COUNCIL RATE CONCESSIONS

The Hon. J.S.L. DAWKINS(14:44:32): I seek leave to make a brief explanation before asking the Leader of the Government in this chamber questions regarding government advertising and pension concessions.

Leave granted.

The Hon. J.S.L. DAWKINS: At the beginning of this month, the Weatherill Labor government launched a $1.1 million political campaign using taxpayers' money to advertise a blatant mistruth that the federal Coalition government was responsible for the plan of the Treasurer, the Hon. Tom Koutsantonis, to cut pension concessions, especially for council rates. However, contrary to this campaign and the Treasurer's bold statements on this issue, your counterpart in the other place, the member for Croydon, in response to a recent constituent letter, wrote:

I think the way the concession is legally structured, it is probably impossible for the State Government not to pick up the tab…I predict you'll keep the rebate.

Besides the fact that a presiding officer has actually contradicted a member of the executive, namely, the Treasurer, on such an important piece of the government's agenda, the fact remains that the Speaker—who, indeed, served as the state's chief legal officer for eight years—has conceded that the state government's cash grab from those who can least afford it is 'probably impossible'. Given the Hon. Mr Atkinson's comments:

1.Will the minister concede that the use of $1.1 million of taxpayers' money on partisan ads was a misuse of government funds, given that the Speaker of the other place has all but conceded that the cuts to the pensioner concessions for council rates will not happen?

2.Will the minister confirm that the $1.1 million of taxpayers' money spent on the advertising campaign would have paid for council rate rebates for 5,790 South Australian pensioners?

3.Given the Speaker's view expressed in his correspondence, will the government cease this political advertising campaign?

The Hon. G.E. GAGO(Minister for Employment, Higher Education and Skills, Minister for Science and Information Economy, Minister for the Status of Women, Minister for Business Services and Consumers)(14:46:42): I thank the member for his question. I can't believe that the Hon. John Dawkins can come into this chamber and not hang his head in shame in relation to the Liberal Abbott government's despicable actions of reducing—

Members interjecting:

The Hon. G.E. GAGO: —of taking away really important concessions, particularly to older—

Members interjecting:

The PRESIDENT: Order! The minister has the floor.

The Hon. G.E. GAGO: Absolutely despicable. I cannot believe that he doesn't come in—

Members interjecting:

The PRESIDENT: Order! The Hon. Mr Maher, your leader is on her feet giving an answer to a very important question. I would have thought, as a minister, you would have respect for that. Minister.

The Hon. G.E. GAGO: Thank you, Mr President. As I said, I cannot believe that the Hon. John Dawkins and his other Liberal colleagues can come into this place and not hang their head in shame. It is absolutely despicable; it is despicable what the Liberal Abbott government has done—

The Hon. J.S.L. Dawkins interjecting:

The PRESIDENT: Order!

The Hon. G.E. GAGO: —to older South Australians and other disadvantaged South Australians—absolutely despicable that they would take money from some of our most disadvantaged South Australians and syphon it off to those who can afford it the most. It is an absolutely despicable and shameful thing that the federal government has done in terms of removing those funds from our budget, and it has left this state government with no other course of action available than to call this and to show this for exactly what it is, and that is a despicable and shameful federal government take of money from some of our most disadvantaged South Australians. Absolutely despicable behaviour!

The Hon. J.S.L. DAWKINS(14:48:53): Supplementary: does the Leader of the Government agree with the member for Croydon?

The Hon. G.E. GAGO(Minister for Employment, Higher Education and Skills, Minister for Science and Information Economy, Minister for the Status of Women, Minister for Business Services and Consumers)(14:49:00): I agree with this government's actions to fight the Liberal federal government as hard as we can and for as long as we can to make sure we have these funds restored, given back to those South Australians who need them the most. I cannot believe that a Liberal federal government would take such despicable steps to take funds from those South Australians who are already some of our most disadvantaged. It is a despicable thing and it is only a Labor government that is prepared to stand up. It is only a Labor government.

What have the Liberal members opposite done? What have they done to stand up for our most disadvantaged? Nothing; complete silence is what we hear from the Liberals opposite. We hear nothing, complete silence. They refuse to stand up for South Australians, they refuse to stand up to their federal Liberal mates, and they just stand idly by and watch them rip the heart out of our valuable concession funds, funds for some of our most disadvantaged South Australians.