Firstly, I would like to thank His Excellency the Governor for overseeing the opening ceremony of parliament. The ceremony was conducted with great respect and sense of occasion, in keeping with the dignity of His Excellency’s office and that of this great institution, the Parliament of South Australia. I welcome the extension of His Excellency’s term for another two years and have no doubt he will continue to work hard in that role on behalf of the Crown for the people of South Australia.
May I also take the opportunity to thank Mrs Scarce for the excellent job that she does in assisting His Excellency in his role. They are a great team and, as I have said before, one of the few very, very good appointments of the Rann government—very few.
I want to begin by saying that my comments are in no way a reflection on His Excellency, as I realise it is convention only which forces the Governor to associate himself with the views of the Premier and his government, which I am sure is the most unpleasant part of his job.
His Excellency outlined that his government would focus on several areas, and I congratulate the Premier and his band of merry men on that speech because it sets a new record for broad sweeping statements. I have never heard a governor’s speech of such length containing such little substance. I want to highlight some lines from His Excellency’s speech that I found disturbing. First:
The Government understands that many South Australians are troubled and uneasy about the shifting and uncertain times the world now faces, on so many fronts.
I have no doubt the government understands that, because they have created it. This government is directly responsible for the cost of living pressures that many South Australians are now under. We are now the highest taxed state in the nation, and you would think that with such a high amount of tax coming in that the government would have no problem paying its bills. No surprises, but that is not the case.
The budget is currently in a deficit of $11 billion with an interest bill of $2 million a day. The budget was only just getting back on track following the State Bank disaster, which was brought back under the previous Liberal government, when Labor managed slide its way into government through some backroom deals and uncomfortable marriages with crossbenches from the 50th Parliament. The Governor then continued on with the Premier’s words:
The Government’s aim is not limited to improving the material circumstances of South Australians.
No, the government is committed to exactly the opposite, as I said before. How can burdening South Australians with exorbitant taxes be improving their material circumstances? Shame on the Treasurer and shame on the Premier. Another quote from the speech:
This Government will resist, by whatever means necessary, the depletion and pollution of the Murray through over-allocation by upstream states.
What exactly does this statement mean? There was no concrete promise or commitment to do anything other than just give a broad statement—a broad statement that was also made by former premier Rann when we had the huff and puff and spin that we have been accustomed to from this Labor government that a High Court challenge was going to save the river and South Australia. Well, it did not. Nothing changed, and more rhetoric from the government is only going to push any achievements on the River Murray further away.
The Governor mentioned South Australia’s leading role in renewable energy technologies. This, of course, includes the wind farms that no-one wants and the unconsultative process in which they are built. It includes solar technology which the government is unwilling to support, a feed-in tariff no longer in operation citing its unsustainability, and the cost to ETSA. Given the dire situation that many remote centres are in regarding energy, perhaps greater investment in solar technology would be pertinent.
Coober Pedy comes to mind where, instead of perhaps investing in solar technologies in a place where it is most appropriate, the government has generously allowed the town to pay for its connection to the grid at a cost of $50 million. This in effect left the local council and the people of Coober Pedy high and dry.
The speech mentioned the potential of the mining boom to bring wealth and prosperity to this state, which all of us in this place wish for I am sure; however, the preparation and economic conditions need to be handled and maintained responsibly in order to guarantee the ripple effects of a strong mining sector. For this, I look to the Western Australian government under Premier Barnett. He had made the economic conditions in his state comfortable for the miners to operate within, encouraging investment.
The Western Australian government has been opposed to the federal government’s mining tax from the outset, and so are we. The Liberal Party understands how important mining is to this state and does not want to jeopardise that through a ludicrous money grab. The government needs to come out against it. If the Premier really wants a strong mining sector in South Australia, and wants to guarantee its long-term future, he should come out against this punitive tax. I quote again from the Governor:
It is therefore crucial that we sustain our existing manufacturing sector, particularly our car manufacturing industry that employs about 8,000 workers in South Australia. This government will invest to keep General Motors-Holden in South Australia for the next decade and beyond.
That is all well and good to want to keep the industry and the plant at Elizabeth. I could not agree more with the government, but the government needs to realise that it cannot dictate to a private company what it prefers for that company’s future.
After the Premier’s Messianic trip to Detroit to persuade the GM bosses and save the plant from closure, we learnt that Holden was cutting a shift at Elizabeth anyway. In fact, like Monty Python’s Brian, the Premier is not the Messiah but just ‘a very naughty boy’ because he wasted taxpayers’ dollars on a trip that has done nothing to improve the situation at Elizabeth and was a trip that was not necessary for the Premier of Victoria as he received similar news about General Motors operations in his state.
So, it seems the Labor spin machine is still in full operation and it is business as usual on that side of the chamber. Staged media opportunities and denial are the preferred method rather than facing up to the debacle that is this government. His Excellency states:
Increasingly, well-educated and well-trained people have choices, and are willing to make those choices, about where they will live to find fulfilling work.
Young people are certainly making those choices, but they are not choosing Adelaide. Since this government has been in office, there has been a mass exodus of our youngest and brightest interstate, particularly to Melbourne and Sydney, but increasingly to Perth, a city which was comparable to Adelaide not so long ago.
The government also mentioned that it has enlivened the Capital City Committee to include the Premier and Deputy Premier. How about including the local parliamentary representative, the member for Adelaide from another place? Would it be because she is a Liberal? It is not her fault the Labor Party neglected its constituents in the electorate of Adelaide—their voice should be heard on this committee. I hope the member for Adelaide’s bill to amend the membership of the committee is supported by the House of Assembly so that it may be considered by this place.
The Governor also mentioned the regeneration of Adelaide Oval in his speech, as if it was a visionary proposal for which the government will be forever immortalised. Let us be clear on this, the government did not even consider an upgrade to the oval until the 2010 election campaign, when the Liberals had a plan for a covered inner city stadium, which was immensely popular and which left the government out of step, and it then cobbled together this Adelaide Oval idea. The Governor states:
The Government will develop a State Public Health Plan, and assist all councils to create Healthy Neighbourhood Plans.
I, with the people of this state, am sick to death of this government’s many plans, which are never worth the glossy paper they are printed on. ‘More plans and no action’ should be the slogan of the Rann/Weatherill government. Solutions need to happen, things need to be done. This government has had 10 years to plan and still there is no action. You do not need to plan to know that regional hospitals are in desperate need of funding, with many at risk of closure.
Keith Hospital is one major example that comes to mind: $370,000 is all it requires, yet this government is happy to abandon it in favour of golden handshakes and perks for themselves and former members and friends. For example, the golden handshake—perhaps golden parachute would be more appropriate—that Premier Weatherill gave to former premier Rann, which was worth about $200,000 and included a car, staff and furnished office, as well as a pension worth three-quarters of his former salary. The Governor continues:
The Government will…introduce legislation to attack head-on the most dangerous and violent criminal conduct.
This is an excerpt from the Governor’s speech of last Tuesday. Was not similar legislation introduced and passed in 2008? The opposition had reservations about the original legislation four years ago. It did not believe it would solve the problem. Four years and a High Court challenge later, nothing has changed. What makes the government think that this similar proposal will change anything now? His Excellency states:
Parliament should demonstrate how debate and dissent can be constructive—and not be a forum for endless squabbles that lead nowhere.
What parliament, and particularly this place, should not be is a rubber stamp for government, especially this government. It was pointed out to me recently that in the Canadian parliament, one with very similar traditions and roots to ours, opposition frontbenchers are referred to as ‘critics’ rather than shadow ministers, which probably reflects our role much better.
We are not there to act as a rubber stamp or as yes men, but to analyse and criticise the government’s proposals, and that is, a lot of the time, constructive. The work we do here, which includes minor parties and Independents, reflecting the broad view of South Australians, actually works on and improves government bills before they become law, and it is a shame that the government and the broader Labor Party want to abolish this place.
The Governor went on to say that his government wants a government sector where risk-taking is rewarded. We can only hope it is not the risk-taking which led to the State Bank collapse in the late 1980s—a monumental failure which I know this government is capable of. With those few remarks, I support the motion.