Statutes Amendment Budget Bill 2016

Legislative Council
Tuesday 1st of November 

 

second reading speech

STATUTES AMENDMENT (BUDGET 2016) BILL

 

The Hon. T.A. FRANKS ( 17:32 :54 ): I rise to respond to some aspects of the Statutes Amendment (Budget 2016) Bill. I note that the leader of the Greens in this place, the Hon. Mark Parnell, has addressed the bulk of the issues, but I rise also to address this bill before us.

The Greens do welcome some aspects of this state budget, however once again, as we have come to expect from this particular Weatherill Labor government, it is also a budget littered with missed opportunities.

To commence with, I do want to acknowledge one of the positive aspects of this budget: the new measures to crack down on the gambling industry. The Greens welcome the introduction of a wagering tax for online gambling, based on the place of consumption, where that place of consumption is here in our state of South Australia. Given the enormous human costs of gambling, the gambling industry should be making a much bigger contribution back to society. The contribution that they would make through this is a welcome start.

While this is certainly a move in the right direction, I do think that there are still some questions to be clarified around its implementation. For instance, it is not clear from this bill how the government will ensure that online gambling is captured by these provisions. While the government says it will cover bets placed over the phone, internet or other electronic means provided by the licence holder who has substantial business assets and infrastructure here in the state of South Australia, surely there are many players in the industry who could have their business arrangements set up in such a way that they would be able to circumvent these provisions. If the government could provide a response as to how they would manage that, the Greens and, I am sure, the South Australian public would appreciate those answers.

As I say, we welcome the intention, but it falls short on the kind of reform that is really needed to address problem gambling. We need bet limits of no more than a dollar on poker machines. We need to remove the coin-dispensing machines and the EFTPOS facilities from gaming areas. Problem gambling is a major issue for our state, and it is something that causes distress and misery for many South Australians. It literally destroys lives, it literally takes lives, and the ripples of that are felt across our community. The economic impact is profound.

It is morally wrong, in my view, that the state government continues to rely on revenue from problem gamblers. In effect, the government is generating money by taxing the most vulnerable members of our community. That is an approach that has been taken by successive Labor and Liberal governments, and it needs to stop. As noted by SACOSS in their report 'Losing the Jackpot', these taxes account for 1.15 per cent of household expenditure for the lowest income quintile, almost double the average for all households of 0.66 per cent. For people earning in the lowest two income quintiles, gambling taxes represent a greater household cost than vehicle registration, insurance duties or the emergency services levy. So, it really is a tax on the most vulnerable.

While the industry will now be making a greater contribution to the Gamblers Rehabilitation Fund, this does fall short of the kind of structural reform that is so desperately needed. We need to end the reliance of state governments on pokies and on gambling. We need to break the reliance on that to fund social services on the backs of the most vulnerable in our community. Indeed, SACOSS highlights the potential for broader structural reform in their report. They suggest that gambling taxes be directed into a sovereign wealth fund, where only the earnings of that fund go to consolidated revenue and current expenditure. This would limit the reliance of state budgets on gambling. It is the kind of measure that I hope the government will consider, as it is clear that we need major reforms in this area.

Additionally, the Greens will continue to advocate for gaming area prohibitions and barring orders as per the private member's bill we saw fail in this place in the last sitting week. Indeed, we have worked closely with all members of the crossbench on these issues because we know that this is an issue that is profoundly affecting the most vulnerable in our communities. We also know that both of the old parties, Labor and Liberal, continue to oppose efforts to curb the gambling industry, but also continue to take money for elections from the gambling industry. That has to stop as well.

I note that, in these past few days, the government has been condemned for its move to withdraw support for the Statewide Gambling Therapy Service as it is currently run. The AMA (Australian Medical Association) of South Australia, no less, has spoken out against the plans to stop the funding of the Statewide Gambling Therapy Service. That service has offered ongoing outstanding results, and it now faces closure after a tender decision looks set to direct the funding to a private sector psychology provider. The Greens share the AMA SA's serious concerns that the state government proposal to effectively privatise state gambling therapy services is a retrograde step. Why would you make an ongoing public health service that has been delivering outstanding results subject to short-term tender? This is a point the AMA SA has made, and it is also a point that the Greens support.

In terms of other budget measures in this bill, I share the concerns expressed by the Hon. Kelly Vincent, and I also ask for some further clarification on how the amendments to the Education Act—which will introduce new fees for people in South Australia who are here working under 457 visas (Temporary Work (Skilled) visas), where those who are parents with school-aged children will now pay $5,100 for each primary school student and $6,100 for each high school student to attend local schools—will be implemented, what the estimated impact is, and whether it will have a knock‑on effect on the ability of ensuring those workers take on roles in our state.

While other jurisdictions have gone down this path, South Australia at this time needs more migration into our state. We need more workers in this state. We need to ensure that we are not removing a market advantage here that perhaps could attract those people to our state. I also think it is a broader question about whether it is fair to charge people such a significant amount of money when they are paying taxes during their time in Australia. Surely, there is some expectation that when you pay your taxes, it goes towards accessing that public education system in the place where you reside. Thousands of dollars per child is a small contribution in this budget for the state, but it may have an unexpected and profound impact, so we certainly seek clarification, as did the Hon. Kelly Vincent.

As I said, this is a budget best defined not by what is in it but by what is missing. Indeed, it says very much about the priorities of this Labor government. This is a government that has been in power for 14 years, Mr President, as you well know, during a time of significant economic transition for our state. So, where is the plan to transition our state to a clean economy? Where is the plan to create new jobs? Where is the plan to arrest the so-called brain drain and stop talented young people from moving interstate?

We welcome the establishment of Green Industries SA as a new statutory authority. We need bold big-picture ideas to transform our economy and cement South Australia as a global leader. Where is the plan for advanced manufacturing? Our state has enormous skills and expertise in manufacturing. We should be harnessing these for the future, rather than rolling out the red carpet for the likes of BP in the Great Australian Bight or the nuclear lobby in the regions which is hitching its wagon to the nuclear royal commission which is currently being rolled out at great cost, not just financially but at great opportunity cost, while we do not pursue a future of investing in renewables in this state.

We are also calling on this government to truly focus its attention on creating green jobs—those jobs in advanced manufacturing, jobs in local sustainable industries. We should be the state that makes things, rather than the state with those submarines that blow things up. We have a highly skilled automotive industry in this state. Indeed, Mitsubishi and Holden have been employing South Australians for generations. Let's look at how we can use that expertise to create the cars of the future.

Electric cars are a multibillion-dollar business. Imagine what could be achieved if South Australia got a piece of that action. The Greens vision is for every electric car that comes off the conveyor belt anywhere in the world to have a component made right here in South Australia. By making cars here, by making car components here, we can create the new jobs we so desperately need. The state government should be looking at how it can drive that kind of innovation in our state, not flights of fancy about storing high-level nuclear waste on the never-never into our future.

While we are on the topic of driving cars, where is the support for public transport infrastructure in this bill? The government has a plan to expand the trams network in this state. Well, let's bring it forward, let's get it happening and let's create the jobs that have been promised for tomorrow, not tomorrow but today. It is not good enough to keep talking about implementing these ideas on the never-never. We want those transformations and we need those transformations now.

Through these kinds of manufacturing projects, we can also provide a boost for our steel industry. It is not enough to talk about building South Australia if you are building it with imported steel. The Greens want to see the local industry actively supported by state government policy and that policy to be in black and white. Before the Labor and Liberal parties say that it cannot be done, we would rip up the TPP. This dud deal sells out our national interest. So, then we should and could do it. We would rip up that TPP so that we can have local procurement policies that protect South Australian jobs.

I note my colleague the Hon. Mark Parnell has a bill that we will put to a vote in this place tomorrow that will test your resolve on supporting our local steel industry. Where in this bill is the support we need for creative industries, the community arts sector? Former premier Don Dunstan put our state on the map by supporting a thriving local arts scene. Indeed, we called ourselves the Festival State. This Labor government is certainly not one in the Dunstan tradition, and within so many areas there is a huge chasm between the rhetoric and the action when it comes to this state government. They make a lot of a so-called 'vibrancy agenda', but when it comes to actually supporting vibrancy and diversity in the arts community by adequately resourcing such things as community arts and supporting local artists they are missing in action.

Of course, I should point out that in addition to appropriately funding community arts, the Greens want to see vibrancy extending beyond the CBD. That is one of the reasons I seek, in my private member’s bill, to let those small bars roam free across the state and not be kept within the confines of the city square. There is no question that South Australia faces some serious and profound challenges, but with those challenges come opportunities. Sadly, this budget is missing out on those opportunities.

Debate adjourned on motion of Hon. T.J. Stephens.

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