South Australia is in trouble. We are in the midst of a dangerous jobs crisis. We have the highest unemployment rate in the entire nation. Our population growth is half the national average. Our economy has ground to a halt after 13 years of Labor mismanagement. Our exports are going backwards, and the culmination of all of this is that we have an exodus of young people and capital across our borders into jurisdictions which provide a better environment for the future.
This is a shameful situation and so, on 18 June, when the Treasurer brought down his budget, we were hoping for a bold plan to address the crisis that we have here in South Australia. We were hoping for an emergency response to the crisis which is enveloping South Australia but, unfortunately, we had nothing like that from the Treasurer opposite.
In fact, the government has been deluding themselves now for an extended period of time. They have been out there telling people that we are doing quite well. In fact, only in October last year, the Premier and the Treasurer stood side-by-side at their press conference promising the people of South Australia 5,000 new jobs in the mining, oil and gas exploration sector in South Australia.
Let us have a look at where we are. Less than 12 months later, we have lost 5,000 jobs. We are now 10,000 jobs away from the hollow promise that was made by this government. They have continued to blame anybody else but themselves: 'It's Tony Abbott's fault; it's a problem of our currency in South Australia; it's big business; it's the global financial crisis.'
There is always something that has delivered the problems in South Australia. More than ever, what we need in South Australia is a government that will take responsibility, a government that will develop a plan to create jobs and opportunity in South Australia, and that is what we need right here in this parliament today. What is the role of the opposition in this? We are unequivocally a constructive opposition.
Time and time again, we have been putting forward positive plans to this government for their consideration to advance the cause of South Australia. I know that we have worked constructively with them to augment the SACAT legislation to provide opportunity for business in South Australia. I know that we have worked very hard, hand in glove, with this government on their return-to-work legislation to address the situation where South Australia had unequivocally the worst workers compensation scheme in the entire nation.
We are continuing to work with them on planning reform in South Australia. In fact, the opposition is pushing the government in terms of planning reform in South Australia. They have not done nearly enough. We supported their royal commission into the nuclear fuel cycle. We are a responsible opposition and, again, we come into the parliament today with our positive plan to create jobs and opportunity for our next generation.
The focus of this plan must be, unequivocally and unashamedly, on creating jobs for our next generation. We on this side of the house do not accept that we should have the highest unemployment rate in the nation. We on this side of the house do not accept that 8,700 full-time jobs were lost in this state only last month. This is completely and utterly unacceptable and we need to take action straightaway.
The government has put forward its agenda and we received that in the house on 18 June. The centre point of this, quite rightly, was on tax reform, but let us take a look at what they actually offered. The centre point of their tax reform agenda in South Australia is to offer stamp duty relief that does not come into full effect until 2018-19, but we are in the midst of a dangerous jobs crisis now. We need an emergency response right now, right here—bring it forward!
If the government genuinely believes that offering stamp duty relief in two, three and four years' time will create the jobs we need in this state to keep our next generation here, then they should bring that forward. Bring forward that tax relief to this very year when we are in the midst of this dangerous jobs crisis.
More than that, when we look closely at the detail of the plan that was put forward by the Treasurer on 18 June, it shows not a decrease in payroll tax, as we would argue for on this side of the house, but in fact an increase in payroll tax to come into effect on 1 July next year. That is an important date, because 1 July next year is the date on which the South Australian Liberal Party would have implemented its third successive increase in the threshold at which small business pays payroll tax in South Australia, but rather than offer this relief to the small business sector, on 1 July next year, the government will rip away the concession on payroll tax that has been in place.
They want to increase taxes to create jobs. It is completely and utterly dysfunctional. It will not work and I tell the government today that the Liberal Party, those people on this side of the house, will fight every single day between now and the next budget so that the government does not increase payroll tax and starts to implement decreases in our payroll tax threshold in South Australia.
More than that, as we know, in last year's budget, the government actually ripped $90 million away from households in South Australia when this Treasurer implemented what was essentially a land tax on the family home. This is something that previous treasurers have said they would not do without going to the people of South Australia, but that is exactly and precisely what this Treasurer did last year. He ripped $90 million from households, and the reason he gave was quite interesting. He said it was due to federal government cuts in funding to South Australia.
I thought I would take a look; I thought I would check to see if the Treasurer was speaking the truth. To do that, I took a look at the last budget that was handed down by Wayne Swan. Wayne Swan was the federal Labor treasurer and he handed down his budget in May 2013. Over the forward estimates, it provided federal government funding under the Labor administration to South Australia through to the end of 2016-17.
I compared that with the budget that was handed down by Mr Hockey in May this year. It is fair to say that I was a little bit surprised with the results because, as we know, the government has spent millions of dollars of taxpayer dollars in South Australia on their spurious campaign telling the people of South Australia about these terrible cuts.
Let's have a look at what happened—there we go. If we look at the difference this current financial year between what was promised under Wayne Swan and the Labor Party and what was promised by Joe Hockey and the Coalition, there is a $273 million increase in funding from the federal government. Let's take a look at next year: a $671 million increase in funding from the federal government, to be followed up the year after by a $1.256 billion increase in federal government funding from the Coalition, over and above what Wayne Swan had promised from the Labor administration.
That brings us to a total of $2.2 billion worth of additional money, additional money that the Treasurer said was not coming to South Australia. In fact, he said that there were cuts; he ran very expensive television advertising telling the lie that South Australia's funding from the federal government was cut—it was increased. It was increased this year; it is increasing next year and the year after. So is the Treasurer a man of his word? He said repeatedly that, if there were not these cuts from the federal government, there would be no need for this $90 million ESL removal of the remission. There is no need, Treasurer. Restore the remissions and give that money back to the households.
More than just tax relief to the people of South Australia, we need a wholesale focus on deregulation in South Australia. Our businesses have been bound up in increasing red tape after 13 years of Labor administration in this state. You do not have to go very far to hear about the appalling state of business confidence in South Australia. You just have to switch on the television at night, or open the paper, to hear about more business failure in South Australia, businesses downscaling or businesses going out of business.
Red tape is killing our businesses in South Australia. The government routinely talks about trimming red tape here and trimming red tape there. Well, the time has passed for trimming red tape. We need wholesale deregulation in South Australia and we are proposing that the government moves away from its long-held position with the Economic Development Board as its sole independent advice on managing our economy and moves to establish the first state-based productivity commission in South Australia.
I have no quarrel with the EDB, or the members of the Economic Development Board in South Australia. Individually, they are outstanding contributors. They are leaders, business leaders, community leaders and highly credentialled achievers in their own right, but collectively, either they have not been providing the advice to this government or the government has not been listening to the advice of this board. Whichever it is, South Australia is not performing well. Our economy has ground to a halt, and we need a different mechanism to get our economy moving in the right direction.
The Productivity Commission methodology has been in place for decades and decades. It has operated at the federal level. It has been supported by both Labor and Liberal administrations over that time and it has driven a productivity improvement in Australia. We are the 53rd most populous nation in the world; we have the 12th largest economy. A lot of that drive has come from the independent advice of the Productivity Commission, but we have fallen behind in South Australia. That is why we on this side of the house are advocating the first state-based productivity commission to remove barriers to creating employment in South Australia and to drive and direct our productivity improvement as a state.
Another great source of productivity is through enabling infrastructure and, again, this is an area where this government has dropped the ball. In fact, when the Treasurer made his speech to this house only a few weeks ago, he said that we were going to have a massive $1.3 billion infrastructure expenditure next year. Well, that is his budget. Let me tell you what he did not tell you: if you look at the average over the last five years, it has been closer to $2 billion. In other words, the Treasurer is presiding over a massive slashing of the capital budget in South Australia. There is not one single major announcement in terms of infrastructure in their budget, and that is not good enough.
Infrastructure creates jobs, but it also creates that enabling productivity improvement to have sustainable jobs going forward, and that is what we need in South Australia. That is why we say on this side of the house, 'Get on with the Northern Connector'. The government has been talking about the Northern Connector for an extended period of time but get on with it, bring it forward, deliver it for the people of South Australia. Create the jobs and create the productivity improvement, but do not just stop there.
We know that the Prime Minister of Australia, the Hon. Tony Abbott, made an announcement in 2013 committing to a continuously flowing north-south corridor in South Australia to be delivered within 10 years. We are calling upon the government to bring forward future stages of the north-south corridor upgrade in South Australia to create jobs and to improve our productivity in South Australia.
Our focus on productive infrastructure should not be limited to metropolitan Adelaide. Our regions have been starved after 13 years of Labor government in South Australia, and that is why we have said that we would like to establish Infrastructure SA, an independent statutory authority looking at developing a long-range productive infrastructure plan for the people of South Australia. This government has focused on pet projects around marginal seats in electoral cycles for too long and they have not delivered the productive infrastructure that we need to support our exporters to create jobs and to grow our economy. That is what Infrastructure SA would do.
Our first referral would be for an immediate cost benefit analysis on the Strzelecki Track upgrade. This is an important piece of infrastructure. Again, the government want to talk about it—endlessly talk about it—but when are they actually going to do something about it and deliver it? We want a long-range plan in South Australia for roads, rail, ports, water augmentation, electricity augmentation. Where is our ports plan? This government has been talking about another deep-sea port for South Australia for a decade. They have no detail whatsoever and that is why they cannot be trusted to do the job and Infrastructure SA needs to be developed to oversee this important area for the people of South Australia.
Water is a critical part of our infrastructure and, again, this is an area where this government has not performed. Let’s be serious about this. We have the highest water prices in the country and this is again holding back our ability to grow our economy. That is why we say we need an immediate independent inquiry into water pricing in South Australia. We have called upon the government for this; they have ignored it. What have they got to hide? We need to have a look at the way that we are pricing our water in South Australia so that we are not dealing ourselves out of the game because of our extraordinary high prices in South Australia.
More than that, we need to have a plan for water augmentation in South Australia so that we can open up the productive capacity of the northern Adelaide plains, the Clare region and, in fact, right across regional South Australia. We can get into further intensive horticulture. We talked about this a great deal in the lead up to the state election and we implore the government to take a very good look at this. Most importantly, we need to look urgently now at opening up third-party access to SA Water infrastructure so that we can drive down prices and improve our productive capacity as a state.
We are not travelling well in terms of our export performance in South Australia and, again, this is something that is holding South Australia back. We know that for every million dollars exported we create a huge number of jobs in South Australia—10 jobs, the economists tell us—and that is why we need to have a major focus on creating these opportunities for South Australia. How have we gone in this area? The figures were published only a few weeks ago for the year to the end of April. We have had a 7 per cent decrease in exports. For years, those opposite have told us that the reason for the decrease in the exports is because of the high valuation of the Australian dollar. Guess what? It is massively devalued, and what has happened to our exports? They have fallen back, ratcheted back yet again.
When this government came to power, we represented almost 8 per cent of the nation's exports. Today, we are little over 4 per cent, and we do not have a focus on this area. We have had vanity projects and jetting overseas, but the outcome has not delivered jobs for South Australia. In fact, if we go back to the 2012-13 budget, the government was budgeting to spend $30 million a year to support our exporters; this year, it is $13 million.
So, there was a lot of talk. We have had the jumbo and it has gone overseas. The 85 public servants have all been over and they have actually got the stamp on their passports. But, unfortunately, when we look at the budget, there is less money going in to supporting our trade-related exports out of South Australia, and that is absolutely shameful.
Deputy Speaker, as you would be aware, last year I travelled to New Zealand and met with the Prime Minister, the Hon. John Key. Let me tell you that the New Zealand economy, under solid, centre-right administration led by John Key and the National Party, has seen an incredible turnaround since 2008. When John Key became the Prime Minister of New Zealand, 3,000 New Zealanders net were leaving New Zealand every single month. Proportionally, it sounds a little bit like South Australia—3,000 every single month.
Fast forward to 2015, they now have a net repatriation of people going back to New Zealand, because they have a quality government which is delivering economic growth for the people of New Zealand. What a powerhouse that economy has been. If we look at the last four years, there has been a 7.9 per cent increase or growth in the size of their economy. South Australia has been languishing, bumping along the bottom, at 3.7 per cent.
Last week, I had the good fortune of meeting with the Hon. Bill English, who is the finance minister and Deputy Prime Minister of New Zealand. Fundamental to New Zealand's turnaround have been two things: firstly, a major focus on growing the size of the economy through exports and, secondly, improving the productivity of the public services in that country. How do you actually grow the output? How do you actually deliver better services to the people of New Zealand in a constrained fiscal environment?
Bill English gave a great speech in Melbourne last week which focused upon not just pouring more and more money into public services but looking at reforming them, understanding the cost drivers and focusing on the output. How many times, when we have asked questions in this parliament about how the government's performance and their outputs are going in an area, have the government responded, 'We put more money in'?
What we are calling on the government to do is to work with the Public Service to develop and improve productivity with a greater focus on outputs. In business, we have been doing this for years. We have understood the great asset, which is the people who work in our organisations. Yet, in the Public Service in South Australia, we have a government which treats them as a cost centre, not a great source of ideas, and not a great source of reform or productivity improvement or to improve output, but a cost. We have seen this time and time again, and it is about time the government changed their stance. This has got to be a major focus for them going forward.
It was a disappointing budget. It did not deliver the emergency response we desperately needed here in South Australia. Our party, the Liberal Party of Australia, was formed 71 years ago by Robert Gordon Menzies. Robert Gordon Menzies founded this party based upon the rights and responsibilities of the individual. He wanted the individual to be the best that they possibly could be; he wanted the individual to achieve their optimum, unencumbered by government. He talked about the forgotten people: he talked about the farmers, the shopkeepers, the tradesmen—the people who put their capital on the line to create opportunities for our nation and for our state. Sir Robert Menzies understood about these forgotten people, and he addressed it.
At a time in South Australia when we have the highest unemployment rate in the nation, when we have a state growth which has essentially ground to a halt, when we have population growth half the national average, when we have more and more of our young people leaving our state, when we have exports going backwards, there has never been a more important time for our state to recommit to the forgotten people, to recommit to those people who have the capacity to create jobs, to create enterprise and to advance our state.
That is why today, in this parliament, we call upon this government to focus on the forgotten people, for this government to accelerate their tax reforms, to bring forward their capital investment, to deregulate and to focus on exports.