Address In Reply

16 Sep 2004 speecharchive

This speech is an address in reply and is to commend both the Governor (Marjorie Jackson-Nelson) and the Lieutenant-Governor (Bruno Krumins) for the dignified way in which they carry out their duties.

The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK: In speaking on the Address in Reply to the Governor's speech I commend both the Governor (Marjorie Jackson-Nelson) and the Lieutenant-Governor (Bruno Krumins) for the dignified way in which they carry out their duties. I think they are a great asset as our heads of state, if that is the right terminology, in South Australia. As someone who has worked in a previous government knows, the speech is usually put together by different ministers, so it is much more a reflection on the elected government than on the Governor or Lieutenant Governor. I wish to address a number of things in the speech, and I will go through each in turn.

One of the opening statements was in relation to the creation of wealth, and the government stated that it supports the creation of wealth and opportunities and mentions individual prosperity, families and so forth. However, in the entire speech there is no reference to one of the great injustices taking place through ripping off land tax from a number of people who have worked very hard over many years to save for their own retirement. Many of those people are of multicultural backgrounds, and I declare an interest in that my parents are in that category and quite frequently complain about this to me. It is something that the govern¬ment refuses to address.

Under the title `Growing prosperity' the speech refers to sustained economic growth. There are lots of lovely phrases in this speech along those lines but, as basic economics would teach us, sustained economic growth will not occur in this state without sustained exports. As a number of members on this side of the house have pointed out to the government, the drop in exports is alarming, and the Leader of the Govern¬ment in this house is now referring not just to targets but also to stretched targets and is expressing some doubt about the accuracy of the ABS statistics (presumably because they do not tell the story that the government wants to have told) and whether such targets may, in fact, be chased in the end at all.

I look forward with great interest to seeing more information on the review of traineeships and apprenticeships. When it was last in government the federal Labor Party decimated apprenticeships and traineeships, and I think this arises from the Labor philosophy that (as I think I might have heard across the chamber as an interjection) traineeships and apprenticeships are cheap labour. That shows a misunderstanding on the part of the Labor Party of the role that these schemes play within our community in training young people.

They are a very good way of young people finding their way into trade as an alternative path to university, which is not attainable for a lot of young people who might not be academically inclined but might be very good in other ways. I wonder whether the Labor Party would rather just see everybody put through universities so that we end up without any tradespeople; and, as we know, we already have a shortage of skilled labour in this country.

Further down, the Social Inclusion Board and the Economic Development Board were referred to as `mobilising the public sector' which I felt was an interesting euphemism given the difficulties that the government has expressed with the activity in relation to homelessness. I think that the Premier said that he was going to give public servants the equivalent of a kick up the backside for taking their time which, at the time, we said was not an appropriate way to refer to these things. It demonstrates the lack of leadership that puts public servants in a situation where they are an easy target for blame rather than the elected government taking responsibility.

I was pleased, as members on this side of the council would be, to see that the government will release a comprehensive strategic infrastructure plan. I think that such a plan is desperately needed because the level of infrastructure investment in our hospitals, transport and education systems has fallen behind as a number of projects were put on hold. It is a threat to a number of organisations in this state that are involved in construction. In relation to exports, the Lieutenant-Governor said:

In recognition that it is the private sector that will be generating export growth, an industry-led Export Council has been estab¬lished. . .

When I heard this comment I pricked up my ears, because I thought, `Here we go. If the export target that has been set is not met, here is instantly someone else to blame.' It would be the private sector's fault, not the government's. As to sound financial management, the government was crowing about the state's finances being on a sound footing. I point out that it is on the back of property tax increases and the GST that this government has been able to fund a number of things because of the efforts of people who have saved for their own retirement through purchasing property, through the federal government's efforts with the GST and the previous state government.

As I have placed on the record before, Standard and Poor's in October last year rated South Australia at double A plus with a positive outlook. This was balanced on an extremely strong balance sheet, and the order of importance of the underlying factors were, first, privatisation of the state's electricity assets in 2000-01; and, secondly, an effort since privatisation to address some structural imbalances in the state's ongoing performance through more sustainable government revenue and spending policies.

Mental health, which, as we know, is in crisis, was also mentioned. Mental health is a very complex area. A couple of paragraphs down—and they probably should have been mentioned together—the issue of young offenders and repeat offenders was mentioned. This government has neglected that particular area where there are a number of people who are caught up in our court system who cross over with the mental health area. They need intensive intervention. I note that this government likes to borrow tricks and terminology from Tony Blair who once said that he wanted to be tough on crime and tough on the causes of crime.

I would say that this government has not been tough on the causes of crime at all, because we need to pay much greater attention to the issue of repeat offenders, why they end up back in the system and why they get there in the first place. There are a number of areas that have been highlighted by Frances Nelson who, rather than being thanked for her commitment to the cause, has just been vilified along with a number of other people who have been vilified in the past 12 months for pointing out that maybe the government does not have the right direction.

There has been much talk lately about flows for the River Murray. I point out that it was the Howard Liberal government that made the first commitment to any sort of funding for this vitally important cause and put its money on the table. Some of the states had to be dragged kicking and screaming, yet now they all want to claim credit for it. The South Australian Heritage Council was also mentioned, and we heard that we will be seeing legislation about this in the future, yet all the great funding announcements will be used for advisers, legislation and management. I have asked questions in this place before about whether that will equate to any tins of paint, but I think I will be left sadly wanting a correct response.

In relation to fostering creativity, I would like to be positive about this point and mention Baroness Professor Susan Greenfield. The Adelaide Thinkers in Residence was an initiative of Diana Laidlaw. I commend Professor Greenfield for her work in highlighting the need for us to concentrate on science and the benefits that it can bring to the state. As someone who graduated with a science degree, I think that it is an invaluable area on which we need to focus more, especially in relation to a number of our future industries. We will be able to reap a great deal in the future by doing that.

The Premier's reading challenge has been a farce. Once again, independent schools have been targeted by Labor—it is all very well for Labor people to be educated by the independent school system! I used to find it quite interesting when I debated young Labor people across the chamber in our mock parliaments that, when we did a headcount of who had attended independent schools and who had attended public schools, more often than not, more young Liberals had attended public schools than had attended independent schools. It suits members of the Labor Party to send their own kids to independent schools and to have been through the independent school system but, because they are an easy target, they pick on them, and therefore they have been excluded from the Premier's reading challenge, which is an absolute disgrace if they believe in equity and providing services to all the young children in this state.

A couple of areas that were sadly neglected within the speech were housing and people with disabilities. We know from a number of campaigns which have been highlighted to a number of members and some of the protests that we have received that those areas are not being addressed. For those areas to have been omitted is quite glaring. I finish by referring to a comment which Terry Plane (who could not be described as being conservative by any stretch of the imagination) made in his final column in The Messenger—and I have referred to this in part previously—that is, that generally governments achieve more zeal in their first year in office than in subsequent years when they become conservative. If that holds true, we have already seen the best of the Rann government. If that matches the rhetoric of this government which says that it is reformist and forward looking, then I think the people of South Australia are in dire trouble.