The Premier delivered a key note address on the government's achievements in its first 100 days at the CEDA State of the State 2018 event.
Ladies and Gentlemen
I thank CEDA for the invitation to address this luncheon and for the continuing contribution your organisation makes to public debate of important issues.
It’s good to be back talking at a CEDA event – as Premier this time.
It was sometimes said to me while I was Opposition Leader that we talked about a lot of things but if we ever got into government, we’d never do anything about them.
It was also said of us that we’d been so long in opposition, we’d forgotten how to govern.
I’d like to think that as we reach our first 100 days in office tomorrow, such opinions are beginning to change.
I say this for two reasons.
One is general, based on our overall approach to the responsibility of being in government.
The second is more specific, relating to actions we have taken since all my ministers were sworn in on 22 March.
In my view, the reformist agenda we are implementing has shown that we prepared ourselves very well for the privilege of governing our State.
First let me discuss our overall approach.
It is based on the conviction that for too long, South Australia had a government which centralised too much.
Which interfered much more in the daily lives of people and businesses through taxing and regulating too much.
Because it had an ideological belief in government control and promised that it could fix every problem.
Through creating 100,000 jobs.
Experimenting with reliable and affordable power supply.
Transforming our health system and equating progress in education with the amount of money spent rather than the quality of outcomes.
Too many people went along with this for too long.
Perhaps because if the government said it was taking care of things, they wouldn’t have to.
That if they paid their taxes, the State would manage the rest.
But the jobs didn’t materialise.
The taxes became too high.
The lights didn’t always stay on even though electricity bills continued to soar.
And the quality of important government services like education and health continued to fall relative to the rest of the nation.
At the election in March, my party convinced a majority of South Australians that there is a much better way.
Not one that revolves solely around what the Government says and does.
Indeed, our commitments at the election were much less costly than our opponents.
Because I don’t claim that the state of our State is determined only by the Government and those who run it.
The theme of today’s event is ‘Securing SA’s future.’
As Premier, I’m not going to tell you I have all the answers.
There are no silver bullets.
The most important thing my Government can do to secure our State’s future is to encourage and enable as many South Australians as possible to make their own contribution to securing their future.
To be able to set, pursue and achieve their own ambitions to do their very best.
When people achieve, so does the State.
Not vice versa.
You won’t hear me claiming my government has created tens of thousands of jobs.
Because most of our jobs continue to be created by the people running businesses – small, medium and large – taking their own risks, making their own investments in support of their own ideas and innovations, spending their own money to grow our economy.
My Government is realistic about what it can achieve.
We certainly won’t over-promise and under-achieve like our predecessors.
But more importantly, we are very ambitious for what we can help all South Australians to achieve by their own initiative and effort.
By reducing the cost and risk of investment through lower taxes and more efficient regulation.
By helping to create an educated, trained and skilled workforce ready to take up all available opportunities and create new ones.
So that, for example, we can fill all the jobs to be available from naval shipbuilding, without creating shortages in other sectors that will push up costs and reduce competitiveness.
My vision is not just for a stronger State.
But for a State able to believe in itself again because it is making its full contribution to our national prosperity.
So that we rid South Australia of the tag that we are owed by everyone else.
And we discourage the exodus of younger South Australians believing they can only fulfil their hopes elsewhere.
This is why we have the ambition of Adelaide becoming our nation’s start-up capital through some of the developments we plan for the old Royal Adelaide Hospital site.
And why we will be investing $100 million of State funds in creating thousands of new apprenticeships and traineeships over the next four years.
To extend the practical support government is able to afford, as widely as possible, by building capability and skills across the board.
Rather than the government itself picking winners.
We have made a decisive move away from the corporate welfare approach of our predecessors.
We don’t believe in taking taxes from some businesses to give highly selectively to others.
Our economic policies are set to support growth and provide confidence right across the private sector.
Equally however, we have made it clear that individual private businesses should not look to taxpayers for financial support before making their own investment and growth decisions.
My government will not act as a bank or seek to become part of private business decisions.
Instead, we are resetting the fundamental structures to encourage all sectors of our economy to grow.
It’s not about doing away with government.
But making government work fairly and effectively for everybody.
It’s not about government abdicating its role.
But changing its role after 16 years of Labor.
A state doesn’t become great because of the promises made by its government.
It’s the progress government helps its citizens to make that counts the most.
This is the way to renew South Australia’s economic strength.
And restore respect for our State around the nation.
Based on this overall approach, let me now discuss some of the specific actions we have already implemented in our first 100 days to underpin it.
TAX AND COST RELIEF
From Sunday, emergency service levy bills for businesses and households will come down.
The savings will be worth $360 million over four years.
We are restoring the remission removed by Labor four years ago.
This will be followed by the abolition of payroll tax on all small businesses from 1 January 2019 which will benefit 3,200 businesses by providing an annual saving of up to $44,500.
While from 2020, we will reduce land tax.
And with payroll tax we will go further than our election commitment by introducing a phased-in or graduated tax schedule which will reduce the tax of a further 400 businesses.
Tax relief across our first term will be the biggest in South Australia’s history.
It will return more than half a billion dollars to South Australian taxpayers – individuals, families, businesses.
Putting much more opportunity in their own hands to create their own future.
Our first budget in September will lay out how we will provide this relief while maintaining key services.
Another important measure we’ve introduced to limit business and household costs is legislation now before parliament to cap local council rate rises which have risen at three times inflation over the past decade.
While I’ve also issued instructions for the payment of government bills on time to protect business cash-flows.
EFFICIENT GOVERNMENT AND DE-REGULATION
When we came to government, we inherited a structure with more than 50 portfolios and departmental chief executives reporting to as many as six ministers.
To me this just didn’t make sense.
It promoted inefficiency.
Lack of accountability and performance.
And removed focus from key areas like growing exports and investment, maintaining reliable and affordable power supply and protecting the most vulnerable in our community.
I have slashed the number of portfolios to 16, held by my 14-member cabinet.
All of our machinery of government changes will take full effect from Sunday.
They will include creation of the new Department of Energy and Mining.
This department will drive our integrated energy reforms.
They will put downward pressure on power prices through more competition, more options for demand management and support for the take up of household batteries and grid scale storage.
The changes we are making in government administration are another example of being able to introduce important and long overdue reforms quickly because we worked hard in opposition to prepare ourselves for government.
For longer term efficiency improvements, we are establishing a Productivity Commission to make recommendations for the removal of regulatory barriers and to support productivity growth.
It will undertake public inquiries and provide advice to lower costs for businesses and families and to make it easier to undertake business in South Australia through regulatory reform.
The legislation to set up the Commission is already before Parliament, as is a bill to create Infrastructure South Australia.
I expect both agencies to be functioning by September.
Both are integral to my Government’s plan to give as much support as possible to the private sector to generate jobs, investment and economic growth.
Infrastructure South Australia will develop and implement our major infrastructure plans for the future.
It will be tasked with preparing a 20-year State Infrastructure Strategy as well as rolling 5-year Capital Intention Statements to identify priority projects to be undertaken and inform the annual budget process.
Future decisions about government investment in major infrastructure will be based on the long-term needs of our State for infrastructure improvements that boost productivity rather than short term political expediency and marginal seat campaigning.
Both the Productivity Commission and Infrastructure SA will be overseen by statutory boards with strong private sector representation.
One major de-regulatory measure to which we are already very strongly committed is the freeing up of shop trading hours.
We’ve given notice to Parliament of the necessary legislation and it will be introduced next week.
South Australians deserve the right to choose how and when to shop.
Traders deserve the right to choose when they open.
These reforms are long overdue and must not be frustrated by the Parliament because our mandate to make this change is beyond challenge.
If people want to work in our shops during extended trading hours, owners want to keep their shops open and customers want longer hours, why should government stand in the way?
Returning to infrastructure for a moment.
Immediately my government was sworn in, we signalled to Canberra that we wanted to pursue some major projects left uncertain by the failure of our predecessors to provide sufficient information to secure financial support.
As a result, we have already obtained the following Federal financial commitments that eluded our predecessors:
- $177 million to construct the Regency Road to Pym Street section of the North-South corridor
- $1.2 billion for future priority projects to complete a non-stop North-South corridor
- $220 million for electrification of the Gawler rail line
- $160 million for duplication of the Joy Baluch bridge at Port Augusta
Having got these commitments into Canberra’s forward estimates, we will now work hard to accelerate project delivery schedules.
Before the election, we initiated discussions with Federal Ministers about entering into a City Deal to bring together Federal, State and Local Governments to promote further investment in our capital city.
In government, we are pursuing this opportunity with vigour.
We also identified before the election the need for further infrastructure development on Le Fevre Peninsula triggered by the Naval Shipbuilding Program at Osborne.
Here I’m talking not only about infrastructure to directly support shipbuilding.
But also infrastructure to support the housing and other needs of a growing workforce.
This could include light rail, commercial, retail, residential and recreational developments.
I have been pleased to note recent public commentary indicating strong support for both a City Deal and development on Le Fevre Peninsula.
At Outer Harbor, we have recognised South Australia’s pressing need for upgraded port infrastructure by moving quickly to approve a widening of the main shipping channel by Flinders Ports – a decision our predecessors were reluctant to make.
This project recognises the increasing global shipping trend towards larger vessels and is essential if we are to lift South Australia’s trade with the rest of the world – as we must.
As further support to our exporters, we are significantly boosting South Australia’s overseas trade representation.
I have already visited Shanghai to pave the way for our presence in China to be greatly enhanced.
This will be followed by similar initiatives during our first term in other key markets.
EDUCATION, TRAINING AND SKILLS
The ambitions we have for our economy must begin with a commitment to provide improved education, vocational training and skills development.
In school education, we have already introduced a suite of measures to reinvigorate language studies.
Learning a language has become increasingly important in a globalised market.
A strong foundation for students in literacy is also essential.
We are introducing our Literacy Guarantee to improve outcomes for all students as we also move to provide a genuine entrepreneurial education curriculum.
In vocational education, as the first State to sign up to Canberra’s Skilling Australians Fund, our decision will unlock at least $87 million of federal money to complement State funding.
In the future, many of the best and most secure jobs will be found by those students who develop skills and training through traineeships and apprenticeships.
The university pathway to a career isn’t suited to everyone.
Too many young people end up spending three years studying a degree which they are not connected to, which doesn’t significantly enhance their job prospects, and which leaves them with substantial debt.
We are encouraging more young people to consider pursuing a career through a technical qualification as a first option, not as a fall-back plan.
Our first term investment in vocational education and training will create more than 20,000 additional work-based apprenticeships and traineeships over the next four years.
During the last four years, the number of South Australians in-training more than halved to fewer than 15,000.
It’s critical that we reverse this trend to build a supply of skilled workers to fully capitalise on the major, long-term national defence contracts awarded to South Australia.
To further this aim, I’ve also had discussions with our Prime Minister and the French President as we leave no stone unturned to make the most of this unprecedented opportunity.
As well as the opportunity to build ships and submarines, what comes after is the need to sustain these vessels and I want to ensure South Australia gets a major share of this action as well.
I am also promoting our established capabilities in the defence industry to mount the strongest possible bid for South Australia to host the National Space Agency.
MUCH MORE TO DO
As I mentioned in my opening remarks, some people questioned our ability to deliver on our election commitments.
I’ve given just a few reasons today why they were wrong.
The State political news is no longer dominated by fake fights with Canberra.
But substantial, practical progress in a range of areas, boring as that may be to some commentators.
Progress based on well considered, sound and consistent public policy that doesn’t require taxpayer funded, prime-time television advertising to extol its virtues.
Or the endorsement of the famous.
But is essential nevertheless, if South Australia is to believe in itself again.
As I have highlighted, my Government has a broad economic agenda aimed at accelerating growth.
We have inherited projections that South Australia’s growth rate for the next four years will average two percent.
This is unacceptable.
We need to be growing at least in line with the rest of the nation.
That means our economy has got to be growing consistently by three percent.
To do that, South Australia will have to add at least $1 billion to our projected growth each year up to 2022.
This will require, for example:
- Embracing the challenge of population growth rather than fearing it
- Significantly growing our exports
- Attracting a much greater share of international students and visitors
We are determined to restore the fundamentals required to accelerate economic growth that have been ignored for too long.
The fundamentals needed for us to be:
- A growing State
- A more confident and competitive State
- A more productive State
- A State making its full contribution to national prosperity`
While my government has had an extremely productive 100 days, there’s a lot more to do to secure the economic outcomes our State needs.
I look forward to further opportunities to address CEDA on the continuing implementation of our reform agenda and the contribution it is making to securing South Australia’s future.