01 June 2022
The Hon. R.A. SIMMS: I rise today to talk about the Malinauskas government's first budget. Budgets are a statement of priorities. They reflect what a government wants to achieve over the next four years and they reflect the values of the government. We are hoping that this new government will take some real action to reduce skyrocketing inequality in our state. We are hoping that this first budget will be one that is focused on increasing the wellbeing of all South Australians and addressing our climate crisis.
To that end, it is very disappointing to see the announcement of the Malinauskas government today, via the Minister for Energy, Tom Koutsantonis, that they will be axing renewable energy programs in tomorrow's budget. That is a decision to scrap the Home Battery Scheme and to dump the Switch for Solar program in order to save $19 million. That might deliver a quick cash injection into the budget, it might improve the budget bottom line, but it is going to come at a significant cost to the South Australian community and to our environment. It is really disappointing to see those cuts being foreshadowed in the budget today.
The Greens are calling for the Malinauskas government to take some real action in terms of reducing cost-of-living pressures being faced by families. They could do this by putting more money into public housing. We know that South Australia is in the middle of a housing affordability crisis. Adelaide is the second least affordable city in Australia and has a vacancy rate of just 0.2 per cent.
Every week, my office is inundated with calls from South Australians who cannot find a place to live, who cannot break into the housing market in terms of being able to afford to buy a home, who cannot access a rental and who cannot find affordable accommodation. The government needs to take action to address that by building more housing. We know that a meagre investment of 400 new homes is just not going to cut it.
We need to see the government introduce rent capping as a way of keeping rents low. We can look at what has happened in other jurisdictions around the world—places like Ireland, Spain and the US—they have done this and it is time for Adelaide to do the same. But we also need to see this government invest in our education system. We need to see a scrapping of public school fees in recognition of the fact that public education should be free for all South Australians. We know that South Australian public schools are significantly underfunded by millions of dollars each year and it is parents who are forced to pick up the slack through exorbitant school fees. That needs to change.
We need to see an emphasis on the cost of living and bringing that down. That means also trying to increase public sector wages. It is concerning that the government has foreshadowed public sector cuts in this budget. We hope that does not mean we are going to see job losses. We hope that does not mean we are going to see a reduction in salaries for our public sector workers.
The government should also be putting money into our public transport system. That has been neglected by the Liberal Party during their brief period in government, but it was also significantly neglected by the previous Labor government during their 16-year reign. The new government needs to take some action to address that: make it free and improve the infrastructure.
I talked about education. In a state like South Australia, no child should go hungry. That is why in the recent election we called for the government to provide free breakfast and free school lunches. That is something we could do if we ensured that the big end of town paid their fair share of tax. We know that there are 23,000 South Australian children who live in poverty. This state budget should take efforts to address that.
The government was elected on a platform of wanting to create a better future for all South Australians. Tomorrow will be an opportunity for them to demonstrate their commitment to do just that. I hope that they consider some of the ideas that the Greens have put on the table today.