In Parliament - Wednesday, 13 April 2016
Mr DULUK (Davenport) (16:12:10): They are all leaving. Thank you, Deputy Speaker. I do notice you were looking to the other side for a contribution, perhaps, before, and I thank you for looking at me. One thing that has caught my attention in the 12 or so months that I have been in this house is that, when it comes to matters of supply and financial matters, we barely get a contribution from those opposite.
Those opposite make wonderful contributions on many matters, and I look at the member for Ashford, who is here right now, who always makes very good contributions on a lot of social issues, as does the member for Hammond, but the collective government and their members when it comes to matters of supply (bills related to supply) you barely hear a squeak. You have to ask yourself: why is that? The reality is that they are embarrassed by their 14-year record; they are embarrassed by their financial record; they are embarrassed about the way the state is going at the moment; they are embarrassed by the highest unemployment in the land; and they are embarrassed about the peak debt.The Supply Bill is critical to the machine of parliament. In the absence of supply, of course, there would be no parliamentary authority for budget expenditure. That is why we on this side do not oppose the request for another $3.444 billion to be transferred from the consolidated account of the Public Service, but I do want to make some comments about the government's fiscal performance.
Almost a year ago, I spoke on the very same bill. At that time, the government sought $3.2 billion from consolidated accounts and I spoke then, as I will now, on the government's fiscal performance. What is a very stark and frightening thing for all South Australians is that little has changed in 12 months. The comments I made last year are still applicable today, almost verbatim, and I feel like inserting them into Hansard like many on the other side, but I will not.
In the last 12 months, the government has not made any definitive improvements to the economic conditions of South Australia; that is in 12 months, but of course this is what we have come to expect after 14 years of state Labor. This government has had plenty of time and plenty of opportunities to deliver improved outcomes for South Australians. It has been 14 years of tired, hard Labor. The people of South Australia want to know, what does their government do all day, and what is their government doing to turn around the fortunes of this state.
We consistently hear from the Premier about the precarious position of this state, the need to be patient as we transition from the old economy to the new economy, and Mr Premier, we wait. We saw the announcement yesterday about the Labor government embracing ride sharing in South Australia which is, of course, a position that moves us to a new economy, but only on the back of the work of the Liberal opposition in this area. The Liberal Party, in this last 12 months, as we head into the halfway mark of the term, is driving the agenda. We are the ones who are transitioning and forcing the government to follow us to come into the new economy and get out of the old economy.
So I ask the Premier these questions: when will we actually start turning the corner? When will we see a move to the new economy? When will we see the creation of jobs and a declining unemployment rate, which is, of course, the most important thing we should all strive to be doing. When will we see an improvement to the cost of living for households, and when will we see a change in the state's balance sheet?
The Commonwealth Bank State of the States report published in January 2015, ranked South Australian seventh on economic performance out of eight states and territories. In 2016, a full 12 months later, lo and behold, we are still in seventh spot. Not much to show for that 12 months, and the state also now ranks seventh on retail trade and eighth on dwelling starts; and, of course, we know that dwelling starts and housing construction are strong lead indicators of economic performance.
The state's unemployment rate continues to remain too high. The SA Regional Labour Force Data for the year ending February 2016, reports that the unemployment rate of 7.3 per cent remains unchanged since February 2015; so in 12 months, no change to unemployment. The number of unemployed has increased in this 12-month period from 62,600 to 64,100, and the unemployment rate amongst 15 to 24-year-olds has increased from 14.9 per cent to 15.4 per cent.
One thing that these stats do not show is the amount of people, and the amount of young South Australians who are not looking for work, and, of course, the amount of people and young South Australians who have left the state because they cannot find work. They are not even in these statistics. Our unemployment rate is the worst in the nation and we should be ashamed at this and we should all be doing all that we can to revert these figures.
We have the highest unemployment, youth unemployment and underemployment rates in the nation, and the outlook does not make for good viewing. Each week, South Australians open their morning papers or turn on the evening news and learn of more job losses. Since 2013, the state has been hit with job loss announcements at Holden, Arnott's Biscuits, Aldinga Turkeys, ACI, Caroma Industries, Arrium, BHP, United Dairy Power, Fairfax Media, Unibooks, Santos, and the list goes on, and that only incudes the big name industries.
Of course, there are plenty of mum and dad small businesses and local operators, and Jim's Mowing franchise owners who are all going out of business in this state, mainly as a result of loss of confidence in the market. As unemployment grows, households are also being hit with extraordinary increases in cost of living pressures. Last year, I noted that utilities in South Australia had become some of the most costly in the world, with water prices rising 227 per cent since 2002. Twelve months later—and we are working on this 12-month cycle—the only thing that has changed is how much water prices have increased since 2002, not decreased.
The last figures show that South Australia's average water bill has now grown 241 per cent between 2002-03 and 2015-16. Not only has the Labor government overseen the highest rate of unemployment in a decade, their tenure has resulted in some of the highest utility prices in the world. South Australia also has the most expensive power in the National Electricity Market, and I think the member for Schubert alluded to these points yesterday in his contribution about how in some areas government policy has deliberately spiked up the price of power for South Australians. In February this year the Australian Energy Market Operator released data showing surging electricity prices in South Australia for the next two years.
Increasing utility prices is particularly bad news for the state's job market and makes our manufacturing and manufacturers less competitive. Business looking to invest in new job-creating opportunities in Australia look elsewhere due to the high cost of doing business in our state, and existing businesses are struggling to survive. Hit with a triple blow of massive increases in the emergency services levy, exorbitant water prices and the crippling electricity prices they just cannot survive in the current market.
Of course, as we know, from 1 July this year small businesses will be paying payroll tax from the new threshold of $600,000. The supply chain costs that our businesses face mean that their ability to compete nationally and internationally is severely hamstrung by this government, and I urge those opposite and those who are in charge of the Treasury benches to do all they can to relieve these cost pressures on our businesses to do their bit to help our manufacturing base which is so dear and near to so many of us.
It is little wonder that business confidence in South Australia continues to decline. BankSA's latest State Monitor survey, published on 3 March 2016, shows that business confidence recorded a 5.3 points drop since the last survey was conducted in October. The news was worse in our rural regions where business confidence fell 8.1 points. The subdued outlook amongst South Australian business owners constrains investments and limits willingness to hire more staff, and all this feeds into the growing unemployment, and, of course, the growing unemployment feeds into an issue of tax receipts for the state and that then cripples the ability of the state to provide services to the public.
The time for action is now. There is an opportunity for this government to heed some of the advice that the Liberal Party on this side has been talking about now for quite some time. There is an opportunity to create jobs, and we must encourage businesses to invest their economic potential, but to achieve this we need an active and industrious government. We need a government willing to make the tough decisions, we need a government willing to listen and to respond. South Australia's small business sector remains a significant driver of South Australia's productivity.
Improving operating conditions for these businesses is critical and, as a start, we should be lowering taxes and a reduction of red tape is essential. The Treasurer must extend the payroll tax rebate for small businesses, and the major infrastructure investment must be forthcoming to soak up job losses and, dare I say, use of steel from Arrium.
We need a government with a vision, and that is why the state Liberals have released its 2036 document. It is a wonderful document and, of course, one that I do urge those opposite to read, because 2036, of course, is more than a date: it is a destination. It is a message to South Australians letting them know that there is a better way, a Liberal way.
But, of course, amongst all of this is we do have a problem, and for too long this Labor government has been running budget deficits, putting further pressure on state debt. Total non-public sector debt will reach $10.5 billion in 2015-16 and is expected to peak at $13.5 billion once the new Royal Adelaide Hospital comes on line.
This high debt means, of course, increasing interest payments by this government, and at the moment we are paying $520 million in interest on total non-financial public sector debt in 2015‑16. That is more than $1.4 million of taxpayer money paid each and every day in interest—$1.4 million daily is paid in interest. And, of course, this high debt means that there is an opportunity cost—the opportunity cost of not being able to invest, invest in services, invest in infrastructure and invest in jobs. If this government cannot live within its means and run a continued budget surplus over the cycle then state debt will continue to grow with little to show for that debt, and that is the scourge that we leave to the next generations.
Of course, this is an opportunity in this bill to talk about matters of supply and what has and has not been done. I come to some issues in my local electorate, and they really fit around the government failing to deliver critical infrastructure projects. The second edition of the Department of Planning, Transport and Infrastructure's Road Management Plan released in February 2015 states:
Main Road, Blackwood is an important arterial route through residential and commercial areas and serves a number of key roles. It provides a key road link for residents of Belair, Glenalta and Blackwood. In particular, the road forms an important commuter link between the Adelaide Hills within the Mitcham area and the Adelaide Plains, including the Adelaide CBD. Additionally, the road links to other suburbs and townships within the southern Adelaide Hills.
Two-way average annual daily traffic volumes on Main Road vary from 20,400 vehicles within the commercial precinct to 17,300 along the northern sections of Main Road, with the exception of the first section near Belair Road, which accounts for about 6,000 vehicles.
Despite these findings and recommendations of the Road Management Plan, first released in 2006, the government has failed to make a genuine infrastructure investment in Main Road or any other Mitcham Hills traffic corridors identified in the plan. Since 2006, DPTI has delivered only speed limit reductions to 50 km/h, some new bicycle lanes and upgraded bicycle infrastructure (dare I say, painted lines), a new pedestrian crossing near Russell Street in Belair, two pedestrian refuges, upgraded and new midblock treatment, and some upgrades to intersections along the study corridor. This is a very short list of projects over a 10-year period, and the project list is, of course, short on substantive funding.
In fact, this government has failed to allocate funding to any of the major projects outlined in the Road Management Plan, including, of course, the Blackwood roundabout, which many residents in my area, and of course in the member for Fisher's area as well, know is a piece of infrastructure that well and truly needs to be invested in. The Blackwood roundabout is considered one of the worst in Adelaide. The Road Management Plan notes that there were 48 reported crashes, including six casualties, on the roundabout to the year ending 2014.
Whilst the number of crashes has declined following the speed limit being reduced from 60 km/h to 50 km/h, the Blackwood roundabout is still over-represented in crash statistics. The Road Management Plan reports that all unsignalised intersections within the Adelaide metropolitan area are ranked based on the number of casualty crashes that have occurred in the last five years. Blackwood roundabout is ranked at 10th as an intersection, let alone as a roundabout.
The Blackwood roundabout, in conjunction with Main Road, is long overdue for government investment. Mitcham Hills residents and the residents of Davenport deserve better. They deserve a government that will respond to the needs to the community and deliver infrastructure projects that increase safety, decrease risks and improve traffic flows. South Australians deserve infrastructure projects that deliver community-wide benefits. South Australians deserve to be listened to, not continually force fed projects that receive significant community opposition.
This government, as we know, does not listen. It has not listened to the community in so many areas, and of course the Blackwood roundabout and funding for roads in my area are other areas where the government has failed to listen. In this speech I will not even go into the government failing to listen to the community in regard to Transforming Health and, of course, the closure of the Repat. Despite the tabling of the largest ever petition in parliament which opposed the closure of the Repat, the government continues to stubbornly ignore the wishes of South Australians on so many fronts.
I have no doubt that the Liberal Party, when in government, will listen to the people. After 14 years of Labor, we have been listening and we have been hearing. We will listen and we will deliver projects that the community wants and projects that the community actually needs. We will fund, of course, the $20 million for the first stage of the Mitcham Hills road corridor upgrade and improve road safety to reduce peak-hour bottlenecks. We will reverse the government's $90 million ESL grab. We will not close metropolitan hospitals.
We are here and we will do all that we can to reduce costs of living to ensure that families and households can meet their bills. We will do all that we can to support small businesses, as we know they are the drivers of our economy. We are committed to creating jobs by investing in South Australia, and we are committed to reducing, of course, the cost of living for our households.
I will finish with those remarks, but it is time for this government to step up and deliver on its rhetoric of a vision that actually fulfils its commitment to a five-year strategy, which it has, of course, across all its portfolio areas, and there are many. It is time for them to really look back and say to themselves, 'Are we doing the best job that we can?' Many in the community say, 'No, they are not.'