Unemployment Figures


Mr GARDNER (Morialta): I want to talk today about the state of the state, in particular in relation to employment. There was an extraordinary statement made by the Treasurer not five minutes ago that payroll tax cuts are, apparently, giving money back to businesses, as if it was not those businesses' money in the first place. I think this goes to the heart of the problem of why the South Australian economy is in such poor shape.

That the Treasurer of the state would think that giving a grant to a company is philosophically the same, economically the same, as taking money from that company in a tax and then giving it to other companies, is the heart of the problem. The Treasurer and the government does not understand how business works, how tax works and how the economy works. At the end of the day, what is payroll tax but a tax on jobs. It is a disincentive to hire people. The fact that he does not understand that is of serious concern.

When we are considering where we go with jobs and how does one judge the state of South Australia, I was interested (on the weekend) to be given the advice of the leader of the federal opposition, the Hon. Bill Shorten. He had some interesting things to say. He said:

For the past two years, our economy has been wallowing in mediocrity. Unemployment is too high. Growth is too slow.

He continued:

For Labor, jobs has always been the ultimate test, the gold standard of whether our economy is growing as strongly as it should and as fairly as it should. Jobs is how Labor measures our transition beyond the mining boom, into the next wave of future industries and opportunities.

He went on to say:

Jobs is how we judge whether or not everyone has a stake in our society, the chance to climb out of poverty, disadvantage and dispossession.

If jobs are of such concern for Mr Shorten, that at 6.3 per cent the national jobs rate is too high, that it is leading people to dispossession, disadvantage and poverty, how much worse for us in South Australia where, under 14 years of this Labor government, we have 8 per cent unemployment, 1.7 per cent above the national average? Surely, there are no people who are suffering more under the assessment made by Mr Shorten than those who are struggling under the reign of the South Australian Labor government.

A CommSec report came out yesterday which identifies that, after years and years and years of Tasmania being the state of concern in Australia, CommSec is saying things like this:

South Australia has held seventh spot on the economic performance rankings but Tasmania is showing better momentum…Tasmania remains at the bottom of the Australian economic performance table. But importantly, Tasmania is now top ranked on unemployment and third ranked on housing finance.

Interestingly, South Australia's 8 per cent jobless rate stands at a 15-year high, while Tasmania's 6 .2 percent jobless rate is approaching four-year lows.

And it was not ever thus. On 15 March of last year, there were two elections. There was an election in Tasmania and an election in South Australia. A tale of two cities, if you will, between Adelaide and Hobart. What happened in South Australia and Tasmania? In both cases the Liberal Party got a clear majority of the vote and less than one in three people voted for Labor, but unfortunately for the people of South Australia we have ended up with a Labor government that has continued its poor and shoddy economic settings and has continued with a view that payroll tax is somehow morally inferior to giving grants to private sector companies when the government decides to pick its winners.

At the time, on 15 March 2014, the Tasmanian unemployment rate, on trend figures, was 7.5 per cent and South Australia was better off at 7.3 per cent. What has happened since? Tasmania has a Liberal reformist government, led by Will Hodgman and Treasurer Peter Gutwein, and through the settings they have put in place—it has not been a recovery led by Princess Mary Donaldson or Ricky Ponting or the film archive of Errol Flynn—they have reduced their unemployment rate to 6.2 per cent, while South Australia has gone up to 8 per cent.

Tasmania is 1.8 per cent below us in unemployment. Just think about that for a second, how extraordinary that is. It has not been easy for Tasmania. It has not all been Cadbury factories and caravanning. Tasmania has had to put up with the extraordinary impact of not only a Labor government but a Labor-Greens government. There were three ministers in that government who were members of the Greens: the Attorney-General, the minister for sustainable transport; Greens members of parliament in a Labor-Greens government in Tasmania, and yet in just 18 months we have seen extraordinary change.

The Labor government, after four years in which Premier Weatherill has seen unemployment grow from 5.2 per cent to 8 per cent, needs to act immediately to bring forward stamp duty relief and immediately needs to commit to reducing payroll tax. It needs to create a state-based productivity commission, it needs to push ahead with planning job infrastructure such as the Strzelecki Track, to look at things on a cost-benefit ratio, to put forward some of the Liberal reformist agendas that we have suggested. I urge it to do so immediately, because the South Australian people have suffered for too long.