Supply bill speech
Mr HAMILTON-SMITH (Waite) (17:15): Sadly, the Supply Bill comes to the parliament after over 10 years of Labor government, which has seen the state reposition from a state in vibrant recovery to a state in decrepit decline—or certainly a budget in decrepit decline—all the doing of this Labor state government. It could have been such a different story, but I will come back to that in a moment because I think the problem is that the Labor Party has lost its way. I think we are seeing that federally. We have seen it in New South Wales, Queensland, Victoria and WA. Increasingly, we have a Labor Party which seems no longer to be driven by ideology or by principal, but rather simply seems to be driven by the need to remain in power, and to do whatever it takes to stay there. As a result, it has attempted to reinvent itself in whatever form is required to stay in power.
It is interesting that the party that once championed the cause of no privatisation, now privatises. The party that once stood for the working man and heralded themselves as the champions of education and health is now spending money on stadiums and big picture infrastructure projects—the sorts of things that, arguably, in previous governments they have criticised us for doing. When they were in opposition, they made an art form of criticising us for the Hindmarsh Soccer Stadium. They criticised every infrastructure project we attempted, yet they have realised that they have to build these things, and here they are doing all the things they criticised us for doing. However, I will come back to that in a moment because I think the story could have been quite different.
What was done? In 2002 the government inherited a good set of accounts. They had wrecked the state in 1993 with their State Bank farrago. It took the Brown and Olsen governments eight years to fix it. We had to make some extraordinarily tough decisions about asset sales but we got the debt virtually to zero—or it certainly zeroed shortly after the current government came into office as a result of the work we had done—and we set the state up for recovery. Having fixed the state, the people of South Australia voted for change. What they got was a government which, instead of holding its expenses to inflation, knowing that it was looking at vibrant times and buoyant revenues, simply let out its belt as quickly as it swallowed the cash. Incomes were vibrant from 2002 right through until recent years. They were awash with cash and, instead of holding their expenses down and banking that excess revenue either into a future fund or an infrastructure fund so that they could build for the future without having to borrow, they spent it.
We know that because the facts simply speak for themselves. There were buoyant revenues in those years. If you look at the facts on unbudgeted revenues alone, in one year, 2002‑03, $528 million (over half a billion dollars) was taken in unforseen, unbudgeted revenues. A year later in 2003-04, there was $794 million in windfall revenue on top of what you would have expected to receive. So it went on in subsequent years, with well over half a billion dollars of unexpected revenue in most years that followed.
However, the problem was that there was a whole lot of unbudgeted spending. I mentioned 2002-03 when there was $184 million of unbudgeted spending, and in 2003-04 there was $467 million of unbudgeted spending. Kevin Foley, then treasurer, was crowing that he ran a good budget. He did not at all. This was the Labor lie. What was happening was they were not containing their costs at all. They were blowing their budget year after year, but they were being saved because on each occasion there was unbudgeted revenue.
It is easy to cover up your mismanagement when you have unbudgeted windfall revenues, and that is simply what the facts tell us. That all came to an abrupt end in around 2009-10 with the GFC, and now we have a situation where revenues are falling short of expectation. Of course, the government now is forced to have to try to rein in years and years of poor budget discipline. That is essentially the situation we are in. For those listening to this debate, it is just like running any other business: you have money coming in and you have costs. If you allow your costs to blow out, it does not matter how much money you have coming in, you will not make a profit and you will not make a surplus. That is what this government has done.
How did they do that? In a range of ways, but particularly they blew the payroll. There are over 18,000 additional public servants, hired year after year. It was around 66,900 in 2001-02 and it is well above 85,000 now, and that is FTEs. When you count the bodies, I understand it is well over 100,000 people. That has happened in a range of ways. We have 15 ministers for the first time in the state's history. That means you need more interdepartmental committees, more CEOs and more bureaucracy as they all communicate with one another. We have created all these schemes and all these projects, many of which, arguably, we never needed and which employ all these people.
Bureaucracy and Labor governments have something in common: in order to survive they need complexity and complication. However, business and Liberal governments need simplicity. We like small governments. We like to keep the costs down. We like to leave South Australians to get on with their lives, but not Labor and not the bureaucracy that they have built.
The story of the Labor government since 2002 has been one of financial mismanagement and failure to control its expenses. It was rescued initially by windfall revenues, all of which has now come to a crashing halt. It could have been a very different story. Imagine if those costs had been kept to inflation. Imagine if those extraordinary excess revenues had been put aside into an infrastructure fund. We would not need to borrow now to build roads, hospitals and desal plants because we would have the money, or at the very least the borrowing we did need to carry out would have been significantly less. However, we are not in that position because of this government's mismanagement.
For former premier Rann and former treasurer Foley to claim that they were good financial managers is simply a joke. Look just for starters at the tax increases that this state has had to endure. We have gone from being one of the lowest-taxed states to one of the highest. It has all been said before. Land tax alone is up 345 per cent under Labor—taxes across the board. The very people who were their supporters—people with an investment property, particularly from the multicultural communities, upon which they relied for their retirement, are being charged extraordinary land taxes. There are motorists. People with low incomes are struggling to pay their taxes, their water bills and their power bills. It is a terrible and shocking legacy and it simply needs to be fixed, and the only way it will be fixed is with a change of government.
As I look back over the last 10 years of Labor, as I mentioned, I see a party that has lost its way, that is no longer in touch with its core values. This is a debate that I am sure is thriving within the party after the results in Queensland just this weekend.
But worse than that, I do not see any strategic thread in the decisions this government has made over 10 years. I do not see any grand vision. In fact, I think they spent their first four years just struggling to hang on in the hope that they would get a second term. In their second term, having built or done nothing, they then started to make some announcements about what they would do if they got a third term.
Now, we are hoping to get delivery in this third term on some of those projects which, arguably, should have been under way in their first term. The trouble is that by now they have run out of money; they left it too late. Had they had those projects on their books earlier, they might not have bloated the Public Service, they might not have wasted the money, they might have run a tight ship through necessity, but that was not done.
I want to comment on some ironies as we consider this budget, and I want to start with privatisation. Isn't it an irony that the party that railed against the sale of ETSA, the party that railed against every attempt the former Liberal government made to outsource, for example, our water contracts or our bus contracts, is now doing exactly the same thing.
I commented at the time, in 2003, regarding the position of this current government on the sale of our electricity assets: why didn't you buy them back? If you were so unhappy about it, why didn't you rush out to the bank in 2003 and offer to borrow that $6 billion back so that you could run off and buy the assets back again? You never had an answer; in fact, you had the union movement suggesting that. Of course you were not going to do that because, quietly, you agreed with what we had done.
You criticised us for outsourcing the management of water infrastructure. Oh, we'd sold off our water to the French (I think it was). 'Oh, it was a terrible thing. That shocking Liberal government, selling off our water.' What have you done? You have renewed the very same contracts that you railed against. Now we have got the poor, hapless minister for public transport services trying to manage privatised bus contracts, the very thing you railed against when you were in opposition. And now what are you doing? You are not only renewing the contracts, you are diversifying the privatisation of the bus system to the point where it is simply chaos.
I do not know how members opposite can actually look at themselves in the mirror. The party that railed against privatisation—the quotes are all there in the Hansard—and they are doing exactly what they promised they would not do, and they have taken it to new heights. They are now going to sell the Lotteries Commission—even we did not do that—and they are now selling the forests. We would never dream of doing that.
You are taking privatisation to new heights, to Mount Everest levels. You people are the princes and the princesses of privatisation, and you hold yourself out there as the government for re-election. You must be joking! If you ever need an example of a party with no principles, a party that has no ideological foundation, and a party that is out of touch with working men and women, look at what they have done on privatisation.
It just amuses me extraordinarily to compare the electricity privatisation with the forest privatisation. We were forced in the end to lease our electricity assets rather than to sell them outright. And what are they doing? They are selling forward rotations of our forests and arguing that because they still own the asset it does not matter whether the rotations are sold for the next 100 years or so: we still own them. Well, that was exactly the same argument we put up about ETSA, that we still owned the assets, we had just leased them for an extended period—and that was terrible then. You people have no principles at all, none whatsoever.
Of course, that is not the only irony. Look at the current government's revelation in regard to a 'vibrant City of Adelaide'. All of a sudden, we had an outburst today that we need a new vision for the city, we need new planning rules for the city. Not only, as my honourable friend the member for Davenport noted earlier, have you come with us on desalination but you have come with us on the stadium. You railed against the stadium; it was the worst thing. We were going to have football down at West Lakes. It was never, ever going to happen, and you came in hook, line and sinker. You are the champions of a new stadium now and, frankly, it will be lovely. I am a great supporter of it. It will be wonderful. You adopted our idea and made it your own—well done! If you do not have any ideas of your own, it is always a good idea to copy the ideas of someone who does. I commend you for it and I have given several examples of how you have done it.
Now the current Premier is out there wanting to reinvigorate City West. He wants a new vision for the City of Adelaide. I can point him to the dates and the documents when I announced those very things on behalf the Liberal Party and when the Liberal Party laid claim to them. The reinvigoration of City West; our announcement that any project within the CBD over $10 million should be taken over by the state government. All of this that the current Premier is touting now about City West and a new vision for the City of Adelaide, the need to invigorate it with face to river, no longer Victoria Square, were all our ideas.
He must have been sitting over there when Pat Conlon and the former premier were describing our vision as 'a squint, not a vision' and saying in cabinet, 'Wow, this stuff the Liberals have come up with is terrific. Why don't we copy it?' Of course, now that he is Premier, he is doing exactly that. It is just the ultimate irony. I just say to the people of South Australia: why bother with a Labor government that does not have any ideas of its own and just copies the Liberals' ideas? You can have the real thing at the next election. Vote Liberal and we will give you more of that because all you have is the Labor Party copying our ideas. They have come with us on an ICAC. There is a long list.
They are wandering around there. There is sort of an empty vacuum between the left ear and the right ear. Someone is looking to flick a light switch so that a bright bulb will go pop. You know what? They have to come over here just to work out what they want to do for the future of South Australia. I can tell you the real deal is over here. We are ready to go. If you do not have ideas of your own, get out of the way. We will take over and we will fix the mess you have created. Sadly, it will take time.
I just want to start winding up my remarks by making some comment on health because this supply budget comes before us at a difficult time for the health system. It is around $4.5 billion in 2010-11 of government spending of $15.5 billion. By 2014-15, it will be $5 billion of government spending of around $16.7 billion. Around 30 per cent of government outlays is spent on health. It employs nearly 30,000 people and there is no portfolio more important.
Every single one of the people who vote for us has come into contact with the health system. It is important for them, it is important for their loved ones and I have to say that we could be doing better. I think, as a nation, we do well in health, as a result of the work of successive governments going back many decades, compared to some other countries. I think we have avoided some of the major mistakes other countries have made strategically going back 30 or 40 years, but it could always be better. It could always provide a better service to those for whom we care.
I talk in particular about our emergency departments and our elective surgery waiting lists. There are very, very significant issues at our emergency departments. Looking at the statistics on how we compare relative to other states, there is massive room for improvement. When we have people who are emergency presentations and urgent presentations not being seen within the 10 and 30-minute time lines respectively, in such crushing circumstances as we are seeing at Lyell McEwin and Flinders, then we clearly must do better.
On that point, I direct the house's attention to what I think was a very important strategic mistake this government made. The former health minister, the Hon. Lea Stevens, based on the Menadue report, had a strategy that was very focused on primary health care. Her view as health minister was that we should spend our money getting out there intercepting people before they came to the hospital system. She listened to Menadue's advice that, if you had a centralised hospital-focused health strategy, the bucket would never be deep enough. The current health minister in the current government changed that strategy to a very centralised hospitals-based system.
The Hon. J.D. Hill: That is totally untrue.
Mr HAMILTON-SMITH: Well, the minister says it is totally untrue. It is not totally untrue because the centrepiece of his policy is a $12 billion hospital in the rail yards we do not need which will be a white elephant and a millstone around his neck for years to come. As a result, doctors and nurses are underresourced, emergency departments are underresourced. He has tried to close country hospitals to build his Taj Mahal that he dreamt up on the back of an envelope over a cappuccino so that he could drive past for years to come in some egotistical exercise and say, 'I built that hospital.' Well, we don't need it. He could have saved billions by rebuilding the Royal Adelaide where it is.
The Hon. J.D. Hill interjecting:
The DEPUTY SPEAKER: Order, minister!
Mr HAMILTON-SMITH: And that money could have been put into doctors and nurses where it belongs.
The DEPUTY SPEAKER: Member for Waite, minister, thank you.
The Hon. J.D. Hill interjecting:
The DEPUTY SPEAKER: You have said enough, I think, minister.