South Australian Productivity Commission Bill

Mr PEDERICK (Hammond) (19:52): I rise to support the South Australian Productivity Commission Bill 2018. This bill enables the establishment of the South Australian productivity commission as a statutory authority, reporting through the Premier as the responsible minister.

This bill enables the establishment of the commission as an independent body charged with providing the South Australian government independent expert advice on ways to improve the productivity and efficiency of the South Australian economy, both in the public and private sectors.

The objectives and functions of the commission as described in the bill are (a) to improve the rate of economic growth and productivity of the South Australian economy in order to achieve higher living standards for South Australians, (b) to improve the accessibility and quality of services delivered or funded by government, (c) to improve South Australia's competitiveness for private sector investment, (d) to reduce the cost of regulation, (e) to facilitate structural economic changes whilst minimising the social and economic hardship that may result from those changes, (f) to take into account the interests of industries, employees, consumers and the community, (g) to increase employment, (h) to promote regional development, (i) to develop South Australia in a way that is ecologically sustainable. The bill sets out the establishment of the board, its executive leadership and general operating parameters, including referrals of inquiry and provision of reports. The introduction of this bill delivers on a commitment contained within the 100-day plan of the Marshall Liberal team.

The budget for the commission will be settled through the budget to be handed down in September. Existing resources within the simpler regulation unit in the Department of Treasury and Finance will transfer into the commission, and additional resources will be provided. The objective is that this body will be charged with improving economic and productivity growth in South Australia to achieve higher standards of living for all South Australians. Productivity is about producing, delivering or achieving more for every unit of resource invested. It is about providing better quality goods and services for more people, using the resources available at the time.

The objects of the commission, as outlined in the bill, include increasing employment, improving the quality and efficiency of services delivered or funded by government, improving the competitiveness of private sector investment, reducing the cost of regulation, facilitating structural changes in our economy and promoting regional development, which is something very dear to my heart.

Inquiries, including the terms of reference, will be referred to the commission by the minister. It is the intention of the government to work with the chair of the commission on these referrals. The bill enables the commission to produce its own body of research, but the instigation of referrals remains the responsibility of the minister. It is the intention of the government that matters of inquiry referred to the commission relate to new investigations or to those that build upon existing bodies of knowledge, rather than replicating existing bodies of work.

In regard to ministerial powers and the independence and transparency of the commission, a minister is not able to direct the commission outside of the provisions of the act. The commission will be empowered to provide its own analysis and recommendations, free from interference. The commission will be required to publish final reports on its website, ensuring its analysis and recommendations are known to the public. Should the government of the day choose to adopt some or none of the recommendations made by the commission, it would have to justify its decision to the public.

Provisions for dealing with conflicts of interest are considered necessary because of the highly specialised expertise required of commissioners and are consistent with similar provisions in legislation governing ESCOSA. The appointment of commissioners, including the chair, will be finalised upon passage of the legislation. Having one to four commissioners will provide flexibility to appoint individuals with a range of skills and experience, including particular individuals to lead specific inquiries.

I know, from some members on this side of the house who have talked about a few things in regard to productivity, that one thing is roads and speed limits, and certainly in country areas where, for five years now, I have had several roads close to Murray Bridge brought back to 100 km/h because that was the easy option for the government of the day, instead of road maintenance measures to keep up the productivity.

I can tell you, as I have said many times in this place as an almost peri-urban member who looks after the areas between Pinnaroo and Mount Barker, that I do 60,000 kilometres a year. Some members in here do 100,000 kilometres, apart from their flight time, in the farther out electorates. You need to get from A to B. I certainly acknowledge safety, but there is also productivity. We are driving in cars made in 2017 or 2018 and not 1964 EH Holdens anymore. They are far better vehicles than we had back then, though the EH was a good bus in its day.

I want to talk for a couple of minutes about some things that the former government either did or did not do to enhance productivity in this state. In regard to the EPAS scheme for records for health care, we heard today those terrible words 'Transforming Health'. We do not hear them utter those words very often from the other side. It is a rare move these days, but it was their catchcry for many years.

By chance, I ran into a current nurse on Friday night at the Variety gala ball, which is a great event raising money for kids throughout South Australia, who said that EPAS was out of date before it was purchased and it never worked. Keypads and computer screens were put in unworkable places so that people had stress injuries from trying to work it, and it just never functioned. It is my understanding that very close to $500 million was spent on EPAS, which would have got you more than an Adelaide Oval if you took out the $84 million worth of debt that was written off for the South Australian Cricket Association. That is an outrageous use of public money for something that was never going to work from the start.

I want to talk about the River Murray in my closing few remarks. We had a government, with the former premier, the member for Cheltenham, that tried to champion things about the river and the productivity of the river. They thought they were the saviours of the river. How short are their memories? Have they forgotten that back in 2007 all the Labor government wanted to do was build a weir at Wellington, a $200 million sinking structure, which would have destroyed the lower reaches of the river and done nothing to enhance productivity in this state? They were prepared to write it off. Yet they went out, as the member for Cheltenham did when he was premier leading his people, saying what big champions they were of the river, and all I could see was hypocrisy every time they opened their mouths.

We heard from the Minister for Environment and Water today talk about the wounds that he has to heal when he goes to ministerial meetings with other River Murray states just to form relationships again because there were not relationships in the preceding few years with the former water minister from the other place, the Hon. Ian Hunter.

One of the biggest problems that happened with productivity with the former government was their stark refusal to accept $25 million from the diversification fund so that people from the Victorian border through to the mouth of the river down near Goolwa could fund off-river projects so that there could be some employment outcomes, some wealth outcomes and some regional development outcomes for regional communities.

This was the so-called former government that allegedly stuck up for the River Murray. No, they stuck it to the River Murray when they did not care. They refused $25 million for multiple projects through the seats of Chaffey and Hammond, which would have affected people in neighbouring electorates like Schubert, Stuart and Finniss. It is an absolute disgrace, and it should never be forgotten about these people who made out that they were such champions of the riverine environment.

When it came to just accepting commonwealth money for the productivity of the whole river corridor, they turned it down because it did not affect them because it did not affect their seats. It was an absolute disgrace. We are doing something about productivity on this side of the house and we have done it within the first 100 days. I commend the Premier, I commend the Liberal Party and I commend the bill.