Supply Bill 2017

The Hon. D.W. RIDGWAY (Leader of the Opposition) (11:04): I rise to support the Supply Bill, as the opposition always does in this place. We support the bill that—

The Hon. S.G. Wade: We've still got a few grumbles about it.

The Hon. D.W. RIDGWAY: Well, we might grumble about it but we never, ever do not support the Supply Bill. It is important to have the financial resources there for the government to continue to run, even though it is running as poorly as it is at present. It is probably not the fault of the public servants that this Supply Bill will pay; it is the lack of leadership and lack of interest from the current government that finds the state in the situation it is in today. As I said, it allows the mechanism to provide the government with the money to pay the Public Service.

This year it is $5.9 billion, which is an awful lot of money. In 2016, just a year ago, it was $3.44 billion. In 2015 it was $3.29 billion, and in 2014 it was $3.941 billion. It is a bit intriguing that we have bumped up by $2.5 billion from last year the money that the government requires over basically the same period of time. I am not sure why you would have to have that amount of extra capacity. The budget is always passed. We are not like the Senate here, where we argue over every detail and it takes months and months for that to pass. In some cases, budget measures never pass in the Senate.

By and large in this place, the budget is passed, with the exception of perhaps the last election, when we did campaign very strongly against the car park tax. Of course, we got 53½ per cent of the two-party preferred vote and we saw it as an opportunity to be faithful to the majority of the 90,000 more South Australians who voted for the Liberal Party in that particular election to defeat the car park tax.

I recall a conversation with the Treasurer, the Hon. Tom Koutsantonis, who said that it was a nasty thing for us to have done and that we should not have done it. I said to him that, when the Labor Party gets 53½ per cent of the vote and are still in opposition, if the circumstances are the same, then they might like to pick on a budget measure of a Liberal government at that time. I reminded him of the 53½ per cent. That is what I expect in this chamber, that the crossbenchers would respect that it was a 53½ per cent vote; 90,000-odd more South Australians voted for the Liberal Party than the Labor Party at the last election. It is interesting—

The Hon. K.J. Maher interjecting:

The Hon. D.W. RIDGWAY: Mr President, can you protect me? I do not want to have these nasty interjections.

The PRESIDENT: Will the honourable Leader of the Government allow the honourable opposition leader to give his supply speech.

The Hon. D.W. RIDGWAY: It is interesting—

The Hon. K.J. Maher interjecting:

The Hon. D.W. RIDGWAY: That's right. I could seek leave to conclude in a minute.

The Hon. K.J. Maher: And then we could sit tonight.

The Hon. D.W. RIDGWAY: I don't want to sit tonight. It was interesting that the notes that were prepared a couple of weeks ago for the Supply Bill talked about last year's budget being a jobs budget. Of course, we see that it is all about jobs again. Look at the track record of this government. Sadly, I have a note in my drawer that the Hon. John Gazzola reminded me that it would be a very long time before I would ever be sitting on the other side of the chamber, if ever.

I look at that occasionally and see that it was some 14 years ago that he said that to me; it is a very long time. I recall all the things that have been promised in budgets over that 14-year period and all the hardworking public servants who have been there waiting and the supply bills that we have passed, and I wonder whether we have really made the most of our opportunities in the last 15 years that I have been in this place, if you look at where we are, our status.

The Hon. I.K. Hunter interjecting:

The Hon. D.W. RIDGWAY: Minister Hunter interjects, 'We wonder where we're at.' The government ought to wonder where they are at, given where we are. These figures have often been rolled out: 8 per cent of the exports; now we are down to less than 4 per cent of the exports. Population growth is slow. We all know about the unemployment rate. There is a whole range of factors.

I know we have been having some questions in recent times around the Ice Taskforce and that response. I am reminded that one of the very first acts that the public sector was put to was to put together the drug summit in 2002. My colleague the Hon. Angus Redford was one of the Liberal opposition delegates to that conference and to that summit, and yet we still have the Minister for Police and Correctional Services in here talking about their response to the Ice Taskforce. I always wonder: why on earth have we got to that point?

I remember reminding one of my colleagues yesterday of how the Hon. Mark Brindal, the member for Unley—I am not sure, but I think he was just a few weeks short of being able to call himself 'the honourable'—in our party room, used to talk about the scourge of methamphetamine and that he was worried about it. I shared four years in the same party with him. Between 11 and 15 years ago Mark Brindal was saying, 'This is a real problem; we need to do more about it.'

The Hon. P. Malinauskas: And then you necked him.

The PRESIDENT: Order! Will the honourable minister please refrain from interjecting.

The Hon. D.W. RIDGWAY: No, I do not think I was involved in his necking. He decided to retire from parliament. But it is interesting—

Members interjecting:

The Hon. D.W. RIDGWAY: It has nothing to do with the member. It was actually the minister who yesterday said I was politicising the drug issue, and now he is being frivolous and out of order.

The Hon. P. Malinauskas interjecting:


The Hon. D.W. RIDGWAY: I make the point that this is a problem that has not just happened yesterday, and we have had to have a task force to look at it. It has been a growing problem in our community. People might think I am a little exuberant with my interjections when we are talking about drugs, but I have a couple of extended family members whose families and lives have been destroyed because of interactions with illegal substances. So, when we are talking about something that is illegal in our community and it has been allowed to grow and get out of control, I get quite upset because I am sure there are dozens if not hundreds of other families, like my extended family, that have gone through those problems.

We are yet to see this as a jobs budget, and we are talking about the jobs of the current crop of public servants that are in place to be funded. I am still questioning why—and I am sure the minister does not have an answer—we have gone from $3.44 billion to $5.9 billion. It is only a simple $2.5 billion dollars more that you need, and it is the same period of time—three or four months—until the budget is passed. You would expect that a CPI increase might be $200 million or $300 million, maybe to take it to $4 billion, but to take it to $5.9 billion (virtually $6 billion), that is an extraordinary amount of money, so I would like some information from the minister in relation to why the government needs so much more.

Last year, it was a jobs budget. It is a jobs budget again. It has been a jobs budget in the last couple of years. Last year's budget predicted jobs growth of only 0.75 per cent, and that was reaffirmed in the Mid-Year Budget Review. That is less than half the national growth. I wonder what sort of growth we are going to see this year. The Mid-Year Budget Review also confirmed that GST revenue this year will be $512 million more than the previous year. It will be interesting to see what the figures are when the budget is handed down today. We expect it could be up by another $400 million. The next GST revenue (next year) will actually be $922 million more than was collected in 2015-16.

Of course, we have the sale of all the assets, the Motor Accident Commission and others, that are propping up the budget that our public sector has been dealing with. We saw today in The Advertiser some discussion around the sale of the forests. It is interesting, there was a lot of conjecture that was started, I think, when the Hon. Rory McEwen was minister. He claims he did not ever support the sale; he just wanted to look at a creative way of using the forward revenue. That was his version of what he wanted to do. We now see that the forests are returning about $100 million a year, and the revenue to government, before it was sold, was around $25 million to $40 million—something in that range.

I beg the question of why you would sell an asset. Even if you are committed to the private sale, why would you sell an asset at the bottom of the market when the asset is performing poorly? Surely, anybody with any business sense would—and I wonder what advice the government got—get the asset ready for sale, make sure it is performing well and make sure that you are trying to sell it at the top of the market.

The government is very different from running a small business when the bank manager is breathing down your neck and you have no choice but to sell off an asset or sell something to survive. Government has the capacity and a massive balance sheet. So, we are not going to sell it at the bottom of the market, we are going to get it ready for sale and will sell at the top of the market. I expect we probably could have got another $500 million to $700 million for the sale of the forests, if it was done at the right time.

I now want to quickly touch on a couple of the areas that I deal with and not go on terribly much longer. It is interesting to see the work that has been done over the years in the two areas of tourism and agriculture. I am going to take a little different approach. At two social functions I alerted the chief executive of the SATC and the chief executive of PIRSA that I will be putting some questions in my supply speech and I will send them a copy of Hansard. I will also send a copy to the minister so that when we get to estimates they have had a month's notice rather than saying, 'We will have to take that on notice,' or, 'We don't actually have time.'

It is always unfortunate for shadow ministers in this chamber because we do not get a chance to ask questions. Members will recall the last two Tourism estimates: two years ago it was taken up mostly with minister Bignell's travel and a whole range of things that he had been doing, and last year, of course, it was taken up with Elite Systems and the debacle of seven small businesses losing $1 million as a result of the government not doing its due diligence.

The government knew that Elite were in trouble, but the government did not forewarn the businesses and did not make sure that the money that the government was paying the Motor Sport Board, or SATC was paying to Elite Systems—they put them on weekly payments because of its financial position—was going to the subcontractors. Of course, Elite fell over and the subcontractors were out of pocket to the tune of $1 million.

One, in particular, was about half a million dollars and, to rub a bit of salt into the wound, of course that half a million tipped him over the payroll tax threshold so that he got a payroll tax bill on the wages he had paid. He did pay the wages, but he did not actually get paid for the work that he did, so he got a payroll tax bill. Then, because he did not have the cash flow to pay it, he got a fine on top of that bill for not paying it, yet it was all as a result of the government not doing due diligence and making sure that the money they were paying to Elite was going to the subcontractors.

They were all South Australian businesses. I am not sure, but I do not believe Elite had overseas directors and shareholders, so these were all South Australian small businesses, such as metal fabrication, labour hire, plastic moulding, that were done over and lost money because of the failure of the government. They did not actually have to put their hand up, but just make sure they were paying Elite on weekly payments because they were in financial trouble, that Elite were paying their people. Why did they not make sure that Elite were paying their people?

That was a catastrophe. Clipsal is one of our premier events, and we are proud of it, but there are seven small businesses saying, 'We never want to have anything to do with that ever again. It has cost us $1 million.' I said to both Mr Ashby and Mr Harrex that I would like to ask a couple of questions. The first one I will put on notice, I expect, or I will just send him a copy of Hansard, although it is not question time. The question is around the Fujian Clean Food Centres that minister Gago announced when she was minister in this chamber in 2012. I think it was in September/October 2012, so it is not quite the fifth anniversary of it.

These two clean food centres were to be built in Fujian in China. They were to promote South Australian food and wine. There was quite a lot of fanfare. I recall that, sadly, the minister had to abandon a trip at one stage because of a typhoon, but they had a tickertape parade planned for her with a great banner in the main street stating, 'Welcome, Hon. Gago, Minister for Food,' and all the trimmings that went with it. However, because of the typhoon she did not go, but there was a lot of effort put in by the Chinese.

I raised some questions there, and the minister was quite annoyed that I had raised them, so I agreed to attend a meeting with Ian Nightingale, who I think may have been the chief executive at the time, and Mr Sean Keenihan in the minister's office, the same office that minister Maher now occupies as Leader of the Government. They briefed me on this project and said how important it was that we have bipartisan support, and they were a little annoyed that I had asked these couple of questions a day or two before.

So, we stopped asking questions and said, 'If it's a good project, these clean food centres, where we can promote our South Australia produce, we are all for that.' These centres have never eventuated. To my understanding nothing has been built on those two sites five years later. My questions that I would like answered are: what was the actual cost of the program; how much was invested; which staff were involved in it; and what is the final status of the Fujian clean food centres? It is another example of where something is announced, there is a lot of fanfare, and a lot of effort is put in by departmental and agency people and then it falls over.

The question also should be: what due diligence was done on the Chinese people who were putting that project together? There has been speculation around that particular program that maybe good due diligence was not done. I do not expect minister Bignell to sit in estimates and read it out. Estimates is at least a month away, so it gives the chief executive a little bit of time to say, 'Yes, we do need a good update and a full explanation of what has happened with the Fujian Clean Food Centres.

There are another couple of issues in tourism that I would like to touch on as well: one probably crosses over to the Minister for the Arts and one crosses over to the Minister for Infrastructure. There is an event called Hybrid World scheduled for early October this year. All the collateral talks about its being through Events SA, through the South Australian Tourism Commission, as the founding and principal partner of Hybrid World. The funding, from what I can understand, is coming from Events SA.

So, recently I sent an FOI to SATC to find out the facts, and they are interesting. The minister and others say, 'Oh, we don't like to tell people what we are spending on these events because we go into a competitive bidding process and we're not going to tell you.' History has shown we have not been told what we paid Lance Armstrong or what it cost to get the boxing match here earlier in the year. This is not like those: this is an event that we are creating ourselves.

Mr Harrex said to the Budget and Finance Committee that it is not something that we are poaching from somewhere else: it is a new event that we are creating for ourselves. I understand that it is virtual reality, drones. It has been described in The Advertiser as a geeks conference, which is a pretty cool way to describe it because it involves that group of people, those who are into modern technology and all the stuff that will surround us over the next 20 or 30 years, such as driverless cars and artificial intelligence.

It was being launched on Friday by the Premier. Mr Harrex appeared before the Budget and Finance Committee on the Monday, and I said, 'Do you know what Hybrid World is?', and he said, 'No, I don't know what it is, I've never heard of it.' I said, 'Well, that's a bit weird, because it's got your branding on it, and on Friday the Premier is launching it.' He said, 'Oh, actually I do know about it, but I can't tell you anything about it.' I guess it was confidential; he did not want to tell us or the media until after the launch on Friday.

There has been speculation that as much as $2 million or $4 million could be going into this new event for two years. It was interesting, so I did the FOI and asked for information around the budget and how much is being spent. Even though the Tourism Commission is the founding and principal partner, it indicated that, 'No, you have to speak to the film corporation because they are actually running the project.'

I will send this little bit of Hansard through to minister Bignell, Mr Harrex, minister Snelling and I think it is Mr Peter Louca, the head of Arts SA. If it is a new event and it is successful, that is a great thing because we have not had too many new events that have been successful. We have had two or three old ones that have gone from strength to strength: the Tour Down Under, the Clipsal, Tasting Australia (events that have been around for some time), the World Solar Challenge—things that have survived across a number of terms of government and different sides of politics.

I always congratulate the current government for making sure that those events have been supported. I recall premier Olsen and minister Hall telling me the story about announcing the Tour Down Under. As we all know, after you have a ministerial statement and question time you go into the bar and have a coffee or a scone or something. At the time the member for Port Adelaide, the Hon. Kevin Foley, came in and said, 'What, a bike race? You're mad, nobody will ever come to that.' Well, thankfully, lots of people have come, and it has been well supported. During his time as Treasurer I am sure that he was very happy to continue to support it. So that has been a good event has been supported by all sides of politics.

This one we do not know anything about, so I would like for either minister Bignell or minister Snelling (and I will send this Hansard to the chief executives) to tell us what is the budget, what are the details around it, because nobody knows. It has quite an extensive website; it did not have one to start with, but that is starting to build, and there will be a bit of a conference involved with it.

We should all embrace this latest technology, because if you do not embrace technology you get left behind. I think there is an obligation to let the people of South Australia and the taxpayers of South Australia know what you spend their taxes on. Given that we are not in the marketplace trying to poach this or buy it from another state or another country, that it is something we are going to create ourselves, let us have a look at what we are doing, what the budget is, and what return on investment they expect to get.

The other one, before I quickly close—I told the minister I had only two or three minutes and I am now up to nearly half an hour—is regarding the Convention Centre. In budget estimates we always have the Convention Centre, Mr Alec Gilbert and his team, turn up, and Anthony Kirchner from the Entertainment Centre turn up. We never call them to the table because we always have some crisis we have to handle with, as I said, Elite Systems or minister Bignell's travel or something else that distracts us. We do not get a chance to ask them questions.

However, the Convention Centre is just about to be completed; from my recollection the opening will be late in August. I think this is more of an infrastructure/DPTI project but, again, I will be sending this Hansard to, I think, minister Mullighan and his chief executive to actually get a full breakdown, full budget, on the whole project from when we started: how much they spent, are there budget overruns?

We all support investment in the convention space, and I see in today's paper that minister Koutsantonis is saying that we going to be spending more money on the visitor economy. That is a good thing, because our share of the national pie is shrinking. We are growing, but not growing as fast as the other states, so we would welcome more investment in the visitor economy because if we keep going the way we are, with the small growth we have compared to the other states, we will become less and less relevant.

I will send these details to minister Mullighan and his chief executive to ask whether, at estimates time, they can bring back some sort of report on what they have spent, the budget, the project to budget, the timelines—just a complete report on the Convention Centre. With those few words, I am more than happy to support the Supply Bill 2017.


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