I rise to speak on the Appropriation Bill 2017. When this budget was handed down by the Treasurer in the other place it faced immediate scrutiny and justifiable criticism, ably articulated by our leader, but equally vocal have been our constituents and South Australian businesses. South Australians are rightfully doubtful about the ability of this government to properly address the alarming economic situation this state finds itself in after 16 years of incompetent Labor government. This budget presents more of the same Labor tactics that we have become familiar with. I find it disappointing that my colleagues and I have had to repeatedly address the same issues year after year. Issues including poor economic growth, unemployment and rising costs of living far from being resolved, are in fact becoming worse under this tired government. Labor’s high taxes and overspending has not and will not work. It is ordinary South Australians who are and will continue to suffer.
This is the third consecutive ‘jobs budget’ that we have seen from Labor, yet little improvement to economic growth or employment has been achieved. We need drastic change to pull this state out of the economic decline that Labor has created from years of poor management. This state has the potential for prosperity – South Australians should not have to put up with Labor’s excuses. There is no reason why our state cannot thrive in economic activity, innovation and industry.
This state has endured such low economic growth over the past few years that the government continually reduces growth targets, and yet we still cannot meet them. We continue to fall behind. South Australia’s economic growth over the past five years has averaged less than half of the national figure, and forecasts predict growth at only a third of the national rate for 2017/18. South Australia’s export performance currently sits at $11.8 billion, well below the government’s target of $18 billion that was set in 2014. The government refuses to take responsibility for South Australia’s poor economic situation, failing to deliver the strong economic leadership our state so desperately needs.
The government has presented $2 billion dollars of new spending in this budget over the next four years, but has introduced no new savings measures to counter this spending. The Treasurer’s surplus has suffered because of the government’s nonsensical commitment to investing in short-term solutions and inefficient spending. This is simply bad government. This budget raises nearly $420 million worth of new taxes. A complete structural change to the budget is needed. Sustained reductions in government spending and an adherence to efficient, smarter spending is what our state requires. With controlled government spending, taxes can be reduced and vital, productive projects funded. This will address our poor economic growth and unemployment.
It is extremely disappointing to see the disastrous impact that Labor’s failed economic strategy has had on our state. We have experienced a huge population exodus of 7000 people in the past year to other states. These figures have prompted the government to abandon yet another of its targets – to increase South Australia’s population to 2 million by 2027. It is no wonder that we are losing so many people interstate when job prospects in our state are so dismal. It is obvious that South Australia is going backwards from the fact that we will soon have our lowest level of federal representation since 1954.
Sadly this government’s so called ‘jobs budget’ does little to fix the problems they have created. Earlier this month the government was quick to congratulate itself on our unemployment figures, but in reality these numbers were in part due to uptake of the government’s latest wage subsidy program. Earlier this month, the government was quick to congratulate itself on our unemployment figures, but in reality these numbers were in part due to the uptake of the government's latest wage subsidy program. The government cannot continue to subsidise jobs in the private sector in order to create these misleading employment figures. Short-sighted grants and schemes will do little in the long term to build our economy. Conveniently, the government failed to address the decline in the participation rate or the fact that for the 33rd month in a row South Australia has the highest trend unemployment. I am particularly concerned with our appalling rate of youth unemployment, which is at 15.8 per cent. With these figures, more and more of our home-grown talent, entrepreneurs and bright young minds will be forced to leave the state for work. The government cannot continue to subsidise jobs in the private sector in order to create these misleading employment figures. Short-sighted grants and schemes will do little in the long term to build our economy. I am particularly concerned with our appalling rate of youth unemployment, at 14.2%. With these figures more and more of our home-grown talent, entrepreneurs and bright young minds will be forced to leave the state for work.
The government needs to realise that economic growth, and hence new jobs, will only come with substantial tax relief for all businesses. With lower taxes South Australian businesses would be able to employ more people, and our economy would grow. Real jobs growth will flow from a flourishing private sector, and the most important thing the government can do is facilitate the right economic environment for business.
This brings me to the issue of the budget’s payroll tax cuts for small businesses – just another inadequate plan of the government to try to create jobs. I do support taxation relief for South Australians, but these cuts are simply not sufficient to address the issues this state is facing. Over the next four years the revenue the government expects to receive from payroll tax is almost $5 billion dollars. Businesses create jobs, and payroll tax is just another way in which the government is hindering job creation. Using the revenue from payroll tax to create a $200 million future jobs fund makes little sense. Instead we should cut payroll tax for businesses of all sizes, as well as reducing unnecessary red tape and regulation, which would create jobs and increase productivity.
We need efficient taxes in this state, something the government has given up trying to achieve. Payroll tax is simply not efficient, and does more harm in stifling job creation, than good in generating revenue for the government. We need to raise revenue at the lowest cost to the economy, and a regressive payroll tax is not the way to do this.
The government’s answer to everything is to increase taxes, but in this budget they went even further. The proposed bank tax is another unnecessary and inequitable tax, which has been widely condemned by experts and major industry groups. Feedback this arrogant Labor government is intent on blindly disregarding. The government failed to even consult with their own Investment Attraction Agency. Approximately 145,000 South Australians own bank shares, and it is naive of the government to expect that this tax will have no negative repercussions for the people of South Australia.
This tax will harm employment and economic growth, at a time when we must do everything in our power to attract investment in our state. The reality is that South Australians cannot afford to pay another Labor tax. The government expects that it will collect $370 million of revenue from the bank tax, money that the government could have easily generated from other sources had it managed to control its own spending. South Australians do not deserve to have another tax imposed on them due to this government’s irresponsibility and carelessness when it comes to managing it budget. Our state needs stability and strength in its economy to attract investment, and a random and thoughtless tax like this one will only deter it.
As the government introduces a new cash grab in its bank tax, it is appalling to see just how irresponsibly the government is spending its money. This budget has seen a huge increase in money spent by the government, but not in places where it is really needed. The pork barrelling we can observe from this government is disgraceful and shows how Labor has lost touch with reality and the community. Our regions have been severely neglected in this budget. The regions make up almost a third of our state’s population and contribute over $25 billion to our GSP – yet the government ignores their desperate need for investment in health and road infrastructure. Less than 11% of budget spending on new operating initiatives is being invested in regional South Australia.
Our regions are facing serious issues of unemployment and population loss, yet the government is apathetic, focusing on metropolitan areas to satisfy their political agenda. We must provide access to safe roads and decent health care for all, not just those in marginal seats. It is disgraceful that Labor have chosen to ignore our regional areas when many of the issues they face are the product of the government’s failed policies, which are only getting worse.
I cannot conclude without highlighting one of the government’s most costly failures – its management of our health system. Transforming Health is just another example of how much wastage the government has created when it comes to public spending. The new RAH is costing taxpayers over $1 million a day, yet our hospital system remains in crisis with ramping and overcrowding. The EPAS is overdue, over budget and consistently failing. It is at best counterintuitive, and at worst putting patient safety at risk. It is understandable why South Australians are fed up. Even the government is trying to belatedly distance itself from Transforming Health – acknowledging how disastrous it has been.
Anyone can tell from this budget that an election is looming next year. The government is clearly distracted and negligent about the issues that matter to our state. We need to prioritise lower taxes to drive investment and jobs growth. The only way for South Australia to achieve the prosperity it deserves is to elect a Liberal government in March next year.