Mr MARSHALL ( Dunstan—Leader of the Opposition) (11:02): I indicate that I will be the lead speaker for the opposition on this bill. Let's stop mincing words. South Australia is in deep economic trouble and this budget offers no solution, because it will destroy more jobs and deter future investment in our state. This government continues to smash our economy with its wrecking ball of higher taxes and budget waste and mismanagement. Labor is ruining the future prospects of our children.
We have to restore confidence and we need to restore opportunity in our state. To do that, we must have lower taxes to encourage investment and job creation, much less red tape and unnecessary regulation, ensure government spending remains within budget, a growing private sector, an efficient public sector, higher productivity in our private and our public sectors, strong and sustained export growth right across South Australia, more investment in productive infrastructure and greater support for our regions.
All these measures and more are necessary if we are going to get the South Australian economy growing at an acceptable rate. A Liberal government's aim will be to lift South Australia's economic growth so that it is in line with the national rate.
Mr MARSHALL: They say that it is higher, but let's look at the facts. The economic growth rate in this state over the last five years while Jay Weatherill has been the Premier has averaged 1.4 per cent. That is less than half the national average rate, and it is just a fraction of the fast growth states in Australia. Jay Weatherill, Tom Koutsantonis and this entire Labor government have completely and utterly failed the people of South Australia.
When you turn 16 in life, most people start to accept responsibility. I see many students here in the gallery with us today. I have two children of my own and I know that when you turn 16 you become more mature. There is the onset of some wisdom as you anticipate the next phase of your life with greater energy and enthusiasm. Well, this is the 16th year and the 16th budget of this dysfunctional Labor government and there is no acceptance of responsibility by this government for the economic failures they have inflicted upon the people of South Australia.
There is no maturity for a solution, there is no wisdom about our future, no sense of energy or enthusiasm about what is next for South Australia, no reason given to the 16 year olds of today to believe they can get on in South Australia by staying here in this state. After 16 budgets in a row, South Australians are entitled to expect that Labor had grown up and learnt something, but the simple fact is that Labor has learnt nothing whatsoever.
In fact, the Premier, in particular, has learnt nothing because he has been the only member of every ministry that has framed those 16 failed Labor government budgets. His fingerprints, more than anyone else's, are all over what Labor has delivered for our state. As this budget confirms, in all that time Labor has not learnt a thing about how to grow our economy.
All Labor has left is to pick fake fights in the hope of hiding its own failures: fights with the businesses in South Australia that are trying their level best to grow employment and create opportunities for the next generation; fights with Canberra, which continues to provide more than half the money in our state budget; fights with the independent energy market operators who are doing whatever they can to deliver reliable power to South Australians when the government has failed them. I am all for the fight when it means that South Australia wins the fight that matters to it, but this government continues to lose the fight on the things that matter: growing our economy and growing jobs here in South Australia.
In this budget, our economy needed the stimulus of lower taxes to support investment and job creation. Instead, what do we get? Higher taxes, more deterrents for investment and fewer jobs created moving forward. The budget should be a time of reckoning, a reflection about the things that are going wrong and about what needs to be done to put them right, but this budget is nothing more than Labor spin; more arrogance, more delusion.
It was spun, as you would recall, Deputy Speaker, as a jobs budget, just like the one before and the one before that. At least this year there is an element of truth in the spin; this is about jobs, two jobs in particular, that of the Premier and that of the Treasurer of this state. The truth, of course, is that this is nothing like a jobs budget. This is unequivocally a tax budget. It raises almost $420 million in new taxes and increased government charges in real terms, when wages are not growing and household and business budgets remain under severe pressure because of our flagging economy.
Let me tell you about the dirty little secret that is contained within the pages of this Labor budget. Let me tell you why there is another massive Labor tax grab in this budget. The reason is on page 14 of Budget Paper 3. There, table 1.5 reveals that tax revenue over the forward estimates has been written down by a staggering $438 million since last year's budget. Tax revenue is declining because the economy, under Labor, is sliding. So what does Labor do? They do what they always do: they think the solution to any problem in our state is to increase taxes. Well, we know that this will only slow our economy and slow job creation even more.
This budget rips $370 million out of the banks and out of the pockets of businesses and the people of South Australia. As we know, Labor has form with playing with people's bank deposits and home loans. This is the same shameful Labor Party that bankrupted the people's bank, the State Bank. This is the same party that engaged in pre-election manipulation of the interest rates charged by the people's bank not once, not twice, but three separate times. That is the political culture the Premier and the Treasurer were raised in, so we should not be surprised about how they have gone about trying to impose the latest Labor tax.
This is a budget that tries to repair broken promises but then goes on to make many more, like creating jobs. You do not have to read far into the budget papers to learn this. One per cent jobs growth is what is promised in this budget. This is less than half that of Victoria. It is not even anywhere near that of Tasmania. Within a week, we have had the South Australian Centre for Economic Studies come out and say that, despite the fact that already the prediction is the lowest jobs growth rate in the entire nation, we are not even going to achieve that.
The independent umpire has said that this is certainly not a jobs budget. After the money this budget allocates to job creation, South Australia will continue to go backwards relative to the other states in Australia and compared with their own jobs forecast. There is no permanent solution offered to South Australia's jobs crisis. We should not be surprised, because it is the same Labor government that promised a staggering 100,000 jobs to the people of South Australia in the lead-up to the 2010 election. How much have they fallen short by? By 80 per cent. They have got nowhere near their own promised jobs creation—80,000 jobs short of what they promised the people of South Australia.
This is a government that has given us the highest priced electricity in the world, the least reliable grid in Australia, a child protection system that has continually failed the most vulnerable children in our society, a mental health service that has neglected and abused the elderly, while the ministers who repeatedly disown responsibility for their failures shamelessly take people on tours of buildings, cut ribbons and unveil monuments to themselves. Labor has been given too long—long enough to grow our economy, long enough to create jobs in this state, long enough to ensure that our families should not be continuing to struggle with the ever-increasing cost of living. It is now time for Labor to go.
It is time for South Australians to have a government delivering what they need and what they pay taxes to expect: health, education and other key services provided as efficiently as possible and, importantly, businesses given as much incentive to create jobs as possible. Governing well is as basic as that. When you are governing well, you do not need to spend the people's money trying to tell the people what you claim to be doing for them. But the day after the budget was delivered, our morning newspaper had three full-page advertisements, paid for by the people, with more on television and more again in the weekend press, and last week, and again this week, and again this morning. It promises them that we are investing for the future.
Do people really want to pay taxes to have lies told to them here in South Australia? The truth is that this budget will actually cost jobs; it will cost investment and it will not create them. Taxpayers meeting the bill for Labor propaganda is what we now have in South Australia. Under a Liberal government, this shameful behaviour will stop. In the interests of truth in advertising, the only advertisement that this government should take out is an apology to the people of South Australia for the sky-high energy costs, for our unreliable grid, failures to protect our children, failures to protect the elderly and, of course, the jobs crisis that they have now inflicted upon the people of South Australia. Labor is out of time. There is no future in repeating more of the 16 years of failure.
Let's consider for a moment Labor's performance over the last four budget cycles, not just the four years of the forward estimates or indeed for the last four years, because Labor habits never die. In particular is the habit of taking more and more of people's money—more and more taxes; less and less money in the pockets of ordinary South Australians. When Labor was elected in 2002, South Australia actually had low debt. The hard work of the Liberal Party had restored the financial position destroyed by the Labor's State Bank financial crisis. Labor also came to office with property values rising quickly, turbocharging state-based taxation revenue. It has received the continuing advantage of much more federal money through the allocation of GST revenues, but Labor has squandered its luck and failed all South Australians.
During Labor's 16 years, South Australia has fallen behind the rest of the nation. We have come well off the pace of growth on all major measures. If South Australia had retained the share of the national population that it had back in 2002, almost 180,000 more people would be living in this state. Of course, this is the reason why our demand is falling. We have not kept pace with the rest of the nation. At every single reporting period, we fall further and further behind.
In the last figures that were available to the people of this state, we saw a staggering 6,903 people in net migration to other states. This is a terrible, shameful indictment on the future that is being projected in this state after 16 failed years of Labor administration. This government has now abandoned its target of increasing our population to two million by 2027.
If we had retained our jobs share, about 100,000 more people would currently be employed in South Australia. In fact, that is the number that Labor themselves promised back in 2010 but, over the past two years alone, our rate of jobs growth has been only half the national jobs growth figure. There has been no growth in full-time private sector employment for seven years. For seven years, there has been no growth whatsoever in full-time employment in South Australia in the private sector.
We have 16.6 per cent of our labour force either underemployed or unemployed. That is 150,000 people in this state who are either unemployed or looking for more hours. We have the highest seasonally adjusted unemployment rate in the nation, at 6.9 per cent. We have had the highest trend unemployment rate in this state for 30 consecutive months. The rate for 15 to 24 year olds is 17.2 per cent, which is again the highest in the nation. Almost one in five children in this state is out of work, and these are not just statistics. Behind them are countless individual stories of lost hope and lost opportunity for our state.
One reason why many more people are not in jobs is our lagging export performance in South Australia. If we had retained our share of the nation's merchandise exports from 2002, we would be exporting $9.6 billion more per year, and this of course would translate into tens and tens of thousands of additional jobs in this state. Over the last 12 months alone, our exports fell 5.2 per cent to just over $11 billion when the government themselves set an exports target this year—a guaranteed target this year—of $18 billion. It will hit only $11 billion.
At the time Labor came to office back in 2002, South Australia's economy was growing at an annual rate of 4.9 per cent. If we had continued at that rate, our gross state product would now have hit $150 billion per year. Where are we? We are at approximately $100 billion. Labor's target was to exceed the national economic growth rate to 2020—another comprehensive failure by this government. As I said previously, during this Premier's time in office we have only had economic growth of 1.4 per cent against a national average that is almost double.
If we had just kept pace with the national growth rate over this same time, our GSP would be $10 billion higher, which of course is 10 per cent when you are looking at a $100 billion GSP. As I emphasised at the beginning of my reply, a Liberal government will have a fundamentally different approach to restoring economic growth and creating investment and jobs in this state, and I will come to that slightly later in my address. What all this tells us is that Labor has failed to deliver on the basics, not only in helping to create jobs but in the management of the budget, which is fundamental to a confident, outward-looking, growing economy. The 2017 budget is just more of the same.
The government has been running fake budget surpluses since it decided, despite previous promises not to do so, to privatise the compulsory third-party insurance market. In the 2016-17 financial year, distributions from the Motor Accident Commission impacted the net operating balance to the tune of $297.8 million when the overall budget surplus was just $239 million. In other words, it turned a deficit into a surplus.
For the 2017-18 financial year, another $321.7 million is budgeted in dividends to a budget that is only going to be in surplus by $72 million. This is a structural deficit propped up only by the sale of government assets. Since Labor's election in 2002, it has increased the total tax take by a staggering 112 per cent. On the spending side of the budget, however, Labor has spent $6 billion above budget during its 16 years in office. Labor has kept spending within budget only twice in 16 years. I will return to the spending side of the budget in a few moments, but let's take another look at the revenue that the government is now receiving.
Total revenue is projected to grow in real terms across each year of the forward estimates. This includes, of course, payroll tax. Over the next four years, the budgeted payroll tax revenue is almost $5 billion. That is a $5 billion tax on jobs. Against that is a $200 million jobs fund—it is not much at all. The government tries to make a virtue of what it has done with payroll tax and payroll tax concessions, but reducing the rates and providing concessions is not cutting tax in the way the government wants the people of South Australia to believe. It is just more tinkering, just collecting a little less tax than the government otherwise would.
The very need to provide rebates and concessions confirms that this tax penalises job creation here in South Australia. The adjustments over the forward estimates to the payroll tax rate for small businesses amount to less than 1 per cent of revenue forgone from total budgeted payroll tax collections during the four years of the forward estimates. Pre-budget, the government also made much of its adjustments to the Job Accelerator Grants, suggesting it was putting a lot more into the whole scheme. What we find, however, is that these grants are not being extended beyond an increase for apprentices and trainees.
If the government had put as much thought into doing what it could to be effective for all businesses in South Australia as it has into its advertising campaign and the tinkering it has done, South Australia's future economic prospects would be much, much better. As well as real increases in tax revenue over the forward estimates, the government is also budgeting for 20 per cent more revenue from regulatory fees in this state. The majority of fees and charges will increase in real terms.
Revenue from TAFE increases by a staggering 27.8 per cent, from Metroticket sales by 13 per cent and from driver's licence fees by 28.5 per cent. The average annual water bill in South Australia is now $787 per year and another $429 for sewerage. During its 16 years in office, Labor has increased the average household water bill by 232 per cent. Labor has driven up the cost of living for all South Australians, refusing to exercise budget discipline in the way that all households have been forced to do because of the pain that has been inflicted upon them by this government.
This government has pretended to be at constant war with Canberra even though the federal government has continued to provide well over 50 per cent of the total budget revenue it receives, not to mention the thousands of jobs it will deliver to South Australia through the naval shipbuilding contracts. In 2017-18, Canberra's contribution to total state budget revenues will be a staggering 55 per cent. That is $10.5 billion. Over the forward estimates, this will increase by $700 million to $11.2 billion per year—so much for being short-changed by Canberra. This has been one more fake fight waged by this government, this increasingly desperate government, in the hope of concealing the ineptitude and mismanagement that they have inflicted upon South Australia.
It is now time to turn to one further example: the bank tax. With the juvenile glee of a shameless populist, the Treasurer attacked the banks. He wants to raid them as though he has an automatic entitlement to some of their customers' money. The bank liabilities to be taxed are the deposits made by hardworking mums and dads in South Australia. Even school savings, accounts of children, are not exempt from this, nor is the superannuation of grandparents trying to make ends meet in retirement. The Treasurer seems to think that he can put his hands in the pockets of anyone at any time he feels.
He tells us the impact of this tax will not hit bank customers, but nobody believes this Treasurer. Who would? He constantly parades as a man able to decide better than anyone else how the people's money is to be spent—by confiscating more and more of it in increasing taxes. Let's consider some simple truths this Treasurer simply does not understand. Tax is money earned by the people, earned by businesses and spent by governments. It is as simple as that. Accordingly, a good government does not raise any more tax than is necessary to provide the services people need, imposing discipline on itself to keep pressure off the cost of living and to encourage investment and job creation. It is as simple as that.
A bad government does not care how much money it raises through taxes, nor how much people's money it mismanages and wastes. It is as simple as that. Labor wants to impose this bank tax because it is being lazy—a hopeless manager of our budget for more than 16 years. It is as simple as that. This issue is not about the behaviour of businesses. This issue is not about the behaviour of the people of South Australia. This is about the behaviour of this tired government. The response to this proposal has been completely unprecedented. It cannot be ignored by anyone interested in protecting and preserving South Australia's reputation for fair and responsible government here in this state.
Unlike Labor, which did not even conduct any consultation with its own Economic Development Board and its own Investment Attraction agency, we have listened to the concerns of the people of this state: individuals, organisations, businesses. Labor simply has no mandate whatsoever for this measure. It breaches the Intergovernmental Agreement on the Reform of Commonwealth-State Financial Relations, signed in 1998. In return for GST revenue, South Australia agreed to stop applying a range taxes on financial institutions. This government has been a beneficiary ever since, through much of the massive increase in the GST distribution to this state. A future Liberal government will continue to honour that original agreement.
Since the announcement of this tax, it has become clearer by the day that it has consequences—very serious consequences—so adverse to South Australia that it should never, ever have been proposed. It threatens the conduct of orderly federal-state financial relations that benefits all South Australians. It threatens the deposit and home loan interest rates of all customers who bank here in South Australia. It threatens, of course, future investment in South Australia. It threatens job creation in South Australia, now and into the future. It threatens the loss of business here in our state.
Labor must be prevented from adding to the cost of home mortgages and business loans and to pressure on jobs. A big new tax is the last thing that the people of South Australia need. We must not threaten investment in South Australia at a time when we can least afford it. When many businesses are struggling to survive, let alone expand, we must protect South Australia's reputation in the eyes of the rest of Australia and, indeed, in the eyes of the rest of the world. This government prefers to trash that reputation because it has not been able to manage its own budget. You cannot on the one hand introduce a big new tax and on the other promise to create a lot more jobs.
I therefore confirm that we will move in this house for the deletion of this tax from the budget measures. If we are unsuccessful, we will support its removal in the upper house as well. I give this commitment today: a Liberal government will never behave in the way this government has over this tax. I assure investors that they will not be exposed to sudden major tax policy changes under a Liberal government. I assure all South Australians that taxes will be lower under a Liberal government. Our tax system has to be efficient and competitive to support economic growth and job creation. Our tax policies must be stable, not suddenly imposed. We need significant investment from business over the long term. We will not get that with short-sighted, short-term populist policies.
All taxes add to the cost of living in some way or another. Far from relieving that pressure, this budget of course increases it, not only with real rises in taxes and charges but with government spending that is also continuing to increase in real terms. There is $2 billion worth of new spending outlined in the 2017-18 budget to be introduced over the next four years. But Budget Paper 3 tells us on page 26 that there are no new savings measures in the 2017-18 budget to offset that higher spending. The government has ignored—again ignored—proper budget management because there is an election approaching here in South Australia.
In health, the government dishonestly advertises a $1.1 billion hospital works program. In fact, the budget itself shows new hospital capital projects will cost $844 million, not $1.1 billion, and about a quarter of this spending—almost $200 million—is required for blow-outs in Transforming Health budgets or attempts to deal with problems emerging from the toxic Transforming Health. Exposed and embarrassed by what Transforming Health has not delivered, the Premier now says that the process is at an end, but it has not ended. The Premier only says that in an attempt to hide the fact that Transforming Health has continued to be a massive failure for the people of South Australia.
Eight Transforming Health projects were announced in the 2015-16 budget and only two have been delivered; the other six are running a total of 2,460 days late and running tens and tens of millions of dollars over budget. The budget paper fails to reflect improvements in performance as a result of Transforming Health. For example, the proportion of urgent emergency department cases seen within the target of 10 minutes has gone backwards—between 2 and 8 per cent—in the three local health networks.
The real story in health under this government is that hospitals have been closed, hospitals will be closed and services for the people of South Australia will continue to be cut. There is constant anxiety about waiting lists and quality of treatment, with reforms in health care not delivering what the government has promised. This government does not understand that health is not just about infrastructure. It is fundamentally about care; it is fundamentally about people.
While the government's taxpayer funded advertising flashes figures about budget allocations for hospital and other infrastructure, the actual performance remains another matter altogether. This budget in fact confirms that since 2011 actual spending on infrastructure has fallen more than $1 billion short of the government's own financial projections. This is further evidence that the government, under this Premier, simply cannot manage its own budget.
The story is, of course, the same with the government's failed energy plan. When the Premier and Treasurer announced this plan, they said that their new gas-generated power station could be in place by this summer, but the budget papers show a completely different story just three months later. Sixty per cent of spending on the plan in 2017-18 will be for operating expenses, not building the promised power station. This means the facility will not be available before the summer and in fact will not be available until the summer after next at the very earliest, but the government hopes the public will not realise how much its energy plan is already slipping behind, despite the possibility of further interruptions to the power supply over next summer.
Despite previous promises to do so, the government has not given the full breakdown in its budget of how the energy policy is going to unfold, the timing of the major components or the cost of the major components of this energy strategy. However, we know that the operating cost projected in 2017-18 suggests that the backup diesel generators are going to cost far more than the government has been willing to admit.
Why will the government not come clean with the people of South Australia? Why will it not tell the people of South Australia how much its diesel-fired generators are going to cost the people of South Australia? The government had a perfect opportunity to keep the Alinta Northern power station open for the cost of $8 million per year: $3.5 million would come, of course, in payroll tax and mining royalties; the net cost would be $3.5 million. Because of ideology it said no. Now, of course, we are faced with the highest energy prices in the world and the least reliable grid.
While the budget was being announced to the house the federal Coalition government in Canberra was completing an historic agreement on education funding. That agreement means that before the ink on this budget was dry what it said about education funding was, of course, misleading. This government still argues that funds from the federal government should be compared with those promised by the Gillard government, but those funds were never budgeted, and they were never legislated prior to the 2013 federal election. In fact, the deal done between this government—this Premier—and the Gillard government was such a poor one that Gonski 2.0 will see increases in funding for South Australian schools at a more rapid rate than any other state, except for Western Australia.
A Liberal government will always seek to get the best outcomes in education for South Australia. Even from opposition, we have been able to push successfully for an improved outcome. As a result, the transition from our schools to reach the funding levels of the Schooling Resource Standard will be quicker than initially announced. A state Liberal government will also fund its part of the equation. We have previously supported increased state funding to meet that need and we will continue to do so into the future.
Most importantly, we need to spend that money where we will get the best outcomes for our children. This is where Labor has failed in South Australia. Our school students continue to do worse than their interstate counterparts when measured in the annual literacy and numeracy testing. Twenty years ago, we led the nation in educational standards and also did well by most international benchmarks. With policies such as our Literacy Guarantee, a Liberal government will ensure that South Australia, once again, has the best schools in Australia.
I now turn to the forgotten people of this budget. The government says with this budget Father Christmas came to the metropolitan area, but all the regions got was Scrooge. The people of our regions contribute over $25 billion to our gross state product and represent 29 per cent of South Australia's population. However, according to Budget Paper 3, page 109, this budget provides only $74 million of new operating initiatives for the regions over the next five years. That is less than 11 per cent of the budgeted spending on all new operating initiatives, about a third of what it should be for the regions based upon their share of the state's population.
There is no new funding for regional roads. There is no new funding for regional hospitals. The regions are getting less than 2 per cent of the annual capital spend on health. This budget has written down surpluses over the forward estimates by $926 million since the 2016-17 midyear review. However, the regions get next to nothing of this increased spending. Perhaps the government has given up on the member for Frome retaining his seat, because this outcome shows how utterly ineffective he has become in getting a fairer share of government funds for our regions. Gross regional product over recent years has grown at close to twice that of the entire state. As the backbone of our economy, the regions in South Australia deserve better. Only a Liberal government will ensure that this happens and becomes a reality.
At each election since 2002, Labor has promised it would do better for the people of South Australia. At the last election in 2014, the Premier walked around for a month with a plan in his hand saying it contained the answers for our future. It is increasingly evident that they were not the right answers, because Labor's performance has got even worse since he ambushed his predecessor. When a government of the same political persuasion has been in office for a long period, there is an increasing risk of attitudes and approaches becoming entrenched on both sides of politics.
As Liberals, since the last election in 2014, we have addressed this risk and done something about it, unlike the government. Fifteen months ago, I released '2036', a comprehensive plan identifying nine separate areas that we think that good state government in South Australia is based upon. We talk about our values and our reform agenda in each of these nine important areas—a vision for what South Australia can be, a vision for what South Australia should be under a good government. It is also a platform on which we have continued to build our specific policies for the next term of government.
The structure of the shadow ministry ensures that, should we have the honour of being elected at the next state election, there will be a much more intense focus on the issues that are of highest importance to our state. We do not need more ministers to do that, but we do need more effective ministers with a clear sense of purpose and direction, and most importantly, accountability. As Premier, rebuilding jobs and restoring pride in our state will have my undivided attention. There will be a minister and a government agency solely focused on supporting our exporters and encouraging investment into South Australia.
Similarly, we will have a minister exclusively responsible for energy and mining policy in this state, and importantly, a minister with the sole responsibility of cleaning up Labor's mess in terms of child protection. These are critical areas of differentiation with this government. Our health and education ministers will not be distracted by other portfolio responsibilities. The government currently has 52 ministerial portfolios. This just does not make sense. It is one outcome of being too long in office. Labor, for a long time, has lacked any focus. It has jumped from one crisis of its own creation to the next.
It has been our duty as an opposition to expose those failures, but we have been doing much more as an alternative government for South Australia. Already, we have announced more than 40 excellent policy initiatives. We have committed to reducing the emergency services levy, which costs all homes and all businesses in South Australia. We will introduce the capping of local government rate increases. We will pursue the Globe Link project to encourage more exports through faster, safer and more efficient rail, road and air links with existing and potential markets. We will also ensure much more effective overseas representation for South Australia to maximise support for our important exporters.
We will deregulate shop trading hours, because the government and unions should not stand in the way of consumer choice and the times that businesses want to open for their customers. We will introduce major reforms to our health system. Under Labor, head office administration has grown at four times the rate of the clinical staff on the front line of service delivery in our hospitals and health centres. Our reforms will give local communities and health professionals much more involvement in decisions affecting service delivery at the local level.
We will move year 7 to high school and establish four entrepreneurial specialist schools. We will give principals, parents and governing councils much more say in what happens at the local school level. We are committed to our literacy guarantee, because every child in South Australia must be given a strong foundation in literacy and numeracy: with that, everything else follows.
There is nothing more important to South Australia's future than having a government committed to economic policies and policy settings needed to arrest the current slide and restore prosperity and a hope for our future: only a Liberal government will deliver on that. We will bring to the task an unyielding focus on productivity and infrastructure. Lifting productivity and ensuring more productive infrastructure go to the heart of ensuring the economic transformation and creating the sustainable jobs that will provide work for next generations of South Australians.
From day one in government we will move on the most urgent issues affecting both productivity and infrastructure in this state. We will also embrace the best available advice from outside, as well as within, government to guide our long-term priorities. Nationally, the public sector accounts for a quarter of GDP. In South Australia the government employs about 100,000 people: it is our single largest employer—a big ship to steer in a new direction, but change course we must if our state is to sail into warmer waters. South Australia continues to trail the national average of labour productivity.
As foreshadowed in my '2036' plan, I will appoint a South Australian productivity commission. The commission will be an independent body to review economic and regulatory issues, and propose policy reforms to drive economic growth, lift productivity and improve living standards across South Australia. The commission will provide high-level advice on regulatory reform, removing red tape, improving government service delivery, improving the state's financial position.
In conducting its work, the commission will be tasked to make recommendations for increasing public and private sector productivity, increasing private sector employment and improving living standards through alleviating cost of living pressures. The commission will be a small statutory authority, staffed by experts in their field, who will draw on the resources and expertise of the public sector to assist them in their work. Its advice will be made available to the parliament and to the public.
If our economy is to become more productive, it is essential that we have a plan and a program for more efficient infrastructure in this state. Infrastructure is central to everything that good government does, whether it is growing our economy, getting our exports to market on time, building our schools, our hospitals, our roads, protecting our environment or enhancing cultural and sporting facilities. We must plan for the long term. To do this as effectively and efficiently as possible, we must make the most of the expertise South Australia has. We must better coordinate the efforts of the public and private sectors. This means the use of not only expertise within government but also in the wider community to guide and implement our infrastructure planning and ensure it is not derailed by short-term political considerations.
A Liberal government will establish Infrastructure South Australia as an independent body to develop a long-term state infrastructure strategy and ongoing infrastructure plans that prioritise major projects. The work of Infrastructure South Australia will be directed by a board of not more than five members. It will have an independent chairperson and up to two other people appointed in recognition of their industry experience. The board will determine the general policies and strategic direction of infrastructure in South Australia.
If the government makes any amendment to the strategies and plans of Infrastructure South Australia, the board will be able to advise the government that it does not agree with the amendment and make that advice public. This will ensure full transparency and accountability. At least in its early years, Infrastructure South Australia will also have a senior officer based in Canberra to ensure effective and ongoing liaison with federal departments and agencies and avoid delays in assessment of South Australian major project proposals.
My plans for a productivity commission and Infrastructure South Australia will embrace the public and private sectors because I believe in collaboration to get things done, in making the most of the expertise that we have here in our state, unlike the current government, which has a Premier and Treasurer who have spent most of the current term looking for fights with business. No government can have all the answers. No government by itself can deliver the growth and productivity gains required or the dynamism and innovation that our economy so desperately needs here in South Australia, nor should any government seek to impose such a heavy hand on the economy that there is serious risk of investment drying up because of political uncertainty.
I will relish this fight with Labor at the next election, a fight between a Liberal government, committed to doing as much as it can to support business growth so that we can create the jobs that South Australians are looking for, and Labor, which has only one way to govern—through higher taxes, which destroy jobs and destroy investment in our state.
After 16 years of Labor, South Australians are fearing the long-term consequences of rising and sustained unemployment. This is Labor's legacy to South Australia, a legacy that was entirely avoidable. The uncertainty and job insecurity are driving a pessimistic outlook for our entire state. There is a real fear that, as a state, we will not be able to rebuild our industry and our business base. This puts at risk hope for a future in South Australia for our children.
The Premier has tried to convince people that he has been powerless to withstand the economic forces working against his government and against the people of South Australia. He has tried to convince South Australians that Labor is not to blame. He acts like a victim at every single opportunity, refusing to take or accept any responsibility for his government's failures. South Australia needs a government that will take responsibility to lead our state to a better future, a future that empowers our people, gives hope and opportunity and rewards hard work and effort.
Labor's bits and pieces approach to job creation has failed us. Labor's targets change, Labor's priorities change, but the results are always the same. After three so-called jobs budgets, enough is enough. We need fundamental structural change to the state's economy to drive opportunity and investment and reward risk and effort. South Australia offers an enviable lifestyle, but South Australians know that if the economy does not lift more will be left with no choice but to leave our state, and this is the tragedy of 16 years of Labor.
Do we want to lose the best of this generation? Do we want to lose the best of the next generation? I am passionate about South Australia and I am passionate about the people of our state. This is a great state of opportunity, of skilled, clever thinkers and of creative, artistic and talented people. We are a state built on hard work, resilience and innovation. We need to have faith in our abilities to work together to achieve a better future, and we need a path to get there. We need new leadership and we need new direction here in South Australia.
Labor has had more than a fair go. It has been in the driving seat for 16 long years and we know exactly where that has delivered South Australia. Anybody who has owned a business or managed a team of people knows that the hardest thing that you will ever have to do is to lay off a member of your staff, but this is happening too often here in South Australia. The problem needs much more than Labor's constant excuses and Labor's constant bandaids. It is time to be honest about the challenges that face our state. We need to restore hope and trust in each other. We need to develop real solutions to get us back on a path of recovery.
This government is the problem. The solution lies in fighting for the future of South Australia's needs, which Labor has failed to deliver. The solution is a change of government. The solution is a Liberal government here in South Australia that will deliver lower taxes to encourage investment and job creation, much less red tape and overregulation, ensuring government spending remains within budget, a growing private sector, an efficient public sector, higher productivity in our public and our private sectors, strong and sustainable growth in our exports, more investment in productive infrastructure and greater support for our regions. These are the things that we must fight for. These are the things that only a Liberal government will deliver.