The Hon. D.W. RIDGWAY (Leader of the Opposition) ( 17:19 :31 ): I rise to contribute to the debate on the Address in Reply. Firstly, let me thank our new Governor, the Hon. Hieu Van Le, for his first speech to the parliament as Governor. I do not recall him coming as Lieutenant-Governor. I think, when Marjorie Jackson-Nelson was Governor, Mr Bruno Krumins may have come once or twice, but I do not recall the Hon. Hieu Van Le coming as Lieutenant-Governor; so he was here for his first speech.
I will also again put on the record that I think his selection has been warmly embraced by the whole community. He is somebody who has worked tirelessly in his life prior to being appointed to Governor. I think Hieu Van Le's contribution to public life has been exceptional, and it is wonderful that he has been rewarded with the position of Governor. I know that he takes that as a great honour, and I know that he will certainly serve with distinction over what I hope will be many years of being our Governor. Listening to him speak on Tuesday was a real pleasure.
I think the crux of the Governor's speech was that we are in a state of transition. Our economy is in a volatile state, and the way we manage the transition will mean make or break for this great state. For the members in the chamber today, it may be the difference between having our children find employment in South Australia or having to leave to get work.
I am reminded of a speech I suspect a lot of us have heard in various different forums from Raymond Spencer, the chair of the Economic Development Board, who thinks that South Australia is at the crossroads. He thinks that it could be the Harvard study in 20 or 30 years' time of a great small economy, if we get it right—or we could be the Harvard study of an economy that destroyed itself. I think we do find ourselves, after 13 years of Labor government, definitely at the crossroads.
The essence of my reply to the Governor's speech is this: I do not have confidence that the Weatherill Labor government can manage South Australia's economic transition. I believe that a great deal of our community does not have that confidence either. This Labor government has had 13 years to strengthen our economy in preparation for changes we are now experiencing, particularly in the manufacturing sector.
It is interesting to see that the Premier, the Hon. Jay Weatherill, has been a minister for those 13 years, yet it is only now that he is out there advocating some of the things that I will address later in my speech such as tax reform, the nuclear debate, a whole range of other issues and health as well, which of course I will also touch on. He has sat there in cabinet. I know that he says they have very few votes in cabinet, as it is always done by consensus. I assume that was the way that former premier the Hon. Mike Rann ran cabinet as well.
He has sat there for those 13 years, and I think the Leader of the Government opposite has been a minister now for nine years. If you start to add up the tally of the senior people in the government who have actually been in the cabinet through the good times and did nothing with the good times, you now start to be concerned about where this state is going. You cannot just sit on your hands and hope that it is going to be good forever.
Premier Weatherill expects us to have confidence in his governance because of the pipe dreams and motherhood statements. We have had various iterations of the State Strategic Plan, along with his seven strategic priorities the last time the Governor addressed this chamber, and then, of course, towards the end of last year, the 10 economic priorities which I think were the same seven regurgitated and another three added, but really, where have they got us?
When this parliament reopened some five years ago after the 2010 election, a pillar of the Governor's speech was the creation of an extra 100,000 jobs over six years, which, of course, takes us to March 2016. I asked some questions about that today, Mr President, as you would recall. Our unemployment rate now is at some 7.3 per cent, which is the highest in the nation—higher than Tasmania. Of those 100,000 jobs, roughly a year away from the deadline, there are 99,400 jobs still to be created.
So, you see what has happened. Jay Weatherill was in cabinet at the time that decision was made. The Hon. Gail Gago was in cabinet at the time that decision was made. They all signed off on it, but they have not delivered on it. So, we have seen this decline right across a whole range of sectors, where they talk the talk, but they never ever walk the walk. It is also interesting to see that, at that time, minister Hill also said that health and health care would remain a core priority for the government.
Five years on, what we see with this health transition program we are dealing with at the moment is that we are going to close the emergency department at the Noarlunga hospital, close the emergency departments of The QEH and the Modbury, close the Daw Park Repatriation General Hospital, close the Hampstead Rehabilitation Centre and close St Margarets Rehabilitation Hospital at Semaphore.
This morning, I was listening on the radio I think to the clinical advocate for Transforming Health. I do not recall her name, but she was a very articulate lady—a professor, I think. She said that this has been an issue that people have been talking about for 10 years. So, we have had a government for 13 years: it has been 10 years of that 13 years.
I recall the Hon. Kevin Foley saying many years ago that health was an issue, yet they have done nothing: the Hon. Jay Weatherill, the Hon. Gail Gago—a health professional herself, from a nursing background. She has been in cabinet for nine years and the Hon. Jay Weatherill for 13 years. We have been talking about it for 10 years, and they have done nothing. That is what poor governments are made of: people who talk about stuff, but they do not actually do anything. We should have had some action well before this, but they sat there believing that they would have the rivers of gold from a well-managed national economy and a world economy that was booming at the time—but they did nothing with it; in fact, they squandered it.
Over that time, in the very early stages of that 13-year journey we have been on—it is more like a nightmare than a journey—we had the Menadue report, which talked about decentralising health services. Then, out of the blue, minister Hill, minister Foley and premier Rann decided to build a new Royal Adelaide Hospital.
I recall minister Foley at a function, when he was open for questions, turning to me and saying, 'Ridgway, you ask me a question. You're in the other house; you never get to ask me a question.' It was at a property function. I said, 'Tell me, Treasurer, what expert advice did you get on the location of the new hospital?' He said, 'Well, none. John Hill, Rann and I decided on the location.' So, they did not seek any expert advice on the location of it.
The amount to be spent will now be $2½ billion to $3 billion. The current government talks about a bipartisan approach to things like the reforms in WorkCover and reforms in taxation, so one would think that if you were going to spend $2½ billion to $3 billion, which I think is $1.1 million a day for 30 years, which our children and grandchildren will have to find to pay for it, you would actually speak to the opposition.
Interestingly, after the 2010 election, everybody knew two things about both parties, regardless of who won: we wanted footy in the city and we wanted to spend a lot of money on new health facilities, whether rebuilding the RAH on its existing site or obviously the new one the government was talking about. The bipartisanship was not anywhere to be seen. We have had this discussion on health—it started at least 10 years ago—but a lazy, lazy government has done nothing to address it.
In 2010, the Governor confirmed that the government would continue to boost the mining sector. Prior to the 2014 election, in trend terms, mining expenditure in South Australia actually decreased for the seventh consecutive quarter. We have watched the closure of a number of mines: the Honeymoon uranium mine, the Angas zinc mine, and the scrapping of plans for the $1 billion Arafura rare earth processing plant. Various major projects were touted and, over following years, associated epic cost blowouts became apparent: the desal plant, Adelaide Oval, the rail yards hospital.
Rather than preparing our economy for transition, this government has long been spending out of control. I think that it is important to look at the spending, and I will come back to the Governor's speech in more detail shortly—because I recall the direction from the chair that contributions should stay more focused on the Governor's speech. I think it is important, in the context of the Governor's speech and some of the new things we are talking about, to look at where we are at.
By the end of the 2016-17 financial year, the public sector debt will be around some $13.2 billion. In the 2014-15 period, the Labor Weatherill government will run a $185 million deficit, even after extracting hundreds of millions of dividends from SA Water and the Motor Accident Commission.
If that is not concerning enough, this year the government will borrow nearly $260 million just to cover its debts. If we look at the public sector borrowing expense, it is some $530 million this year; in 2016-17, it will peak at $725 million. That is interest of $2 million a day. So one thing that has become very apparent over the 13 years is that Labor does not understand the budget basics. When a household budget comes under stress, it is logical: you curb your spending and not look to additional revenue measures.
In regard to where the budget is at, where the state's economy is at and the way this government operates, you have to live within your means, and we have never, ever seen that in 13 years. We have squandered the good times. Only a bunch of imbeciles would think that the good times would be there forever. We all know that state economies, national economies and world economies are cyclical things and that when things are booming you should be putting a bit away and provisioning for the future, or investing in productive infrastructure and productive investments that can help to grow and support the economy throughout the tougher times. Instead, this government promised no more privatisation during that period but went on to privatise our forests.
I point out again that the government has privatised the forests. It actually sold them at the bottom of the market. It is a bit like the Labor Party—not the government but the Labor Party—owning a pub in Port Adelaide that went broke. Only the Labor Party would have a pub that went broke in Port Adelaide. I know that has nothing to do with the Governor's speech, so I will come back.
We have sold the forestry assets, SA Lotteries and HomeStart Finance, and the Motor Accident Commission is up for sale. It is interesting that the Treasurer and the government announced that. They were not really quite sure how they were going to sell it and they were not quite sure how they could make that stack up. Of course, the ESL has gone up exponentially and the government has also moved to take away pensioner concessions on rates.
Also, just by way of context and background, in 2010 the Governor spoke of business needing an operating environment which encouraged enterprise and tailoring our tax system to that end. He said that our tax system's success should be measured by the jobs growth in our economy. Well, we have not seen too much jobs growth.
In 2014, the Sensis Business Index noted that South Australian small and medium businesses recorded lower expectations of all indicators for the June quarter and the worst perceptions of all states about the current state economy and the economy in a year's time, which of course is the economy we are in now. Sadly, I think those perceptions were right. We recorded the worst employment expectations of all states for both the June quarter and the next 12 months which, of course, we saw today with the 7.3 per cent unemployment rate. Of all states, South Australian small businesses were the least supported in state government policies.
I could continue at length on this government's track record, but the point of my reciting this evidence is that talk is cheap. Labor has spent 13 years talking about various lofty goals and plans, but there has not been enough action. After 13 years in government you cannot pass the buck to previous governments anymore. Labor must take full ownership of South Australia's position.
When I was first elected in 2002—of course, we had a Howard federal government—it was all the Howard government's fault, or it was the former Brown/Olsen/Kerin government's fault. Then, of course, we went into a bit of a silent period during the unprecedented tumultuous time with the Rudd/Gillard/Rudd government, when it was not the federal government's fault. Now, of course, where we have a change federally, it is the Abbott government's fault. This government has always looked to try to blame somebody else for its problems.
This government cannot even get its finances right and now it wants to make Adelaide the world's first carbon neutral city. It is an admirable goal. The Governor mentioned it in his speech on Tuesday, but what is the plan? We have asked questions of the Minister for Climate Change, the Hon. Ian Hunter, who after being sacked from Aboriginal affairs was given (I do not know whether it was a promotion) the task of being the Minister for Climate Change.
I really do not know how we will be the world's first carbon neutral city. Will it help grow our economy? Will it create jobs? Will it make Adelaide a tourism destination? It may have some tourism potential. How big is 'Adelaide'? Is it the CBD, the council area or Greater Adelaide, as per the 30-year plan? We are very scant on detail on how this might work.
If we are talking about carbon neutral city, how will things like the Clipsal be taken into consideration during that process? I am a great lover of motorsport, but a reasonable amount of carbon goes into the atmosphere during that wonderful four-day event, which of course was a Liberal initiative. I wonder how that will it be calculated.
We saw premier Rann put wind turbines on offices in Adelaide because that would be a way that they could be self-sustainable—none ever worked and none were ever connected. It intrigues me that we will see another round of wind turbines that do not work in Adelaide to fund or promote or try to achieve this goal of a carbon neutral city. The Governor mentioned we will legislate for driverless vehicles. It is promised that these vehicles will be safer, but in the case of accidents or speeding who will be liable—the owner or the manufacturer?
It intrigues me, when you drive in the city, as to exactly how these things will work. We have the new rules around cyclists and keeping one metre away from them. We all in this chamber spend a fair bit of time on the road coming to and from here and doing our work in and around the city and the state. I am a bit intrigued with that new initiative and the law of having to stay a metre away from a cyclist. What happens if a cyclist moves closer to you? What happens if a cyclist moves closer to a driverless car? Who gets the fine—is it the owner, the manufacturer, the premier who thought it was a good idea or the cyclist for going too close?
It is easy to get right in the speech and for cabinet to sign off on it. I am told that cabinet signed off on the Governor's speech—I suspect that is the way these things work, but there is no detail around it.
The Hon. K.J. Maher: You'll never find out.
The Hon. D.W. RIDGWAY: The Hon. Kyam Maher interjects that I will never find out, I suspect was what he was saying. I expect that I will find out. However, what I want to know is how these things work. Again, it is another example of cheap talk.
I read that the minister says that Google have driverless cars or the technology. Is it adaptable to Australian conditions? Given that I read somewhere—
The Hon. I.K. Hunter interjecting:
The Hon. D.W. RIDGWAY: The minister says, 'Well, roads,' and he laughs. The way they rip money out SA Water—I read recently that we have more burst water mains in South Australia than anywhere else. Will these cars have the technology to drive around the water or will they just drive into the hole in the middle of the road? It is intriguing. It may be a little bit sexy, a little bit distracting, like some of the other things the Governor and the Premier spoke about.
The Hon. K.J. Maher: A little bit sexy?
The Hon. I.K. Hunter: A little bit distracting?
The PRESIDENT: Both ministers are out of order.
The Hon. D.W. RIDGWAY: Certainly I would not be looking at them and saying anything about sexy. They are a bit distracting, but certainly sex has got nothing to do with them.
On Tuesday, the Governor also spoke about how we need a more open planning system and debates about the future growth that will occur with full transparency. Why has it taken 13 years to deal with this issue? It is interesting to note that we have an urban growth boundary that has been in place for a very long time. I think that the Hon. Di Laidlaw put it in place. Out of the blue a few years ago, outside the urban growth boundary, Buckland Park was identified by, I think, the former minister here, the Hon. Paul Holloway, and that was rezoned for housing.
It was outside the urban growth boundary with no infrastructure and no services—just one of the things they plucked out of the air. I think at that time that there were reports that the lobbyists at the time may have received a seven-figure success fee for that particular project. It is interesting to note that Premier Weatherill and the government are now going to look at lobbyists and payments they may receive.
It is just interesting that there has been a whole range of things happen over the last few years, and Mount Barker and some of the other areas have been rezoned, and that now suddenly this is all outrageous and we are going to have legislate for an urban growth boundary and we must not allow people to be lobbyists for certain periods of time; from my understanding, as again it is very vague on detail. There have been some big questions asked about the government's relationship with lobbyists over the last few years.
Of course, we have inquiries, ranging from quite high-level secret ones right through to inquiries through the media and parliament, about the transactions around the Gillman deal. That would have to be one of the craziest things I have seen. Why on earth a government would not go to tender on a large piece of land and do it in a transparent and open manner is beyond me.
I am certainly aware in that process where certain parties made some inquiries about that particular piece of land and were told, 'No, we're not ready to sell it because we are master planning it. We will let you know when we are and we've done the master plan.' Out of the blue, Adelaide Capital Partners puts in an unsolicited bid and gets the property. This is not the forum to discuss Gillman in any great detail, but it is a questionable deal that again brings into question some of the reasons around why we are just now saying that the planning system, the urban growth boundary and some of the reforms need to take place.
It is interesting that some of the major reforms are about having an independent planning commission, regional assessment boards and regional planning boards, as the Hon. Tung Ngo talked about. Members opposite probably will not remember, because they would not have taken the time to read it, but some nearly four years ago I released a discussion paper around a better planning system.
When Brian Hayes QC was talking about the draft on radio with Ian Henschke last year sometime, he explained what the new reforms were about. I was quite surprised, because often I probably do not have the highest regard for some people in the media, when Ian Henschke said, 'Hang on, Brian. What you've said is just exactly what the Liberals announced three years ago,' and he said, 'No, it's not.'
Henschke then read out some material that he had kept on file and said, 'This is where they were going to have an independent planning commission and regional boards,' and Brian Hayes said, 'Well, if that's what the opposition said they were going to do, that's what we're going to do.' So it is interesting that it is something we thought of three or four years ago. We were scoffed at at the time, and now of course it is looking like we are going to have similar reforms.
The Governor said also that the government is open to radical tax reform and, if you look at the big graphs, the pie charts and the bar graphs the Treasurer, the Hon. Tom Koutsantonis, had yesterday in his lock-up, if you like, for the media on their tax reform, it talks about the volatility of stamp duty which, of course, is the one that they are concerned about.
That is an admission that they have no plans for growth. Stamp duty was booming during the boom periods when the rivers of gold were coming in from the GST and we were getting mountains of diamonds, if you like, from what was coming in from stamp duty. If the government is saying, 'Well, we can't rely on stamp duty anymore,' that it is an acknowledgement that they do not expect any growth from the economy.
It is really quite surprising, so now they are looking to tax the average household about $1,200 a year, and I think that that is for the median house of about $410,000 to $420,000. The Hon. Tom Koutsantonis, when I was listening to him on radio this morning, said, 'Oh it's just a discussion paper.' With some of the comments today from members opposite and ministers opposite talking about taxation policy, they are a lot more committed to it than I think the Treasurer was saying they were committed to it this morning on radio.
With $1,200 a year for a $400,000 house, there are tens of thousands of houses with interest rates as low as they are that are much more than the $400,000. Of course, the government says they have not done the modelling on how much the other houses are, but I suspect that if there is a formula that gives you $1,200 for a $410,000 or $420,000 house, it would be very easy to apply that formula to a $600,000, $700,000, $800,000 or $900,000 house.
I know that there are a number of houses—and you often seen the articles in our Advertiser newspaper—and a number of suburbs that have tipped over the million dollar mark. So, if it is $1,200 for a $400,000 house, for an $800,000 you could easily assume it is $2,500, and for houses more than that it might be $3,000 or $4,000, so it is a significant amount of money.
You have to ask yourself: why should all South Australians have to pay for Labor's economic incompetence? This comes on top of increasing bills—gas bills by 150 per cent, water bills by 236 per cent, electricity bills up 140 per cent—and we have highest taxes in the nation and now we have to endure also the increase in the emergency services levy. Again, this government has had 13 years to repair our economy for this transition. There has been clearly no forward thinking and now each South Australian household and each South Australian man, woman and child is expected to bear the brunt of it.
As I have said before, it is simple: you cannot spend more than you earn and you need to put a little bit away in the good times. We just have not seen that. It has been almost like they have been negligent, derelict in their duty in the good times. I reiterate that Premier Weatherill has been there for every day that this government has been in power. The Leader of the Government here, the Hon. Gail Gago, has been here for some nine years. I think if you start looking through, the Hon. John Rau has been a minister for five years, the Hon. Jack Snelling at least the same, the Hon. Tom Koutsantonis, six years, and the Hon. Ian Hunter, I think, if I look at my little cheat sheet here, has been here for four years.
When you add it up, there is 51 years of cabinet experience in the team at the moment. All the senior ones have been there for a significant part of that 13-year period and yet they say, 'Oh, we've got a crisis. Our health system is in crisis.' We have known that for 10 years and they have been talking about it for 10 years and done nothing.
I will also just quickly touch on the nuclear debate that the Premier wants to have, the royal commission. It is interesting that it will be the first royal commission of its type. As Steven Marshall, the opposition leader said, we welcome the debate. We should have an open and frank debate about all the possible opportunities for industries in our state. However, I remind members opposite that it has been their, if you like, backward-looking policies around nuclear energy which have held us back.
Mike Rann said that Roxby Downs is nothing more than a mirage in the desert and then he spent most of his time as premier hoping like hell he could get BHP to expand it, and then overspruiked it and caused a lot of grief in our community. I remember that in the regional city of Whyalla house prices boomed and then crashed on the back of the Hon. Mike Rann and the Hon. Kevin Foley overegging the pudding, if you like, and people speculated (assuming there would be significant growth and there was not) and got their fingers burnt.
Then there is Labor's national federal policy of the three mines policy. The resources in the sector said to me that nobody was game to explore in South Australia because even though we have a large, world-class supply of uranium and you are likely to find uranium wherever you dig, if you could not actually use that uranium or sell it because of the Labor Party's three mines policy, there was not any point in exploring here. That policy, which I know has been overturned but was in place for a very long period of time, has held us back. I am sure Jay Weatherill was a big supporter of that policy up until it was overturned at their federal convention about five years ago—that is my recollection.
After 13 years of Labor we have another Governor's speech. Great bloke and great person that Hieu Van Le is, at the end of the day unless it is backed up with a real commitment from members opposite to deliver, we are really facing the same old sad story of spiralling debt and our economy going backwards.
As members opposite would know, we have various shadow ministers and I will touch on a couple of the areas that I am directly involved in. On Tuesday, the Governor rightfully mentioned that our traditional industries are declining. Once upon a time, we were the whitegoods capital of the nation and we had a profitable shipbuilding industry. Those industries are now in the past and we are currently observing the same fate with our manufacturing industry.
In a few years' time, of course, sadly there will not be any Australian car manufacturers. It is interesting to note that we did put a lot of support and effort in as a nation, and various governments of various political persuasions put a lot of support into car manufacturing in Australia, particularly in South Australia. However, it is interesting to see the number of non-Australian made cars out in the streets over the last two, three or four years. There has been a move away from the vehicles that have been made in Australia. It is interesting to see that we have invested as a nation, we have supported Holden, Toyota and Ford but, at the end of the day, the community or consumers have not supported it.
I noticed on Twitter around the time of the election that—I will say I am not 100 per cent certain of the accuracy of this, but I will mention it—Treasurer Hon. Tom Koutsantonis's second car may have been a Honda. We are still making Holdens, Fords and Toyotas, but I think his family made a decision to by a Honda. I know all of us in here who have access to vehicles have Holdens, because they are the ones we have access to. I would be interested to know about the vehicles we all buy outside those we have access to here. Are they Holdens, Fords or Toyotas, or are they some other vehicle from some other part of the world? Now, I am not just pointing the finger at the Labor Party; I think all of us are—
The Hon. G.E. Gago: Because you can't afford to.
The Hon. D.W. RIDGWAY: No; I think it is a sign that we have had a range of vehicles that the consumers have not wanted to purchase from Australia. What I also find staggering, though, is that the primary industries and agriculture sectors—which have existed since our settlement; we know this was a rural experiment in South Australia—and have the potential to exist for as long as rain falls from the sky, have been given almost no forward thinking by the minister or the government.
If you look at our traditional manufacturing industries, one common theme is that we have always focused on the manufacturer rather than the design aspect of those industries. The problem is that we no longer have the capacity to compete with developing nations on labour costs, so we will continue to put all forms of manufacturing at risk unless we look to other areas where we can capitalise on the value of those industries. I believe, to a certain extent, the only thing keeping the agriculture and primary industry sectors competitive is our natural advantage. However, I think it is dangerous to rely on that advantage, as other nations seek out and succeed in finding innovative ways to cultivate food products.
You only have to look at New Zealand's explosion in agricultural exports after they signed a free trade agreement with China some six years ago. I will touch on the free trade agreements in a little while in my contribution, but I think we have to be careful that we do not just sit back, rest on our laurels and say, 'We've got a good food and agriculture sector.' We must continually back it up. I think R&D is the key to the future viability of these sectors, and I am really disappointed to see that there was no mention of an increase of support for R&D for our agriculture sectors in the Governor's speech.
In fact, I am not quite sure where the premium food and wine from our clean and green environment initiative still fits. It certainly was not prominent in the Governor's speech, yet it is still the biggest business in town. The South Australian Research and Development Institute (SARDI) has had its funding cut five times in the past seven years. One of the largest single funding cuts came shortly after the Premier announced that premium food and wine from our clean environment was one of his seven strategic priorities. On one hand, they talk the talk, but they do not walk the walk.
I ask: how is South Australia supposed to continue to deliver a premium product to a rapidly evolving global economy when we are not looking to the latest methods and technologies? How should South Australia's cereal farmers go about delivering a premium product when the government cuts annual funding to the Australian Centre for Plant Functional Genomics, which is investigating new ways to tackle salinity and drought issues, by $1.5 million?
It is rather interesting that the funding for building that particular facility was signed off by cabinet in the last months of the Kerin government, and minister Hamilton-Smith—it was the first time he was a minister—was the one who promoted it and had carriage of it through cabinet. It is located in his electorate of Waite, and yet he has been silent. The silence on the lack of funding to that facility is almost deafening.
Is the government aware that Eyre Peninsula, which produces almost half of South Australia's wheat, has a research centre (the Centre of Excellence in Low Rainfall Farming for Southern Australia) and that the centre is fighting for its survival? It has recently lost more staff. It just does not make sense. We have asked questions time and time again to the Leader of the Government opposite, who was for a period of time the minister for agriculture, in relation to our commitment to research and the national framework, but then we see the sale of R&D assets like Flaxley and Lenswood, which I think is about to go. My understanding of that national framework was that we were meant to put that money back into research. We have a dryland research centre at Minnipa and now people are being sacked and staff are leaving because there simply is not enough money to keep them there.
Yes, South Australia has a natural advantage in food production, but it also has some major challenges, not the least of which are soil salinity and low rainfall. The Governor rightly stated that demand for South Australia's premium food and wine will increase. The world has an insatiable appetite which will only grow. This government has become obsessed, though, with defining premium food and wine.
You and I know, Mr President—we have both been involved in agriculture at various times in our lives—that all South Australian food and wine is premium in the world market and that the demand for it will continue to grow. The government says it will do more to maximise the benefit of this demand. Yes, an engagement strategy with international markets is important, but it will be useless if we fail to invest in innovations for the future of farming.
Make no mistake that other primary industries across the globe are actively investing in ways to overcome salinity, drought and other challenges. Since he became the Minister for Climate Change, minister Hunter has often said that we are not taking it seriously. Well, if they were taking it seriously, they would be putting a lot more money back into R&D to tackle things like salinity, drought, heat stress—all the things that will, according to minister Hunter, impact on our agricultural sector. We saw nothing in the Governor's speech about that.
I also believe we have a minister who is sidetracked with his boutique food and wine products but ignoring those who produce the real commodities. Last year, I was at an industry forum where the minister spoke and talked about delivering premium, clean and green product to overseas markets. One producer stood up and said that his chief concern was simply about getting a bulk commodity to market. He was implying, and I believe correctly, that the minister's fixation on fashionable food and wine products is distracting him from the major industry challenges. I think he is really quite out of touch on this particular issue.
Another thing the minister has bungled is his politicisation of the GM debate. He has engaged in scaremongering tactics which do nothing more than set the industry back. What South Australia needs is a focus on the quantifiable benefits of remaining GM free. As members opposite would know, we publicly supported a moratorium, but we want to be able to measure what those benefits are. We need to be in the position to make an informed decision about the best way forward for farmers, the environment and our wider society. In the meantime, the GM moratorium remains. It needs to be counterbalanced with more investment in conventional farming methods.
This government, if they are not prepared to measure and wish to keep that in place, actually have to make sure that we use every other bit of possible research and development and technology to keep our farmers at the forefront of the game, rather than having the industry locked out of that technology, which is a government decision. As I said, we want to measure the benefits, but you have to make sure you look at every other possible opportunity.
I notice that yesterday minister Bignell was talking about the $400,000 in grants for manufacturing food, of up to $40,000 and for small tourism opportunities. It was $400,000 that he announced. Interestingly, that is $100,000 less than was announced at the budget nine months ago, so we have seen a 20 per cent cut from that program. I remind people, too, and members opposite, that just recently we saw Pernod Ricard, a big multinational company, get $1 million for their St Hugo cellar door experience. That is $1 million to a company that last year made in excess of €1 billion profit. They make more profit than our deficit, yet we are giving them $1 million of taxpayers' money.
I am really interested to look at the guidelines for this new grant program to make sure that it is targeted at South Australian businesses—South Australian businesses that need a bit of a hand to grow, or have an idea where a grant of $20,000, $30,000 or $40,000 will actually mean that they can invest. They get that money from the government and it makes the financials for their project stack up, rather than a massive international company that could simply write the cheque out themselves.
I applaud the Governor for wanting to be involved in the South-East Asia strategy. Obviously, we are all aware that he and his family come from Vietnam. We are all aware of his connection with that part of the world, and I do applaud it, but we have to make sure that it is not just a whirlwind tour, if you like, and that we back that up with some really strong support from government.
I look at some of the projects, even one that was announced when the Hon. Gail Gago was minister, their investment in the Fujian clean food centres, which, to my knowledge, have never been built or, to my knowledge, are not operating, yet there was a lot of fanfare, there were MOUs signed, there was a whole range of government activity put in and around that. At the end of the day, we have seen nothing for it. I seek leave to conclude my remarks.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
Adjourned debate on motion for adoption.
(Continued from 11 February 2015.)
The Hon. D.W. RIDGWAY (Leader of the Opposition) ( 15:30 :04 ): When we last sat I sought leave to conclude my remarks, and now I wish to conclude those remarks. As members will recall, it was the tenth of this month when the Governor spoke in this chamber on the opening of the parliament. I will cover just a couple of points; I did have a lengthy contribution when we last sat, so it will be only a small contribution today.
I am interested, in particular, in some of the comments the Governor made about tourism. He said that the government would 'increase its investment in events, to further expand the program of activities that has energised our city'. It is interesting to look at the government's track record, especially its tourism marketing efforts, and certainly for our regions. Clearly, they have not worked. We have seen the $6 million Kangaroo Island campaign, then the $6 million Barossa campaign, and of course the 'Adelaide. Breathe' astronaut campaign, which was money that was actually brought forward from this financial year to promote Adelaide during the election campaign.
The Hon. G.E. Gago interjecting:
The Hon. D.W. RIDGWAY: She says I am a cynic. We all know that the Tourism Commission board was conned by the minister and the money was dragged forward to run that. It is a memorable one. I have barely ever seen it run. I do not know whether it was the honourable minister in the astronaut suit or what, given she is so offended by my comments.
However, the facts stand for themselves. Since 2010—over five years ago—through this KI, Barossa and Adelaide campaign, a staggering 1,339 tourism businesses have disappeared, 12 of our tourism regions have recorded a decrease in the number of businesses, and we have lost one million visitor nights from regional South Australia in the last two years.
While small tourism businesses struggle to survive, the government makes a decision to give $1 million to a multinational, Pernod Ricard, for their cellar door experience in the Barossa Valley when that company posted in excess of 1 billion euros in profit last year. To put that in context, we have about a $1.2 billion deficit. This company, that we gave taxpayers' money to, actually had a profit the same size as our deficit. Just ponder this while you are sitting there, Mr Acting President: does it make sense to you that we have lost 1,339 small businesses yet we are handing out $1 million to a company that makes in excess of $1 billion profit every year?
As part of that plan Labor also projected that tourism would be an $8 billion industry with an additional 10,000 jobs by 2020. Of course, it had a 100,000 target that it also announced in the 2010 election which we all know was, very sadly, a con and will not be achieved. This tourism plan acknowledged that if industry held its current market share across all markets, visitor expenditure would grow to just $6.7 billion by 2020. So the actual plan recognises the fact that the government is not going to get to its target. It just does not make sense, some of the information that is coming out of the minister's office and the Tourism Commission.
Of course, we now know (it has been tabled in the other chamber) about the bill to abolish a whole range of boards and committees, which, of course, includes the South Australian Tourism Commission. The minister wants to get rid of that board, which is the advocacy board for what is, at the moment, a $5.2 billion business. The Tourism Commission is not like a government agency with a whole bunch of public servants. The industry has some 18,000 small to medium tourism operators, so making decisions to cater for this industry is extremely complex; it cannot be left in the hands of just one minister or his chief executives—which is, of course, what the minister wants.
It is interesting to note that this change will effectively remove the chief executive's accountability. At the moment the chief executive, Mr Rodney Harrex (and I do commend him for the work he does), reports to the board. With this new regime proposed by the minister—and which, incidentally, the opposition will be opposing—is that the chief executive reports only to the minister. So, we will be the only state in the nation that will have that particular structure.
The minister said, when it was announced, 'Just because every other state is still doing it the old way, what's wrong with doing it our way?' Well, we know that tourism is not performing as well as it should. We know that under this minister's leadership and stewardship we have seen a significant number of projects and events that have failed, and we have not seen the targets met.
Tourism is about the tourists having an experience, but it is also about businesses providing experience and jobs for young South Australians, in fact for all South Australians. As I mentioned just a few moments ago, we have lost some 1,339 tourism-related small businesses in the last five years since 2010, and it is probably slightly less than five years because those statistics were probably finalised some time late last year. So, in the four years up to Christmas of last year, we lost some 1,300 small businesses.
It is an interesting concept: we are going to get rid of the board and the minister is going to be totally in control, he and the chief executive. I simply do not believe that to be an appropriate structure to have. As I said, no other state in the nation has it and I do not believe that our tourism industry should be the guinea pig, or the experiment, for a minister who does not like having to deal with the board. I think it would be very dangerous, from the industry's point of view.
In the Governor's speech, he said the government will increase investment in events to further expand a program of activities that will energise the city. I should just remind members of some where the minister was involved and, of course, before he was the minister. Lance Armstrong: we still do not know how much money was spent on Lance Armstrong. We all know that it came to light that Mr Armstrong had perhaps enhanced his activities and his performance with some performance-enhancing substances. Just recently, he has had to pay a fine of some $16 million, I think, whether it is a fine or to repay some of his sponsors a whole lot of money (I am not sure of the exact details of it).
We saw that the Tourism Commission lost a bit over $1 million in foreign exchange deals. Word Adelaide: that would have to be one of the dumbest decisions I have ever seen, to have a program based around the spoken word. The Fringe had already tried it a couple of times before and it failed, but nobody in tourism actually spoke to the Fringe and they burnt $400,000 on that. The Kangaroo Island surfing competition and music festival, I think in the end cost around $700,000 of taxpayers' money. I think that was back when minister Rau was the tourism minister. We had the Rolling Stones, and we are still not sure but we think in the order of $1 million was spent on the Rolling Stones.
The Hon. T.A. Franks: It was $450,000. They announced it at the time.
The Hon. D.W. RIDGWAY: $450,000.
The Hon. K.J. Maher: Did you go see them?
The Hon. D.W. RIDGWAY: I did not see them.
The PRESIDENT: Order!
The Hon. D.W. RIDGWAY: I stand corrected. The Hon. Tammy Franks says $450,000. If it is $450,000, what I am saying is that there is a lot of money being spent on events that are of questionable value and the Rolling Stones, why would we spend money? Normal acts come to this great city and people pay to go, you do not have to spend half a million dollars of taxpayers' money. It is a subsidy to an overseas multimillion dollar rock and roll band and the Greens think it is a good thing to spend money on.
AirAsia X: an undisclosed amount was spent on collaborative marketing. Nobody knows what was spent on the collaborative marketing. It is all secret. Just recently it was announced that Liverpool is coming. It is fine to showcase the Adelaide Oval, but how much are we spending bringing these people to Adelaide?
The Hon. K.J. Maher: $450,000.
The Hon. D.W. RIDGWAY: For Liverpool?
The Hon. K.J. Maher: No, for the Rolling Stones.
The Hon. D.W. RIDGWAY: I have moved on from the Rolling Stones. I am talking about Liverpool. I was on the radio with minister Bignell saying, 'We're not opposed to bringing people to Adelaide and events to Adelaide, but tell us what they cost.'
The Hon. K.J. Maher: Are you going to go see Liverpool?
The Hon. D.W. RIDGWAY: No, I am not going to go see Liverpool. It is not about whether I am going to see them or not. The minister is in a taxpayer-funded corporate box, I suspect; that is why he is looking so happy. However, I compare that to the Victorian government when Tiger Woods came to Melbourne. They were very up front: 'It's $3 million; we think it's a good investment.' The point I am trying to make is that with all the secrecy around government deals people get suspicious. People get suspicious all the time: Word Adelaide, the KI surfing competition and Lance Armstrong.
I am interested in an event that was identified to me as being a potential event for the city, and I even spoke to the minister before the bid had to be lodged. It is the World Water Ski Championships. Everybody laughs when we say that that can be held in the Torrens. I am not a waterskier, but the waterskiing fraternity—
The Hon. T.J. Stephens: You would be very good, David.
The Hon. D.W. RIDGWAY: Now my own mob are turning on me. I am being distracted. The World Water Ski Championships proponents approached me and I mentioned it to Mark Beretta, who is a Channel 7 sports reporter. I often see him on Sunrise on Channel 7. He said to me, 'It is a fantastic event. It would be a coup for Adelaide to have it. It hasn't been in Australia since 1965.' In fact, he told me that he had emailed or written to Hitaf Rasheed, the head of Events SA, to say that this is a great event. He said that it was so good that—he could not say unequivocally—Channel 7 would come to town and broadcast it.
This is an event that has not been in Australia for 50 years. It was held on the Gold Coast when SeaWorld was first built and it has not been in Australia since. The world waterski federation and its chairman have come and looked at Adelaide saying that it is the best venue when it comes to the quality of the water and the fact that we have a body of water right in the middle of the CBD. There are reeds on the banks so you would not get any wash back, and all of the contestants can stay in a hotel (we have several around Parliament House) and walk to the event each day.
The most recent one was held in Chile, I think. The contestants had a two-hour bus drive from the hotel to the event, and it is a weeklong event. The Casino is interested in being part of any sponsorship or promotion around the event. I spoke to minister Bignell in the lead-up to the election and said, 'Whoever wins the election, this is a good event and it should come to Adelaide: the world championships in 2017.'
The silence is deafening. Tourism said they are helping, they are working, but nothing is happening. This is an event that is held every two years all around the world. We could showcase our great city. I am hopeful that increased investment in events to further expand the program of activities that has energised our city will include a serious attempt to put on the World Water Ski Championships in the Torrens.
I note that people often question the water quality. It is the intention to have it in September or October (I think it is September), at the end of winter. Even in dry years, when we do not have big rains, we still get a reasonable flushing and water temperatures are reasonably cool. I am also reminded that those world-class waterskiers very rarely fall off and get tangled up in the water, so it is usually quite safe. However, they have done water quality testing and they are happy with it.
The Adelaide City Council has signed off on the concept of having the championships in the water, and my understanding is that they have also spoken to the local Kaurna people and they are very happy with it. It appears that a lot of boxes have been ticked, so I hope minister Bignell and Events SA actually get on with making sure that we can secure this event.
Finally, in relation to the member for Waite (the Minister for Investment and Trade) I am just reminded that this government asked for the confidence of South Australians but has sought stability through an alliance with a member whose self interest is so profound that he did not even negotiate a good deal for his electorate when he switched sides. The Hon. Martin Hamilton-Smith would have the residents of Waite believe that he is better able to represent them from within a Labor cabinet, supposedly operating as a Liberal Independent.
Although his reasoning is an insult to the intelligence of his voters, it is evidenced by his failure to deliver anything tangible for his electorate. We just have to look.
There were cuts to the Australian Centre for Plant Functional Genomics at the University of Adelaide's Waite Campus. That is in his electorate of Waite; it is named after Mr Peter Waite, the same person that his electorate is named after. It was a cabinet submission he took to cabinet when he was a minister in the Kerin government, yet he has been silent on the cuts to that particular function, the Australian Centre for Plant Functional Genomics.
It is interesting that food and wine, but particularly food, is still a really important part, I think, of the government's economic priorities although that has diminished somewhat in recent times and we do not hear them speaking quite so often about it, but clearly it is an important part. I was just recently there and they have done a whole range of really good exciting work around salinity, salt tolerant crops and drought tolerant crops and yet the local member and now cabinet minister is happy to see their funding cut.
It is interesting also that he did attend a public meeting with the transport minister, the Hon. Stephen Mullighan, in relation to the Springbank Road, Daws Road, Goodwood Road intersection. He said he would make it a priority and he could only deliver from within government, yet I suspect that nothing will be delivered. Of course, I think the final straw that will break the camel's back in Waite has been the announced closure of the Repat Hospital.
In 2012 he stated in a media release himself that its closure would be death by 1,000 cuts. As members would know I live in the electorate of Waite, and I am the only state Liberal member of parliament who does so, and it is amazing the public reaction, initially to his decision to resign from the Liberal Party and then to do a—well it is hardly a deal—be happy to join the Labor cabinet. If you look at all sorts of other Independents around the nation, they all try and do deals for their electorates and, whether you like Independents or not, whether you like it if they swap sides or not, at the end of the day they try and leverage something out of the arrangement for their electorate.
I am sure the Hon. Martin Hamilton-Smith will try and make some sort of play on the Repat—that he has saved the Remembrance Gardens or the chapel or the pool or there will be some play on words with him but, at the end of the day, he has not stood up for his people in his electorate. It would have been very easy. The government does not need his vote at the present time. His deal within cabinet was that he can oppose cabinet decisions, and we have seen other ministers with similar arrangements do that before, yet the silence has been deafening. He has made some sort of, 'Oh well, it really has not been my preference', but he could have easily come out and opposed that cabinet decision but he has not and I think the people of Waite are very disappointed with his silence on the matter.
I just wanted to touch on the last bit in relation to trade and economic development and I note that there is a trade mission going to China somewhere late in May—I think, 25 to 29 May. I note that the Premier's trade mission to China will be with some 200 representatives from seven key industries, including coverage in Shandong. I am also advised that Martin Hamilton-Smith, as the minister, is taking a trade mission of 200, so I will stand to be corrected but I assume that it is the same trade mission late in May.
It is interesting to note that, as I know, Martin Hamilton-Smith as a former member of our shadow cabinet was a big fan of what you call the 'super mission', 200, 300, 400 people on a trade mission. I have been to China a couple of times and I have spoken to the government officials, whether they are state government ones, from a range of states not just South Australia, or whether they are Austrade people, and I know what they will be doing over there. They will be saying, 'Here we go again. We get the Premier rolling into town, we get a couple of ministers rolling into town, a couple of hundred business people and ministerial advisers.'
There will be probably be a couple of media people invited along on the trip, because they want the media there to beam back to South Australia how good it is, but do you know what they do? There are people up there now making sure that there is a handful of signing memorandum of understanding opportunities, a bit like the MOU that minister Gago signed for Fujian some years ago, which I think has evaporated. They have gone silent on it.
In fact, recently with PIRSA in Budget and Finance, I gave them a question on notice because they could not answer it at the time. But there will be a range of events so that it is all stage managed and all the journalists will be there and they will beam it back, and then when they leave, the local government officials up there, who our taxpayers pay for, will say, 'Thank God they've gone. Now we can get back with our real work and try to grow the exports to those states, from our state to places like China.'
So, I will be very interested to see how that plays out, but I expect that we will see a lot of fanfare, a big stack of people going up there—the Premier and maybe a couple of ministers, ministerial advisers, media. It will be very interesting to see the sort of reports we get back here when in actual fact what you really need to do is have a much more one-on-one approach to how you deal with these people. It is about relationships and about making sure you can have those long-term relationships, and in my view it is not about the great big super missions where the Premier and a couple of ministers will swan around and sign MOUs and then jump on the plane and shoot through and leave the mess to the local government officials on the ground.
I thank the Governor for his speech a fortnight ago today and commend him on the great work he has done in his short term as Governor. Through the Chinese New Year/Lunar New Year at the moment I am seeing him on almost a daily or twice daily basis. He is doing a great job, undertaking the fabulous work within the community that he does, and I commend him for that. I look forward to seeing him at many other functions. I commend the motion to the house.