Bill: Appropriation Bill 2017 (2nd Reading)


Mr GARDNER: This bill is to appropriate money for public servants to be paid to enable the government to undergo its business, and it will be supported by the opposition so that supply may continue and government may go on. However, the budget papers contain many things that are worthy of some comment, some of which have already received a goodly amount of comment today, but there are a few things left to say about the government's state bank tax. 

I commence my remarks by putting some extra concerns in addition to those I put on the record earlier today about why I think this measure is dangerous, damaging to South Australia, damaging to South Australians who are seeking jobs, and is not in the best interests of the South Australian community or, indeed, any South Australian, in any way. It is a bad tax, and that is why we plan to oppose that aspect of the Budget Measures Bill. 

The key factor that determines interest rates is risk, and the riskier the environment the higher the interest rate will be. This is of concern to anybody with a mortgage in South Australia or anybody who plans to have a mortgage in South Australia, anyone who wants to buy a house, anyone who wants to take on a loan to start a small business, anyone seeking to get a job with somebody who has a business or with a business that has a loan, or someone who is hoping to attract investment. All these people—which is pretty much just about everybody, particularly young South Australians hoping to have a better future—will be impacted negatively by this state bank tax. 

One component of the risk for South Australians in South Australia that has not existed before is sovereign risk. We have a state government right now that will make policy decisions that will frighten investors. A government that springs a new tax on a sector with no warning will simply mean that investors will require a higher return on the debt they lent because of the fear that the goalposts could change at any moment. 

The Treasurer himself said in question time that he did not speak to any of the business groups, that he did not speak to any of the business leaders and that he did not speak to any of the government's own hand-picked economic advisers. He did not speak to any of the 145,000 small businesses in South Australia. This is a tax of the Premier's and the Treasurer's devising that is going to have extraordinarily bad impacts across the South Australian community and is going to create this risk. 

This means that there is a real risk in South Australia that our home loans, our car loans, our credit cards and our business overdrafts could all have higher interest rates than those in other states because those state governments are not perceived to be reckless like South Australia is. It would be an outrage if any South Australian were effectively treated as a second-class citizen within Australia, paying more for a home loan than someone in Victoria or Queensland because of the actions of this government, because this government has increased the cost of borrowing thanks to erratic and risky policymaking. 

The Hon. A. Koutsantonis interjecting: 

The DEPUTY SPEAKER: Order! Treasurer, the member is on his feet and he is entitled to be heard in silence. 

Mr Pederick: He has had three warnings. 

The DEPUTY SPEAKER: Member for Hammond, I will be alright thank you. If I need you, I will let you know. 

Mr Pederick: Always happy to help out. 

The DEPUTY SPEAKER: I know you are. Member for Morialta. 

Mr GARDNER: This is a Treasurer who has done what very few treasurers have done before, all of them of course Labor treasurers. They have taken a policy decision that will damage— 

The Hon. A. Koutsantonis interjecting: 

The DEPUTY SPEAKER: The Treasurer is called to order. 

Mr GARDNER: —the people of South Australia by having a differential tax that differentiates South Australia from other states. 

The DEPUTY SPEAKER: Stop the clock. Sit down. It does not appear you were sent out, Treasurer, but you have been warned twice. It would be good to be able to hear the member for Morialta's points, and I am sure that at some point you will get up and refute them, won't you, but it will not be during his speech. Member for Morialta. 

Mr GARDNER: Thank you, Deputy Speaker. Of course, there is one other person who has done something similar to this to the South Australian people, and that fellow was John Bannon— 

Mr Picton interjecting: 

The DEPUTY SPEAKER: Member for Kaurna! 

Mr Picton interjecting: 

The DEPUTY SPEAKER: Stop it! I am on my feet. It is very disrespectful to speak loudly on your phone in the chamber, Treasurer. Treasurer, please do not speak loudly on your phone. I am reminding the member for Kaurna that he is out of order. 

Mr GARDNER: Thank you, Deputy Speaker. We have a Treasurer who cannot even remember his own talking points and needs to be on the phone to outside the chamber while he is in here so that he can prepare his response— 

The DEPUTY SPEAKER: There is no need for that to happen. Let's all try to behave, though. 

Members interjecting: 

The DEPUTY SPEAKER: Sit down. 

The Hon. S.C. Mullighan: It's juvenile, John. 

The DEPUTY SPEAKER: I do not think 'juvenile' is listed, but we can try to see if you can have it incorporated somehow later on. I am asking the members— 

Members interjecting: 

The DEPUTY SPEAKER: Stop the clock. No, listen, you have all been pretty good so far. I am not going to accept the interjections. Please do not interject. Give the member the respect he deserves. You can have a time to speak again later on in grievances tonight. We will be here all day if there are interjections. I do not intend to let it happen. 

Mr GARDNER: There was an interesting word used seven times in question time yesterday by the Treasurer in relation to answering questions about this bank tax, and that was about his entitlement. I think what we have just seen demonstrates the entitlement that the members of the front bench— 

The DEPUTY SPEAKER: No, no need for that. Back to the speech. 

Mr GARDNER: —demonstrated in their budget— 

The DEPUTY SPEAKER: Sit down. Sit down. Back to your speech. 

Mr GARDNER: —demonstrated in their budget— 

The DEPUTY SPEAKER: Back to your speech. 

Mr GARDNER: In the bill ahead of us, they do feel entitled to do whatever they want to the people of South Australia and indeed to introduce this tax, which is of course a different situation from the federal tax, where the federal tax is in response to the guarantee the federal government provides the banks. This state government does not do that. All this state government does in relation to a guarantee is guarantee that South Australians are going to be kicked in the teeth when it comes to their financial arrangements. They have form. It is not enough for them to have ruined South Australia once with a state bank disaster; they are now seeking to do it again. 

I was at school when the State Bank went into difficulties. However, I am still old enough to remember how it worked, and I am familiar in a very personal way with some of the impacts of the State Bank disaster and what it did to business confidence in South Australia. I am 38 years old. I was— 

The Hon. A. Koutsantonis interjecting: 

Mr GARDNER: Sorry, what was that, Treasurer? You were interjecting. 

The DEPUTY SPEAKER: No, you both know that it is unparliamentary to interject or respond to interjections. 

Mr GARDNER: I was 12 years old in 1989. 

The Hon. A. Koutsantonis interjecting: 

The DEPUTY SPEAKER: Order! Ignore him. 

Mr GARDNER: I grew up in a small family business environment, manufacturing water treatment equipment. It was my father's company, as he started it, and it was owned by my mother and my father and another investor who worked in the company. It was a small business that employed between nine and 16 people from year to year depending on how it went. After the State Bank disaster, after the calamitous subsequent recession we had to have at a federal level, I well remember that every few months we would have the company's accountant sitting at the dinner table because that is what happens in a small family business. The accountant is a family friend and he sits there and gives us advice on what is going forward. 

I remember the lack of confidence that we had going forward at the time. I remember the way that businesses respond to these sorts of calamitous issues. The fact is that if you go back to that period in 1991 there was a loss of $3.15 billion in state government guaranteed funds. It cost hundreds of millions of dollars per year for the state government to cover the bank's bad debts. Samuel Jacobs QC, the commissioner, said: 

John Bannon failed to listen to the messages of doom, ignored the warnings— 

The Hon. S.C. MULLIGHAN: Point of order: relevance. 

The DEPUTY SPEAKER: Sorry, I was talking to the Clerk. We are going to have to listen to you very carefully, member for Morialta. 

Mr GARDNER: He continued: 

shut down debate in the A ssembly and refused to listen to the people who had insight into the impact of what was happening in the State Bank w ould have to the people of South Australia. 

That is what we see again here today in this bill. In this bill, the Appropriation Bill and the consequent budget papers that go with it, we see a tax that is going to have an extraordinary impact on the people of South Australia. It is not that the Treasurer has ignored the warnings of what will happen before introducing this measure; he did not even talk to anybody, certainly nobody who remembers the consequences of the State Bank disaster that a previous Labor government committed on the people of South Australia. It is utterly destructive to confidence. 

But of course we did have insight into where the Premier gets his advice and support from. He read an article into the parliament's Hansard from The Australia Institute, a group led by a nice fellow called Ben Oquist, most well known of course for working as chief of staff and adviser to Bob Brown for many years. It is perhaps not surprising that this is a government that is focused on receiving financial advice and support from people who are running mates with the Australian Greens. 

The other media outlet that is supporting the government's measures is the government's own version of PravdaThe Express, a newspaper paid for in funds out of this budget by the people of South Australia's tax dollars and handed out by ministers on street corners. It is the only publication in town that actually says that any of these measures are a good thing and that any of these measures are going to have good consequences for the people of South Australia. 

Frankly, I heard the minister talking in his speech on this bill about advertising campaigns which he accused as being designed to mislead people. The government is spending money, taxpayers' hard-earned dollars, taking their taxes into the state government coffers, spending money printing newspapers to hand back to them and telling them that the government is in fact doing a good job. What do the people who understand how economies work say about this budget? They say that it is not a jobs budget. In fact, even the Treasury papers suggest that it is not a jobs budget, the Treasury papers which show that jobs growth will be less than half that of Victoria and half the national average. 

It defies belief almost that Labor would just dismiss the legitimate concerns of South Australian employers and fail to commission economic modelling about the impacts of a state bank tax and then seek to impose it on the South Australian people. It is a tax that will break South Australia's economy, and therefore it is necessary that it be opposed. The importance at this stage in particular of not undertaking measures that will hurt South Australia's economy cannot be overstated. 

We have a seasonally adjusted unemployment rate of 6.9 per cent in May, which is the highest in the nation, and a trend figure of 7.1 per cent—that is the steady figure—which has been the highest in the nation for 30 consecutive months. The youth unemployment rate is 17.2 per cent—the highest in the nation. Tasmania is beating us, Western Australia is beating us and so are Queensland, New South Wales and Victoria. There are 60,300 people unemployed and another 85,900 people underemployed, seeking extra hours. They are in a situation where, in many cases as the result of policies enacted by this government, they are not able to work to the extent that they would like. 

We need to be doing everything we can to create a state in which every South Australian knows that they can achieve their full potential, that they can get a good day's pay for a good day's work and that their work will be rewarded. That is not what this state government delivers or what they have delivered. Commonwealth Treasury forecasts that there will be a 1.5 per cent employment growth in 2017-18 nationally, and our state Treasury forecast is 1 per cent. The fact of the matter is that, at a time when unemployment is in such a significant crisis, we can little afford to take measures that will damage it even further. 

In relation to my portfolio of education, multicultural affairs and the arts, there are a number of measures in this budget, some of which are welcomed and some we have some questions about. For the benefit of the bevy of advisers who may come with the education minister to the estimates procedures in the next couple of weeks, I will put a couple of those questions on the record at this point. Hopefully, when we are in estimates, we might be able to get some quick answers and we will not have to spend all the allocated time going back and forth, looking up documents that really should be quite easy to find. 

On Budget Paper 5, page 31, we see $7 million pledged over four years for two new super schools. These are at Munno Para and Sellicks Beach, although I note that some of the materials talk about Sellicks Beach/Aldinga. I am interested to know from the government what their plan is there. They are to be built as public-private partnerships and the funding in the budget, the $7 million, is to manage those public-private partnerships. It is suggested that there are going to be 1,400 R to 12 students, 100 special-school students and a 55-place children's centre in each of them. 

We do not have any details in that budget announcement as to the location of the school, whether it is Sellicks Beach or Aldinga. If it is to be both, I suspect that would be quite a piece of land. What schools are going to be impacted? What modelling has been done on whether the government is expecting other schools to close as a result of these schools being built? 

We understand that there is a demographic increase in these areas and there is some level of need for new school infrastructure, which is supported, but we need to know a lot more detail about the government's expectations. When these schools open, what year levels are they going to contain? What local schools are going to be impacted? Where does the government model that these 3,000 new students across both sites are going to be drawn from? They are not just going to be coming out of thin air. A number of those students are currently attending other schools. 

We note that there is no funding in this budget for the Magill school. Four years ago, at a similar point on the time line as these new Munno Para and Sellicks Beach schools being announced in the last electoral cycle, the member for Wright—education minister as she was then, and representative of the Speaker at a presiding officers' conference as she is now—as education minister promised that there would be a birth to 12 school at Magill. 

When it came down to it, that was in the election promise and the subsequent 2014 budget. That was taken down into what was, in effect, a business case or a scoping study, and we got hung up on the jargon, but several hundred thousand dollars were spent. Aurecon worked with the department and built up what that school might look like. It was 2014 when that money was subsequently committed. UniSA have been working on the project, as well as the Norwood Morialta High School governing council joined by other governing councils, the Magill Primary School and the Magill Kindergarten. An awful lot of work has been happening in recent years. 

In particular, I note that a lot of volunteer work has been happening because a number of people in the working groups have been working in good faith with the government because it promised before the last election that there would be a new school at Magill. They have been giving up enormous amounts of their time. They are people with jobs, people who are raising a family and people who do not just happen to have a lot of spare time. However, because they are on the governing council and because they want to support their child's education by doing everything they can and by giving their expertise and energy, they work with the government to find a best outcome that suits all the needs of the different stakeholders of new facilities at Magill. 

Frankly, the facilities at Rostrevor, which I identify are in my own electorate, are inadequate. The current 10 to 12 campus at Norwood Morialta needs quite a lot of work if there is not to be a new school at Magill. The minister has been there and knows what I am talking about. The government has not put any money in the budget to provide the work necessary to bring Rostrevor up to scratch, and it has not put any money in the budget after four years to develop the new school at Magill. 

I have questions for the education minister at estimates or the Treasurer, and if he knows the answers he can answer them. What is the government planning to do at Magill? When will the work of the parents and the endeavour that they have put into helping the government develop this project come to fruition? These parents, by the way, know that their children will not see this school completed while they are still at the school. They know it is a longer term project, but they want the best for the school community and, therefore, they are taking whatever steps they can to support its development. I commend them for that. 

I hope the government identifies a time line for an answer. Hopefully, there will be support for it before the end of the year and hopefully some of the Treasurer's several hundreds of millions of dollars worth of contingencies will go towards supporting it, but at the very least we need a time line and answers for those schools. There are several schools involved, as well as the University of South Australia, and there are more than 1,000 future students.     

Going to the education minister's future potential responses in estimates, I refer to Budget Paper 4, Volume 2, pages 14 and 15. I have identified at least seven examples of delays to school infrastructure works compared with last year's budget papers. They are the Christies Beach High School Disability Unit, Evanston Gardens Primary School, Le Fevre High School, Playford International College, the Preschool Relocation Program, Swallowcliffe Primary School and Yalata Anangu School. Some of those delays are as short as three months and some are over a year. I hope the education minister will take the opportunity, when I ask this question in estimates, to answer quickly and concisely, having had several weeks, from my raising it here, to identify the answers. 

Whilst she is at it, she can also identify the staff fluctuations and what they are about in Budget Paper 4, Volume 2, page 20. Since the 2014-15 budget, staff numbers have dropped by 300 in 2016‑17 only to increase by 200 in 2017-18. There is also $608,000 over two years for the Right Bite pilot program. I would like the minister to explain why we are spending that money. What is that giving us in addition to what Foodbank and KickStart For Kids already give? Which schools will benefit and how will they benefit more than they already do from other charity programs? I will be supporting this part of the budget through the Appropriation Bill.