Mr WINGARD (Mitchell) (12:14): I rise to support wholeheartedly this motion put forward by the member for Hartley, which centres around small business being the lifeblood of the economy and employment in South Australia. As shadow minister for small business and as a former small business person also, I know all too well the challenges that small businesses face in South Australia, and I hear all too often a number of people who are forced to leave SA for better business opportunities, and most often they head to the eastern seaboard.
In March this year BankSA's State Monitor survey reported South Australia's lowest business confidence in nearly three years. More recently, CommSec's State of the States report ranked South Australia's trend unemployment 25 per cent above the decade average. Overall, South Australia's economy was ranked seventh. For far too long we have been sitting at the bottom of too many economic measure tables, and to see South Australia sitting bottom or second bottom on so many of these tables is an absolute disgrace and it is a blight on where this government has taken South Australia.
This state government has not done what is needed to lift up South Australia. It has not done what is needed to grow jobs in South Australia and to get South Australia working, and its hit on small businesses is a classic example of its ineptitude and its lack of understanding of what makes a great state tick. South Australia, as I said, has sat for too long at the bottom of the table. The government must use today's budget to address these issues, and really it should not have got to this stage before the government looks to act. We have just spent too long heading down to the bottom of the table, and the government has just been lax in bringing forward any measures and turning around South Australia.
Since the beginning of 2015 more than 35 companies based in SA have downsized or closed. That is around 4,000 people who have lost their jobs. We are talking about large numbers, but these figures are more than just a number, they are people—fathers, mothers, brothers, sisters and children, South Australians who want the chance to work and support their families and put back into the South Australian economy—but this government is not supporting those people. This state Labor government has let down people.
If we look back just in recent times (and I do not want to go back too far because it pains me to see it), since this Labor government has been in charge it really hurts to see the number of businesses that have closed down. We know that Penrice lost upwards of 250, nearly 300 people; Mondello Farms, back in 2013—the list goes on of companies that have closed down in South Australia, and the number of jobs lost is just astronomical.
These numbers and figures are all tabled in a report put out by the parliamentary library. Accolade Wines, Hills Holdings, Elders, Arnott's Biscuits, Santos—the list goes on. It just pains me to read of the number of jobs that have been lost in South Australia since this state Labor government has been in charge, and it keeps getting worse and worse. They do not understand what is needed to support small business or the opportunities that small business presents. They have let South Australia go down the tubes before they have started to think, look and act.
Let us look at a couple of examples of why this state government's poor management has taken South Australia to the bottom of the ladder about which I spoke. Payroll tax is one we have been pushing for a long, long time, and thousands of small businesses have spent the first half of this year in limbo, without the confidence to hire new staff due to the uncertainty around payroll tax rebates.
We have been calling on the state government to extend the rebate for small businesses since at least Christmas or before, but at Christmas time, in the Mid-Year Budget Review, our leader stepped forward and said that the state government must continue the rebates for small businesses, but it was ignored. It was ignored until just the other day, when the Treasurer realised that this is what has to happen, and he has brought forward those rebates and has included them in this budget. I commend that, but condemn the delay in bringing it forward.
I have had businesses come to me and talk to me about the fact that they have had to look, spend and invest money in restructuring and reshaping their business because of the uncertainty created by the Treasurer by not implementing these rebates earlier. So, money has been invested and, in effect, wasted, because the Treasurer then, at the last minute, at the death knell, turned around and said, 'We'll keep these rebates in place.' That is a lack of understanding of how business operates, and it shows that this Treasurer has no respect for small business in South Australia.
The ESL is another tax that this government keeps raising, hitting families, hitting businesses and impacting the cost of doing business in South Australia. The height of the ESL tax impacts on businesses. Businesses decide whether they will set up in South Australia or whether they will set up somewhere else. They look at the rise, and the gouging by our state Labor Treasurer to get money out of businesses for his own hip pocket. Businesses just say to themselves, 'I'm not setting up in South Australia, it's not worthwhile', and those jobs go to the eastern seaboard.
Like the payroll tax decision by the Treasurer to wait until the death knell, the lack of surety goes with the waste levy as well that the Treasurer has just announced—a bad news tax. He waited until after the federal election to hit South Australians with that levy. It is another tax on families, another tax on small businesses, and it is another impost that is impacting jobs in South Australia.
The Treasurer waited until after the federal election, to try and help out his side. I presume that is all he was doing—playing games with us again. He has brought in this waste levy, increasing the taxes and charges to have your rubbish collected at home. It is potentially a push to prevent your rubbish being collected weekly, which most people like. The Treasurer waited until after the financial year to bring it in—to announce this new levy, this new charge, this new hit on businesses and families. How confusing and how disruptive can that be to businesses and to local councils, to tell them after the end of the financial year? What does this Treasurer think? That they would wait until 30 June and then decide what their budgets are going to be and then start their planning?
Planning is done months in advance. The Treasurer knew this extra tax was coming. He knew he was going to put this impost on South Australians, but he waited until after 1 July, until after the start of the new financial year, to add this extra impost onto families and businesses. It just shows the lack of understanding that he has. On this side of the house, we support small business—we support businesses. We want to see business grow. We want to see jobs created in South Australia. We want to get South Australia working. That is what we are about. I am interested to hear what the Treasurer has got to say this afternoon, but in last year's budget speech he said:
We must lower the cost of doing business in South Australia and unlock the entrepreneurial spirit that has grown this state, helping South Australian business invest and grow.
A great plan, a great initiative and a great thought, but he just fails to deliver yet again. I am constantly contacted by people in my community about the high cost of doing business in South Australia, and this Treasurer talks the talk but he just does not walk the walk. I quote again from last year's budget where the Treasurer said, 'Jobs are the centrepiece of our reform package.' That is what the Treasurer of South Australia said. That was his push, that was his quote. Yet, what have we seen for the last 18 months since the Treasurer made that statement?
South Australia has had the highest unemployment rate of any state in the nation. We have had the highest unemployment rate of any state in the nation since the Treasurer declared jobs were the centrepiece of his reforms package. That is an absolute joke. It shows that he cannot deliver for South Australia, and it is a great example of why South Australia is going backwards.
On 16 June this year, two days before the state budget was supposed to be delivered, bearing in mind that this government had promised to deliver 100,000 jobs by March 2016, only 4,350 more people were employed in South Australia. So 100,000 was the target and 4,350 was the outcome, and that shows the credentials of this Treasurer. When he has a jobs reform package, South Australians cannot believe it because that is what he delivers. This state Labor government promises 100,000 jobs and delivers 4,350. It is an embarrassment.
I hear the member for Light talk about what we are doing on this side, and our leader has quite proudly put out our '2036' manifesto as a vision to take South Australia forward. We have seen what has happened over the last 14 years, and South Australia has gone to the bottom of the table. Our '2036' manifesto has outlined our nine key policy areas. If we go to point 1 in the manifesto, that is arguably the most important, and it is about growing our economy. At point 1.1, the most important thing for South Australia as it stands (because of what this state Labor government has done) is to grow jobs, relieve household budgets and reduce taxes.
That is what we are focused on. That is what we need to do, and that is what South Australians want to see from their government. I have plenty more to say on this. I have a number of positive stories to tell about people who have grown their businesses, but they tell me of the impost that has been put in front of them, and how this state Labor government has done almost everything they can to prevent them growing and creating jobs in South Australia. We want to work with these people, we want to take these imposts away, we want to create jobs for future South Australians, and we want to get South Australia working.