As another year draws to a close, it’s time to reflect on the year that’s been, and importantly, cast our minds to the challenges that lie ahead.
I’m certain about a few things – I’ll be doing everything I can to put forward ideas to create jobs for South Australians. Being a dad also means I’ll be keeping an eye on my two fantastic children Charlie and Georgie as they take on life as 18 and 16 year olds.
But it’s this techno-savvy, snap-chatting generation that largely inspired me to take up politics. It worries me to see our brightest and most ambitious young minds leaving our state in droves – it’s something I refer to as the ‘brain drain.’
How can we expect our state to transition into a modern, progressive economy when our future leaders are taking their talent interstate or overseas? There are of course those who return in years to come to raise a family and resettle, but the reality is that many don’t come back.
Our challenge is to provide young people with opportunities and a quality of life that rivals major cities around the world because there will come a time when today’s youth become the engine room for productivity and growth in South Australia. Our cities must be vibrant, our communities safe and inclusive and our public spaces need to promote health and wellbeing.
One of the key components in ensuring our children grow up with a sense of purpose and meaning is making sure they have jobs. Throughout 2015, our state’s unemployment rate remained the highest in the nation with nearly 70,000 people looking for work. In fact, we are travelling down a dangerous path that could see our unemployment rate hit double digits.
There are many challenges facing the South Australian economy at present, but the political leaders of this state must take responsibility by implementing immediate short term stimulus measures, coupled with long-term policy settings to improve our competitiveness in a modern economy.
The State Labor Government has, by its own admission, been underperforming on jobs growth, slashing employment growth estimates from 1% to just 0.25% in its recent Mid-Year Budget Review.
These figures paint a very bleak picture for South Australia’s future. The State Liberals have urged the Government to adopt our $480 million Jobs Stimulus Package, to give our economy the kick-start it needs and to create those much-needed jobs. The specific actions I’m proposing – the actions we would take if we were in government – include tax cuts for businesses, investing in productive infrastructure and providing immediate relief for families and households who are struggling with basic living expenses.
Every day I meet with South Australians from all walks of life, who tell me first-hand just how difficult it is to keep-up with paying bills, let alone save money for the fun things in life. If we’re going to create a community that’s vibrant and active, then we need to keep taxes and utility bills as low as possible.
An obvious starting point is reversing Labor’s $90 million hikes to the Emergency Services Levy that households are forced to pay every year. This will put money straight back into the pockets of South Australians and ease the burden on their budgets. Businesses also need budget relief if they are to create more job opportunities.
Before politics, I worked for my family’s furniture manufacturing company, Marshall Furniture, which employed 200 people. This is where I developed a genuine understanding for what businesses need to survive and, further more, what they need to thrive.
It’s certainly not taxes and it’s certainly not red tape! When governments lower taxes, they give businesses a green light to get on with the job of employing people. Unfortunately, many South Australian businesses have been sitting idle on a red light, or worse, they’ve closed- down for good. The Government’s payroll tax rebates will be abolished in July 2016, meaning businesses will be forced to pay more in payroll tax. The State Liberals are proposing to extend the payroll tax rebate until at least 2018-2019 to ensure businesses pay less tax and are more confident in hiring extra staff.
The way in which we connect with one another – whether it’s through business or day-to-day activities – is largely determined by the infrastructure around us. Roads, footpaths, ports and transport corridors improve business efficiencies and create a better quality of life for all of us. Critically, infrastructure projects create jobs during construction and maintenance and this is an area where I’d like to see a greater level of investment from the Government. One example is the Northern Adelaide Irrigation Scheme.
If we can ensure large-scale irrigated horticultural projects on the Northern Planes have access to a reliable source of water, this will present a strong opportunity for businesses to expand and create jobs.
Our greatest challenge is to create an environment that gives all South Australians the opportunity to reach their fullest potential and live a wholesome life. The jobs we create today will ensure the leaders of tomorrow have an outlet for their creativity and innovation to keep our state moving forward.
I congratulate Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and the Federal Government on its $1 billion innovation and science package that will harness new sources of growth to deliver the next age of economic prosperity. It sends a strong message that we are a country supporting entrepreneurs, encouraging collaboration and striving to be at the cutting edge.
We have a great opportunity to reshape and future-proof our economy so that my children, your children, their children and generations to come have a wonderful place to call home.
Steven Marshall is the State Liberal Leader