Appropriate Bill 2013 No. 1


Mr VAN HOLST PELLEKAAN (Stuart) (17:04): I rise today to make my contribution in reply to the Treasurer's budget. The first thing I would like to say is that in my relatively brief time here—a bit over three years—this is the fourth budget I have seen. It is the third treasurer I have seen, but basically that is all that has changed. This is exactly the same style of budget that we have seen in previous years. We are seeing a budget where, while incomes grow, spending grows even more, so deficits grow. We are seeing a budget where surpluses are forecast but never actually eventuate.

The Leader of the Opposition and the shadow treasurer have both gone into great detail explaining the numbers. I will include just a few of the very pertinent ones in my contribution, without going into much depth. Debt peaks at $13.75 billion, according to this budget, in June 2016, which will be the highest in the state's history. The general government debt ceiling, which it has set itself, will be breached in 2016, with debt being up at 54.2 per cent.

Total state liabilities in 2016 will be $28.8 billion, and over $30 billion after adding WorkCover and public sector workers compensation. The deficit will peak, according to the budget, at $1.314 billion in 2012-13. This is compared with last year's estimate, that was meant to occur at the same time, of only $867 million. The figures that are predicted are just not eventuating. In 2016‑17, our state's interest bill—interest alone, not principal repayment—will be $952 million, which equates to $2.6 million per day.

That is $2.6 million per day, 365 days of the year, just to repay the interest and none of the principal. It is interesting to point out that the cost of our annual interest bill at that point in time of $952 million will actually be greater than the entire police budget in that year, which is quite extraordinary. We have four major government departments with budgets larger than our interest bill, then we have our interest bill, and that is larger than every other single government department's funding projection.

As I said, the government continues to forecast deficits in the upcoming couple of years, and forecast surpluses in the couple of years subsequent to that, but the surpluses never arrive. I have to say that, unfortunately, I pointed to exactly that last year in my budget reply speech and the year before in my budget reply speech. The government keeps spending. Income does actually go up, but spending keeps going up even more than that.

The government cannot say that it is a revenue problem, because revenue has continued to increase. We are actually going to have deficits in six out of seven years. The problem is that you do not just get back to surplus then and say, 'That's all okay now; we are back in surplus.' You actually have to pay for the overspending in the previous years for a long time before you can start to work on your debt as well.

This is the third treasurer in four years with exactly the same style of budget—nothing new whatsoever. We need a change. Clearly, the government is not going to change; clearly, the government is not going to improve. We need a change and we need a change of government. Our Leader of the Opposition laid out his core priorities for a change to get the budget back in surplus to repair the economy, which includes repaying debt, and to get South Australia back on track as the best state in the nation to live.

We all know it is a wonderful place. Even the people who are leaving the state know it is a wonderful place, but they have to go to start a business somewhere else because this is the highest cost state in the nation to run a business. They have to go to get a job somewhere else because the job opportunities are not here. They have to go for all sorts of reasons, and we have to get them back.

Small business is a key feature for us, a very important key feature. We need to create an environment where small businesses can be successful, and very successful. We cannot hold their hand and make sure that every single one of them will survive. That is business: it is tough and it is hard, but we need an environment where they are prepared to have a go and if they do the right things they will be successful. This is not because we want every business owner to be wealthy and successful in their own right: it is because we want them to be able to create jobs. If they are successful, they create secure jobs.

To have a secure job, you need to have a successful employer. That is why we push for small business. It is not because we want the businesses to be successful and that is the end of it; it is so that they can create the employment and the jobs that all South Australians need. As the Leader of the Opposition has said, the government continues to look for a tax and spending led recovery. It will not work. They have had years and years to improve, but it is just not happening.

This budget has done absolutely nothing for rural South Australia. It has done absolutely nothing for the people I represent in the electorate of Stuart and my neighbouring electorates around the state. There is one significant spending contribution—$21 million to contribute to the upgrade of a road on the APY lands. That is a positive move, no doubt about that, but really that is about it in terms of issues that have been asked for by the public, by the agencies, by the businesses and by the people of regional South Australia.

The government has said that it would put $6.1 million towards replacing two out of the five ferries that need replacement on the River Murray. They have not actually identified yet which two it will be. As far as I can see, those are the only two positive initiatives in this budget for regional South Australia, and that is in stark contrast to the $11.5 million cut to PIRSA, $7 million of which is directly targeting agriculture and fisheries. This is the area that we need to be investing in. This is the area that actually allows the people of regional South Australia to contribute to our state and allows them to actually create wealth for our state.

It is very important to remember that the vast majority of our state's wealth is created in regional South Australia and yet that is exactly where the government is targeting. This is added to the fact that the ForestrySA forward sale from the previous budget comes in this year. This is adding to the fact that last year's budget put an end to RDA funding. This is in addition to the fact that rural communities are crying out for support.

In health we have a situation where services are being cut every day. Just a couple of days ago I was told that at the Jamestown hospital last year a report recommended that their sterilisation unit be replaced. In a very positive way, getting on the front foot, the report said that it is starting to get old, starting to wear out, starting to get to the end of its life and needs to be replaced. It recommended replacement, and guess what? It is going to be decommissioned and somehow Port Pirie will now do all the sterilisation for Jamestown hospital.

That would be okay if it sterilised instruments that were then just put on the shelf at Jamestown. Perhaps that is what the government wants. It is not okay if Jamestown hospital is to continue to do all the surgery it currently does, because you need to have backup for surgical instruments. You cannot say, 'I've got one on the shelf.' If you actually do not have a spare in case something goes wrong or in case somebody drops one of those instruments, which can happen, you cannot actually embark upon the surgery. Rural South Australia is crying out for support.

A very important issue in education is speech pathology. That would be the single most sought-after service that is not available, or not available nearly enough, in regional South Australia. It is very closely linked to dyslexia. It is very closely linked to the fact that many children—throughout our state, I am sure, but particularly in regional South Australia—have dyslexia that is not picked up and not recognised for too long, not recognised until after learning difficulties and speech difficulties become apparent.

Shared services is an absolute disgrace and a shambles. I have said in this place many times that I get the fact that we need to be efficient, I get the fact that we need to take advantage of economies of scale, but that does not mean everything has to go to the city. That could mean that Port Lincoln could do all the purchasing for the entire state. It could mean that Mount Gambier could provide all the human resources services for the entire state. It could mean that Port Augusta could do all the IT for the entire state. Exactly the same technology that allows the service to be condensed in one office to provide the service for the entire state means that it does not need to be in Adelaide. It could be in a regional centre.

Let me turn to police—a very important portfolio and a very important service to this state. As the shadow minister for police, I guess the first thing for me to point out is the trumpeting of the $35 million increase in funding to the police that the government has included in this budget. The difficulty is it follows a $150 million decrease in funding that was announced just a few months ago. So, the government cut $150 million, then gave back $35 million because the police commissioner courageously said, 'If you take this money away from us, we can't provide the recruitment targets that you have promised to the people of South Australia.'

So, the government took away $150 million and gave back $35 million, but guess what? The recruitment targets have still been delayed. Going to the 2010 election, the government promised the people of South Australia and SAPOL that, by the 2013-14 year, it would recruit 300 new police officers. That is now going to be by the 2017-18 financial year, and guess what? The target is for the last 134 of those 300 to be recruited some time in 2015-16 or 2016-17 or 2017‑18. I do not believe that any of us here have any great comfort that that will actually happen on time.

This follows a whole range of broken promises that the government has made in police, which it has not rectified in this budget. When the government went to the 2010 election, in addition to saying that it would recruit 300 police officers by 2014, it also said that it would put a StarChase system in 10 patrol cars. SAPOL has now identified that that system is not viable within the Australian policing environment.

The government said that it would put in 20 new mobile automatic numberplate recognition systems. So far, it has done eight out of 20 and only very recently, so I do not think that anybody believes that they will actually be done in this term of government. The government promised 150 portable fingerprint scanners. Guess what? No devices are operational. There is some concern around the legality of fingerprint scanners and a trial has been announced but is yet to commence.

Another promise from the government about police at the last election was that police officers would get 100 handheld computers. Where are we today? Nine pilot devices have been purchased. Another promise was reducing red tape to keep our officers on the beat. We know that is not happening. Commissioner Burns told the Budget and Finance Committee that his people are swamped with red tape and it is overtaking them night and day. The last promise, dealing with line-ups, was to amend legislation that will allow photograph or video in lieu of line-ups. Guess what? It was defeated by the parliament and did not happen.

Not one election commitment that the government took to the last election has been fulfilled, and this budget has not gone in any way towards addressing any of that. I would have hoped that, in this budget, the government would have said, 'Look, we're running behind, we're not getting there, we're not doing the things we said we would do. Here is some additional money for the police.' None of those things are actually going to happen.

Let me now turn to Corrections. The government has announced $67 million of additional funding over the next four years. Let us delve into that. Of that $67 million of total funding for corrections, $2.9 million over four years is for 30 beds in a bail-housing arrangement. Just before the budget, the government led us all to believe that it was going to build a facility, but $2.9 million will not build a facility. I think what the government will be doing is paying a non-government organisation to actually run a service for it.

It does not actually work out to a lot of people. When you analyse it down, 30 beds over four years for $2.9 million is approximately $66 per person per day. I agree that that is excellent value—absolutely excellent value—but I think that any clear-thinking person would agree that that is going to be a hell of an ask, an extraordinarily large ask, for the police to actually deliver on.

There is $6.3 million for the operational cost of the 20 beds nearly completed at the Adelaide Women's Prison. Why was the operational money for those beds that are nearly completed at the Adelaide Women's Prison not included in previous budgets? It would have been in the forward estimate period of previous budgets.

There is $6.1 million per year to meet the operational costs of the 108 new beds at Mount Gambier. We are nearly there with those 108 new beds but, again, why was there no money in previous budgets to cover the operational costs of those new 108 beds that are being built? The operational money is now being trumpeted as extra money when in fact it should have been in the budget all along. You cannot build additional beds at a prison but not provide money for their operation.

Moving on, there is $25.4 million to build 60 more beds at Mount Gambier, in addition to the 108 beds that are nearly completed and have just had operational funding announced. But guess what? No operational funding has been announced in the budget for those 60 extra beds. Why would you not put that in? You say today that you are going to build those beds and that is a positive thing, but you exclude operational funding in the budget for those beds. Yet you know, if you intend to fulfil the commitment and actually build those beds, that that operational money will be required.

There is $6.2 million over four years for operational costs for the new 20 beds at Port Lincoln. Guess what? Those 20 beds are already up and running. Those 20 beds are already operational. They are already there and they are already working, with prisoners using them. How is it that, in this budget, $6.2 million is trumpeted as a brand new announcement that is going to help the people of South Australia? This is money that should have already been in the budget.

This is all information that leads us back to the same conclusion: nothing is changing. The government predicts deficit, deficit, then surplus and surplus, but never gets there. One of the reasons, just as I am outlining here with Corrections, is that it is not a sensible budget with regard to including all the things you need. It does not include both the capital expenditure and the operational expenditure that is necessary over the entire forward estimates. It does not fool anybody to say, 'Here is $X million to build a brand new prison, and that is a positive announcement,' and then later on to say, 'Here is $X million new dollars for the extra beds at the prison.' It should be all organised all at once.

It is hardly surprising that the government predicts surpluses but cannot meet them when it leaves out expenditure that it knows is necessary. It leaves out expenditure that cannot be avoided. You cannot build prison beds but then not service them. You cannot not have the lights on, not have security or prison officers and not have electronic systems. You cannot not feed them, not have linen and all that sort of stuff. It does not make sense, except in trying to explain why we keep predicting surpluses that never arrive.

As I said, we have had deficits in six out of seven years in South Australia. You just cannot continue that way. The government is continuing that way. The government is continuing a gigantic surplus coming in the next 12 months, hoping to spend its way towards another election victory, and then promising that there will be surpluses, financial management and responsibility after that. It is a pretty thinly-veiled way of operating. It might suit the government's election campaign, but it does not suit genuine, sensible, fair and rational accounting, and it does not suit South Australia.

It does not suit South Australia when everybody now knows, both federally and at a state level, that we do not trust the government when it says, 'We are going to have a surplus in a few years' time.' We all know it is not coming. We all know that under this government those surpluses do not arrive. We need a new government. The Leader of the Opposition has put fairly and squarely what his priorities will be.

They are the things that will help South Australia. They are the things that will create jobs. They are the things that will get us back on track. For example, the issue with the Public Service is not about the numbers. The issue with the Public Service is about the efficiency of the Public Service. It does not matter whether you have one hundred or one million public servants, you need them to be operating efficiently, providing a service to the people of South Australia.


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