Unemployment & Alinta | QUESTION TIME


Unemployment Figures

Mr VAN HOLST PELLEKAAN ( Stuart ) ( 15:14 :11 ): My question is to the Minister for Mineral Resources and Energy. Does the minister accept that the closure of the Northern Power Station and the Leigh Creek coalmine has directly contributed to the recently released unemployment figure for the Upper Spencer Gulf cities of 10.6 per cent?

The Hon. A. KOUTSANTONIS ( West TorrensTreasurer, Minister for Finance, Minister for State Development, Minister for Mineral Resources and Energy) (15:14:28): I have seen no evidence that it’s directly responsible for it. If the shadow minister has any evidence, I would like to see it. Obviously, there have been a number of people who have lost their jobs at the coalmine and at the power plant and I feel very sorry for them, but I don’t think you can sheet the blame home directly to the Northern Power Station. I think it is a pretty harsh critique of the local federal member of parliament, Rowan Ramsey, and their policy since 2013 and the impacts the commonwealth government has made on Upper Spencer Gulf in terms of unemployment.

The Prime Minister seems to think that he only governs the rest of the country, excluding South Australia, and that our unemployment rate is none of his concern—it’s just ours. Everywhere else, where it’s doing a little bit better, that’s all his good doing, but where it’s doing poorly it’s the state government. I have to say we all share a responsibility here. All of us collectively, as parliaments and as governments—federal, state and even local governments—share a responsibility when it comes to unemployment.

As I have said many times, our unemployment rate in this state is unacceptable. It is unacceptable and this government will not stand for it. What we will do is continue to work to lower that unemployment rate. For people in the Upper Spencer Gulf, we have cut taxes, dramatic taxes, taxes that impact directly on them. For example, families that want to restructure their finances—family businesses can now transfer ownership from one generation to the next and reorganise their business without paying conveyance duty on that transfer. That is a huge leap forward for family businesses, and we are the family business state. That indeed helps.

We have of course cut other taxes as well. We have included more payroll tax rebates, extending them for another four years, helping those businesses especially in the Upper Spencer Gulf region in need of assistance. In and around Whyalla, where Arrium is in administration, we have low-interest loans for the supply chain to try to keep them working until we can get Arrium out of administration. This government will not stop working to help those people who are trying to find work to get work and keep companies operating in South Australia. I have to say, to put it completely on the Northern Power Station, I think—

Mr van Holst Pellekaan interjecting:

The Hon. A. KOUTSANTONIS: No, that’s not what—

Mr van Holst Pellekaan interjecting:

The Hon. A. KOUTSANTONIS: I said in my answer, ‘Did it contribute? Yes, it has.’ Is it solely responsible? No. There are other factors at cost here. For example, don’t underestimate the decision by the commonwealth government not to continue to subsidise the car industry in this country and the impact that is having on component manufacturers all across South Australia. I know members opposite are trying to walk away from that at a million miles an hour, but I can tell you that in 2007, when Mitsubishi closed, members opposite were not short in blaming us and Kevin Rudd. They were not saying it was Mitsubishi’s fault, they were blaming us, and now they are running for the hills.

We are going to see a number of people lose their jobs over the closure of Holden and the loss of the automotive industry. All those jobs could have been saved. It all could have been avoided. They could still be here now. Holden are making a good car. Members opposite and their like made a decision not to back car making in this country and now they are trying to blame us for the unemployment rate it has caused.

You want to know what is causing high unemployment in South Australia? The commonwealth government’s decision not to invest in the automotive industry. There lies the blame. How about, rather than blaming us, you stand with us to try and get more of that restructuring money, to try and get more of that reinvestment into South Australia? We had to drag the opposition kicking and screaming to support us on the submarines because they were too busy backing Tony Abbott. They even backed slashing Torrens to Torrens at the last election. They are not interested in South Australia.

Alinta Energy

Mr VAN HOLST PELLEKAAN ( Stuart ) ( 15:18 :39 ): Given the minister’s answer about the federal government and Holden, why didn’t he accept Alinta’s proposal to save the Northern Power Station?

The Hon. A. KOUTSANTONIS ( West TorrensTreasurer, Minister for Finance, Minister for State Development, Minister for Mineral Resources and Energy) (15:18:48): Again because if we subsidised one power station in times of higher peak demand, every power station would then of course ask for that same subsidy, to a point that the state would not be able to afford to do it. We would have rolling blackouts daily over summer, and on top of that you would see South Australia as a place where of course industry could not grow.

Imagine the scenario the opposition are talking about. The scenario is this: we subsidise Northern, they come on, they use tax dollars to operate after members opposite privatise them, they operate, and then AGL, Origin or Simply come to us and say, ‘Tomorrow is going to be 45° and it has been 45° for the last three days in a row. Unless you pay us these payments, we’re not going to turn on.’

Mr Whetstone: That’s hypothetical.

The Hon. A. KOUTSANTONIS: That’s hypothetical—while bringing Northern back on, these are not hypothetical questions. They are completely—

The Hon. A. KOUTSANTONIS: —adrift and at sea on energy policy. It is incoherent. Let’s not forget that turning Northern on was not a suggestion of the shadow minister or the Leader of the Opposition, it was the federal resources minister. They are singing his tune. They can’t stand up to Canberra. They never can. They can’t say no. It was a thought bubble that they vomited onto the front page of—

Mr GARDNER: Point of order, Mr Speaker: standing order 98. The Treasurer is straying.

The SPEAKER: Treasurer, I uphold the point of order.