Grievance Debate: Labor Governments Failures


Mr GARDNER ( Morialta ) ( 15:41 ): It is with a heavy heart that I talk today about Oakden, child protection, the government's failure to the children of South Australia, their extraordinarily bad NAPLAN results, the Debelle inquiry and the failure of SA Health in building a new hospital, yet being tens of thousands of outpatient visits short of capacity. We have to talk about a government which has delivered contamination to Clovelly Park residents and a government which is synonymous with burst water mains, with prison overcrowding, with disastrous trade figures and with unemployment today hitting 7.3 per cent, the highest in the nation and going up at a time when the national unemployment rate is coming down. 

This is a government that has become synonymous with failure—failing the citizens of South Australia and failing the portfolios these ministers represent. These scandals keep on coming. We have had over 200 questions asked in this parliament in the last two weeks on Oakden alone. They are questions that deserve answers but are not receiving answers. We asked questions about the Oakden inquiry handed down by the Chief Psychiatrist in the week before Easter, after the minister had received the report from the Chief Psychiatrist but before she had read it. Questions should have been answered then but were not. 

We asked questions about Oakden prior to the Chief Psychiatrist's report being given to the government, questions that were ignored by the government then. It is of a piece with the way that this government operates across all of its range of portfolios. The first thing that happens when a problem is raised is that the minister of the government says, 'There's nothing to see here.' Then they say, 'Well, actually there might have been something to see here, but it's somebody else's fault and it's okay because it has been fixed now.' 

Then we hear them say, 'Look, it turns out that maybe it hasn't been fixed, but it's not the minister's fault because they were never informed of the situation in the first place, but now they have ordered a review, so that's okay. They ordered a review as soon as they knew about it.' Then we tend to hear from the government, 'It turns out that the minister was advised that there was a problem, but they took the department's advice that there wasn't a problem. But, as we say, now that we have ordered a review, there is nothing to see here.' Then the government expects us to trust them—trust them when they answer 200-plus questions with no information salient to the details. 

Today, the unemployment figures came out—7.3 per cent unemployment in South Australia—and the government says, 'Trust us. We've got a plan.' Why should we trust this government? Unemployment is 7.3 per cent in South Australia. The national average is 5.7 per cent, down from 5.9. South Australia is 7.3 per cent, up from 7 per cent. The next worst state is Queensland, where they have 6.3 per cent unemployment. New South Wales has under 5 per cent unemployment. It is an extraordinary set of failures. 

After 15 years of this Labor government's economic settings, it is of a piece with their failures in child protection. It is of a piece with their failures in mental health and in health. It comes back down to the way the government runs their operation. Is there an inquiring mind on the front bench of government? I do not see one. Is there one who, when presented with information from their department saying, 'Yes, it looks bad, but we've got it in hand. It's all okay,' then have an inquiring mind that asks, 'Why does it look so bad if you say that it is okay? Why are we getting questions about this if you say it is all okay?' We do not. 

We have a set of ministers who read talking points presented by their department, and if they cannot remember their talking points they take questions on notice or say, 'We will get back,' or that the question is unfair. It is an extraordinary set of failures and it is why we have such bad economic performance, just as we have bad performance in the social sphere, in child protection, in education and, of course, in health. 

Last week, the Liberal Party announced that if we formed government next year we would open four new trade offices in Dubai, United States, Malaysia and Japan, in countries with high potential so that we can provide on-the-ground support to our exporters. This is the sort of work that is going to see our unemployment rate come down. When his Labor government came to power 15 years ago, South Australia had 7.4 per cent of the national export share in 2002. That is down now to 4 per cent, with a gap of up to $9 billion between what we have and what we could have if our export share had kept up. 

The value of South Australian merchandise exports is $10.9 billion. It fell 6.2 per cent in the 12 months to March. The national totals increased by 13 per cent over the period. This is a government full of failure, full of excuses, but with no plan for South Australia's future. That is why we need change in March in South Australia.