I rise to speak to the Appropriation Bill for 2016. I will attempt, through my contribution, to address the many falsehoods the Labor government is peddling to South Australians in this budget. The Treasurer believes the budget position is sound and that the state is saved because he delivered a surplus—but it is not a true surplus. We know, on this side of the chamber, that the only reason the budget is in the black is because the Treasurer flogged off the Motor Accident Commission, one of the only cash cows of the government.
This improved the bottom line by $403.5 million. This was coupled with cumulative dividends and equity of almost $2 billion over the past three years. This means, without the Motor Accident Commission, the government's budget position is dire. Unfortunately, for the South Australian taxpayer, this surplus has not come about by structural reform and improvement in the budget, but by a crude pillaging of assets. This surplus is unsustainable as a result and cannot be used as an example of prudent financial management, as much as the Treasurer likes to pretend.
Embarrassingly, the Treasurer believes his own fanciful commentary that the Labor government has built this surplus as a buffer against Brexit, federal instability and global financial uncertainty. A structural improvement to the budget, through a sustained reduction in government spending, is the only way to truly achieve surplus or, at the very least, a balanced budget. As I have said repeatedly in this place, once government spending is under control, taxes can be abolished or reduced to a minimum in order to see quality services well funded.
So, where can government spending be reduced? There are plenty of examples in the current budget: all the hundreds of millions of dollars that the government has spent on jobs plans, all to see the state's unemployment rate rise higher and higher. Clearly, these plans are not working and are a money pit. The Northern Economic Plan is a good example of this, to which the Treasurer has just committed a further $24.2 million. Government does not create jobs—private enterprise does. Imagine if all the money spent by this government over their 14 years on job creation was given back to businesses and individuals in the form of payroll tax cuts and stamp duty relief. Where would the state be, in terms of jobs growth and investment?
South Australia could be the most competitive state in the commonwealth, and people would be flocking here to invest and start businesses. Not to mention that everyday South Australians would find it easier to enter the property market—something that is becoming almost impossible for younger Australians right across the country. What if Arrium's payroll tax bill was able to be wiped? Surely, this would be the most direct way, from a state government perspective, to assist the company in keeping the steelworks open and ensuring the job security of the workers of Whyalla? Instead, this government has spent $50 million on upgrading steelworks infrastructure in order for it to be an attractive asset to sell.
Is this the role of government? I would not have thought so. The Treasurer believes his returning of $670 million of state taxes to businesses has created 6,000 new jobs in South Australia, yet recent employment figures show that the state actually lost 3,700 jobs. That is a fair miscalculation. It just goes to show that payroll tax relief is not targeted enough and it requires more thought.
For instance, why are only small enterprises targeted? I understand this encourages startups, but what about established manufacturers? Is there any surprise that our large manufacturers are closing down in droves when we consider the costs of doing business in this state? These fanciful job creation claims cannot be believed and neither can the Treasurer's claim that $4,000 grants will lead to the creation of 14,000 jobs over the coming two years. This is nonsensical. A $4,000 grant could hardly be considered an incentive.
I consider education to be a core function of government, and as a result some spending is justified. However, the government has committed over $1 billion in this budget to the upgrading of our schools and the question has to be asked what the benefit to our children is. Given that the state's NAPLAN results are some of the worst in the nation, I think we are entitled to ask whether the current policy and spending programs are working.
Sadly, with Labor, the answer to everything is increased spending, but clearly the government needs to be smarter. The question is whether they are capable of being smarter. I think, after 14 years, South Australians have lost hope of that happening. This is a tired government, incapable of reinvigorating the state. The Treasurer talked about $135 million being spent on 'initiatives to attract and create new industries'. It is incredibly frustrating that the Labor government does not understand that this is not the role of government.
This is $135 million that could go back to business, and we would see the private sector create the industries of the future through the innovation inherent in a competitive market. The funding of an industry attraction agency is a further example of the government having the wrong priorities and the wrong approach. If the government provides the right economic environment, then naturally business and industry will flourish.
Some interesting spends on infrastructure are worthy of mention, including $48 million upgrading diesel railcars. One would think that electrification would render such a spend redundant. The government has dragged its heels on the Gawler line for too long. The $56.1 million spend on 198 additional prison beds at Mobilong, Mount Gambier and Port Augusta will barely address the problem of overcrowding in the state's prison system. This is something that we, on this side, have been questioning the Minister for Correctional Services about this week, with disappointing revelations.
The minister and the rest of his government are failing on corrections. Of course, overcrowding forces a spend on programs to hasten prisoner parole, and the government is spending $10 million to this effect. It is extremely disappointing. The Treasurer complains that the state has to fund $527 million in order to make up for a commonwealth funding gap and that this money is hard to come by. However, this is not good enough. The Treasurer could easily find this money if unbudgeted spending was reined in.
In the four departments of DPTI, DCSI, DECD, and Health and Ageing, there was at least $444 million of unbudgeted spending. This is the government not keeping spending under control or spending it on what it says it will. If this much unbudgeted spending is going on, what is the point of the budget documents? How can the parliament be satisfied that the substance of what is being debated in the Appropriation Bill, and the related budget measures bill, is actually what the government is spending taxpayers' money on? This should be of great concern to South Australians.
South Australians should be outraged that their cost of living is going up for the sole reason that this Labor government and the Treasurer cannot spend within their means. They have no concern for the taxpayers of this state who are largely small business people and mum-and-dad investors who are forced to pay for this government, only to see their hard-earned money squandered. As convention dictates, I commend the bill to the council.