SENATOR THE HON PENNY WONG

LABOR SENATOR FOR SOUTH AUSTRALIA

OPINION PIECE

10 November 2014

MINISTERS DELIVER KNOCK-OUT BLOWS TO SOUTH AUSTRALIA

Originally published in The Advertiser on 8 November 2014.

Joe Hockey lecturing South Australians about the need to show some entrepreneurial spirit is a bit like a mugger advising his victims to work some overtime to replace their stolen cash.

This cigar-chomping federal Treasurer has made an art-form of blaming everyone else for the negative impact of his regressive economic policies.

South Australians are entitled to ask why the Abbott Government is pursuing a series of policies which are hurting their state.

It started with last year’s decision to slash support for the automotive industry which resulted in Holden deciding to stop making cars at Elizabeth.

Who can forget the spectacle of Mr Hockey in Parliament goading Holden to pull out of Australia?

Then came Mr Hockey’s Budget of broken promises, an unprecedented assault on SA’s hospitals and schools.

Mr Hockey mounts a deceptive argument when he says federal funding for SA education and healthcare rises under his Budget.

What he neglects to point out is that his funding fails to keep pace with costs and demand and is hundreds of millions of dollars lower than budgeted for by the former Labor Government – a direct breach of Tony Abbott’s election promises.

Mr Hockey’s Budget cuts $655 million from previously planned funding for SA hospitals over four years. That is the equivalent of removing 600 hospital beds, or the entire Flinders Medical Centre.

The Budget also cuts $335 million from previously-budgeted funding for SA schools over six years.

That means the Education Minister Christopher Pyne is presiding over cuts to his home state that are equivalent to removing nearly 3,000 teachers.

And now the Abbott Government is inflicting another blow on SA by breaking its promise to build 12 new Navy submarines in Adelaide.

Before the election, the Defence Minister David Johnston stood in front of ASC’s facilities and declared: “We will deliver those submarines from right here at ASC in South Australia.”

Now the Government is looking at acquiring the submarines from overseas.

This is a betrayal of SA – it will cost jobs and it will hurt the State’s economy.

Defence shipbuilding is not only an important source of jobs for South Australians now and in the future.

It is also an important source of advanced skills, technologies and management capabilities – essential for any country that aspires to have a competitive manufacturing industry.

All of these blows to SA raise one final question.

What is going on with the SA Ministers in the Abbott Government?

In the past, SA has had passionate Ministerial advocates in federal governments of both persuasions.

But now we see Christopher Pyne cutting schools in his home State and Jamie Briggs acting as a cheerleader for his factional mate Joe Hockey in the decision to abandon Holden.

SA Ministers should punch above their weight – not punch out their home state.