It is my pleasure to rise today to speak on the Address in Reply. It was a great honour to have His Excellency the Hon. Hieu Van Le come to our parliament. As I previously laid on the record, this side of the house was delighted with his most worthy of appointments to this high office. We also lay on the record our appreciation for the work that his equally hard-working wife, Mrs Lan Le, does for the people of South Australia.
The Governor's speech, of course, laid out the Labor government's agenda for the Second Session of the Fifty-Third Parliament. Whilst it is always wonderful to have His Excellency here in the parliament, this particular occasion was nothing more than a personal indulgence by this Premier. It is his third such indulgence since he has become Premier of this state. Of the three 'visions' that he has created, this was by far the most disappointing. I say this because it provided no continuity with the previous two indulgences that he has put this parliament through.
I took the time this morning to read through the first of these visions that the Premier created: when the government at the time opened the Second Session of the Fifty-Second Parliament in February 2012. I think politicians should be judged on what they deliver, so I thought that I would go back three years and just refresh my memory as to what the Premier said that he would deliver for the people of South Australia. He said that we were going to have these seven primary areas of focus for action. So, it was with much hilarity that I read about some of these areas of focus. I do not have time this morning to focus on all of these, but I will pick out a couple that I think need to be dealt with.
The first is the establishment of a futures fund. I just point out to this house that since the Premier first floated this idea in February 2012, not one single solitary cent has been deposited into this futures fund here in South Australia. In fact, this lazy government has not even got around to putting the enabling legislation into place to establish the fund. So, we do not have a fund, we do not have any money to put into the fund, but that was one of the first items that this Premier raised in his vision for South Australia more than three years ago.
The second item he dealt with was the growing importance of advanced manufacturing here in South Australia, and for that I commend the Premier because this is a very important area. But again, let's not just talk about dreams and distractions, let's talk about deliverables. Where has this government been in terms of delivering for the advanced manufacturing sector in South Australia? It has been nowhere. We have fewer people employed in this area than we had when the government first made its pronouncement that advanced manufacturing would be so critically important to our future. But the government has done something: it establishedare you ready for this? The ministerial Advanced Manufacturing Council. This is a ministerial council.
The member for Playford, who is in the house at the moment diligently listening to my Address in Reply speech, was on this Advanced Manufacturing Council. I would love to hear what that ministerial Advanced Manufacturing Council has achieved in the three years from whence it was established, because I have never heard anything from this ministerial advisory councilnothing. In fact, not even all of the original members are in this house. But not content with establishing a ministerial advisory council, the government established its own Advanced Manufacturing Council with legislation, which we supported and passed through the house with alacrity. Again, what has this council done? What lobbying has this council done to advance the cause of the advanced manufacturing sector in South Australia? I put it to you, Madam Deputy Speaker: not much.
When I turn to page 114 of Budget Paper 4 of this year and look at Program 12 in the Department of State Development, under manufacturing innovation, do I see a massive increase in the amount of money that the government is now spending on advanced manufacturing in South Australia? No, I do not.
In fact, last year we spent $22½ million supporting manufacturing and innovation in South Australia. Is it $25 million this year or $30 million, because let us not forget this is one of the principal focuses of this government? No, we are spending less. We are actually spending $18 million this year$22½ million last year and $18 million this year. See, we are going backwards.
There is a lot of spin in what this government has to say. This government is big on dreams and big on distractions, but not big on deliverables for the people of South Australia. In fact, if we look at the current situation in South Australia, there is no wonder that the government wants to talk about driverless cars. There is no doubt that the government wants to talk about banning cars driving into the CBD. I will tell you that it was pretty difficult to get into the CBD this morning. I think that they are already on phase 1 of their carless CBD this morning.
There is no doubt that the government wants to talk about distractions. Take a look at the statistics. The circumstances which we find ourselves in are frightening at the moment 7.3 per cent unemployment in South Australia. This is the highest rate in the nation. People say, ‘Oh that is the seasonal figure.' We will take the trend figure; that is also the highest rate in the nation.
Net interstate migration continues to spiral out of control. Net interstate migration was 3,000 people last year. That is the difference between the people who are leaving the state versus those who are coming back into the state3,000 people. It is 38,000 people who appear in our net interstate migration figures in this state since this government came to power. We would be transformed as a state if those people were back here at the moment.
And, of course, our debt continues to rise out of control under this government more than $13 billion. We will have a state debt of more than $13 billion by the 2016-17 year. And what are the consequences of that poor economic mismanagement? I will give you one statistic and this is a statistic that the former leader, the member for Heysen, always spoke about. She spoke about it because it was so critically important and that is the interest rate that we have to pay on Labor's economic mismanagement. Let me tell you that by the 2016-17 financial year we will be borrowing $725 million per year to pay the interest on the debt that Labor has run up. Imagine what you could do in this state with $725 million per year.
The member for Florey would not have to worry about services being cut at Modbury Hospital because there would be plenty of money in the budget to stop the cuts of this government at Modbury Hospital, like the closure of paediatric services and cuts to the emergency department. In fact, the member for Florey could be advocating on behalf of her constituents to the government to increase and enhance the services at Modbury Hospital.
Instead, she has to go to the people of South Australia and say, 'The Transforming Health report might be a whole pile of cuts to the people of Florey, but do not worry, it is all good. The Transforming Health report is all good for the people of Florey.' It is no good for the people of Florey; it is no good for the people of South Australia, but it is a consequence of 12½nearly 13years of gross economic mismanagement in South Australia.
Let us take a look at what was good in the Governor's speech outlining the government's agenda for this next session of the parliament. I particularly liked all of the Liberal policies which the government has put into place and plenty of those have been included.One of the first issues that they talked about was an inquiry into the opportunities of the nuclear industry in South Australia.
This is something that those on this side of the house have been talking about for years. In fact, I spoke about it publicly twice in the lead-up to the election,saying that we needed to have a government-led inquiry into the opportunities of the nuclear industry for South Australia ,and I said that this should be done in a bipartisan way from government. At the time when I made these public comments, the Premier of South Australia rejected that.
He said there was no opportunity for South Australia. In fact, he described my comments as 'a dangerous distraction' and now he has adopted the Liberal Party's position and we thank him for that.
He has also talked about the long overdue need to increase event funding and the bid fund in South Australia. We have been left without a substantial bid fund to bring events into South Australia for an extended period of time. Do not forget Labor closed down the Liberal initiative, the very successful Liberal initiative, of Australian Major Events which bid for, and won, fantastic events here in South Australiaevents like the Tour Down Under, events like the Clipsal those events which this government stands up and talks about how successful they have been over an extended period of time.
They never talk about their events. They never tell us about the KI Surf Classic. That has gone completely off the agenda. They do not go into that one in too much detail whatsoever, but they do talk about the wonderful events that were established under the Liberal government through that excellent mechanism of Australian Major Events which had a proper bid fund. So we do welcome the fact that this government is now going full circle and putting a proper bid fund back in place, like was in place when the Liberal Party was in power here in South Australia.
Of course we support their initiative for the South-East Asia Engagement Strategy. Why? Because that is our policy. It has been our policy for an extended period of time. This government has ignored the opportunities in South-East Asia for a very long period and that has been to the detriment of our exporters here in South Australia. Of course they should be doing that. They should have been doing it for many years.
The taxation review: I have talked about few things as many times as the need for tax reform here in South Australia, and it is great that the government is finally going to get around to do that, but we are absolutely worried about their proposal to put an annual land tax on the family home here in South Australia. This government only wants to talk about shifting the deck chairs. They have missed the fundamental point and that fundamental point is that we want tax relief here in South Australia, so whilst we will be supporting whatever proposal they have for engaging in a debate on tax reform in South Australia, our starting position will always be to reduce that burden on the productive component of the economy, not just shifting the deck chairs, and certainly not putting an annual land tax on the family home here in South Australia.
Of course one of the other great Liberal initiatives that is taken up in the Governor's speech is the reform of the Department for Education and Child Development. Now if there is ever a department which needs fundamental root and branch reform it is the education department, and I know that the member for Unley, who has been the shadow minister in this area for six years and seen off…
Four separate ministers in this areaknows all too well that we must have decentralisation of this department. We must have a greater focus on autonomy in our schools and we must remove child protection from the education department. We need to go back to a situation where our education department in South Australia is focused on educating our children, not on child protection. That should be its own separate stand-alone agency with its own dedicated cabinet minister, and that is what should happen in this area, and we look forward to working with the government on that area.
So you see there were some good initiatives in the Governor's speech and, of course, they were all great Liberal initiatives. I do want to also speak about what the government should be doing. Often we get accusedin fact, I was just accused a few moments ago of being somebody who only talks about the things like being in oppositionI think the member for Florey said, 'So often the opposition just want to be the opposition for opposition's sake.' Well, what a load of rubbish. I have never heard so much rubbish. Again, the member for Florey was way off the mark with her comments in the parliament. I think she should take a good look at herself, quite frankly…
Okay, so I will outline, at the member for Florey's behest, what our agenda would be if we were in government, and what we would be doing to advance the cause of this state. First, we would be reducing taxation, we would not be talking about shifting the deck chairs; we would be talking about reducing the tax burden on our businesses, on our families, in South Australia. Why? Because we are the highest taxed state in Australia. It is not good enough, when we have the highest unemployment rate, to have the highest taxation rate in this state. We should be reducing that to stimulate economic activity. That would be the No.1 thing we would do.
It was the No.1 thing we talked about in the lead-up to the state election. We were the ones who said that we would block the car park tax. We were the ones who said we would reduce land tax. We were the ones who said we would reduce payroll tax. We were the ones who said that we would have no new taxes and levies. It is interesting that the government did not match us on that promise to create no new taxes and levies, because what did they do immediately after the election? They whacked a massive annual land tax on the family home by removing the remission on the emergency services levy. We have said that we will reinstate that remission, because we do not believe that the people, the families of South Australia, should be paying that additional tax burden to make up for the inefficiency of this wasteful government.
The second point is that we must not just trim red tape but must eliminate. We must start deregulating here in South Australia, and that would be our focus. We said, in the lead-up to the election, that we would establish the first state-based productivity commission, to do the important work of removing regulations and redundant legislation that encumber businesses and individuals in South Australia. The government has, in the small business sector, established a red tape reduction steering committee. It is great that they have created a steering committee, but when will they get on with the important work of pulling off that regulation from business in South Australia?
Are they or are they not serious about creating jobs in South Australia? Clearly, they are not, because they have not put a mechanism in place. You do not have bureaucrats deregulating; it needs to be a separate stand-alone agency, and that is why, in the lead-up to the election, that we said that the Essential Services Commission of South Australia should be morphed into the first state-based productivity commission. That is not a dreamthat is a deliverablesomething we would have delivered on, unlike this government that talks about dreams and distractions and not deliverables.
The third area on which we said we would focus was the establishment of a long-range productive infrastructure planning statutory authority, infrastructure SA: again, not a dream, not a distraction, but something that could have been delivered on. Why? Because we have very finite capital in this state, and we have not developed a good quality mechanism for determining which project gets that finite capital.
The decisions of this government are shrouded in secrecy. This government has a focus on delivering capital programs that are influenced by marginal seats and electoral cycles, rather than on the best outcomes for the taxpayers of South Australia. That is why we said that it needs to be done independently, so that we know that when we spend a cent of our finite capital it is focused on delivering the best outcomes and having the highest return for the people of South Australia. That would be a deliverable.
We said that we would back our exporters, and we must back our exporters. This government talks about China, this government talks about India and now this government is talking about its South-East Asian engagement strategy, but it is not talking about how much they have slashed the budget to support our exporters. If we go back to the 2011-12 year, this government spentare you ready for it $30 million supporting our exporters. So, is it now $40 million or $50 million? It is $18 million! We have gone backwards over the last three years in South Australia, because this government has no ability to focus on the things that are important for South Australia.
There are few ways to grow jobs in South Australiafew waysbut one of the most important and potent ways to grow jobs is to increase exports out of this state. Every time we sell goods and services interstate or overseas we are bringing somebody else's money into our state to grow the size of our economy, and that is why it is so important to support those firms that can do that. Well, we do not. We do not support our exporters in South Australia; in fact, we have slashed the budget, closed overseas offices and we are doing everything we can to get in the way of this important sector of our economy.
The fifth area that we would focus on, and this government should focus on, is the public sector. I must say, for those of you who maybe were not paying attention or were not in the chamber at the time, I commend the member for Bright's Address in Reply speech, which was a very eloquent, enlightening and insightful thesis on what is happening and what needs to happen in our public sector in South Australia.
I come from the private sector and probably three, four or maybe five decades ago the private sector determined that the biggest asset in any organisation is the people who work in that organisation. For some reason, the Premier of this state and this government seem to be operating in this time vacuum where they do not realise that to get the most out of their asset they have to listen to their asset and show it some respect.
Most recently, with the restructure in DPC, I heard some very disturbing and damaging renditions of what happened on the morning that 11 senior public servants were dismissed. It really was like these public servants had been caught with their hand in the till. Can you imagine senior members of the Public Service, with decades of service to the people of South Australia, being marched out of the building? It is absolutely shameful.
The government uses the excuse that this happens in the private sector. I have operated in the private sector my entire life prior to coming into this place and I have never seen such a disgraceful exhibition as was played out on that morning in the Premier's own department. He needs to take responsibility for that. That was outrageous. If we valued our Public Service, we could improve the productivity in our Public Service, and that is exactly what we need to do.
I spent some time with John Key in New Zealand last year when I was accompanied by the member for Flinders and we visited there to look at how they turned around the productivity of their public service. They did not have a slash and burn mentality in New Zealand but they did look for productivity improvements in what they referred to as a constrained fiscal environment. They did not have massive increases in public expenditure each yearthey tried to keep it at a very low growth ratebut they actually worked with their public service to deliver improved outcomes for the people of New Zealand. Public servants are a wellspring of ideas and opportunities to improve productivity. They are being ignored and, worse than being ignored, they are being treated appallingly by this government, which is out of touch with the most important asset in this state.
Moreover, to improve the productivity of the Public Service in South Australia, we need a government that has a better understanding of the enabling power of information technology. To get better outcomes, we must have a much better use of IT in South Australia and this government is scared to death of IT and computers. Why is that? It is because nearly every single solitary project they have touched they have messed up.
Take a look at the EPAS system at the moment, take a look at the Oracle implementation in the health department and the RISTEC implementation in the Treasurer's own department. Every single time they touch an IT project, it is a mess. Where are we now? We have a government which is scared, not implementing best practice and we are getting further and further behind and our productivity is falling down.
Finally, in my seven-point plan, we need to develop a single-minded focus on reducing costs on business and on families to create jobs. We have the highest taxes in the nation, we have the highest electricity prices in the nation, we have the highest water prices in the nation and we have the highest WorkCover rate in the nation. Every one of these things is chipping away at our opportunity and job creation in South Australia.
That is why, this week, we will be moving to establish an independent inquiry into water prices in South Australia.
This is absolutely necessary because we have the highest water prices in the nation in South Australia and last year we had two former commissioners and a former chief executive of ESCOSA coming out and saying that this government has essentially cooked the books. They have artificially inflated the regulated asset base of SA Water, which has a direct flow-on effect to our water prices in South Australia.
If this is true, the government is in real trouble and the only way that the government can remove this spectre that they have been essentially overcharging South Australiansbusinesses and consumersfor an extended period of time, the only way they can clear their name is to have an independent inquiry into water prices in South Australia. If they are not prepared to do that, then I think they stand guilty in front of the people of South Australia in the lead-up to the next election.
There were explosive claims that the regulated asset base of SA Water may be overvalued by $2 billion. The flow-on effect of that each year to water consumers is in the tens and tens of millions of dollars. Imagine if this was a private sector, artificially passing on inflated prices in a regulated environment to households in South Australia. They would be prosecuted. Directors would end up in gaol. The government, the Premier and the Treasurer need to clear their names and the only way they can do this is by agreeing to the Liberal Party's proposal for an independent inquiry into water prices in South Australia.
There are just a couple of final things that I would like to put on the record today. I thought it was most important, when His Excellency was opening this second session of the 53rd Parliament, to acknowledge our CFS, our SES and our volunteer heroes who had supported our state in the recent Sampson Flat and Tantanoola fires. I would like to commend the Governor for those comments and echo those sentiments. The CFS, the SES, Red Cross, Lionsa range of volunteer groups across South Australiaacted extraordinarily when they were called upon to help with those fires.
I took a visit to Tantanoola after the fire was put out and I met with Michael Kemp. He is the Group Captain at the Wattle Range CFS. I know I am just pulling out one person, but I think this exemplifies the level of service: Michael Kemp joined the CFS in 1971. I joined the St James kindergarten in 1971 and he joined the CFS. He was made Group Captain for the Wattle Range CFS in 1976 and has served without a break since 1976, completely and utterly in a volunteer capacity.
The Wattle Range CFS attends 400 incidents per year. They have 400 volunteers in their group, which is extraordinary. We have a volunteer coordinating another 400 people from the local region. There are 21 volunteer brigades in the Wattle Range Country Fire Service with 26 trucks, and they include areas like Millicent, Glencoe, Tantanoola, Mount Burr, Penola, Meningie and a range of other areas. I have to say that these volunteers are really the heroes here in South Australia. I was so delighted when the Governor mentioned them in his address because they do not get the credit they deserve, and they are doing it tough at the moment.
They are under attack from this government. There is no doubt in my mind about this. We had to fight an election where the Liberal Party and the crossbenchers in the upper house were saying that we needed equality for our firefighters in South Australia and there should be no differentiation in terms of cancer compensation between the paid and the unpaid firefighters. The government fought that. They fought it in the parliament and they fought it in the lead-up to the election, but we did not move away from our position. We continued the fight and we now have equality between those two groups.
Of course, the massive increase in the emergency services levy has been very difficult for them to swallow. Much of their work for their equipment, for their sheds, comes through public fundraising. Well, do you know how difficult it is now to go out and sell a scone to raise money for your shed at the moment, when everybody has just had a massive increase with the removal of the emergency services levy? It is absolutely extraordinary and it has made it very, very difficult. The massive increase in the emergency services levy on households and businesses in South Australia has not delivered one additional cent in terms of equipment to the CFS, and this is something which is absolutely shameful; but, to add insult to injury, this government and the minister responsible for this area have shamefully tried to remove the autonomy from the CFS and the SES which has served it so well.
It was great that during the fires the Premier and the minister wanted to get into selfies and pics and photo opportunities with our heroes in South Australia, but immediately after they want to take away the autonomy which has served the CFS and the SES so well. And to show how arrogant this government is, how out of touch this government is, this minister actually put the advertisement in the paper for the new position to start on 1 July, even before the consultation was over. How arrogant? How out of touch is this minister to operate in such a completely and utterly disrespectful way? This minister, quite frankly, should have been going around mowing the front lawn of every CFS volunteer in South Australia and saying, 'Thank you very much. Thank you very much for giving up your time, often putting yourself in the line of danger, giving up your time to protect the lives of South Australians, to protect the property of South Australians.' They are our heroes and they should be treated with much more respect.
This government's latest attempt to create division is nothing more than dreams and distractions. At this point, at this time in South Australia, what we need more than anything else is deliverables. Every government should be held accountable for what they promise. It would be far more useful for this government to not talk about updating Housing Trust properties between now and 2030. What they should be doing is saying, 'This is what we're going to do this year, this is what we're going to do next year, this is what we're going to do the year after, which is the pre-election year,' and then the people of South Australia can hold the government accountable for what they have achieved, not what they just dreamt about.
Can I conclude my remarks by acknowledging the comments that were made by the new member for Davenport in his maiden speech. I think that certainly those on this side of the house were buoyed by that excellent speech. He will make an incredible contribution to this parliament. He comes here with great qualifications in banking and finance, but what he also spoke about, and what was very pleasing that he spoke about, were some of the other issues which have been neglected by this government for an extended period of time, when he talked about people who were disadvantaged, people who have slipped through the net here in South Australia, the way he talked about the disability sector, a sector which I myself have a great deal of interest in and I think most members on this side have had an active interest in. He talked about trying to have people who are living with a disability engaged in employment, providing those people living with a disability with their own income, but, most importantly, making a contribution to society in South Australia.
We have been left behind in so many aspects that this government should have been focused on but they have not been focused on. They have been focused on dreams, they have been focused on distractions, they have not been focused on South Australia, they have not been focused on delivering.