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Emergency Services Levy Motion

Motion:

That this house—

(a) condemns the state government for increasing cost of living pressures on South Australian families and businesses; and

(b) supports significant reductions in the impact that emergency services levy charges have on South Australian families and businesses, whilst at the same time ensuring proposed budgets for emergency services are maintained.

Mr WINGARD (Mitchell) (12:15): I rise as well to speak in support of this motion put forward by the member for Morphett that condemns the state government for increasing cost of living pressures on South Australian families and businesses, and supports significant reductions in the impact that emergency services levy charges have on South Australian families and businesses while at the same time ensuring proposed budgets for emergency services are maintained. As has been pointed out by numerous members before me, we know that the emergency services levy, and the way it slugs families and businesses, is a very big impost in this day and age.

What we have seen from the state government on the other side for 15 years now is their irrational spending being responded to with increased fees and charges, and the emergency services levy is an exact case in point. It is hard enough doing business here in South Australia. When I get out and speak to many small businesses and businesses across the board, right across the state in the city and country regions, they tell me that these fees and charges—the emergency services levy, high electricity prices and water prices and other fees and charges—are inhibiting businesses from growing, which is preventing jobs growth in South Australia as well. 

We have talked in this place about the high electricity prices. Quite simply, the lack of reliability in the supply of electricity in this state is hurting businesses and families. It is pretty straightforward as to what the problem is. We know in South Australia that, when the wind does not blow and the sun does not shine, we are very vulnerable in the electricity market—that is the bottom line. We know water prices have increased drastically by 233 per cent from 2002-03 to 2016-17. These are massive hikes and, again, the hikes in the emergency services levy are hitting everyone, every day.

What we also see with this emergency services levy increase is no additional funds going to emergency services, and that is the case in point here. South Australians are paying more, but they are getting no more as far as emergency services are concerned. This is really just another way for the Labor government in South Australia to rip money out of the back pockets of South Australians. What they are doing is taking money from South Australians and putting it into their own coffers. The money was there, the budget was there, for emergency services. That is not increasing, but more money is coming out of the pockets of South Australians.

What we on this side have proposed to do is put $90 million a year back into the pockets of South Australians by returning the remissions, and that will put money back into the economy. I stress that that money goes into the pockets of individuals and businesses, which will get the economy moving and help generate jobs for South Australians.

We had some good news on seasonally adjusted unemployment figures in this state, but we are still the worst in the nation on trend data. We still have the highest unemployment rate on trend at 6.7 per cent in South Australia, which is the worst in the nation, and we know Holden is going to close later this year. What we are here to do is grow jobs in South Australia. We are here to help businesses, we are here to help them grow, and we are here to help generate more opportunities for South Australians to stay in this state and live a wonderful life.

We know it is a great state. We are being chastised by the eastern seaboard. At the moment, we know South Australia is a great state, but when those on the eastern seaboard look at the figures and the raw numbers, they probably have reason to criticise where we are going as a state, and that is after 15 years of having a state Labor government.

I will be brief so that other members can speak, but these fees and charges, such as the ESL and the high electricity prices, are really hurting businesses, hurting industry and hurting South Australian people. As we look at jobs in South Australia, the underutilisation rate from ABS figures that are out today, it has gone up in South Australia—that is people who are in work, looking for work or people not in work. South Australia has the highest underutilisation rate in the nation at 17.2 per cent, up from 16.4 per cent the previous month.

SA has the highest underutilisation rate in the nation and it is getting bigger. The national average, for what it is worth, is 15.3 per cent. Again, we have the issues of people looking for more work, wanting to work more and the opportunities not being here in South Australia. Increases in fees and charges—I stress the point again, like the emergency services levy, like the electricity and water prices—are causing a big part of this impost on South Australians.

The other concern I have is youth unemployment, people aged between 15 and 24 years of age. When you drill down and look at those figures it is 69.9 per cent up from 15.1 per cent the previous month. Again, South Australia is the highest in the nation: 12 months ago it was 16.2 per cent so, again, youth unemployment is growing here in South Australia. I come back to that point once more, that it is the cost of fees and charges.

When I go out and speak to businesses and talk to people in the community and around the state about small business and industry in South Australia, as the shadow in those portfolios, they tell me that it is the cost of fees and charges here in this state, emergency services levy, electricity—we know the electricity story and the unreliability that we have in South Australia—and water fees and charges are what drive businesses out of South Australia and with that go jobs. Many that I speak to have an operation here in South Australia and one outside of our borders and they are constantly looking and asking, 'Why do we stay in South Australia when it is so much cheaper to do business interstate?'

As they leave—and they are, with Pfizer recently moving out of South Australia and a number of other businesses moving out of the state—they take jobs out of South Australia leaving fewer jobs for our young people and hence we see that the youth unemployment rate in South Australia is the highest in the nation. It is alarming. This government is not doing enough to generate more jobs in South Australia. That is why I support this motion: fees and charges like the emergency services levy are doing real damage to the prospects for employment in South Australia, prospects for all South Australians but more specifically for our young people. I commend this motion to the house.

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