Dr McFETRIDGE ( Morphett ) ( 11:29 :06 ): I move:
That this house—
(a) condemns the state government for increasing cost of living pressures on South Australian families and businesses; and
(b) supports significant reductions in the impact that emergency services levy charges have on South Australian families and businesses, whilst at the same time ensuring proposed budgets for emergency services are maintained.
Mr VAN HOLST PELLEKAAN ( Stuart ) ( 11:56 :21 ): I rise to very earnestly support the member for Morphett’s motion. He addresses both the fact that there is a huge and growing number of people in South Australia who are suffering cost of living pressures and also the very important example of ESL. My thoughts and heart are primarily with low income people under cost of living pressures. Cost of living pressures can affect everybody across all spectrums—all incomes, all backgrounds—but people on low incomes, of course, are under more pressure than anybody else.
In fact, I was listening to an interview on ABC radio the other day when it was quantified that in Australia, across the whole nation, people below an $80,000 per year household income were under growing and extreme pressure. People above that amount were under pressure but not nearly to the same extent. That would make great sense to all of us. I hope that everybody here has their hearts and minds particularly focused on people on low incomes when it comes to the cost of living because those people in South Australia have been treated incredibly badly by this government. This is the highest taxing state in the nation, and ESL is a prime example of that. Taxes are increasing all the time, and people have to deal with it.
The member for Kaurna, who is a capable and intelligent person, is completely lost on this topic. He has been sent down here to talk about something that he actually knows absolutely nothing about. For him to say that the government chose to remove the remissions because of the federal health cuts is absolutely ridiculous because the potential cuts that he is talking about, even if they were real, had absolutely no impact on the current federal or state government budgets.
The government decided to put in these ESL remission removals immediately for some fictitious cut that may or may not have come down the track.
It was absolutely factually correct that the federal government’s contribution to the health budget was going to increase across the forward estimates of the state government’s budget. It is an absolutely pathetic excuse to say that that is why the state government removed the remissions.
The other thing that the poor old member for Kaurna said was that it would not hurt the emergency services sector. Keeping in mind that remissions is the section of the emergency services funding that the government paid for instead of private people paying for it, when those remissions were removed, the emergency services sector did not get one extra dollar. So, $90 million per year was taken out of the public taxpayers’ pocket for absolutely no benefit whatsoever to the emergency services sector. There was not one extra fire truck, there was not extra surf lifesaving rubber ducky, not one extra SES trailer, pump or chainsaw—not one extra piece of equipment was bought because these remissions were removed.
Essentially, the public had to pay money straight to the Treasury. The emergency services sector did not get one extra dollar out of those remission cuts. The member for Kaurna completely misunderstands and/or misrepresents that. To me, the most concerning assertion that the member for Kaurna made was that they do not affect low income people because the low income people are protected from the remissions is absolutely laughable. Every low income person who rents a home is affected by the removal of the remissions because the owner of that home has to pay the emergency services levy fee.
The owner of that property pays more and so, naturally, down the track that flows through to rent. Low income people are not protected. Every time a low income person wants to purchase something, whether for personal consumption or a service, when the provider of that good or that service has paid more in emergency services levy because the remission was removed, that extra cost is going to flow through to that low income person as the consumer of that good or that service. It is completely inappropriate to say that the removal of the remissions do not affect low income people.
This is a very important motion by the member for Morphett. Low income people particularly are affected by this government’s increases in fees, taxes and charges over the life of the government, over the last 15 years. Other people are affected as well. The emergency services levy and the government’s removal of those remissions, under an inaccurate claim regarding the federal government budget, which had no impact on their state government budget in the forward estimates, is wrong.
To say that the emergency services sector is not affected is wrong. There are people out there who think that the emergency services are receiving all this extra money, so even their reputation is affected. People just assume that they are getting extra support when the sector is actually not getting one extra dollar from the government through the removal of the remissions. To say that low income people are not affected is a dreadful shame and, if the member for Kaurna reflects on that, I am sure he will agree with me.