Address in Reply Speech - Parliament 18 February 2020.
As this is my Address in Reply to the Governor's speech, I would like to take the opportunity to acknowledge the wonderful work His Excellency performs in the service of the people of South Australia. I express my delight that he was continued in the role of Governor.
During my previous time as minister for multicultural affairs and minister for communities, I met with him probably once a week at many events, and what really stayed with me about the Governor, supported by his wonderful wife, Lan, is how they made Government House the people's house. What that means to me is that they have gone out of their way to make sure that our diverse multicultural community has felt welcomed into Government House. Along with providing support for many volunteer groups, they have done a wonderful job of being very accessible and I am delighted that they have continued.
The prorogation of our parliament generally indicates a government seeking a reset and a fresh start to the parliamentary agenda. It seems very appropriate—indeed, it was undertaken by the previous Labor government—to prorogue and start a new conversation precisely halfway through the election cycle; therefore, it is with some reflection that I look back upon the Marshall Liberal team's entry into governance of our great state nearly two years ago.
Let me remind the house of Steven Marshall's election slogans: a strong plan for real change; and more jobs, lower costs, better services. There was going to be no talk, just action, and they were going to hit the ground running. So, two years later and not a new government anymore, where are they now? A strong plan for real change has the implication that things will happen. Implicit in the concept of change is action, but South Australia now holds the dubious honour of having the worst unemployment rate in the country: our youth unemployment rate has skyrocketed to 11.5 per cent.
If you are a South Australian who has lost their job, you are on your own, following the Marshall Liberal government's decision to cut 29 job-creating programs. Let's not forget the whack South Australian businesses and households have had with record hikes to fees, charges and taxes and of course how can we forget the investment paralysing and, for many, the deep stress of the damaging land tax debacle.
We know that there is a high degree of uncertainty in both local and global events and that the people of South Australia need a government that can provide leadership in these difficult times. We only have to look at the tourism industry. There are many headwinds that this industry is currently facing. It has been one of the most difficult summers experienced in many decades. First, there was the devastation of the bushfires on Kangaroo Island and in the Adelaide Hills, and now we have had significant impacts from the coronavirus.
According to the latest data, total visitor expenditure in South Australia contributes $7.8 billion to the economy, and any growth is great news for the industry. However, we have to make sure that these benefits are felt right around the state. We know that tourism is going to play an important part in the bushfire recovery. Whilst the #BookThemOut campaign, which we fully supported, has been a very worthwhile initiative, we need to have longer term commitments from this government to our tourism industry. It is all well and good for the Premier to stand here and say that he has launched a hashtag, but where will the support be in the medium and long term?
In its first budget, the Marshall Liberal government cut $11 million from the South Australian Tourism Commission—$11 million gone. It was a deep, savage cut on what is a dynamic industry employing more than 39,000 South Australians. We have more than 18,000 businesses involved in tourism, many of which are small businesses, micro businesses and mum-and-dad businesses. What is most important about tourism, and why I love to talk about it (and I know we have the member for Mawson here), is that it employs people throughout South Australia. In fact, more than 40 per cent of tourism dollars in the visitor economy is spent in the regions.
First of all, we had the $11 million cut—shocking. Then we come to the second budget and we hear that there is another cut: this time $12 million was announced. I cannot say it enough: the Marshall Liberal government must reverse its $23 million cut to tourism. This is a fantastic industry, but it is facing these cuts, plus the recent events of the bushfires and now the coronavirus, and it is absolutely the worst time possible to keep cutting the tourism budget.
More than ever, we need to have a plan for our tourism industry, which is hurting. While the bushfires have been devastating, it is the global images—that all of Australia is on fire—that are having an impact across all of South Australia. While we welcomed international support and interest, and we have certainly seen the global community put their hand in their pocket and support our fundraising for people who have been impacted, at the same time, night after night, the global image was that Australia was on fire.
I have heard from people who have had cancellations of bookings three years into the future because tourists feel that Australia is not safe and they are concerned that they would not be able to participate in all the things they want to do. We know that people are hurting because of this. In a recent quarterly survey, the tourism industry of South Australia heard that eight out of 10 businesses were reporting a financial impact, the top three impacts being that 72 per cent had booking cancellations, 53 per cent were experiencing cash flow issues and 44 per cent had seen a reduction in the number of people walking through the door. They are doing it tough.
However, what was clear to me, and what they were incredibly clear about is what would assist them the most and that there needs to be increased promotion to encourage visitation and awareness. More than eight in 10 people in this survey said, 'That is what we need the most.' With the benefit of the doubt, I went along to the Governor's speech and expected, after a summer of bushfires and with coronavirus affecting us now, there to be a plan for tourism, but there was nothing in that speech. There were vague thoughts about things but there was no plan. It was outrageous, absolutely outrageous.
We know that this government has linked tourism and the visitor economy as part of the Growth State. We know that the Premier has taken the lead in this industry, but you have to have a plan for the future. There is a great opportunity here to support people through recovery and to build our tourism industry in South Australia and make it even better. Where is the update to the Regional Tourism Development Strategy? It could have gone there. Where is the long-term commitment to matching cooperative funding for regional organisations? Where is a year-long plan to support increased famils to South Australia? Where is the opportunity to build on #BookThemOut with a real plan of value-added incentives: two for one dinner deals at the location? This is what the tourism industry, the visitor economy, was expecting from this speech.
What commitment do we have for our fair share of the $76 million from the commonwealth? They have come out with a tourism package and we deserve our share in South Australia. I have not heard how much it will be. We know that there are going to be a lot of people in the rest of Australia wanting that money for themselves. What are we doing to make sure that we get our fair share? What commitment do we have to launch an intensive marketing campaign that does not feature 'old mate'? Most importantly, there was nothing about reversing the cuts. There was not one sentence about the deep cuts to tourism never before seen in this state. There was a complete absence in this reset speech.
Late last week we heard the news of the axing of the direct China Southern flights from Guangzhou to Adelaide until June this year and the cutting of Cathay Pacific flights, down from four flights a week to two flights a week, beginning in March. This is a big hit to visitors coming to South Australia from China. We know that China is our number one source of international tourists and international students.
Last week, I said that in light of this this government, led by the Premier, who has taken the mantle of tourism, must now invest in promoting South Australia to other areas unaffected by coronavirus: to Europe, the US, the UK and New Zealand. We must be agile and we must be able to pivot our marketing campaigns to these areas. We know that our top priority is protecting South Australians from coronavirus, but our challenge will be to make up for the loss of visitors from China and Hong Kong.
This government promised an export-led recovery of the South Australian economy, but so far in this term we have seen our national share of merchandise exports continually underperform. I am talking about wheat, wine, metals and meat. We are now at a 30-year low. Last month, we recorded only 2.9 per cent of the national share of exports. It is the lowest annual figure since current records began in 1988.
When Labor left government, our national share was more than 4 per cent. I acknowledge the impact that drought and dry conditions have had on our nation, but the facts speak for themselves. Other states have seen increases in their merchandise exports, but we are going backwards. Perhaps the slashing of the $26.8 million from the South Australian trade department and constant machinery of government changes simply mean this Marshall Liberal government is not serious about trade. If we are to achieve 3 per cent growth every year, exports must be a key part of the story.
Just recently, we had some news about GlobeLink. The GlobeLink project was previously touted as the beckoning of a South Australian export renaissance. The Premier was featured in high-quality promotional videos espousing how a dedicated freight airport would ease the burden of trucks in key Liberal seats. When this government came to power, they hired consultants to look into the idea further and come up with a price tag. It turned out that this idea could potentially cost the taxpayer $7 billion. All the major players in the freight industry said that this was a terrible idea right from the beginning.
With the GlobeLink failure what we have lost is time. This government knew it would not work but instead of acknowledging it up-front, we are two years down the track. The KPMG report clearly tells us that GlobeLink would not work, but it does provide us with important messaging about how to increase our exports. Most specifically, it talks about direct flight access. To quote from the report:
Adelaide has plenty of runway, with capacity for more planes.
Most international air freight is carried in the belly hold of passenger aircraft…South Australian air freight [is currently] 59,000 tonnes.
These are positive things. This is information for us—opportunity—but the reality is that Adelaide has the lowest number of direct international air connections of any Australian capital city. In fact, we have 40 per cent fewer than Perth. This is the opportunity. One of the challenges we have here is the significant shrinkage, with 47 per cent of South Australian exports being transported to Sydney or Melbourne before leaving Australia, although we have had some positive success with more than doubling of air freight since 2011 due to direct flights through Emirates and Qatar to the Middle East and China Southern to Guangzhou.
This is what the Labor government pursued and this is what we achieved. Since 2011, we have doubled our air freight. What was very clear in the GlobeLink report, clear in black and white, was a compelling case for air freight. We need to create freight capacity in the belly hold and generate new demand for very high-value airfreight exports using the existing infrastructure at Adelaide Airport. When it comes to airfreight and flight attraction, Adelaide Airport is quite literally doing the heavy lifting. I do not see how the South Australian government are helping the Airport. In fact, they were actively considering taking business opportunities away from them.
Exports and the visitor economy go hand in hand. It says very clearly in the GlobeLink report that limited cost and major benefits come from increased freight capacity. It gives suggestions that a key route with passenger air connections to Los Angeles three times a week in a tripartite agreement between the government, the Airport and an airline would be the place to start.
It is very clear, in black and white, yet no announcement in the Governor's speech—no announcement of where we could get the biggest benefits for us to aim for that 3 per cent growth, no commentary whatsoever. It even goes on further to say what the role of government should be: to de-risk the ramp-up and to encourage a global airline to commit to the route through contingent revenue guarantee and agreements around marketing the route. This is very clear.
We know that Adelaide Airport are doing their bit. They are extending international arrivals and departures, they have added a hotel and, of course, their master plan was clear about the focus on the Airport East business park. They know that this is the future, so why is this government not supporting them? It is really interesting: when I looked into this, tourism and exports were linked, but I did not see the government anywhere. Where is the leadership? You have put it out there about Growth State, but we do not know what your plan is. When you heard in black and white the best way forward, we heard nothing.
Let's compare this with the WA government. In 2016, the Barnett Liberal government put $14 million into capital works on their airport because they wanted to increase international exports. Then, in 2019—before the key headwinds that we are experiencing now, may I say—the McGowan Labor government announced an additional $12 million for international tourism marketing on top of already allocating $45 million a year. They get it. The WA government in all their colours know what they have to do. They were dedicated, they provided support and they provided leadership to increase their visitor economy and to increase their exports.
So what are we doing in South Australia? It has always been clear that we need to work together. We knew that in government. You have to have your hands on the wheel. You have to be there, supporting and collaborating. We know that people here in business are willing to invest. We know that they want to see an increase in exports. Why are you not showing the leadership to make this happen?
Yesterday, we had the Premier talk about a winter warmer, a wild and wacky winter event to spread out the calendar. It appeared to be quite the thought bubble—no detail, no funding, no plan to discuss it with people who already know this sector. We do great festivals in South Australia. We are known globally as a place for festivals. In the winter period, we already have the Guitar Festival, the Umbrella Festival and, my favourite, the Cabaret Festival. I was so disappointed that the Premier just said, 'We need a new festival.' I am all for that for interest and innovation, but not without paying tribute, without acknowledging those festivals that already exist.
Why were the next words out of his mouth not, 'And I will work with the people involved in the winter festivals and see if we can build on that. Maybe we can innovate'? Maybe they just needed the tourism budget to be reversed, because when you cut $23 million out of that budget everyone is impacted. Throughout the whole of South Australia, all our festivals feel that change. So I say to the Premier that I am all for great ideas, I am all for innovation and I am all for talking about opportunities, but you just cannot use one line and walk away. Our festival community, our patrons and our loyal attendees deserve more. They want more. It is leadership, once again.
In the time that I have remaining I would like to touch briefly on my electorate of Ramsay. What a shock: we are going to privatise the train services. Let me tell you, when I am out there talking with my constituents they virtually run to me to sign the petition because they know they are not going to be better off. They rely on the train service, particularly that leaving from the Salisbury Interchange, to get them to work, to get them to study, and they know that any change, particularly privatisation, is actually not going to put them first. That remains a key issue for my electorate, and Labor is committed to overturning that privatisation.
Unemployment still remains a challenge in the northern suburbs, and particularly concerning is the recent increases in youth unemployment. We know that all the job-supporting programs have been cut, but the area that makes me absolutely outraged is the killing off of the Northern Economic Plan. The food park: gone, overnight. This was something that would support exports. This was a plan that supported jobs and investment in the north.
On Sunday, I attended the open day of the Northern Connector, a fantastic Labor project. It is an interesting use of technology—it is a concrete road—but, most importantly to me, the Northern Connector came at a time when we needed investment. What did we see? Leadership, leadership from the South Australian premier at the time, who said, 'We are going to work together in the north: bring this project forward.'
Let's remind ourselves of what the Northern Connector project was. It employed 500 South Australians. Ninety per cent of the people working on that project were from South Australia. More importantly, and incredibly important to me as someone who lives in Salisbury and supports her northern community, is that more 50 per cent of the jobs on the Northern Connector were for people from the northern suburbs, many of whom were ex-Holden workers.
That project has come to an end, and I have to say, 'What's next?' All we hear are these far-off potential transport projects, but do you know what I want to hear? What is the next project in the northern suburbs, because we are going to see a spike in unemployment. This project employed 500 people. I talked to people on that project who said it was a lifeline for them because they felt supported. They felt that the government did the right thing by bringing this project forward.
And there were fantastic opportunities there. We had more women working on that project than on any other construction project in previous times. We made sure that happened because it involved local participation for women and for people who lived locally. In fact, more vulnerable groups, like our Indigenous population, were supported with these job-support programs to work on the Northern Connector.
In the final minutes I want to talk about the schools in Ramsay. I have 13 schools in my electorate with a combination of private and public schools and primary and high schools. Let me just tell you that they are bursting at the seams. I was at Salisbury High School recently. They have a list of 80 people waiting to come to the school. Parafield Gardens High School, just outside my electorate, has more children enrolled than they ever expected.
We know that a new school has been announced for Angle Vale, but this will not assist families living in Ramsay. I put on notice now that we need your attention. We got the attention of the Labor government in their Building Better Schools. We know that they have invested in Salisbury High School, Parafield Gardens High School and Paralowie R-12. We have seen that through the STEM investment and Building Better Schools, but do not take your eyes off the ball for the northern suburbs. You killed off the Northern Economic Plan, and that will never be forgotten in the north.