The issue of planned public service job cuts has the South Australian Liberals and Labor at loggerheads as the official state election campaign gets underway.
Liberal leader Steven Marshall says, if elected on March 15, his party will put a cap of 5,170 on public sector job reductions over four years.
“It’s setting an upper limit, it can’t breach that number,” he said.
Labor Premier Jay Weatherill says the Liberals are keeping voters in the dark on jobs.
“This is just an example of them playing hide-and-seek with the most crucial issue in this election,” he said.
Mr Marshall has put forward a figure much lower than one which saw previous Liberal leader Isobel Redmond lose her own job as party leader.
“Twenty-five thousand was never ever Liberal Party policy,” Mr Marshall said.
The Liberal cap of 5,170 is about 1,000 more job cuts than Labor proposed over four years.
Mr Marshall says the cuts would be part of wider efforts to achieve budget savings.
“The Productivity Commission, we‘ve been talking about for almost a year now, they will guide any savings that we will have across the budget, not just in terms of employee numbers but in terms of a range of other savings opportunities,” he said.
Jan McMahon of the Public Service Association (PSA) says big job cuts would prompt industrial action.
“It would be a very brave government to take on the PSA with further job cuts. We would take significant industrial action,” she said.
In a morning debate on ABC Radio, Liberal leader Steven Marshall said his party would be looking at ways to support business to boost the South Australian economy.
“We care about jobs, jobs for our future generations,” he said.
“We don’t accept that we are in a good place after 12 years of Labor government.
“I don’t think that anybody in their right mind would actually think that any plan or any budget put forward by Jay Weatherill and Labor would have any chance of being achieved.”
Premier Weatherill said Labor had a solid track record and the state’s economy was almost twice as big now as when the ALP took office in 2002.
“We’ve created whole new industries in this state that did not exist,” he said.
“We’ve rebuilt all of our service systems, our health care systems, our education system, our transport system.”
Mr Weatherill said SA’s budget worries were due to a collapse in revenues.
“The amount of revenue we collect as a proportion of the economy now is less than the Liberals were collecting when they were in government in 2002,” he said.
A document leaked to the media by the Liberal Party outlined a case against providing $5.5 million of financial support to Hewlett Packard for an expansion of operations into Adelaide.
Mr Weatherill refused to comment on the document, saying he had never seen it and did not believe was an accurate document.
“There will be no payments made to Hewlett Packard; no payments, full stop,” he said.
“Not a dollar is going to Hewlett Packard,” Mr Weatherill said.
“I am not disclosing the nature of the discussions that we have had in Cabinet except to say that Cabinet supported this decision.
“What I can tell you though is that other agencies provide very strong support for bringing 430 high-end jobs from a company that’s actually relocating its operations from the eastern seaboard here into SA.”
Mr Marshall said the Treasury adivce was there was no business case for the grant.
“From time to time government needs to make a decision but it’s always got to be based on a business case. When Treasury advice is that there is no business case, it’s unusual to provide the money upfront and this increases risk to the state there is no way a financially responsible Liberal government would be going ahead with this project,” he said.
Mr Marshall said the ALP had been prone to a steady flow of leaks from senior members in recent times.
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Earlier, Labor accused the Liberals of deliberately underestimating policy costs.
Transport Minister Tom Koutsantonis said a Liberal promise to abolish the transport development levy would cost the budget more than $121 million, not the $84 million the Liberals claim.
“They’ve been caught out underestimating their spending so they can conceal their cuts,” he said.
“You can’t balance the budget and spend money so by underestimating their spending they’re underestimating the cuts that they have to make.”
Liberal frontbencher Iain Evans said the party’s independently verified costings would be unveiled during the election campaign.
Mr Evans says Labor also has not released costings.
“Yesterday they announced a series of promises, there’s no costing document been released by the Labor Party to date, so they can jump up and down all they want,” he said.
“We’ll be going through the normal practice, that is releasing an independent costing document later in the campaign which will outline how we’re going to pay for all our promises.”
Mr Weatherill and Mr Marshall will debate election issues again on the ABC tonight, and it will be covered live online and screened on ABC1 and News 24.
The evening debate also will be aired on ABC Radio from 7:30pm.