APPROPRIATION BILL 2015

Wednesday 29 July, 2015

Mr TARZIA (Hartley) (12:30): I also rise today to respond to the estimates committee reports. I would actually like to commend the member for Mount Gambier for one of his latest ideas in regard to the start-up community. It goes without saying that this is an area that the government should definitely be doing more in. The start-up community in Adelaide is a very positive and energetic one, but they are calling and screaming and crying out for more assistance from the government. When you look at the amount of office space that is vacant in this state and when you look at the amount of money that is being wasted in this state, we could be putting it to much more productive use if some of that funding and some of that space was given to the start-up community.

Mr TARZIA (Hartley) (12:30): I also rise today to respond to the estimates committee reports. I would actually like to commend the member for Mount Gambier for one of his latest ideas in regard to the start-up community. It goes without saying that this is an area that the government should definitely be doing more in. The start-up community in Adelaide is a very positive and energetic one, but they are calling and screaming and crying out for more assistance from the government. When you look at the amount of office space that is vacant in this state and when you look at the amount of money that is being wasted in this state, we could be putting it to much more productive use if some of that funding and some of that space was given to the start-up community.

The government does have a micro fund available to businesses. However, it was disappointing to hear, during the estimates period, that not very many companies actually took up the funding. It leads to many questions. Why are they not tapping into this funding? Is it because there is too much red tape to get to the funding? Is it because the government is making it too hard? I think we need to have a debate about what we can do to promote South Australian businesses and especially those in the start-up community.

This is at a time in South Australia's history—not just this year, I note, but also the year before—when there are more businesses leaving South Australia than are actually commencing business in South Australia. This is a massive concern. This exodus of small businesses is a huge issue and we cannot recover without an improvement from the small business sector. Let us not kid ourselves: the government can never tax a state to prosperity. This is going to be a small business-led improvement, if it is going to happen, and we need to get out of small business's way, so I commend the member for Mount Gambier for raising his idea.

I would like to thank all the public servants who took the time to come in and appear before the committees and who generally provided details regarding expenditure to be approved. It is a very important process, obviously. Unfortunately, because of the sometimes adversarial nature of what we do here, some people tend to lose focus on what they are here to do. We are here to represent the best interests of the people we represent in our seats and also the best interests of the people of South Australia. It was good to get to know some of these public servants a lot better—good hardworking people who are in it for the right reasons and in it for the greater good of the state. Estimates provides a good opportunity to get to know them.

Estimates is obviously very important for several reasons, but I wish to talk about just a couple. This was my second estimates. Estimates provides a good opportunity to allow Her Majesty's Loyal Opposition and, also, the government to be satisfied, when they approve and support the government's Appropriation Bill, that money that needs to be spent is actually being spent well and is actually being spent competently. It is an important process in holding the government to account on those issues. It is also a very good opportunity to engage with various government departments about the future programs that the government will install in the future.

For me as a younger member of this place, I am always interested to see the difference between the more competent ministers and the ones who still struggle. I was extremely disappointed. I always come to estimates with high hopes, but it is disappointing that, given the army of public servants and advisers present, some ministers actually did not take many questions at all and had to take questions on notice. It makes you think; you would think that these ministers would be all over their portfolios, but some of them, I am afraid, were not.

As we have heard this morning, and time and time again, South Australia has the highest unemployment rate in all of Australia—8.2 per cent. It is well above the national unemployment rate, which is about 6 per cent at the moment. We heard this morning from the gallant member for Unley that there have been 20,000 full-time jobs lost in South Australia alone. I see many young people, as I am sure you do as well, Deputy Speaker, who cannot find jobs at the moment, and many of these young people are qualified, either in their trade or their profession. It is extremely concerning. There is market failure at the moment in our economy, it goes without saying. I look at the recent events of Tagara Builders, for example, in my own electorate. There is a lot of pain out there at the moment.

This government was called on to provide some answers for this dire jobs crisis, this dire job situation. Unfortunately—and it was evident in the estimates process—there was not enough talk from the government about jobs, and specifically about the detail of where those jobs will come from. We obviously all remember the 100,000 jobs promise that the former premier made. In the future this will prove to be but a distant memory. This will be proved to be completely false, and the government probably knew that the whole time.

We heard last week that we might actually have half a new Royal Adelaide Hospital at its opening. I really do want to embrace the new Royal Adelaide Hospital. However, we were told last week that when the new Royal Adelaide Hospital opens its doors it may have only half the number of beds that are currently available at the Royal Adelaide Hospital. We were also told that paper patient records will still be needed, due to the failure of the electronic patient system.

This is a bit concerning, given the amount of funds required to build this and given that when it does come onto the government books it is going to be quite a large asset and liability. Not only that, but the health minister believes that the 18 April opening date might even be called into question. These are real concerns and they affect not only the patients but also the workers.

Talk to the nurses out there, talk to the public servants who work at the Royal Adelaide, talk to the cleaners. There is much angst in the community at the moment and the least the government can do is stick to these timelines and say with confidence that things will be done when they were promised to be done, and on budget, and that competent IT systems will be available and working when the opening occurs, with an adequate level of bedding at the Royal Adelaide Hospital. It is extremely disappointing.

Unfortunately, the government negative headlines dominated much of the week's media. I look at flights and travel that was undertaken. I note that the following ministers had undeclared travel: the Treasurer and the Minister for Health. It really poses some questions, notwithstanding all the might of their departments and the number of full-time employees they have with their own ministerial staffers. Seriously, how many staffers and how many public servants does it take to post one or two pages of details about each item of travel? Were they expecting the opposition not to pick up these things? It is extremely disappointing that the government comes through to estimates and, at the eleventh hour, has to discover that these things are not put on. It goes to the heart of transparency and it goes to the heart of the arrogance of this government that they cannot even post their travel details online.

The worst item of travel was the revelation of the member for Mawson—whom they are calling Boeing Bignell in some circles. He spent over an hour concocting far-fetched and ridiculous explanations as to why his travel was necessary, and why certain receipts about hotel rooms were paid for and bottles of wine were paid for.

You have to ask yourself: does the minister honestly think that the average South Australian believes that all this expenditure was needed for his portfolio? It is an absolute disgrace and it is arrogant. It reflects poorly not only on him and his government but also on all of us in this house, because the people of South Australia who pay their taxes and pay for us to do a good job and to represent the interests of our electorates and our area expect more. They expect more and it is extremely disappointing.

In regard to the budget overall, where was the new capital investment for my electorate? The government has certainly disappointed the constituents of my area. People in my area have real concerns about cost of living, about job security and about how they and their children are going to keep working in local jobs here in South Australia when there is such an exodus of jobs and work leaving South Australia and going interstate. There was no budget allocation for parking at Paradise Interchange. There was no budget allocation for the relocation of the Glynde substation to an industrial site, despite the Labor Party before the 2014 election making a written promise that the substation in Glynde would be relocated to an alternative site and that the government would provide alternative land.

There was a lot said about stamp duty and various fees and charges and how, for example, stamp duty will be abolished on non-residential real property transfers by 1 July 2018. There would be a phased abolition of conveyance duty on non-residential real property transfers between 1 July 2016 and 1 July 2018. Duty rates will be reduced by a third from 1 July 2016, a further third from 1 July 2017, before the duty is abolished from 1 July 2018. The government estimates that more than 5,500 transfers each year will benefit from this abolition of duty. There was talk about the abolition of stamp duty on genuine corporate restructures, as well as other stamp duty matters.

The point I would like to make is that the people of South Australia and especially the small businesses of South Australia are experiencing problems now. They are calling for the government to get out of their way now. The only way to do that is to make South Australia a more competitive place to do business. That is why some of these measures need to be brought into place now. The noose is, unfortunately, already around the necks of so many small businesses out there. They want to do well, they want to employ more people and they want to grow. However, it has been proven time and time again that it is expensive to do business in South Australia. We are the highest taxed state in all of Australia, so the least the government could do is to move some of these provisions forward to at least give business a go so that they can grow and so that they can go out and employ more South Australians.

We then moved to the Attorney-General's Department. It was again evident that the government is all talk when it comes to the courts and upgrading the courts precinct. The courts have yet to receive the several hundred million dollars that was spoken about many years ago in regard to an upgrade. Instead, what did we hear? We heard a pie-in-the-sky idea that the District and Supreme courts might be merged and that a single court of appeal could be established. This has been proposed many times over the last 15 years. The government has always talked about it but never actually done it, I note.

We know that the District and Supreme courts already have the same criminal registry, which is the busiest division of the superior courts, and this is hardly going to cut costs. All it is is a simple rearranging of the deck chairs. It is nothing more than a distraction, and the Attorney should know better. It is nothing more than a distraction from the real problems confronting the justice system. If you talk to lawyers and people who use the legal system or attend court, they will tell you the same thing: there is a lack of facility. Look at the issues concerning the sale of Sturt Street, the IT system and the ballooning case lists.

The government and the Chief Justice, to my satisfaction, did not give answers as to how these issues would be addressed. They need to say more than that they want just a new court building because it is about more than just that. We know that they are not going to get one any time soon under this government, so I suggest that the CAA get on with improving their services with what they have, rather than just hoping for a new building which the government is not giving any money to. I would like to remind the government about the commonwealth courts option and the fact that the former chief justice, I understand, knocked back a proposal from the former attorney-general to use the then newly built SA Water building.

The Attorney-General has let down the people of South Australia as far as the courts precinct goes. He knows better and he should be doing much more. I am actually curious as to the Attorney's answer to a question from the deputy leader, when she asked him if he was thinking about appointing himself a judge. I noticed that he did not rule it out explicitly. It would not surprise me if he did become a judge in the future. If you look at most of his mates, Deputy Speaker, most of his mates from Murray Chambers have done very well over the years, and it would not surprise me at all if he became a judge.

Mr Gardner: He has wig envy.

Mr TARZIA: He has wig envy, the member for Morialta says. Then there was the Treasurer. The Treasurer has been a long time in this place; he should know better. Certainly, when he wants to, he can provide answers to questions, but it was not his best day yesterday. He resorted to attacking our leader, and it was in a puerile and immature fashion at some points, and it is not good enough.

We are here to do a job. People wonder why the public sometimes switch off from what we do. It is just not on. We generally want to work where we can with the government to provide long-term economic improvement in South Australia. It does not help when members on both sides, and members on the government side especially, resort to personal attacks on members of the opposition. If only they put as much effort into attacking people on our side personally as they did to actually fixing the jobs crisis that they have created on their watch. It is very disappointing.

Overall, what we have seen is that the government wants to talk about everything under the sun except jobs and except the economy. Beware of the weapons of mass distraction this government constantly uses time and time again to distract the people of South Australia from the real issues out there. They want to talk about driverless cars. They want to talk about time zones. Deputy Speaker, wait for it: I bet you that in the future this government will try to change the message on registration plates on those driverless cars, too. You wait for it. They will talk about anything and everything except the economy and the dire state of our economy at the moment.

We need to be doing more to create jobs for South Australians. At 8.2 per cent, we have the worst unemployment in all the nation. Stop the mucking around, get with the program, and let's try to at least get this economy moving once more. South Australia can be great; however, it is being let down by a poor, tired and incompetent government.