Budget Measures Bill - Committee Stage

Wednesday November 1st 2017

Budget Measures Bill

Committee Stage

Debate resumed.

The Hon. S.G. WADE: I would ask the minister: is the minister in a position to inform the Hon. Kelly Vincent whether the $41.5 million will be part of the Mid-Year Budget Review later this year?

The Hon. K.J. MAHER: That is even further away from being part of this bill than his other questions. That is completely outside anything we are discussing in this bill. I have done the service to the Hon. Kelly Vincent, not to the Hon. Stephen Wade, to confirm that those measures that he is referring to stand regardless of the fate of this bill. That is all the information I have and, quite frankly, that is all I am prepared to say on it.

The Hon. K.L. VINCENT: Before I ask my question, I might take a moment to remind the minister that it is not for my benefit to have these things on the record; it is for the benefit of the state of South Australia to have the information about how this funding will be spent on the record. Can I ask, while he is in a mood to make exceptions, whether he might seek some information from the government as to whether the tendering process for the intensive home-based support service will be expedited to allow that funding to be spent on reinstating that program this budget cycle?

The Hon. K.J. MAHER: I thank the honourable member for her contribution. I do not have the detail in that sort of granulation, but I am happy to make sure that that information is sought and come back to the honourable member with details of that, maybe not in this forum, but to come with details of that and any other questions she has about those programs.

The Hon. S.G. WADE: Could I ask the minister, considering he has been hit by a wave of generosity, when he is seeking the information on behalf of the Hon. Kelly Vincent in relation to the Intensive Home Based Support Services and whether that will be funded in this current financial year, could he also inquire as to whether the borderline personality disorder centre of excellence funding will start in this financial year and assure the house that the Centre for Disability Health funding at the Modbury Hospital will also be continued in this current financial year and the cross-department Exceptional Needs Unit?

The Hon. K.J. MAHER: I am happy to get information as it is available and provide it to the Hon. Kelly Vincent, importantly, as she correctly points out, to those who will be accessing the services to make sure that that detail is given. But I have to say, as I said at the start, the things the Hon. Stephen Wade raises do not form part of this bill. I am sure that I can give an undertaking that the government will work with the Hon. Kelly Vincent and representative bodies and those for whom the funding is designed to improve their lives and keep them informed about the rollout of these services.

The Hon. T.A. FRANKS: Given the line of questioning, I am happy to take this bit on notice for when we get to the appropriate clause, but I would like the opposition to identify which parts of the spending measures in the budget they see as negotiable should the changes that the opposition proposes to remove the banking levy be successful? Further, given we are talking about what is being exchanged here, are all members of the parliament, who are supporting the opposition backing the ABA's call not to have a banking levy in this state, willing to forego any political donations from the major four banks in the coming election or indeed at a federal or state level?

The CHAIR: Who wants to answer that first? The Hon. Mr Brokenshire?

The Hon. R.L. BROKENSHIRE: I do not have any involvement in fundraising situations for our party. Whether the Greens' individual members have direct involvement in fundraising or lobbying or soliciting money is a matter for the Greens. I cannot speak for anyone other than myself, but I am not involved in any fundraising.

The Hon. T.A. FRANKS: To clarify, have the Australian Conservatives accepted any moneys in the last five years in their former formation as Family First or in their current formation as the Australian Conservatives from the major four banks? Will they rule out accepting any money for the next two years?

The CHAIR: The Hon. Ms Franks, I am getting a bit uncomfortable with that line of questioning. I do not think it is up to the Hon. Mr Brokenshire or anyone else to be basically answering those sorts of questions, but I imagine that sort of information is available on the Electoral Commission's website or something. I do not think I am going to allow that sort of scrutiny of individual members based on how they believe they should vote on this.

The Hon. T.A. FRANKS: Mr Chair, it is on public record as to the amounts of moneys that the major four banks have donated to various political parties. I think it should be put into this debate because it has become an issue that is relevant to this particular bill. It is an understood practice of parliaments, and indeed this parliament, that one declares an interest. If a political party has an interest, if a political party has a situation where they have taken money from the major four banks and then they are opposing a levy on those same major four banks, then it should be declared in this debate.

The CHAIR: Any further contributions?

The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK: My questions relate to the NDIS and in part to some of the previous questions and that is—

The Hon. K.J. Maher: What part of the bill?

The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK: There are questions at clause 1 I understand we are entitled to have. The minister might need to take advice on this, but the shorthand of what is taking place with the NDIS is that a range of programs that are currently funded through the state are going to the NDIA. I understand that a full rollout will be some $723 million, which is currently funded through the state, will be funded through NDIA. There has been some question mark as to whether the Exceptional Needs Unit is part of that or not. My questions to the minister are: at full rollout, was the Exceptional Needs Unit funding to become part of NDIA, or was the South Australian government going to continue to fund it from its own appropriations?

The Hon. K.J. MAHER: I thank the honourable member for her somewhat odd question. There is no part of this bill before us that speaks to that, but if this is another general question time and the honourable member wants to ask questions of other ministers about different programs they are responsible for, I am happy to take that question on notice, pass it to the minister responsible in another place and, in due course, see if there is an answer that can be brought back.

However, the honourable member may want to save those questions for question time. If that is a tactic, to use the time today to ask questions that would ordinarily be asked in question time, go ahead, and we can be here until 2am or 3am. I am sure all of us in this chamber are looking forward to sitting very late, if that is what we want to do.

The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK: I thank the minister for his very generous response in seeking to take that back. I placed that as a question on notice in the House of Assembly several months ago and I have not received a response. I am sure the department, in one of the minister's offices in one way or another, is aware of the question, so if he could take that to the relevant minister and get back a response that would be useful for the people of South Australia.

The Hon. R.L. BROKENSHIRE: Relevant to clauses 1 and 2, at approximately 2.30 on Saturday afternoon—while I was actually mowing hay—I had an email come from the Treasurer's office. I am not sure whether the Treasurer himself was actually in his office at 2.30 on Saturday—I assume he probably was not, because when you look at the letter it looks more like an electronic signature, and it did not have 'Robert' or anything like that on it, which you generally get—but I was very much interested to read the email on my phone. It was an interesting letter. The minister said:

I remind you that under the Constitution Act 1934 section 62 the Legislative Council may not amend a money clause. The council can only suggest an omission or amendment.

I actually knew that, because there is a precedent for this; there are probably several, but there is certainly one I have been involved with since I have had the privilege of being in the Legislative Council, and that was the car park tax. We actually understand the procedures. We also have an excellent and experienced Clerk and we can gain knowledge from the Clerk if we need to—and I did at that time.

We know now that there is no car park tax. We know that it was a tax that was anti-business, anti-retail, anti-consumer, and we know that the majority of the people did not support that particular tax. We also note with interest that at the time there was going to be shock and horror, that there would be no park-and-ride extensions and investments in park-and-ride unless the car park tax went ahead. But there are extensions to park-and-ride, so life goes on, now and again, when this council stands up for the people it represents. The sky does not fall in as result of an amendment. Given that paragraph I quoted, and that we understand it, the Treasurer went on to say:

For perspective, a budget bill has never been blocked in South Australia. Blocking a budget bill will have severe long-term consequences for stable governance in this state going forward.

I find that interesting for a couple of reasons. First, it is quite a threatening, bullying and harassing tactic but, secondly, I just wanted to let the minister know that I, on behalf of the Australian Conservatives, am not blocking a budget bill ,and I understand that others who are opposed to this particular aspect are also not blocking a budget bill. I also understand that under the constitution this house cannot block a budget bill.

My question to the minister—and I would like something honest rather than in the manipulative manner of the letter I received on Saturday afternoon—is does he acknowledge that if there is a blocking of the budget bill, it will be his government that blocks the budget bill and not this council?

The Hon. K.J. MAHER: I thank the honourable member for his question. I think that the Hon. Rob Lucas, when he laid out the various scenarios he could see happening here, somewhat contradicted the Hon. Rob Brokenshire. If this bill goes back down with a suggested amendment, it will be rejected in the lower house, as the government and the Treasurer have said, and when it comes back up here, it will be this Legislative Council that will make the decision to block it.

Let us not muck around: there was a bit of fiddling around with the car park tax last time, but there is a huge amount of mucking around with the bank levy this time. If the opposition honestly think that this huge mucking around with a government bill does not set a new precedent, then they have another thing coming when they get into government and everyone—every opposition, every crossbencher—will feel completely at liberty to muck around with every single bit of any budget that is done from here on in. This is a precedent that the opposition is looking to set. God help them, if ever they get into government, about what might happen with anything they ever decide to try to do in a budget.

The Hon. R.L. BROKENSHIRE: Relevant to this bill, I note with interest an article in Adelaide Advertiser by Cameron England, the highly respected and knowledgeable economic journalist. He had a story in The Advertiser yesterday, 'Bank on Trial' and 'Bill returns to Parliament as international pressure grows.' In the article he talks about Jupiter Asset Management, a United Kingdom fund that manages more than $80 billion in assets. I believe they would be more astute managers than those we have in our government at the moment when it comes to economic management. So, I take them with a lot of credibility as an organisation that actually understands a bit about economics. The article states:

…it had already reduced its exposure to Australia because of its "increased level of political risk" and said they "strongly urge the protagonists—

'protagonists' meaning the state Labor government—

to reconsider" the bank tax.

They go on with other quotes as well, saying that this, in effect, in summary, will, in a different light, be assessed as to what they do with investment in South Australia. That is one £48 billion asset manager. Does the government recognise that this tax is a broken promise, because this government said there would be no new taxes? It is a broken promise; there was no mandate for the tax at all, and that is the truth. Does the government recognise that this is going to be placing a dark cloud over businesses looking to grow, invest or stay in South Australia?

The Hon. K.J. MAHER: I thank the honourable member for his question. On pretty much every count I would say that he is wrong. There was all sorts of doom and gloom whipped up by the opposition, whipped up by their mates in the Australian Bankers' Association and whipped up by the top end of town with a heavily funded campaign expressing all sorts of sky-falling-in scenarios: there will be no jobs in South Australia; industry will come to a grinding halt at the mere suggestion of the banks paying their fair share. There was a comment earlier about the government saying that they can afford it, but it was not us who said that, it was the Productivity Commission. So, the doom and gloom about the mere suggestion that this could happen—seeing investment and jobs dry up in South Australia—has proven to be one big, fat lie.

In the last two months, we have seen the lowest unemployment that we have had in South Australia in nearly half a decade. For 24 months in a row we have seen jobs growth in this state. At the end of every month over the last two years, there have been more jobs than in the month before. The predictions were—when the mere suggestion of this bank tax and the mere idea that this might be in the budget would stop jobs in South Australia—that we would have huge unemployment. The Hon. Robert Lucas said we would be in double-digit unemployment when Holden closed. Nothing has been further from the truth. On many, many economic indicators, South Australia is doing well, improving and doing vastly better in relation to other states.

Last month, we had the second-best employment figures behind New South Wales. They are the lowest we have had in nearly five years. This month, it is 0.1 per cent above—the second-best we have had in nearly five years. This idea that the mere suggestion of the banks paying their fair share will have jobs dry up, will have industry coming to a stop, has been proven to be one massive, massive lie.

The Hon. R.L. BROKENSHIRE: Further to that answer, I take it that what the minister is saying on behalf of his government is that the claims by Jupiter Fund Management, which include the fact that they have revealed its Asian income fund has sold down investments in Australian financial services because of this proposal, and concerns also over federal government policies but specifically because of this proposal—

Members interjecting:

The Hon. R.L. BROKENSHIRE: I want an answer on this state issue, by the way, for a change, rather than the diatribe that we cop a lot of the time from both the Minister for Climate Change and the Leader of Government Business here. Are you just dismissing the Jupiter Fund Management claims and saying that they are irrelevant and a nonsense, and this will have no impact whatsoever? Are you saying that they are just irrelevant and a nonsense?

The Hon. K.J. MAHER: I have no idea what goes through the mind of a particular fund manager from somewhere else in the world when they make statements or decisions. I have no idea why they do that, but let's have a bit of a look at not just the national employment figures or the gross state product figures but some of the investment in South Australia recently, while this bank tax that is apparently going to stop everything has been discussed. We have seen the investment in the Whyalla Steelworks. We have seen the investment by Tesla in the battery in South Australia. We have seen the nearly $1 billion new mine being announced by OZ Minerals. We have seen massive investment in this state.

If you believed everything someone like the Hon. Robert Brokenshire says, or particularly some of the claims made by the Hon. Rob Lucas, who is frequently a stranger to the truth when it comes to these matters, they would have you believe that nothing was going to happen in South Australia, and that we would have, as the Hon. Rob Lucas had suggested previously, double-digit unemployment. That has not happened. This is a levy the banks can afford. Quite frankly, when you look at some of the ways in which revenue is being applied in terms of job creation, I think that is what South Australians expect of their government.

Clause passed.

Progress reported; committee to sit again.

Sitting suspended from 12:58 to 14:19.

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