The Hon. D.W. RIDGWAY(Leader of the Opposition)(14:22:20): I seek leave to make a brief explanation before asking the Minister for Employment a question about jobs created by the Regional Development Fund.
The Hon. D.W. RIDGWAY: When the Minister for Regional Development announced that $2 million of taxpayers' funds would be granted to Treasury Wines, the main selling point, so he said, was that it would create 30 new jobs. At the time it was unclear whether he meant 30 new jobs for Wolf Blass or a net increase of 30 jobs for South Australia. As members would know, Treasury, which owns a host of wine brands, actually closed the winery in McLaren Vale about a year ago, costing some 33 jobs.
Meanwhile, other Treasury brands, such as Wynns Coonawarra, have had a major reduction in wine production, with now the majority of grapes being shipped from the Coonawarra to the Barossa and other locations. I am not certain of the number of jobs that cost in the Coonawarra but, funnily enough, people have quoted a figure of around 30. The aim of the Regional Development Fund is to create new jobs and improve career opportunities. My questions to the minister are:
1.What was the minister's involvement, if any, in the decision to grant this money? Did minister Brock or the Premier consult you from a jobs or career opportunity perspective and, if so, what was your response?
2.Given the examples of Ryecroft Winery and Wynns Coonawarra, can the Minister for Employment explain whether the government's regional development grants to Treasury, or any other wine companies, has actually amounted to a net job increase?
3.Given that Wynns Coonawarra is reducing its processing from over 20,000 tonnes to 5,000 tonnes, with the balance being carted out of the Coonawarra region, does the subsidy to Treasury, which amounts to some $66,000 per job, really only create extra unemployment pressure in the Coonawarra region?
The Hon. G.E. GAGO(Minister for Employment, Higher Education and Skills, Minister for Science and Information Economy, Minister for the Status of Women, Minister for Business Services and Consumers)(14:24:17): I thank the honourable member for his question. I first knew about this particular grant given to Treasury Wines the day I read about it in the newspaper, and I have to say that I was very surprised to read about it.
The grant fund that is involved in this program is the Regional Development Fund, and the Regional Development Fund is the responsibility of and is managed by minister Brock in another place, so I am happy to refer the relevant parts of that question to him. I do understand that he conducts a rigorous process from within his department. A panel of people are involved in a rigorous process of putting out and receiving these proposals and doing their due diligence on them and doing the assessments in terms of the integrity of the proposal and also the number of jobs potentially created by these projects. I am not consulted and, as I have said, I first knew about this when I read about it in the newspaper. I am happy to refer all relevant parts of this question to the responsible minister.
The Hon. D.W. RIDGWAY(Leader of the Opposition)(14:26:12): I have a supplementary question. Why is the minister for jobs and employment not consulted when grants are made when the aim of the program is to create new jobs and improve career opportunities? What sort of Mickey Mouse government are you in?
The Hon. G.E. GAGO(Minister for Employment, Higher Education and Skills, Minister for Science and Information Economy, Minister for the Status of Women, Minister for Business Services and Consumers)(14:26:34): The strategic objective of creating new jobs is a priority shared right across government in all levels of activity. Every single minister strives within their portfolio to maximise opportunities, to create investment here in this state, to help drive and grow businesses and to grow jobs, and I have to say that minister Brock does an extremely good job with this with his Regional Development Fund.
I recall when I was minister for regional development that I was responsible for that fund back then. As I have said, I was familiar with the rigorous process undertaken by a panel of officers within that particular department and who undertake all of the due diligence needed and assess the applications for their ability to grow jobs. The responsibility for growing jobs in this state is the responsibility of every single minister, and should be of every member as well, and it is a major priority and it underpins all the work we do.