Supply Bill 2014

I rise to speak to the Supply Bill 2014, and make some relatively brief comments about the bill. I was just chatting with some of the table staff and attendants here; we were instructed by the minister that we should be prepared to spend Tuesday night, Wednesday morning, Wednesday night, Thursday morning, Thursday night, and even Friday morning here, but I suspect we will be finished government business well before 5 o'clock this evening. So I am not quite sure what the minister was proposing, given that there are only six items the Notice Paper, or why she was so forthright in that letter. Nonetheless, we are here today.

Our support for this bill is nothing more than a conventional formality. It is not an endorsement of the Labor government's financial management; it is simply a measure to ensure that our hard-working public servants are paid and that the South Australian public has access to state government services.

This Weatherill Labor government was elected to its fourth term in March and will subsequently deliver its 12th budget. Unlike a newly elected government, which would typically deliver its budget based upon a vision for the future, this stale Labor government will deliver a budget based upon crisis management and nothing more. Make no mistake, this state is on the cusp of economic crisis. Our manufacturing sector is in turmoil, we have the highest unemployment rate on the mainland—in May alone, 4,500 jobs were lost—and our business environment is such that we are struggling to attract private investment.

As this Labor government is in its 12th year, there are no scapegoats for South Australia’s woeful financial position. This is not a hangover of previous governments. Labor has had full control of the coffers for over a decade now, and with that power comes responsibility. They are 100 per cent responsible for our current financial situation.

When we look to the Public Service, sadly they have been let down by this government. I will summarise what the situation is, and I will be brief because it has been explained in thorough detail in the other place by my colleague (the then shadow treasurer) Iain Evans. There is a $300 million to $350 million disparity between the projected revenue from the state’s own tax/stamp duty revenue and that which we are actually receiving. So, before the election, Labor was unrealistically optimistic with their budgeted revenue and now, following 15 March, we are seeing the ugly truth. Labor has run six deficits in seven years—that is a deficit of over $1 billion this year, an over-spend of $1,000 million. The government predicted that it would be a $480 million surplus. So they were $1.5 billion out in their predictions.

If you add up every surplus promised by this government, they total $2.6 billion, and if you add up every deficit that has actually been delivered, it is $2.9 billion. That is $5.5 billion that this government has mis-budgeted. This government has lost our AAA credit rating. This, coupled with the fact that we have the highest debt in the state’s history ($14 billion), has delivered us an interest bill of over $1 billion per year. That is a snapshot of where our state’s economy is at under this Labor government. Situations like this do not happen overnight. They are the result of 12 years of terrible fiscal management.

I have often wondered what advice Treasury has provided the Treasurer and, in turn, cabinet. Those public servants in Treasury would be giving, I would expect, frank and fearless advice. I suspect that, sadly, from their point of view, it has almost always been ignored. Clearly, you could not imagine a government going down the path this government is going—$5.5 billion that it has mis-budgeted or mismanaged. You could not imagine that happening without the staff in Treasury saying to the Treasurer, to other ministers and the chief finance officers in each of the departments, 'Minister, we've got a problem; we need to correct it.'

In the midst of all of this turmoil, the Premier has appointed a new Treasurer. It is his first budget today and I am sure we will see what comes of that over coming weeks. However, it has been interesting to look at the rhetoric around that.

We need to look at the 12 years of financial management and some of the promises that were made at the 2010 election. One of the biggest areas of government expenditure is the Public Service itself and the number of public servants. After the 2010 election the Sustainable Budget Commission recommended—and I think it was adopted—that some 4,000 positions should go. Looking at the figures today, 1,400 more positions have gone—5,400 positions.

It is an interesting concept that when you employ experts to look at the budget and recommend a range of measures, one of the measures you adopt is a reduction in Public Service numbers, which of course is one of the major costs on government, and you do not actually adhere to it and there are now 1,400 more than at the last election. It is really hard to believe anything that we are likely to see in today's budget.

Someone once described a very effective analogy to illustrate the contrast between Labor and Liberal. They said that Labor will smile at you and put $100 dollars in your front pocket and, of course, most people will be happy to have some extra cash handed to them. It will perhaps encourage the perception that this is a government that supports you and deserves your vote, but it is just a distraction.

Indeed, while the recipient is reflecting on the positive opportunities given by this quick cash injection, Labor will be crouching behind them stealing $1,000 from their back pocket. Of course, the public will not notice that it is missing immediately, but you can be sure that over time, as their debts and expenses become more of a burden, they will call on that money and it will not be there.

At the other end of the spectrum is a Liberal government. It will not be out to trick you. It will not coax you with an offer of quick cash; instead, you will be asked to participate in a budget which is prudent and financially responsible. But, in turn, down the track, when you call on the $1,000 in your back pocket, it will still be there, and perhaps it will have even earned some interest. This government simply does not understand long-term financial management, much as they do not understand what South Australians do with their hard-earned taxpayer dollars.

As the shadow minister for primary industries and tourism, I have had a quick look at some of the figures that have been tweeted and what have you—and the Treasurer probably has finished his budget speech now. Primary industries is, of course, our premium food and wine, the agricultural sector—and we have a former minister sitting opposite. One of Premier Weatherill's seven key strategies is to rebuild our economy on the back of one of these seven key strategies.

Over the 12 years Labor has been in office, we have seen a steady decline in the number of personnel, FTEs, in PIRSA and, of course, the budget allocation to it—the appropriation to primary industries. It is rather bizarre, as I mentioned before, that we have probably some 5,400 more public servants than we should have if you look at the 2010 Sustainable Budget Commission. One of the seven key strategies is our food and wine sector, our agricultural sector, which is still our biggest industry, yet there is less support from government today for that than there has been at any time in the last 12 years. It just flies in the face of everything they have said.

If you look at tourism, it has had the lowest FTEs on record in the last 12 years. It is not quite the lowest appropriation, but it would be bordering on the lowest appropriation. It was some $60 million under treasurer Foley; it is now down, I think, to about $44 million or $43 million. So, it is the lowest on record. We have minister Bignell now in charge of this. In PIRSA, he has the lowest appropriation on record and the lowest number of FTEs. He has almost the lowest appropriation on record and the lowest number of FTEs in tourism. At the same time, I suspect that his ministerial travel is at the very top end of the spectrum, where he is spending like a drunken sailor on his overseas travel. Yet we see that his departments, and the people those agencies are there to support, are getting neglected and becoming more despondent as time goes by with the lack of support from government, other than the rhetoric that it is an important part of the state's economy.

I will also quickly touch on another little bit of waste. We saw the visitor information centre close on King William Street a few years ago. It was $1.4 million a year to keep it open, and the government simply could not afford it. It was a budget measure. They thought that it was important, but they could not afford it. It went to a basement in Grenfell Street to save money. It then went to North Terrace, and the services were co-located with Services SA. The minister opposite me was the minister for tourism at the time.

Now, of course, it has gone into a shared facility in James Place, a side street off Rundle Mall. In fact, my understanding is that it is staffed by Adelaide City Council volunteers. You are not able to make a booking there, and it is a poor support for our tourism industry. That was to save $1.4 million. It is interesting that, only two or three weeks ago, the government announced that it would be very happy to spend an extra $2 million a year (that would more than fund the visitor information centre and leave $600,000 left over) for a new member of the Labor cabinet.

The member for Waite was sworn in as a new member of the Labor cabinet. I am sure that he will be completely ineffective in contributing to the betterment of this state, and this is why: he promised his electors that he would fight within cabinet for policies and principles on which he was elected, but he was elected as a Liberal member on Liberal policies and Liberal principles, and you, Mr President, and your colleagues opposite have no interest in having anything to do with Liberal policies or Liberal principles. That is why you sit on that side of the chamber, and I am sure that he will be extremely ineffectual. Premier Weatherill is wasting $8 million over the forward estimates on a minister who is supposedly promoting Liberal causes in which you and your colleagues have no interest, and he is trying to tell the public that it will be a worthwhile budget measure.

As I start to close, I remind all the members in the chamber that you could have left the visitor information centre where it was for $2 million a year and had change. You could have reinstated the $3.5 million annually to the Community Recreation and Sports Facilities Program, which is due to be cut by Labor in 2015; you would have had enough over the forward estimates to fund that. It would have almost gone all the way to increasing the energy and water concessions by 2, 4 and 6 per cent and I note the member for Waite's plethora of media releases prior to the election expressing concerns about the cost of electricity. I wonder how many old age pensioners in his electorate would like to have a further reduction on their electricity bill via a concession rather than have him as a minister.

A vital three-year funding commitment to the McLaren Vale hospital to invest in technology to attract more surgeons and patients could have been funded out of that $8 million. An increase to the Patient Assistance Transport Scheme—again, a pretty important scheme—could have been funded out of that $8 million. An increased number of short-stay acute mental health beds at Lyell McEwin Hospital or Flinders Medical Centre—again, a very important need in our community—could have been funded with that $8 million.

Of course, it could have funded a reintroduction of car registration stickers, an issue which in some parts of the community has been accepted but in other parts of our community still brings a fair level of distress. People are devastated when they get a fine for driving a vehicle that has been unregistered and they had no knowledge that it was unregistered.

Those are some of the things that that $8 million could have bought but, instead, that $8 million has bought a minister who has control of less than 0.2 of 1 per cent—that is one-fifth of 1 per cent—of the budget. I think it is about $38 million out of a $17 billion budget, and he believes he will be an effective member of cabinet with control over 0.2 of 1 per cent.

This illegitimate government has no vision for South Australia, offers no financial security for the future of the state and I believe that under the continued rule of state Labor we can have a genuine reason to be worried about the outlook for our children finding work, providing for their own families and having all the opportunities that we have all been lucky enough to have. With those few words, I support the bill.

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