Matter of Interest: State Economy

The Hon. D.W. RIDGWAY (Leader of the Opposition) ( 15:41 :00 ): I rise today to speak on a matter of interest, the matter being the state of South Australia's economy and the need for decisive and, most importantly, effective action. South Australia has a long and proud history of providing economic opportunities for those who are prepared to roll up their sleeves and have a go. Since the state was founded, our productive soils and strong entrepreneurial spirit, along with a range of other endowments, have enabled South Australians to enjoy a wealth of opportunities.

Building on our proud history, this state has real and significant opportunities ahead of it. We have some of the world's best tourism assets, the best soils and seeds for creating and adding value to our food and wine products, and strong capabilities across a range of service sectors, including the education, health, ageing and financial services.

Despite this proud history and strong opportunities ahead, as a state we are struggling. I know that earlier in the week the Premier in another place elected to use a range of different statistics to try to confuse the facts. I am not trying to talk down this great state, but in order to fix the problem we have to be frank in understanding exactly where we are.

South Australia is not growing at the same rate as the rest of Australia, and CommSec's latest State of the State Report shows that we lack the momentum to catch up. The National Bank's monthly business survey shows that our business conditions are ranked amongst the worst in Australia. Like the Premier said, we can pick and choose which numbers we use, but we cannot escape the fundamental reality that we are off the economic pace and falling further behind. This failure to grow the economy and create opportunities has a real human impact on South Australians, with some 70,000 people now unemployed and looking for work in our great state.

Governments, irrespective of what stripes they wear, are responsible to the people they govern. In South Australia the state government has the responsibility to deliver credible and effective economic policies, to provide the conditions in which the economy grows, and opportunities and jobs created for our people. This Labor government has had the better part of 14 years to provide these conditions to enable the creation of these opportunities and jobs. To the detriment of all South Australian people, 70,000 people are now unemployed, and those who want to work more have given up hope. This Labor government has failed.

South Australia is unique in many regards: there is nowhere else in the world where a person can live between 150 kilometres of beautiful beaches and an even longer range of hills, full of terrific wine districts, and wonderful restaurants to the north and to the south, amongst a largely safe and inclusive society.

However, the economic forces acting on this state are not so unique. To pretend otherwise is simply to cut off your nose to spite your face. Every other state and territory uses the same currency, every other state and territory is subject to the same commodity prices, and many other states have similar exposure to competition and traditional manufacturing and related industries.

But, other states and territories are finding ways to succeed. Although growth is slower than it has been in the other easier times, the gains being made are harder fought and the people, families and workers of other states are finding opportunities that we are not. I would argue that our people, our workers and our families are just as talented and deserving of these opportunities, but are suffering under a tired, apathetic, 14-year-old government that has failed to deliver the economic policies and business conditions needed to create them.

Labor's 10 economic priorities is a list of aspirations and empty platitudes. The statements are fine on paper, but what our state needs is effective policy action to create a set of conditions where businesses and people invest in our state and create enterprise, jobs and opportunities. Given his comments yesterday, I fear that the Premier and his Labor colleagues are content to wait for South Australia to fall to the very bottom of every league table on every measure before deciding to act.

South Australians deserve so much better than this. Our workers, our families, regardless of their vocation or the industry they work in, deserve better than this. We are working carefully and deliberately to prepare a set of policies that will deliver the conditions and change needed to create confidence, encourage effort and support job creation for the benefit of all South Australians. When the time comes for delivering these policies, I will look forward to seeing and, insofar as I can, assisting our great state to achieve its full potential.


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