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Thursday, 18 March 2010
Page: 2329

Senator BERNARDI (7:21 PM) —I rise tonight to talk about the great state of South Australia, a state with unlimited potential, save that that potential is limited by the quality of the government that now resides on the Treasury benches. This government is led by a secretive, scandal-ridden and arrogant premier in Mr Mike Rann. For eight long years, South Australians have had to put up with Mr Mike Rann and all his spin—spin and no substance. Mr Mike Rann has stopped listening to the people of South Australia. He thinks he can tell them what is best for them. He has given my fellow South Australians no reason to trust him, and they are turning on him, just like his colleagues in the Labor Party. This is a man who ignored 60 traffic offences for one of his colleagues and then made him the Minister for Transport. How can we trust a premier who gives responsibility for road safety and transport to someone who has 60 repeat offences? He promised to address hoons and gangs and bikies but he has failed to. One could argue that, if anything, these problems are greater than they were eight years ago. Mike Rann has made South Australia the highest taxed state in the country. He does not care about prudent use of public money.

Mr Rann has a plan for hospitals that involves spending $1 billion more than necessary. The opposition—and, I hope, soon-to-be government in South Australia—would spend $1 billion less to deliver a better result for the people of South Australia. And what about the issue of water? We have suffered with water restrictions and great environmental problems in South Australia for a long time. Mr Rann has promised over and over again and has celebrated and trumpeted ‘national deals’ and ‘more water for South Australia’, but he has not fixed the problem. He has just been lucky that it has rained recently. He has failed to invest in new technologies—stormwater technology that would help secure South Australia’s water supplies for a long time. A proposal was put forward by the opposition for a desalination plant. It was mocked and ridiculed by Mr Rann when it was going to cost $400 million or $500 million. It suddenly became a good idea when it was going to cost three, four or maybe even five times that much.

This is a man who leads a government and is head of a party that has been caught out abusing the government’s email database to circulate ALP campaign material amongst the state’s public servants. Just recently the Rann Labor government, through the Department of Education and Children’s Services, circulated through its email database an email on ‘Labor’s commitments to students with disability’. The email included Labor’s policy on disability support, a Rann media release and funding commitments, all authorised by ALP Secretary, Michael Brown—a clear abuse of the caretaker nature of government after an election has been called. This was exposed by a man of great integrity in the South Australian parliament, shadow minister Rob Lucas, who said that it was a breach of caretaker convention—a clear breach of one of the most important conventions of our system of government.

The South Australian Liberal Party are clearly concerned about this, not in a partisan manner but simply because it is an abuse of the electoral system. It has written to the CEO of the Department of the Premier and Cabinet to seek an urgent investigation into this abuse by Mr Rann and his government. It would be alarming even if this failure were a one-off, but it is not a one-off. We have had secrecy and scandal that this government has hidden and tried to cover up. The No. 2 in the government there is a Mr Foley, who was plotting to overthrow Mr Rann at a very late-night dinner at Parliament House until that plan was hosed down. Mr Foley recently tried to hide a $168 million blow-out in the budget. Leaks from the Treasury have revealed that Treasurer Foley had been trying to conceal a $168 million wages blow-out in the government’s budget. The annual wage bill increase for public servants was not 2.5 per cent, as claimed by the Treasurer of South Australia, but 3.1 per cent. Under a three-year agreement, this represents a 9.5 per cent increase rather than the 7.7 per cent increase claimed by the Rann Labor government—more spin that has been proved and demonstrated to be false. It is going to cost $168 million more than they are telling the people of South Australia about. In January of this year, the Liberal Party made that claim, and it was repudiated and denied. As recently as 5 March, Mr Foley was still quoting the same 2.5 per cent figure, but it is not true.

Shouldn’t we be concerned about a government that refuses to establish an anti-corruption commission? What have they got to hide? Despite calls from prominent South Australians and ordinary, regular members of the public who want to see an independent commission against the corruption in South Australia, Mr Rann and his team refuse to do it. Yet the Attorney-General, Mr Michael Atkinson, admitted a few days ago that improvements are needed to tackle corruption. When discussing it on Radio FIVEaa he said that improvements can be made and will be made if the government are re-elected. But, if they are not prepared to have an independent commission against corruption, how do they plan to fight it? Mr Rann says there should be a national plan, but as yet we have not seen any structure or substance to that. We have not seen any formal approach to the federal government about it. This is a man who will say and do anything—and his team will say and do anything—to sneak back into power.

And what about another recent abuse of the powers that this government has? Documents released under a Freedom of Information Act request revealed that Premier Rann and Treasurer Foley secretly agreed, in the weeks leading up to an election, to a massive $24,000 pay rise for a 28-year-old ministerial staffer in Mr Rann’s office. It was an increase of 26.4 per cent—a 26 per cent pay rise for a 28-year-old; it was fantastic! And he was back-paid to 1 October last year. While this was occurring, Mr Foley and Mr Rann gave no consideration to the trials and tribulations and the constant battle that many of the state’s public servants have been fighting. How out of touch can this government get? How arrogant and spendthrift can they be with taxpayers’ money?

They are not very confident with their future costings, either. The health minister, John Hill, refused to guarantee that the ALP’s hospital redevelopment would only cost $1.7 billion. He said that he hoped or was optimistic that it would be about $1.7 billion. But he could not make a guarantee. If he is not prepared to make a guarantee, it could cost $100 million, $200 million, $300 million or maybe even a billion dollars more. The ALP has spent so much time focusing on the innovation, hope, optimism and new approach that the Liberal Party is hoping to bring to South Australia that they have not even bothered to check their own costings.

Going back to the Treasurer, Mr Foley, again, announced the redevelopment of the Adelaide Oval. But it relies on money that has not been committed or promised by the federal government. They have no credibility. They are only interested in spin. They will say and do anything that they need to to stay in power.

They recently spent $40 million on a new computer system for work cover. But the government then had to cancel the longstanding bonus and penalty scheme because the new computer system could not cope with it. They left it out. The end result is that 60 per cent of businesses in South Australia will face paying higher work cover costs from the middle of this year. We already pay the highest work cover costs of any mainland state. Why do they have to rise because of inept bungling by the worst government in Australia? I note that there is a bit of mirth on the other side. I should say that it is the second-worst government, because the New South Wales government takes the cake. And I am sure that the Tasmanian government is equally as hopeless, so perhaps it is in the top three—a trifecta of failures for the Australian people. South Australia deserves better, and it will have better on Saturday.