Thursday 20 October, 2016

Mr TARZIA (Hartley) (16:28): I also move that this house condemns the state government for removing the emergency services levy remissions and then further increasing the levy, and also acknowledges the impact of the levy increase, particularly on sport and recreation clubs and organisations that are already battling the high cost of utilities. Like my learned colleague before me, I have a number of great sport and recreation clubs in my electorate, and the leaders of these clubs are absolute champions of our community.

These clubs are the backbone of our community and do such a great job in not only keeping the fabric of society maintained and on track but also making sure that our children, who are coming through these clubs, are fit and have things to do on the weekend and are engaged in our society and in our community. It is very disappointing to see these clubs hit with these ESL increases, because ultimately, as we have heard, if their fees and charges go up, they have to cover these costs somehow. Unfortunately, what we see is that the consumer—in this case, our volunteers and our members—are the people who have to make up this shortfall.

In terms of the emergency services levy, we know that it helps to fund emergency services across South Australia, and money received in payment of the ESL is paid into the Community Emergency Services Fund, or the fund for the provision of these emergency services. RevenueSA obviously administers the fixed property component of the ESL, which is a levy on all land in South Australia. We have seen the Labor Party's position since 2014, which has not been a good one, and 2014 was not that long ago.

Deputy Speaker, you may remember, and I certainly remember, the fight that we put in place and how we lobbied so hard for residents in our community, but the Labor position at one stage was to actually axe the discounts for non-concession aged care, and I remember that school bills went up as much as 400 per cent to even 500 per cent in some instances. In 2015, Labor's position was again to adopt a 9 per cent increase, with a reason or an excuse being things like the Sampson Flat bushfire.

Labor thinks it is okay that, every time we have one of these events, we can keep raising the ESL, which is not good enough. In 2016, there was yet another increase, with the excuse being that there needs to be things like an upgrade in safety equipment and further training to some community groups, and also as a cost-recovery mechanism for the Pinery fire. We know, unfortunately, that here in South Australia we are subject to some extreme weather conditions, and what this government has to do is to manage this economic pie much better, which it is not doing at the moment.

All the while, on this side of the chamber the Liberal Party tabled a huge petition (over 1,000 signatures from my area alone) and stood side by side with the community and opposed increases to the ESL and we opposed cuts to services which were ignored by this government for a long time. On this side of the chamber, we have already committed to restoring the ESL remission for South Australians, which will deliver a $90 million tax cut per year for all South Australians, and it is one way to ensure that we get economic growth—a clear difference between us and the government. We want to put money back into the pockets of South Australians so that they can invest and so that they can grow the economy, rather than choke the South Australian economy with more and more taxes.

The massive ESL hikes we have seen under this government is an utterly disgraceful act by this government, given that many South Australians, as we have seen, are actually struggling to make ends meet as it is. An increase in the ESL again shows just how out of touch the Premier especially is with South Australians. It is another hit to South Australia's cost of living, which is threatening jobs and the economy by hurting retail turnover, and we have seen yet again that South Australia has the highest rate of unemployment in all of Australia.

This tax does not just hit home owners. Obviously, it is levied on sporting clubs, community organisations as I pointed out, some churches and also independent schools. Last year's ESL rise followed two large increases, which would be rolled back if our party is in government. As I said, we have made a commitment for the 2018 election that I believe would actually lead to an average annual saving per household of about $150.

The way in which this tax has been treated is certainly one of the reasons why people are struggling in our state, why businesses are sometimes struggling in our state. I think undoubtedly that it is one of the reasons why we have the worst unemployment rate in the nation. We have seen that South Australian families and also households are being hit on a regular basis by what is unfortunately a theme of levies, taxes and charges by this government.

A state Liberal government, if and when we are elected, will return the ESL remission the Premier and Treasurer cruelly removed last year, and we will provide South Australians with much needed tax relief. I commend this motion to the house.