I support the Address in Reply, and I join honourable members in thanking His Excellency the Lieutenant-Governor for opening the second session of the 51st parliament on behalf of Her Excellency the Governor. It was an honour to be part of the sesquicentenary opening of parliament and to celebrate 150 years of responsible government in this state. I also take this opportunity to congratulate Rear Admiral Kevin Scarce on his appointment to the role of Governor, given that Governor Marjorie Jackson-Nelson is to retire in the next few months. I also extend my best wishes to Hien Van Le, who will take over as Deputy-Governor in late August. I know that both gentlemen will do exceptionally well in their new roles, and their appointments are to be commended.
I wish to take this opportunity to pay tribute to Governor Marjorie Jackson-Nelson for the way in which she has carried out her duties. She is much loved throughout all of South Australia, and she is truly a great Australian. I congratulate my good friend and colleague the Hon. David Ridgway on his appointment as Leader of the Opposition in the Legislative Council. I know that David will work hard and that he realises he has a huge task ahead of him and very big shoes to fill. The Hon. David Ridgway is very much up to the task.
The Hon. Rob Lucas has been an excellent leader of the Liberal team in this place over many years. His patience, work ethic and measured approach has won him respect throughout the state. His achievements are well known and are on the record, so I will not detail them here today, except to say that South Australia will forever be in debt to him for the strong decisions he made as part of the team that was left to clean up the mess left by the Bannon Labor government following the collapse of the State Bank. For him to put the party before himself as the state Liberal team undertakes several changes to the roles of its parliamentary members and how we operate is testament to the character of the man, and I know that he still has much to offer and an important role to fulfil here. I also place on the record my congratulations to my colleagues the Hon. Michelle Lensink on her elevation to the deputy leader’s role, the Hon. Stephen Wade on his new role as a shadow minister and the Hon. John Dawkins on his new responsibilities as shadow parliamentary secretary.
It seems like only yesterday that I was delivering my last Address in Reply and the Rann government had promised its bold new agenda for this term of government, so I think today I will look at the Rann government’s achievements (a term that I use very loosely) thus far in the first year of its second term. Recently, the Leader of the Opposition called a press conference to announce how the state Liberal team would seek to better define the Rann government. He mentioned—quite correctly—that this is a government that has made too many empty promises, missed too many opportunities and has the wrong priorities. The Rann Labor government has made an absolute mess in its second term, with projects that make no sense, or has completely fouled up significant infrastructure projects.
An example of this is the tramline extension to nowhere. To see this work going ahead when the money could have been better spent on far more important projects is extremely hard to swallow. The wasted $31 million to extend the line a couple of kilometres down the road leaves me feeling very disappointed in this government. The next example is the $1.4 million allocated for a three-year extension of the Thinkers in Residence program—not my most favourite program. I ask what is the relevance of this program to the average family who is struggling with record high taxes such as stamp duty and land tax? The millions of dollars that have gone into this program should have been far better spent.
My next exhibit is the Northern Expressway project. There has been a $250 million cost blow-out on this project thanks to the incompetence of the Minister for Transport and Infrastructure, who delights in name calling and playing up like a monkey in the parliament. It is plain for all to see that he can not handle his portfolio effectively. This is serious money, a serious blow-out, and we are scratching our heads as to why the minister remains in the Rann Labor cabinet.
My last exhibit is WorkCover’s unfunded liability. While the former Liberal government set about reducing this liability significantly, the Rann Labor government, thanks to the hapless Minister for Industrial Relations and WorkCover, has made an absolute meal of it. WorkCover’s unfunded liability has blown out to $723 million under Minister Wright’s watch. It is certainly sounding like another State Bank disaster. Again, this is a huge figure, a frightfully large sum, and it seems the minister was given more of a telling-off for leaving on his sprinkler than he has received for allowing WorkCover’s unfunded liability to blow out as much as it has in recent times.
There are many more examples of mistakes and missed opportunities. Under Rann Labor, growth in gross state product has been stagnant. ABS figures show that South Australia’s growth was the second worst in the states and territories—9.2 per cent for the period 2001 02 to 2005 06, compared to an Australian average growth rate of over 13 per cent. Export growth in Australia has been strong in recent times. Under the former Liberal state government, exports rose from an annual figure of $3.8 billion to $9.1 billion annually in 2002. Exports have fallen 1.1 per cent under the Rann Labor government. In these buoyant economic times they should be steadily increasing.
Retail trade turnover has fallen since 2002 as Rann’s unofficial 16th member of cabinet, Don Farrell, continues to call the shots on retail trading hours. Our argument at the state election was that we were not receiving our fair share of the pie in terms of strong growth in this nation’s economy. As I said at the time, we did not get the message through effectively enough while we faced the `Rann gets results’ advertising blitzkrieg. Recent figures show that we are still simply benefiting from buoyant economic conditions created by the steadfast stewardship of the Howard government and that Rann Labor has done very little to value add in these conditions.
Recent figures released by the ABS show that the Rann government can no longer make excuses for our state’s lack of jobs growth. Latest ABS figures show that, in the 12 months leading up to March 2007, 276 600 jobs were created nationally, but only 800 were created in South Australia. South Australia continually has the highest unemployment rate of all the mainland states, with the figure rising over the past six months to up to 5.6 per cent. We also have the highest youth unemployment rate of any mainland state, with recent figures showing a massive 31.1 per cent of our youth unemployed.
I turn now to one of the areas for which I am party spokesperson—racing. I would like to briefly touch on the Victoria Park issue. The government made an horrendous mess of negotiations regarding the redevelopment of Victoria Park. Premier Rann was nowhere to be seen as he left the Treasurer to deal with matters and to make very few friends on both the Adelaide City Council and with opponents of the project due to his pig-headed approach to the situation. I doubt whether the Treasurer has any credibility when he labels our new leader as being like a bull in a china shop.
For the record, I am very keen to see our racing industry perform strongly and get back on its feet. The Liberal Party has given in-principle support to the redevelopment of Victoria Park, but the Britannia roundabout is still a key issue to us. We would have liked to see the Rann government go about this process quite differently, and we have made that clear a number of times. The purpose of public consultation is to hear and assess all points of view and then take forward a recommendation. It is not and should not have been a done deal before going to the public for comment. The expectation for council to negotiate on an acceptable design without having access to the results of public consultation was regrettable. I hope this government has learnt from its mistakes and improves its negotiations as we move on in the process. It has been quite an embarrassment to date.
In regard to the recent Bentley report into South Australian racing, it seems the industry is likely to accept the recommendations of this report. However, I call on the minister and the Rann government to support the industry immediately and look at the TAB tax wagering reforms over a number of years as well—and I call on this government, which is flush with money, to do it sooner rather than later. This will greatly assist an industry that is in serious need of help, an industry that generates millions of dollars for the government but which sorely needs financial support.
In my last Address in Reply contribution I remember outlining my commitment to seeing this state reach its potential in utilising our ample resources. I also mentioned our ailing health system and our school system. Our children and families can all benefit from mining in this state—specifically, mining of the vast deposits of uranium in the South Australian outback—and I warned that, if we are not proactive on this issue, mining exploration companies will simply look elsewhere and the many millions of dollars that the companies were prepared to invest will be lost to South Australia.
Thankfully—and with a bit of coercion from union heavyweight and federal Labor candidate, Bill Shorten, whose exact words were, `If you think that rolling our leader is a great idea then go ahead and vote for the Albanese-Garrett amendment’—the ALP dumped its ridiculous `no new uranium mine’ policy at its recent national conference with an unconvincing 205 to 190 vote. Was it not great to see the Labor delegates get right behind their new leader on this one? No doubt the leader in this place, the Hon. Paul Holloway, was delighted when the result was read out, as I am sure his role as Minister for Mineral Resources Development would have been a tricky one at times while this ridiculous policy was still rearing its ugly head. Premier Mike `I used to hate uranium now I can’t get enough of the stuff’ Rann also would have been pleased as punch and will no doubt continue to promote himself as a champion of the mining industry. However, in all seriousness, the mining industry will welcome this move as does the Liberal Party which, for many years, has seen the benefits of uranium mining and mining exploration to South Australia and which has called for an end to this ridiculous and outdated policy.
Finally, since the last day of sitting I have had the privilege of inspecting the desalination plant at Kwinana in Western Australia and of watching the Howard government hand down another exceptional budget. On both those occasions I could not help but think about how strong, responsible decisions can make economic and living conditions so much better for people. The Rann Labor government continues to ignore the call to fast track plans to build a desalination plant to secure Adelaide’s water supply, and it is yet to make any bold decisions that truly benefit the lives of the people of South Australia. One really must ask what this government’s legacy will be. I look forward to continuing to work with all honourable members in this session for the betterment of the people of South Australia.