Michelle Lensink

Supply Bill

A speech in relation to the Supply Bill which, is to ensure that some $1.5 billion of funds are provided for Public Service purposes.

The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK: I rise to speak on the Supply Bill which, I understand, is to ensure that some $1.5 billion of funds are provided for Public Service purposes, and I would like to comment broadly on the actions of the government in the past 12 months in relation to a number of portfolio areas. While it is not always common that we agree with what the media says, I think that an article in The Advertiser of 14 February which was entitled `The too hard basket is filling up fast' highlighted the actions of this government. As members in this chamber and the other place have highlighted over the past two years, we have seen a large number of reviews and summits and not much action, except in areas where the media gets the attention of particular issues.


As we know, the Treasurer has a history of misrepresenting the budget position to suit his own needs. He talked about having a black hole which was later shown to be a surplus, and he manipulates figures. There was also the incident last year with the DHS where he tried to make statements about the mismanagement of funds under the previous government. Terry Plane, who is not known for his liberal leanings, regularly wrote a column in The Messenger, and I quote from his final column:


Generally, governments achieve more in the zeal of their first year in office than in subsequent years when they become more conservative. If that holds true, we've already seen the best of the Rann Government. That would worry quite a few people. Those people are the social conscience of the Labor Party and the silent mass of voters who support them. The Rann Government has been strong on law and order and economic management.


 And on that point I would certainly disagree with him. He continues:


 It has been less impressive on social justice. The Economic Development Board has commanded a lot more attention than the Social Inclusion Board—


 comments which opposition members have heard—


the Family and Youth Services department is a disaster area; and the Layton Report on child protection has drawn a lot of lip service but little practical and financial commitment. Some commentators have made the point that this Government is run by Mike Rann, Kevin Foley and Patrick Conlon. That supposedly covers the Right (Foley), Left (Conlon) and the Independent middleground (Rann). But it's a simplistic reading. The real heavies in this Government are Rann, Foley and Attorney-General Michael Atkinson, all working under the patronage of the Right faction.


The Hon. A.J. Redford: There is trouble in the ranks.


 The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK: There is trouble in the ranks.


The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK: Yes, those comments were in the paper. I would like to make a couple of comments regarding the Economic Development Board. It really does not address some of the serious issues. We have heard from this government that it wants exports tripled, yet there has been a distinctive shift away from government assistance in the export market and scant comments about industrial relations. A Fair Work Bill, which is to be put before the parliament, will turn the clock back and be a disaster for economic development and small business in this state. On top of this we have a budget situation that most governments would have been very pleased to inherit which has enabled this government to have a great deal of flexibility, but not because of its own efforts.


 The Standard and Poor's booklet that the Treasurer took the liberty of circulating in October last year rated South Australia at AA+ with a positive outlook. This was based on `an extremely strong balance sheet'. In order of importance the underlying factors were:


1.Privatisation of the State's electricity assets in 2000 and 2001, which reaped almost $A5 billion, most of which was used to pay down debt, and was a key factor in the December 1999 rating upgrade to AA+ from AA; and

2.An effort since privatisation to address some structural imbalances in the state's ongoing performance through more sustainable government revenue and spending policies.


This has all led to improving finances and a growing economy, so really what we see is that the budgets of the not so new Labor government have been riding on the back of the hard work and tough decisions of the Liberals.


Unfortunately, there are some worrying economic signals emerging in gross state product predictions. South Australia had the lowest growth of any state in 2002-03 at 0.1 per cent compared with 2.8 per cent nationally. From the period 1994-95 to the period 2001-02, South Australia had actually kept pace with the rest of Australia's growth. The poor GSP growth figures can probably be explained by our trade figures, which this government has said it wants to triple. Under the Liberals, average export growth was 11.7 per cent per annum. Export figures for the calendar year 2001 grew by 29.4 per cent, which was almost three times higher than the Australian growth rate in that year of 11 per cent. Export figures for 2002 were $9.2 billion; and export figures for 2003 were $7.5 billion—a slump of 18 per cent, and almost double the drop of 9.7 per cent for Australia. SARS and the drought, etc., have often been blamed for all these things, yet the effect has been much more marked in South Australia than in the other states.


 Employment is a very worrying area for this state. Under the Liberal government, the investment attraction program brought in some $970 million in four years, for which we were castigated over a number of things such as EDS and Motorola. That investment directly generated some 17 500 jobs, and with multiplier effects this becomes 39 000. At July 2003, the unemployment rate in South Australia was 6 per cent—the same as the national level. The national figure is now 5.6 per cent and South Australia is 6.5 per cent, so nationally it has gone down but in South Australia it has gone up. The total number of jobs has fallen every month for some seven months since June 2003, despite government state¬ments to the contrary.


In particular, as our leader highlighted a couple of months ago, women's employment is showing a particularly worrying trend having fallen from some 167 000 to 154 600. There has also been a slowing of capital programs in a number of areas such as transport and schools. As I mentioned, we also have the Fair Work Bill which is a potential disaster for this state, and that is not to exaggerate by any stretch.


The mid-year budget review was quite an interesting document in the sense that there was a long list of alterations from the original budget. That indicates to me that this government has a propensity not to plan for the future very well, and to be rather reactive to anything that comes along and raises its head. As I highlighted in my first contribution, the government had to do a backflip on the home and community care program, FAYS, police, supported residen¬tial facilities, electricity concessions, and I could go on.


We have also seen a weakness with some of the ministers in the key service delivery portfolios, which, I think, has contributed in the sense that they have not been strong enough to tell the Treasurer that certain areas need to be funded, such as home and community care. Those ministers really need to remember what they stand for rather than being bullied by the people who run this government. This is a very high taxing government. The total tax take has been some $2.6 billion—

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 The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK: No, I think that you need to manage your funds better, that is the point I am trying to make if you can actually understand what I am saying. On average—and I am talking about the current financial year, not the new budget year—that equates to $1 800 for every man, woman and child. In the two years since the last Liberal budget, Rann and Foley have increased state taxes by $450 million, or a massive 21 per cent. Again, I am referring to the current financial year, not the new one.


The real issue that sticks in the craw of a number of people is the increased tax take as a result of property value increas¬es, and the fact that the government has steadfastly refused to adjust those thresholds, apart from a rather token stamp duty exemption for first home buyers. I am talking about stamp duty and land tax takes, and I think that this is where Labor shows that, when it suits it, it is very much in the old Labor mould. The mid-year review indicated that taxation revenue in 2003-04 had been underestimated by some $191 million, $159 million of which related to property.


Land tax scales have not been adjusted to take account of value increases; so, it is amounting to bracket creep. With respect to stamp duty and land tax, relatively modest properties are now being caught. According to the Real Estate Institute, the average house price in South Australia for the March quarter this year was $226 000, and for Adelaide $250 000. The average price for a house in Brompton is $325 000, in Newton $251 000, Munno Para West $290 000 and Edwardstown $272 000. Not the leafy, trendy suburbs that the Labor Party would like to throw rocks at, but people living in average suburbia who are trying to make a living to pay off their houses.


The PRESIDENT: Could I stop the honourable member's flow for one moment. I really do need to point out to the honourable member that this is the Supply Bill, not the Appropriation Bill. The Supply Bill consists of three clauses comprising the sum of money from the consolidated account to be issued and applied to the Public Service. The honourable member is ranging much farther and wider. I had to draw that matter to the attention of your colleague the Hon. Mr Stephens. It applies to all of us. We do allow some flexibility to the leader and to the main spokesperson for the government on economic matters. However, if I allow the honourable member to range far and wide I would have to do it for every other member. I ask the honourable member to confine her remarks to the bill. That will give her some flexibility. If the honourable member raises issues that relate to the supply of money to run the Public Service for the next three months, she would then comply with the requirements under the standing orders.

 
The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK: Thank you for your ruling, Mr President. I had falsely made the assumption that the sources of the revenue—


 The PRESIDENT: The honourable member will have the opportunity to do all of those things in the Appropriation Bill when the budget is being discussed.


The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK: I will therefore conclude my remarks. This is an anti-investment government; it is an anti-self-funded retiree government; it is anti-family and it is anti-jobs. I conclude my remarks.

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