Statutes amendment and repeal (budget measures) bill

Mr DULUK (Waite) (16:21): I also rise to make a few comments on the Statutes Amendment and Repeal (Budget Measures) Bill 2018 and provide a bit more of an opportunity to discuss some of the important things that this new Marshall Liberal government is doing—undertaking, deciding, leading, making tough decisions—in our first budget on this side of the house for some time.

There are some key premises in the budget that I think all South Australians need to know about and also appreciate, and that is to support more jobs, lower costs and provide better services to all South Australians. That will be the mantra of this Marshall Liberal government and all members of it. After the long years in the wilderness and coldness of budgets presided by those opposite, it is really important to support more job growth in South Australia. It is real job growth that will be important for the future of our state.

The Department of Treasury recently released some key economic indicators for the state. Obviously, employment growth as of August 2018 is steady and unemployment fell marginally, but it was about 1.8 per cent higher than last year. From where we were several years ago, we are in a much better place, but it is vitally important that this government and all governments put their energy into creating employment opportunities for South Australians because it is employment opportunities that grows economic growth. They grow retail spending, exports, imports, housing approvals and dwelling construction, which of course is so important. More importantly, they create confidence and human dignity, which are fundamental.

An issue of concern to me and the government is our youth unemployment rate. Over the past 12 months, we have been sitting at about 13.3 per cent youth unemployment compared with 12.1 per cent nationally. 'Youth' is determined as people aged 15 to 24 who are obviously in the workplace. That is always going to be a key difficulty for young South Australians.

I would hate to think what youth unemployment would be in South Australia had we not seen the exodus of millennials and gen Ys from the state over the last five to 10 years because we have seen a huge number of young people leave. In his previous contributions, the member for Chaffey talked about his kids being interstate, and I have also mentioned that I have siblings interstate. For them, the job opportunities have not been here in South Australia in the last five to 10 years. That is a real challenge for us as a government, and we need to be doing all that we can.

On that note, as Chair of the Economic and Finance Committee, at the end of this month we are about to kick off an inquiry into migration into South Australia. It is not just about the important role of migrants in the South Australian community and economy, and it is not just about what we need to do to attract more skilled migrants especially into our state and, in particular, into our regions: it is about what we are doing in terms of policy settings to keep young South Australians here in this state to ensure that, when they finish their high school or their tertiary education or their VET training, they actually choose to stay in South Australia to continue their work, to buy a house, to start a family, to play, to invest and to participate in our full economy.

As I said, jobs are an important factor. In fact, they are almost the number one issue in the budget. What are we doing directly to stimulate job growth? We are cutting payroll tax. In the member for Hammond's contribution earlier this morning, he talked about the importance of cutting payroll tax to many businesses in his electorate. I am looking forward to going to Murray Bridge next week with the Economic and Finance Committee. The member for Hammond is going to join us. We are going to talk to some great local industries in his electorate about the importance of economic growth. We are going to get the parliament out there into the regions to find out what is happening. I could not tell you the last time the Economic and Finance Committee visited a regional place under the former government, so I am really looking forward to going out there to talk to businesses about the importance of payroll tax reduction, whether it is in his electorate or my electorate.

The cut in payroll tax is going to be great for South Australia. It is really going to lift our competitiveness across the board. Of course, increasing that payroll tax threshold to well over $1 million is going to make us one of the more competitive jurisdictions in the nation, and that can only be good for South Australia. Delivering that change to the tens of thousands of small businesses in South Australia is going to be so important.

I remember in my old banking days at the ANZ that one of the biggest issues my business customers faced was the cost of utilities in running their businesses—the cost of water, power, energy and, of course, payroll tax. People just could not understand why the government was penalising them for employing people. It is so important that the government takes appropriate measures to help stimulate economic business. There have been some great reports, particularly out of Deloitte and Business SA, talking about the economic drivers of reducing payroll tax.

As part of the budget measures bill, we are going to remedy some of the deficiencies in the owner-driver exemptions within the contract provisions to ensure that contracts become exempt, or taxable if they do not fall within the relevant exemption. These are the amendments to be introduced in other jurisdictions following the adverse decision in the New South Wales Supreme Court decision. We will also allow for deductions to be made for motor vehicle allowances to account for business use following the changes made to the commonwealth government's income tax legislation. That is some of the rats and mice stuff occurring in this bill.

Some of the other important provisions in the budget measures bill include changes to stamp duty and land tax. Once again, these are decisions that this government has made to facilitate and foster economic growth. Changes to stamp duties and premiums will help people who are transacting real asset transactions, whether it be expanding the current stamp duty exemption for family farm transfers to involve companies—that is a great benefit for many traders out there—or providing stamp duty exemption on premiums paid in relation to multi-peril crop insurance policies entered into from 1 January 2018. I know that is another issue that the now government pursued quite heavily when we were in opposition.

Of course, there are going to be changes to the land tax regime as well. For years, South Australia has had one of the more uncompetitive land tax regimes, and we are going to do everything we can to make sure that South Australia is a more attractive place in which to invest and to do business. The changes in land tax will increase the tax free threshold from $369,000 to $450,000 and introduce a new tax bracket of $1.2 million to $5 million and a marginal tax rate of 2.9 per cent on land tax from 2020. This is expected to benefit over 50,000 land tax ownerships, including around 8,000 that will no longer have a land tax liability.

I really think it is important to pursue land tax reform because there are many mums and dads out there in the community whose primary investment superannuation means of looking after themselves is actually through an investment property. Not every South Australian has historically been attracted to the notion of compulsory superannuation, and many people who are self-employed—many migrant families, including my own—have relied on the value of land as a form of investment but, more importantly, as a form of savings, and, even more importantly, as a form of not relying on government assistance. I think it is fantastic that this Marshall Liberal government has seen fit to seek some land tax reform. As I said, that will mean that some of the 8,000 land tax ownerships will no longer be subject to land tax liability, which is really important.

I will go through some of the key economic indicators of where the state is at the moment for those who are interested and those who will benefit from the budget decisions. Dwelling approvals for the last 12 months to July 2018 are actually down 0.6 of a percent and private sector housing approvals fell 0.9 per cent during July to be 2.7 per cent lower than a year ago. Housing dwelling approvals, Deputy Speaker, as you know, are one indicator of where the economy is heading. It certainly is a bit of a lead indicator. It is an important indicator for government, for Treasury, to be aware of because it shows some indication of confidence in the economy and, of course, it is so important that we have strong confidence in the South Australian economy so that we continue to grow.

Housing finance commitments have also increased 0.1 per cent in the period. That is what South Australians are outlaying on finance commitments, and that is why it has been so fundamentally important to assist with cost-of-living relief for South Australians. That is why the reduction in the emergency services levy—putting some $90 million back in the pockets of South Australian householders—is a welcome relief for so many South Australians. I have no doubt that when they recently received their ESL bill mums and dads in my electorate and across the state were relieved to see it roughly halved from where it was 12 months ago. It is a relief that this Marshall Liberal government is giving back to the South Australian people.

We understand that times are a bit tough at the moment, so providing ESL relief to people's household budget will allow them to meet other expenditures or help with housing affordability. In the area of environment protection, which is covered in this bill as well, we are seeking to recover costs on environment management issues such as soil and groundwater contamination and odour facilities for underground petroleum storage systems required to hold an environmental authorisation. In terms of investing back into the environment—and it is fantastic to be working with the new environment minister, minister Speirs—in my area is the government's practical investment of $100,000 into Brownhill Creek conservation. That is the government partnering with groups like the Brownhill Creek Association to provide practical, on-the-ground Landcare management, which is so important.

Other issues covered off in this legislation include local government reform, and we are meeting our election commitment of abolishing royalties on extractive minerals for councils where the minerals are sourced from council borrow pits and used to build and maintain local roads from 1 July 2019. Another important part that is covered more broadly in our budget agenda and the agenda for the state is council rate capping.

It is a real shame that the other place, particularly the ALP and the SA-Best and Greens crossbench, are not supporting our policy to cap council rates. We have now gone to two elections with a policy of capping council rates. Of course, it was a policy that was widely supported by many members of the South Australian community as another example of reducing cost-of-living pressures on South Australians. I find it incredible that the ALP in particular do not seem to care about cost-of-living pressures for average South Australians. Obviously it has been too good for them for too long.

Something we are doing that I think is actually quite important is removing the royalty concession on new mines from 1 July 2019 with fair and reasonable transitional arrangements. In terms of share of employment in the South Australian economy, as of August 2017 mining represented 1.1 per cent of employment and in August 2018 accounted for 0.9 per cent of total employment. In terms of economic output, in 2015-16 mining accounted for 4.6 per cent of South Australian economic output and 4.2 per cent in 2016-17. So we are actually going backwards in the mining and resources sector space, and I think that is something we need to be very wary of.

Mining is fundamentally important to our economy. It is a very strong job creator and, naturally, it is a very strong job creator in our regions, especially in the northern parts of South Australia. If we are going to support our regional communities, we do need to have a strong mining industry; coupled with that, on the back of it, are transport, logistics and the benefits that mining brings across the board. So ensuring that we are looking at those matters is vitally important. Other things tidied up in this body of work relate to a more simplified and efficient gambling regulation regime based on the recommendations of the Hon. Tim Anderson QC, in an inquiry established by the member for Enfield, the former attorney-general, and the transfer of the IGA's existing powers and functions to the Liquor and Gaming Commissioner through Consumer and Business Services from 1 December 2018.

I think in the gambling space there are about four or five different bodies—through what was the IGA but is now being transferred; through the Office of Consumer and Business Services; Treasury, which of course has a gaming function; and then the gaming industry itself, which has a regulatory function as well—so it is probably an area where there is a lot of duplication of regulation and oversight, but important regulation and oversight. No-one here supports problem gambling; nevertheless, I respect people's choice to gamble. Another area covered in this legislation is around liquor licensing fees. There will be some further clarity to the extent of the regulation-making power in the act in relation to fees and, of course, that regulation.

This piece of legislation couples with where we are at in relation to the whole budget. It is about setting the agenda, not just for this issue and not re-addressing some of the ginormous legacy issues over the past 16 years—and there are plenty of them. I have no hesitation in blaming the Labor Party for many of the ills in South Australia over the last 16 years. Listening to some of the contributions from members opposite, you would have thought they had been in parliament for only six months, not 16 years.

I hope they do take stock of what is in this year's budget and understand that tough decisions need to be made by government. That is the difficult part of government. It is important that government makes sensible and wise decisions because when it does not, when it creates a budget deficit of almost $400 million, there are implications for creating such budget deficits. I think it is an issue of morality and an issue of the way society conducts itself when government acts in a reckless manner.

Ultimately, somebody else, the grown-ups in government and in politics, have to make tough decisions to get the budget back into balance to continue to provide services, to find $500 million, as we have found, to go into the education sector to fund programs such as phonics, the Literacy Guarantee and the important parts of education. All those really important decisions to fund infrastructure, to put money back into the healthcare system, to fix local roads, as we are doing in the Mitcham Hills, all come at a cost and this budget reflects that. I look forward to its passage through the parliament.