House of Assembly - Wednesday, 6 April 2011, Page 3313

Mr TRELOAR (Flinders) (17:03): It is my pleasure to speak today on the Supply Bill and it is very important, I believe, for members to speak to the Supply Bill and take the opportunity to address the current state of play with regard to the state's finances.

Last year's debate on the Supply Bill was one of the first opportunities I had had to make a contribution in this place. In that debate, during the discussion, I highlighted some of my funding priorities for the people of Flinders (my electorate) and regional South Australia generally. Unfortunately, sadly, almost 12 months on, it appears that nothing has been achieved on that front.

The frustrating lack of progress seems to have been caused by a paralysis in the Labor Party. They have stopped governing, they are racked with division, and they have forgotten that it is their job to fight for the future of South Australia. It appears to me that they have instead been fighting amongst themselves over the spoils of office, and South Australians have had enough. At the second reading stage of the Supply Bill last year I spoke of the dismay—

An honourable member interjecting:

Mr TRELOAR: —more coughing; it seems it is that hour of the day—that people in regional communities were feeling in regard to the state's finances and the subsequent mismanagement by Labor over a long period of time. If there is one thing I would like to achieve in this place, it is to get due recognition for the country areas of this state of the contribution they make to the state's economy. We will keep talking about that.

People from all walks of life have been despairing that a state budget in the tens of billions of dollars was burdened by a state debt forecast to blow out to a staggering $7.5 billion. You do not need to be an economist or a business owner—although it does help—to work out that when your debt burden is approaching almost 50 per cent of your operating budget, that is a cause for great concern. Certainly, it is not a position that is economically viable in the long term.

Unfortunately, this sort of financial recklessness is what people have come to expect from Labor governments throughout Australia—it is so predictable. A failure to exercise budgetary restraint throughout their time in office has caused their current financial predicament. A failure to responsibly administer the state's expenditure over nine years ultimately has led to last year's horror budget, and the impending budget will further hurt regional South Australia.

In my Supply Bill contribution in 2010 I spoke of the abject failure to adequately invest in infrastructure, particularly in rural and regional South Australia. I spoke of the port at Thevenard, which is the second busiest port in the state. It exports grain, salt, gypsum, mineral sands—

The Hon. M.J. Atkinson: I have caught a few fish from there.

The SPEAKER: Order!

Mr TRELOAR: I am pleased you have, and I hope that you are able to continue to do that, honourable member. The Thevenard port is crying out for investment to raise it to a standard where it can adequately carry out what it is required to. I spoke of road infrastructure and the backlog that has occurred under Labor governments: the Wirrulla to Kingoonya road and the Tod Highway, particularly that stretch from Karkoo to Kyancutta, which carries an extraordinary amount of grain. It is actually frightening to look at the state of disrepair that that road is in.

In 2002, the current Labor government—or the then Labor government that is still in power—promised that a desal plant would be built on Eyre Peninsula to satisfy our water security issues. Here we are, nine years on, and there is no sign at this stage of any desal plant being put in place. We have bought ourselves a couple of years with two wet winters and we have had some significant recharge, but the long-term water security issues remain.

Almost 12 months on, nothing has been done to address this lack of investment in infrastructure across country South Australia. I have spoken in some detail in the past and will speak again about country health services and the critical importance of country hospitals, which have borne the brunt of last year's slash-and-burn budget, and the warped spending priorities of the Rann Labor government.

The Hon. J.D. Hill: What about the Ceduna Hospital?

The SPEAKER: Order!

Mr TRELOAR: The state faces more uncertainty within the next budget. The communities of Keith, Moonta and Ardrossan have been vocal in their opposition to cuts to community hospitals. Indeed, communities across my electorate are resolute in their desire and need for better hospital facilities and health services. I will make special mention now of the hospitals at Ceduna and Port Lincoln and congratulate the government on their expenditure and efforts to those two hospitals. However, I remind the minister present of the hospitals that lie in between those two regional hospitals and provide invaluable and very important services to the smaller communities that lie across Eyre Peninsula.

In regard to Adelaide, the rail yards hospital faces the real risk of budget blowouts, and that will place strain on the health budget and, therefore, the ability of the government to improve our still ailing country health system. There are staffing issues; staffing issues remain. It is always a challenge to attract doctors to the country, to attract allied health professionals and, just as importantly, all those nursing staff, who, in my opinion, are overworked, underpaid and perform such a vital role. We need to be able to attract and hold these skilled people into country areas.

There is much conjecture over services that will not be available at the new Royal Adelaide Hospital, at the rail yard site, especially in light of recent news reports regarding the lack of gynaecological services and outpatient services. The reason for that is the government attempting to mitigate the budget blowout. How much will the RAH cost? It was $1.8 billion. It has been revealed today that it has blown out by $1,000 million to a total cost of $2.73 billion. The government needs to come clean on this.

One very valuable government scheme that is available to country patients is the patient assisted transport scheme—and it is invaluable—to allow country patients to travel to Adelaide, to the city, to receive specialist care here in the city where it is available. It is much appreciated, it is very valuable, and, unfortunately, once again it is underfunded.

Last year, in reference to the Supply Bill and the subsequent budget, I referred to the importance of education in regional areas. A fundamental role of state governments is to fund health and education. They are the two most important things. Unfortunately—

The Hon. M.J. Atkinson: Don't tax you, don't tax me—

The SPEAKER: Order, the member for Croydon, behave yourself!

Mr TRELOAR: Unfortunately, one of the funding cuts we have seen is that to small schools. Small schools are the fabric of a small country community, and the definition of a small school is those with under 100 students. I have a number of small schools in my electorate—all are facing funding cuts.

All these funding priorities that I have mentioned remain in the minds of the people of Flinders, but we are witnessing a Labor Party in paralysis. The deep divisions are plain to see, and South Australians are sick of it. The government is wracked with division and those divisions are compounded—

The Hon. M.J. Atkinson: Yes, but we all love one another.

Mr TRELOAR: I can feel the love here; I can feel the love in the house, member for Croydon; you're expressing your love.

Ms Chapman: Just between themselves, though.

Mr TRELOAR: Just between themselves, yes. Unfortunately, and quite seriously, this government is wracked with division, and those divisions are compounded by the dire state of the state's finances. It is a budget out of control. State debt is costing us $2 million a day in interest—$2 million a day. Total state debt and liabilities will approach $20 billion. This is not economically viable for a government to operate its budget.

It would seem that the union movement is at war with the government as well. Savage cuts to the Public Service and the government's attack on workers' entitlements have seen the unions turn on Labor in an unprecedented and quite extraordinary state of affairs.

The government has been backed into a corner as a consequence of their financial mismanagement over nine long years. They are now making these cuts and attacks on public sector workers because of their failure to properly manage the budget. Can I remind this house that it is a budget that has seen record GST windfalls and increased taxes. We are the highest taxed state in the nation. We keep hearing that, we understand that, and yet they cannot control their expenditure; they cannot balance the budget.

It will again be left to the Liberal Party to come in and fix this mess. I noted today that the state governments in Western Australia, Victoria and New South Wales have all been running budget surpluses in 2011. What's the theme here? They are all now Liberal state governments. It is no coincidence that those states are running surpluses and cleaning up the messes left by previous Labor administrations. As I pointed out, there is a theme here, and it would appear in this state that that theme is set to continue.

I have touched on regulation and red tape in this place before, and I think it is important to raise these issues in the context of supply. Small to medium businesses have suffered the consequences of red tape and regulatory confusion and the impact on small business directly affects the state's finances. A more efficient business sector is clearly better for the budget bottom line, as they become more profitable and the state's export income increases. The Rann Labor government has presided over a declining trend in our exports and in our share of the national economy.

I have also spoken of government services being provided in situations where they have not been requested and where they have not been required. It would seem that this government has it the wrong way around. Essential services such as health, education and policing have been left to diminish, whilst a monolith bureaucracy seeks to establish a model of cost recovery for services that ordinary people do not want or require, particularly those residents of the country. So, what happens? It allows a government and its associated bureaucracy to become self-fulfilling.

I will turn briefly to the issue of marine parks, because it is a hugely important issue on the Eyre Peninsula and the West Coast. Three million dollars over two years has been slashed from the operating budget of the marine parks program. What impact will that have on the management of marine parks? The government is all over the place when it comes to its marine parks proposal.

Among the thousand or so people at the Burnside Town Hall last night for the public meeting were countless people making the point that the marine parks proposal is actually about money. The government will not admit that, but it is laden with debt and is, once again, looking at this cost recovery model. Whether it be permits to fish or expiation notices for its absurd no-take zones, the government will look to increase its coffers to paper over the huge cracks emerging not only in its budget but also its financial credibility and legitimacy as a government.

Mr Whetstone: And the caucus room.

Mr TRELOAR: And the caucus room. Finally, to agriculture. That is the industry that I come from. I was quite dismayed to see that the Advisory Board of Agriculture is due to be disbanded after 30 June, which will be a sad day. This is the one direct link that the states' producers have to the minister for agriculture, and it looks as though it is going the way of all of those other services that have been disbanded.

I have come to the conclusion that the people of South Australia can no longer rely on this state government for anything much at all. This government has not prioritised its spending, in fact it has had some really warped priorities. Thinkers in Residence come to mind. We have a thinker in residence in our local district. He comes out with things that are quite profound, very insightful and we do not pay him anything at all. He makes a wonderful contribution.

The Puglia affair comes to mind; spending gratuitous amounts of money on government advertising. They are making it up as they go along, lurching from one crisis to the next. There might be a new Treasurer but the ingrained Labor way of financial mismanagement and economic vandalism continues.