have a poor performance in the construction industry and, of course, this is reflected in reduced employment opportunities in this area. Housing start-ups are one of the lowest in the nation. On every economic indicator we are in decline.

Our exports have fallen by 8.1 per cent on an analysed basis. Our national export market share has dropped steadily from 7.5 per cent in 2002 to 4.2 per cent in June 2015. In that time the whole Australian economy has grown yet our export market has declined, and for South Australia to be strong we need to have a strong export market. We just cannot be selling lattes to each other. We cannot all be journalists, we cannot all be football players. We actually need to create some productive investment and productive industries, and exports are one of those industries which really bring foreign investment to the state to create jobs and to help many South Australians.

We have seen a 30 per cent (or $1.04 billion) decline in South Australian exports to China in the last 12 months. So, we have seen a reduction in SA exports to China, which is Australia's biggest export market, a very important market. What really concerns me the most at the moment is that we have a federal Labor opposition in conjunction with its union mates—especially the CFMEU, the most militant wing of the union movement which controls a lot of members in the ALP, especially in Victoria—putting at risk South Australian jobs, South Australian export markets but holding up the signing of the FTA in the Senate.

The best thing that the government in South Australia can do is to get on the phone to the federal opposition leader, Bill Shorten, and get on the phone to Chris Bowen, the federal opposition treasurer, and encourage them—demand, in fact—that the Labor Party in the federal parliament support the passing of the FTA legislation in order for South Australian exporters to have the best possible opportunity to get their product into Chinese markets—Chinese markets that will help our wine industry, help our agricultural industry and help our farming sectors overall.

There has been a bit of talk about the FTA of late and a lot of fear in my mind about it. I think that, in its heart of hearts, the state government does know that the FTA will be good for South Australia. We all know, Business SA knows it and many of the leading economists know it, yet the state Labor Party will not convince their federal counterparts to help South Australian exporters. It is a real concern for me that we can see good policy, because we all support trade. As we are moving out of heavy manufacturing, as we are at the moment, and transitioning from it, it is most important that we do look at other industries, and exports is certainly one of those industries. China is our biggest market, but of course it is not just China, it is into South Korea, it is into Japan, it is work that we are doing with India now, and the like.

Getting back to this budget, we are seeing more increases in taxes and levies across this budget. It is a real shame, and the deputy leader was reflecting on this in her contribution. We are seeing the budget being propped up by taxes here, levies there and transactions being taxed. South Australians going about their ordinary business, people who are investing, people who are transacting, stamp duty, conveyancing charges, things that contribute to a productive economy are being slugged at every turn because that is all the government knows what to do.

We are losing young South Australians, we are losing taxpayers. We are seeing the closing of the Alinta site at Port Augusta, a plant and industry that employs hundreds of people in very well‑paid (six-figure salary) jobs. They are leaving South Australia and with them they are taking what they would contribute in tax. We are seeing a shrinking of our tax base in South Australia, so the only way this government can increase the tax to pay for its $13.2 billion of debt and the servicing of that debt is to pretty much tax day-to-day transactions of South Australians. It is an absolute disgrace.

The budget that was passed in July was meant to be about jobs, jobs, jobs. For me, the mantra for all of us as legislators should be about jobs, jobs, jobs, but this budget is only predicting a 1 per cent employment growth in South Australia, the worst of all mainland states. We are not going to come back to being a leading growth state which has the opportunity to have well funded schools, universities and hospitals if we do not have strong economic growth, and that of course includes employment growth. One per cent just does not cut it.

We need to address the high cost of employment. We need to address the high cost of doing business in South Australia. Previous to entering parliament many would know that I worked in small business and business banking. I recall a conversation I had with one of my clients, who said, 'Sam, we're leaving South Australia to move our operation to Victoria.' I said, 'Why are you doing that?' He said, 'Well, South Australia has the worst WorkCover levies in the country and has the highest energy costs as well.'

Whilst we have the highest energy costs and whilst we have a terrible and inefficient WorkCover scheme that too often penalises very well meaning employers and, at the same time, does not do enough to get people returning to work, we are going to be shooting ourselves in the foot, so to speak. We have a very high cost of doing business in South Australia. We need to be a low cost business jurisdiction. We need to be looking at the opportunities we do have. We actually have a lot of opportunity in terms of commercial and industrial real estate that we could be using as a way of creating incentives for South Australian businesses.

As has been urged by many on this side, I urge the government to commit to reducing payroll tax and to reverse the $90 million ESL hike, which is really just another grab at South Australian households. What really gets me about the ESL is that if the majority of the ESL went to supporting the CFS and our volunteer fire service the average South Australian punter would say, 'Well, that seems reasonable. I'm happy to pay a levy that ensures that our volunteer firefighters are well equipped, have the latest equipment, have the latest tankers,' but it is actually quite the opposite.

The Sturt group, which is the brigade in my electorate, which is a wonderful brigade, up until January of this year was fundraising for new appliances. What a disgrace that they have to have 'Donate to the CFS' boxes at the local bakery, the post office and the bank. The community is very willing to donate but this should not be happening because we have an ESL. So, the irony is that we have an emergency services levy that does not support our emergency services.

Bringing forward the planned stamp duty relief to take effect this year would be a wonderful thing for the government to do and, by doing that, we would stop a delay in transactions which might be happening. On average, 20,000 to 30,000 of South Australia's best and brightest have been forced to move interstate each year, also creating long-term structural issues for our state. We have the highest utility prices in the nation, some of the highest in the world, and this government is obsessed with pet projects. They deliver little economic benefit and are delivered at enormous cost to the taxpayers. We only ever hear that the major projects are over time and over budget from this government. We should be focused on making South Australia internationally competitive. We should always aim, not only for Australian but international best practice when it comes to policy-making. I suppose these are just some of the issues for me.

In recent months we have seen the terrible decision in terms of our vocational education and training (VET) sector which has just had its confidence ripped out by this government. It lacks policy focus, so we are not even skilling up our best and brightest. In today's paper, Nigel McBride, head of Business SA, had a great article highlighting the difference between the federal Coalition government and the state government's approach to apprentices and how the state government is not doing enough for apprenticeships in South Australia and how in our VET and higher education programs we are creating uncertainty in the skills base.

One thing when it comes to VET is the hypocrisy of the government, and a good case in point is how VET has been destroyed in terms of teaching VET music in the southern suburbs at Noarlunga. Noarlunga TAFE's music program has been dismantled in the member for Kaurna's seat. If you want to do VET music, you have to go to the Salisbury TAFE campus. I love it, how this whole revamp of vocational education and training is actually not delivering a better result for the average South Australian. I have been contacted by many people who have been in the VET program at Noarlunga TAFE and who can no longer do that because they have to travel to Salisbury, some 50 kilometres away, to undertake that training. That is a real disgrace.

In conclusion, South Australians deserve better. The economic mismanagement of the taxpayers' money by this government is unreal and it has been happening for 13 years. That is the real problem. It is the legacy of those opposite—leaving the state in economic and financial ruin which has led to fire sales of our assets; increasing taxes, levies and duties. Pretty much anything the government can tax, it does tax. As to probate and speeding fines, this is the new way to fund South Australia. It is time for a new approach, it is time for a rethink, and it is time for South Australians to have a government committed to job creation, economic opportunities and putting this state back on track.