SUPPLY BILL 2013
Adjourned debate on second reading.
(Continued from 4 June 2013.)
The Hon. R.I. LUCAS (15:21): It is opportune that we get the opportunity to speak to the Supply Bill debate on a day of infamy, I suppose, for the state with the latest series of broken promises and rank financial mismanagement by a government led by a part-time Treasurer, sadly, and one can only hope it is the last budget that will be delivered by this particular government and a part-time Treasurer. There will be opportunity obviously at a later time to address the particular details revealed by the budget released today. In addressing this particular Supply Bill debate, it is opportune to look at the record of the part-time Treasurer, Mr Weatherill, and his performance as both Premier and part-time Treasurer and his performance as a former senior minister—
The PRESIDENT: The Hon. Mr Lucas will refer to the Treasurer by his full title.
The Hon. R.I. LUCAS: Well, he is a part-time Treasurer.
The PRESIDENT: He is a Treasurer.
The Hon. R.I. LUCAS: He is a part-time Treasurer.
The PRESIDENT: He is the Treasurer of this state.
The Hon. R.I. LUCAS: You can call him what you like, Mr President.
The PRESIDENT: And you can call him what you like and you can sit down.
The Hon. R.I. LUCAS: I will call him a part-time Treasurer.
The PRESIDENT: His title is the Treasurer.
The Hon. R.I. LUCAS: You can call him what you like.
The PRESIDENT: He is the Premier and he is the Treasurer.
The Hon. R.I. LUCAS: He is a Premier and a part-time Treasurer and that is what I will call him and no-one will stop me, including yourself, Mr President.
The Hon. K.J. MAHER: Point of order. The reference to members in another place is by their electorates or by their title as a minister.
The PRESIDENT: I will uphold that point of order. The Hon. Mr Lucas.
The Hon. R.I. LUCAS: I am referring to him as the part-time Treasurer, Mr Weatherill; that is his title.
The Hon. K.J. MAHER: Point of order. His title is Premier or Treasurer, not part-time Treasurer; that is not his title.
The PRESIDENT: That is correct.
The Hon. R.I. LUCAS: The use of an adjective to describe a minister has never been prevented and will never be prevented in this chamber. Other treasurers have been referred to as failed treasurers, poor treasurers and appalling treasurers. I am reminded of Mr Foley with all those adjectives. How sensitive is this lot? How sensitive are they that the use of the words ‘part-time Treasurer’ is so worrying to them that they would try to shut down the opposition from being able to speak in a Supply Bill debate because they are so sensitive about the truth being described that this Treasurer is part time in his job as Treasurer.
As I said, if you are going to have a position where any member of parliament is unable to use an adjective to describe a minister, either in his performance or in the delivery of his particular duties, then heaven help us in this particular chamber. As I said, there have been many adjectives used to describe treasurers like Mr Foley; adjectives such as ‘poor, appalling, atrocious’ and a variety of others that were used when referring to him in many debates in this chamber.
The Supply Bill gives us an opportunity to look at performance. What we have seen is a record of broken promises, projects and programs being scrapped—being promised before an election and then being scrapped as part of a litany of broken promises by this government. The point I am making in relation to our current Premier and part-time Treasurer is that he has been a senior minister in this government, sadly, for its duration, which is now approximately 11 years.
He cannot, as he is seeking to do, spin the line that he is something different or new or, indeed, a fresh start when he is part of the problem and has been part of the problem of this government’s performance over more than a decade of broken promises. What we see in the Supply Bill debate—with the money that is being required to meet the ongoing costs of the Public Service—is another example of another broken promise in relation to the original promise that this particular budget would be a surplus budget. Of course, we all know that we are looking at a massive deficit.
In 2011-12, for example, this government promised a surplus of $424 million. However, that was scrapped and we ended up with a $258 million deficit. For 2012-13, this year and in this Supply Bill, the promised surplus was going to be $304 million. However, the Premier and part-time Treasurer scrapped that and it has turned into, as of this morning, a $1.2 billion deficit. So from being a $300 million surplus we ended up with a $1.2 billion deficit—and that was before the budget papers were released today which indicate a further blowout in the size of the budget deficit for this year.
Even prior to today’s figures we are talking about a nearly $1.5 billion blowout for one year; from a $300 million surplus to a $1.2 billion deficit. As I said, with today’s announcement in the budget we will see that that number has actually increased again. Of course, for next year, for 2013-14, the promised surplus was going to be $480 million, and in the Mid-Year Budget Review that was going to be scrapped and we were looking for almost a $1 billion deficit—$868 million deficit—and today’s budget papers will indicate that that number is worse again.
We had been promised over a long period of time that there would be surpluses in seven budgets, both the present and in the forward estimates, and what we have seen in terms of the reality is that six out of the seven either will have delivered or will be delivering deficits. Surpluses have been promised but deficits have been and will be delivered.
We are not just talking about modest deficits; we are not talking about the expenditure of $15 billion, $16 billion or $100 million here or there, we are talking about deficits in and of the order of over $1 billion a year. One can understand, in financial management terms, if you are talking about a budget of $15 billion that within the realms of $100 million perhaps one can see the potential for movements up and down, but it is impossible to justify the scuppering of promises to the tune of over $1 billion a year. As a result, what we see—and part of that is through this Supply Bill debate—is an estimated state debt exploding to approximately $14 billion. I understand that today’s budget papers will confirm that it is still being predicted to be almost $14 billion, the state’s biggest ever debt.
The reality is that this Premier and part-time Treasurer is going to deliver the largest debt in this state’s history. He is delivering the largest deficit in this state’s history and he is also delivering—if he is allowed to continue—six deficits in seven budgets, all of those originally predicted to be surpluses. That is the sad fact of life.
We have seen the sensitivity of Labor members in this chamber in seeking to prevent the facts being told in this debate. We have heard the squealing coming from the backbenchers and frontbenchers because they do not want the facts to be revealed in relation to their gross financial incompetence, their gross financial mismanagement. I am not sure how they hold their heads up in public these days when asked questions about financial management and performance because each of them has to bear the responsibility of the financial debacle, the financial mess, that this state is currently confronting.
This comes on the back of having inherited the rivers of gold that the former Liberal government set up for them when they came into government in 2002. The debt had been removed through the difficult decisions the former Liberal government had taken in fixing the mess created by Labor under the State Bank. So the debt was under control. In the general government sector we had virtually zero debt. The total debt was down to just about $3 billion from the $11.5 billion post the State Bank. Then they inherited the rivers of gold through the GST deal that the former Liberal government had negotiated.
I remind members, as I have done on many occasions—and I will continue to remind them—that the two key financial decisions taken to fix the state’s finances were vigorously, violently, trenchantly opposed by the Labor Party in opposition, and they continued to be opposed when they assumed office in 2002. They opposed the repayment of the state’s debt through the privatisation of the electricity assets—publicly at least, anyway—and at some stage over the next few months I will have more to say about what went on privately in relation to that particular issue.
They also described the GST deal as being a lemon of a deal for the state of South Australia. Of course, they inherited the rivers of gold. The tragedy that this Supply Bill shows is that, having inherited that wonderful situation, like the drunken sailor, they just threw their money everywhere. They were not prepared to be financially disciplined. When they won their X-Lotto every year for half a dozen years, instead of putting some aside for a rainy day or spending it on one-off expenditure on economic infrastructure, they locked it in to unsustainable, ongoing recurrent spending.
It is a bit like winning X-Lotto as a household and then locking in commitments forever and a day for the next 10 or 20 years. You are unable to sustain the repayments because at some stage you stop winning X-Lotto every year. The government was lucky; it won the X-Lotto for half a dozen years in a row. Then, of course, economic conditions tightened, and what we see in this Supply Bill, and the debate we will have in relation to the budget, is that their chickens have well and truly come home to roost. Not only has the government broken promises about financial management and about surpluses, but it has also broken promises in relation to the delivery of key projects and key programs.
We have the situation where every election or every couple years, the government would promise some new project on the South Road. In 2006, it was the South Road-Sturt Road interchange, which was scrapped. In 2006, it was Port Road-Grange Road; it was scrapped. In 2010, the government made further promises, which have been scrapped. We have seen in this budget year, with the Supply Bill debate, further scrapping of promises, such as payroll tax. For example, at the last election, there was a promise about payroll tax relief for apprentices and traineeships and then, in the last 12 months, that promise was broken by this government. Now, of course, as we have read in the newspaper in the last few days, the government—there must be an election coming up—is now promising further payroll tax relief for small businesses in South Australia.
I am not sure how stupid this government thinks the electors are. Surely, they must, at some stage, have realised that the vast majority of people have woken up to them. The vast majority of people understand that the promises that are being made in this financial year, the government, on its record, will never, ever, if it is re-elected, continue to implement them. The government will break each and every one of these promises, just as it was quite happy to break promises over its first 10 or 11 years in government.
I have dozens of other examples of broken promises, etc., but I do not intend to put them all on the record today. I refer members to the comprehensive press statements issued by state Liberal leader, Steven Marshall, and the member for Davenport, Iain Evans, for a comprehensive list of all of the promises made by this government, this Premier, this part-time Treasurer, and all of the promises that have been broken during that period of time.
The second point I want to make in my Supply Bill speech is to further indicate where this government continues to waste money within the public sector. On many occasions in the past, there has been much discussion about blowouts in major projects of tens or hundreds of millions of dollars, but I want to point to some of the smaller examples we see on a regular basis in the work in the Budget and Finance Committee to indicate that, whilst the government will waste tens and hundreds of millions of dollars in terms of the way in which it manages big projects, that sort of thinking goes right down the line to $1,000 here, $5,000 there or $100,000 here in relation to the wasteful expenditure, the lack of fiscal discipline, this government and its ministers sadly have. Let me give you some recent examples. The newly elected—and this is information that was revealed only in the last few weeks—
The Hon. J.S.L. Dawkins: They’re off home.
The Hon. R.I. LUCAS: Gee, that was quick. That must almost be the world’s shortest budget speech, that one. I suppose if you’re part time, you don’t deliver full speeches; you get only half speeches.
The PRESIDENT: I wish you would get back to the supply speech.
The Hon. R.I. LUCAS: Very disappointing. So, in the Supply Bill—
The PRESIDENT: To remind you, he talks about the fact that the sum of $3,205 million is appropriated from the Consolidated Account for the Public Service of the state for the financial year ending on 30 June 2014, and there are a couple of other little clauses there—
The Hon. R.I. LUCAS: Thank you, Mr President. Let me refer to—
The PRESIDENT: —and I am sure that you will address those.
The Hon. R.I. LUCAS: In that $3.2 billion you are talking about, Mr President, let me talk about the odd $1,000 here or there, the odd $10,000 here or there that is being wasted. One example is where the Premier and part-time Treasurer actually employed a consultant from New South Wales, and paid that particular consultant $1,500 to write the Premier and part-time Treasurer’s speech to the Labor Party state convention. This consultant was paid $98 an hour for 15 hours’ work to write a single speech. Well, where can I sign up to earn that sort of money to write a speech?
Who can afford to spend $1,500 of their own money to write a single speech to be delivered to your comrades and colleagues at a Labor Party convention? The answer is that no-one can, except if you are the Premier and part-time Treasurer and you have the taxpayers’ pocket to put your hand into and rip out $1,500 to pay for a New South Wales consultant to write this particular speech.
It is not as if this Premier and part-time Treasurer does not have literally dozens of staff. He has a team of spin doctors, he has a dedicated speech writer; all of those people could have written a speech for the comrades and colleagues at the Labor Party convention. But no, out of this $3.2 billion that we are talking about, and related expenditure, they spend $1,500 of taxpayers’ money to get a speech written to deliver at a Labor Party convention.
They spend $2,500 to pay consultants Write On Consulting to run essay-writing workshops for public servants in the Department of the Premier and Cabinet. So in his own department, one of the priorities for expenditure was to rip out $2,500 of taxpayers’ money to run four separate sessions of essay-writing workshops for public servants within his own department. What an extraordinary waste of taxpayers’ money.
The CEO of the department refused to tell us how much was paid to consultants McPhee Andrewartha, who were brought in either to conciliate or to resolve a complaint against one senior departmental executive made by another senior departmental executive. The CEO said that he did not have the information on how much was being spent.
The CEO was not able to tell us who was paying for the $800 a pop supermarket vouchers being promoted on government links to Mr Weatherill’s Facebook page. If you go to Mr Weatherill’s Facebook page there are links to other sites, and you are offered $800 in supermarket vouchers or iPads if you participate in a particular survey on that particular site. The obvious question is: who is paying for these bribes to people to be attracted to Mr Weatherill’s Facebook site? Is he so desperate to have people ‘like’ him on his Facebook site that he has to offer $800 in supermarket vouchers at taxpayers’ expense?
The Hon. A. Bressington: They don’t like him anywhere else.
The Hon. R.I. LUCAS: Well, they do not like him anywhere else, and maybe they have to pay $800 in supermarket vouchers to get people to be attracted to his Facebook page.
It went on and on and on, in the Department of the Premier and Cabinet, in relation to expenditure. We saw the more substantive issue of the Shared Services shambles that, sadly, continues to evolve. In this particular case an eminent South Australian, Michael Abbot QC, who is the Chair of the Art Gallery Board, unloaded on Shared Services in a letter to the Auditor-General from September 2012, this financial year. He said:
I must inform you that I and the board have no confidence that any accounts prepared by Shared Services in fact accurately reflect the true financial state of the Art Gallery’s financial affairs.
He also went to say that, if he was not required to use them, he would have sacked them and terminated their services long ago. This is an eminent South Australian who is trying to run an organisation such as the Art Gallery board, and who is basically shaking his head and saying, ‘No more; we can’t go on in this particular way with the Shared Services experiment.’
We saw examples from the transport chief executive in this particular financial year where a senior public servant in the recreation, sport and racing area had $23,000 spent on him in accompanying a minister—minister Kenyon—on an overseas trip. It is a lot of money, but one would assume, if this public servant was going to have an important role to play in the coming years in that particular portfolio area, maybe you can justify it. This particular public servant, however, was being sent overseas in the full knowledge that he had been offered and had accepted a targeted separation package. The taxpayers were about to pay a large lump of money for a separation package, and as a farewell tour gesture the minister decided to take him on a jaunt around the world.
Who can justify that sort of wastage? The reason we need to look at such a large level of expenditure or appropriation for the Supply Bill is that, right across the board, we are seeing these examples of this sort of wastage by ministers and by the government. If the ministers are not fussed, what sort of leadership is that for the senior public servants? They will follow in that particular role as well.
As with the broken promises, again I have literally dozens of other examples, but I do not intend to take the time today in the Supply Bill debate to list all of them. The Appropriation Bill debate and the estimates committees will give us an opportunity to in greater detail prosecute the particular case of financial incompetence and financial mismanagement by the Premier and part-time Treasurer, his ministers and the whole of this government.
I want to place on the record the concerns from the Liberal Party, which I believe reflect the concerns of the broader community, at this government’s financial management, or mismanagement, and at this government’s financial incompetence. The extraordinary sum of money that we need to allocate for the Supply Bill debate today in part has been driven by that financial incompetence, that financial mismanagement, being led, sadly, by the Premier and part-time Treasurer.