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Thursday, 11 October 2012
Page: 8019

South Australian Economy

Senator EDWARDS (South Australia) (14:57): My question is to the Minister for Finance and Deregulation, Senator Wong. I refer the minister to the dire set of economic data in her home state of South Australia after yet another two major home builders were placed into administration this week. We have the worst state credit rating in Australia at AA. We have building approvals dropping for 16 consecutive months, including a 22 per cent drop in the 12 months to August. We have construction work declining 7.9 per cent for the 12 months to June; South Australia was the only state to record a decline for this period. And we have a 23.2 per cent decline in dwelling commencements in the 12 months to June, with South Australia having the lowest number of dwelling commencements in 11 years. When will the government accept responsibility for the catastrophic state of the South Australian economy, caused by a double whammy of federal and state Labor governments' economic policies?

Senator WONG (South AustraliaMinister for Finance and Deregulation) (14:58): If Senator Edwards is so interested in dealing with the South Australian political issues, I do understand that. There are a few preselections which might be available on his side of politics for the South Australian campaign.

There might even be an opposition leadership position available in South Australia, which he might want to put his hand up for.

The PRESIDENT: Order, Senator Wong! Come to the question.

Senator WONG: Thank you, Mr President. I do not accept the premise of the question, as per normal from this senator. I suggest he has a look. If he wants to talk about federal and state policies, it is interesting that he glosses over the fact that the employment figures released today actually show an increase in jobs in South Australia but over 20,000 jobs being lost in the state of Queensland, the largest drop that has been seen. In South Australia we have seen a small rise in the most recent monthly figures. If the senator is really concerned about the economic issues in our state, he might want to explain why it is that he is part of a party that wants to take $1 billion away from South Australia, because they want to change how the GST is allocated. He ought to go back to Adelaide and fess up that Mr Abbott wants to take $1 billion from South Australians.

Honourable senators interjecting

The PRESIDENT: Order! Order on both sides! Senator Brandis, you need to be heard and you are entitled to be heard in silence and there are people discussing this on both sides. Wait a minute, Senator Brandis. Senator Brandis, you have the call.

Senator Brandis: On a point of order, Mr President, apart from not being relevant to the question asked and aside from the fact that she is lying to the chamber—

The PRESIDENT: Order! No, no, you have got to withdraw that. There is no point of order.

Senator BRANDIS: I withdraw.

Opposition senators interjecting

The PRESIDENT: Order! I am not getting into an argument. There is no point of order. The minister has 38 seconds remaining.

Senator WONG: I might respond to Senator Brandis, because he can explain to me why it is that Mr Abbott said that he likes a per capita distribution. The truth hurts, doesn't it, George?

Opposition senators interjecting

The PRESIDENT: Order, Senator Wong! Order on both sides! Wait a minute, Senator Brandis, you will get the call. Senator Brandis.

Senator Brandis: It cannot be relevant to a question asked by Senator Edwards for the minister to say, 'I am going to respond to an interjection from Senator Brandis.'

Opposition senators interjecting

The PRESIDENT: Order! I do remind the minister of the question. The minister has 31 seconds remaining.

Senator WONG: It is disappointing that the senator in his question yet again joined in the chorus that the opposition like to engage in in talking down the economy. That is not good for Australians. That is not good for South Australians. Talking down the economy might be something that is in your political interest; it is certainly not in the national interest—and the senator would know. If he wants to make a constructive contribution to the economic debate— (Time expired)

Senator EDWARDS (South Australia) (15:02): Mr President, I have a supplementary question for the minister. Does the minister agree that, given that South Australians already pay the highest state taxes in Australia and are burdened with the nation's most expensive and worst-performing workers' compensation scheme, the people of the state do not need the carbon and mining taxes smothering any potential economic growth for South Australia? Shouldn't the most senior federal Labor minister for South Australia be beside herself with worries about the dangers to this economy?

Honourable senators interjecting

The PRESIDENT: Order! When there is silence on both sides, we will proceed.

Senator WONG (South AustraliaMinister for Finance and Deregulation) (15:03): I think I have previously said to Senator Edwards that if he is concerned about the economy and jobs in South Australia I hope that after this question time he will publicly call upon Mr Abbott to match the government's contribution to GMH, to the car industry. I look forward to him standing up and defending the jobs of vehicle workers, because I suspect he will not. But until he does something like that, I suspect everybody will understand what his motivation is in here. I suggest to the senator that if he thinks he can do a better job than Isobel Redmond, maybe he should just go there and tell her that.

Senator EDWARDS (South Australia) (15:04): Mr President, I ask another supplementary question. Given the shelved Olympic Dam expansion, recent closures of major electrical and book retailers in South Australia, and the increasing numbers of builders and foresters going into administration in that state with now the loss of 30,000 full-time jobs since June 2011, when will you call your state Labor mates and give them the heads-up on the critical condition of the South Australian economy before more businesses close and more South Australians lose their jobs?

Senator WONG (South AustraliaMinister for Finance and Deregulation) (15:05): I do not know why my making a phone call is somehow something in my portfolio. There was a reference in the question to Olympic Dam, and I think that everybody recalls the disgraceful way in which the announcement of that project was used and misused by the opposition to try to press their political point and run a politically motivated campaign to try and suggest that a tax that would not apply to Olympic Dam—the MRRT—was somehow responsible for the project being shelved. Other than some of the Greens, who at least had the honesty to oppose the project, the only people who were happy about the Olympic Dam extension being shelved were those opposite. It was an absolute disgrace.

Senator Chris Evans: Mr President, I ask that further questions be placed on the Notice Paper.