I rise to speak to the Supply Bill 2016. This is a formality in that the date of the budget has been set in June in recent times, although it has been postponed to 7 July due to the upcoming federal election. Therefore, in order to allow full debate of the Appropriation Bill, a Supply Bill must be passed in order to guarantee the government continues to function between 1 July and the date of assent of the Appropriation Bill.
The amount being sought is in excess of $3.4 billion, which gives an insight into government spending during the first quarter of the financial year: no small amount. The vast bulk of this figure is for wages for an ever-growing Public Service, which should be of concern to all in this chamber. I think at this point in time we have to ask: is $3.4 billion really necessary for wages? The government now provides 13 per cent of the South Australian workforce with a job, and this number is on the rise. South Australia is meant to be a free market economy.
The further we decline into government-provided work, the closer we go to being a planned economy—the word 'economy' being purely academic in that case, as a planned economy is not economic at all. This, of course, is the socialist way, and the Labor Party, under Premier Weatherill, is moving further and further to a European social democratic style where there is no freedom in terms of the economy, no freedom in terms of faith, and no freedom in terms of expressions of conscience.
A planned economy is a false one. It is the macroeconomic equivalent of robbing Peter to pay Paul. The government gives a citizen a job and pays his salary; it then levies taxes in order to pay the wages of the same citizen. It is utterly farcical. What is not mentioned is that, because of union influence within both the public sector and the Labor government itself, wages are around 17 per cent higher than the private sector. This statistic, coupled with the generous entitlements which are part and parcel of public sector enterprise bargaining agreements, lead to a far more attractive package to a prospective employee.
Many graduates choose the cushy and secure public sector path over the far riskier private sector when it comes to their initial employment choice, and who could blame them? Public sector wages and entitlements is an area which really should be looked at in terms of revitalising the South Australian economy to ensure true competition within the workforce. For every graduate employed in the public sector, it is one that the private sector loses. It is a bright mind that could provide the spark in a company or organisation desperate to innovate. To suggest that innovation can occur in the Public Service when it is largely at the whims of its political masters and is stifled by its bureaucratic culture and life tenure is nothing but a pipe dream.
Is it really necessary to have a public sector this large? I have just outlined why having higher wages and better benefits vis-a-vis the private sector is bad for the economy. However, what is just as harmful is the duplication of services. If a private enterprise or NGO provides a service, why then is it necessary for a government department or enterprise to provide the same or similar service in direct competition? It is an abject waste of public money which could be redirected elsewhere: to hospitals and schools, for instance.
By extension, if the private sector can offer the same service under contract, then the government should farm out these very services. It only makes sense not to do this in the case of natural monopolies or public good, such as road infrastructure, where privatising would actually be less efficient and therefore worse for the citizen consumer. To further answer the question, more investigation should be done on an annual basis, auditing the necessity of each and every position within the Public Service. This is done in all types of organisations to ensure funds are spent as efficiently as possible, but also to prevent bureaucratic clogging of the decision-making process and subsequent outcomes. These types of audits can then identify areas which are deficient throughout the government and a reallocation of resources can occur to ensure that public moneys are spent where they are needed most and we no longer have waste.
The member for Schubert from another place is looking into many instances of government waste, and one example was actually on the front page of The Advertiser on Tuesday 24 May in an article entitled 'Money to burn', where the former chief of the Metropolitan Fire Service was offered a redundancy package under the guise of the ill-fated plan to merge all emergency services under one government department—a brainchild of the former minister, the member for Light, Mr Tony Piccolo.
Greg Crossman was hired to replace Grant Lupton only two weeks after Mr Lupton was made redundant. As the member for Schubert pointed out, if the position is truly redundant, then they cannot and should not be replaced, and obviously the government then saves about $290,000 in salary. The carelessness for waste and efficiency is astounding and angers not only us on this side of the chamber but most South Australians.
To an entirely unrelated issue but one close to my heart, the City of Whyalla is on the brink of some tough times and I welcome any temporary support that the government can offer. The loan scheme for supporting business and industries is commendable and has been well received. Unfortunately, Arrium's situation has been caused by poor commodity prices, in addition to imprudent management during more favourable operating conditions. A good example of this is the negotiations for the most recent enterprise bargaining agreement with the appropriate unions which led to aboveaward wages, overly generous leave entitlements, tenure for almost all positions and many other benefits which were above market and irresponsible considering the troubled times the industry was heading into.
However, my major criticism on the Arrium issue is reserved for the Weatherill Labor government and the Treasurer in that we have had major infrastructure projects completed in recent years without any guarantees of local steel or other materials until well after those projects have been started and/or completed. How much local steel was used at Adelaide Oval? How much has been used in the new Royal Adelaide Hospital? How much has been used in the O-Bahn project? How much will be used for the north-south corridor projects? The government has failed to answer these questions accurately. The reality is that prioritising the use of local materials is an indirect stimulus for local businesses, and if more of this was done by government in the beginning then there would be no need for bailouts at the backend.
Bailouts are a crude use of taxpayer funds to prop up failing businesses purely for the sake of keeping people in jobs which are by and large redundant or at the very least unsustainable. However, I am sure that the Arrium case will be well made in the end and it will be a longstanding viable businesses. A good example of what happens when governments do not prioritise local merchants is the case of KW Wholesaler Stationers, who I have mentioned a few times in this place. KW has many sizeable contracts with the education department but due to a knee-jerk reaction to the 'cartridgegate' scandal a few years ago, all government contracts were to be centralised through one office which led to the contracting of overseas giant, Staples, taking over a majority of government stationery contracts.
All this did was take tax dollars from these local stationers and give them to a large overseas giant who had already been pricing them out of the market. Prior to this at least some of their tax dollars were returned in the form of government contracts. However, it was a genuine transaction and not a subsidy. In making this knee-jerk reaction, the Weatherill government was putting dozens out of work (in fact, it was nearly hundreds) and making it very difficult for local businesses purely because of the bad press it was copping over the 'cartridgegate' scandal. This example, like many, demonstrates just how Labor is no longer the party of the worker.
Moving to Aboriginal affairs now, one issue that has been prominent of late is the servicing of renal dialysis patients on homelands. Currently, the government pays for Aboriginal dialysis patients living remotely to travel to regional centres and remain there whilst receiving dialysis treatment. This leads to patients having to remain off their homelands and away from family and support groups. On top of this, according to the Northern Territory government, it is actually more expensive than providing dialysis treatment on homelands either through a third-party provider such as Purple House or through self-administered dialysis with portable units. In such a case where the preferred and more innovative option is also the cheapest then it must be implemented. Only a special kind of bureaucracy would prevent progress such as this.
I will leave my contribution here, but to summarise it is clear that overall there are too many mistakes being made by the Weatherill Labor government. There is far too much money being wasted and it is being spent in the wrong areas. This government is tired and I fear for the future of this state if they continue past 2018. This state needs true revitalisation; the status quo will not do. By convention we allow this bill to pass, but we do so reluctantly.