Emergency Services Levy

I also rise to speak on the 85th report of the Economic and Finance Committee which, of course, references the Emergency services levy policy of this government. What a disappointing policy this is for the people of South Australia.

As the member for Davenport has just made very clear, there was no discussion on the removal, the abolition, of the remissions prior to the election.

We are very disappointed, on this side of the house, that the government concealed their plans to remove the remission provided to households in South Australia for the Emergency services levy. This concealment amounts, essentially, to nothing more than the imposition of a new land tax on the family home.

Let us be quite serious about this: removing that remission puts a land tax on every single household in South Australia, on the primary place of residence and, of course, most importantly—and the part that I would like to highlight today—on primary production properties here in South Australia which have enjoyed no land tax in the past. This is a sneaky new land tax which has been put in place and it will have widespread ramifications right across South Australia.

I only met this morning with a dairy farmer who has done the analysis on his property. This is the situation that exists right across regional South Australia, and it is a pity that the member for Frome, the Minister for Regional Development, does not seem to be here and listening to what I have to say, making eye contact as I speak at the moment.

I make this point: that many people in regional South Australia are asset rich and for this they are going to pay a very heavy penalty with the changes that the government has made to the emergency services levy. This particular farmer said to me this morning that his property was valued at $3 million, so he will be paying $802.10 for the emergency services levy as of this year. That is a massive increase—it is an increase of 173 per cent in a single year.

He is lucky in a way, because he has multiple titles. If that property value was all on the single title there would be an increase of 541 per cent in a single year—a 541 per cent increase. I ask you, Mr Speaker, in what jurisdiction is that increase in an emergency services levy, fair on people in South Australia? They did not ask for it, and the government did not come clean with it. They did not tell people what they were going to be voting for before the election but, importantly, they had considered this before the election. In fact, immediately after the Henry tax review came out it was reported in The Advertiser—and this is four treasurers ago, because they mix them up a bit here in South Australia—that the then treasurer, Kevin Foley, said:

                A broad-based land tax bid on commercial or industrial will be levying taxes on people who have not previously paid them and we don't think that that's the right way to go.

He also said, as reported in The Australian on 4 May:

                A broad-based land tax would be a punitive tax on families and households and won't be supported by this government.

Interestingly, after those comments were made by that treasurer we had a new treasurer in South Australia and we know for a fact that the member for Playford, the treasurer before the last treasurer, went to some extent to have his treasury model up the likely impact of a new land tax on the family home. Importantly, he made it very clear that this would be something that he would do after a 'conversation' with the people of South Australia. In fact, he said that this would be something that he would take to an election.

Let me tell you, sir, there was no conversation with the people of South Australia. There was no clear indication of what the government was going to do before the election—no clear indication whatsoever. The first indication that was received by members of this parliament was when the Economic and Finance Committee brought down their report, which basically said they were looking at removing that remission. I say this is something that should have been made abundantly clear to the people of South Australia before the election because it amounts to a very significant increase in cost and is going to be particularly and unequally felt in regional South Australia. They have not had a land tax on their primary production facilities or properties in the past, and that is exactly and precisely what they are going to have going forward.

As the member for Davenport said, one would not mind if this money was going to go to increased services in terms of provision of money for emergency services in South Australia, but let us look at the facts.

There will be $384 million worth of additional revenue introduced to the South Australian budget as part of this measure. How much of this $384 million in new revenue will be spent on projects associated with emergency services in South Australia? I will tell you. There is a miserly $8 million worth of new emergency services programs identified in this budget. So out of $384 million worth of new revenue, only $8 million will be allocated to new projects in this emergency services levy. It is an absolute shame that this is the case. Make no mistake about it: this government is running the books extraordinarily poorly here in South Australia.

We learnt from the budget that has handed down just two weeks ago that there has been $311 million worth of unbudgeted expenditure last financial year—$311 million worth of unbudgeted expenditure last financial year, and guess who will make up the difference. It is the taxpayers of South Australia, the people who are struggling, households, small business and, in particular, our primary producers here in South Australia. Yes, they are asset rich, but as one person pointed out to me very recently they do not have two bob to rub together, and this is a real problem. They will be hit with this tax, a massive increase in their costs as a business, and they will be struggling.

The government, immediately after the election, said, 'Well, we need to listen. We need to listen to the small business sector, we need to listen to regional South Australia’. They need to be judged on their performance since they made that announcement. They said they would be focusing on small business and regional communities right across this state. How appalling is it then that the first opportunity to reset the cost basis in South Australia that they did not do one single solitary thing for those communities whatsoever? In fact, what we saw were new taxes, new fees, new charges and, quite frankly, a budget that was heading in the wrong direction for both those groups.

The government needs to go back to the drawing board and needs to understand that much of our growth, much of our wealth and much of our prosperity in the future will come from regional South Australia. It is great they have made a trip to the Riverland. It is great they got up there; people were very pleased to see them, but you cannot just make one visit and con the people in the regions that this is a government that cares. The increase in the emergency services levy will disproportionately hit the people in regional South Australia. The Minister for Regional Development should have something to say about it. I hope he makes a contribution to this debate this morning.