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Emergency Service Levy

Radio News Broadcasts

Darryl Gobbett, Chief Economist, Baillieu Holst [& callers] (5AA 9.45-9.56) Emergency Service Levy

(Byner: The State Government telling citizens that they need to take more responsibility for power blackouts went down like a lead balloon. Yesterday we had callers pointing out that even if people heeded this gratuity of advice, occ health and safety rules alone, would prevent many responses. A discussion yesterday with Minister Malinauskas towards the end of the show revealed a possible increase in the Emergency Service Levy. Now when the Treasurer removed the ESL rebate, which was instigated originally by John Olsen, Treasury were relieved of a burden of $90 million. Now this levy is unique, we’re the only state to have it and it’s not a fixed charge, it’s calculated on capital value of your property ... as your property value changes – and it’s likely to be more given what the Valuer-General’s mob are trying to do to raise more revenue – it assumes that your property value is a measure of your capacity to pay. So another increase would be a double whammy because it’s a wealth tax and volunteers still have to have raffles and fundraisers to buy equipment and other things for their local branch of CFS. Now the Burns report reflected on how well Emergency volunteers reacted but it ignored the reason why they needed to. I’ll just make a simple point again: $1.3 billion spent on poles and wires to give us a gold plated service but now we’re expecting too much. Let’s talk to Chief Economist at Baillieu Holst, Darryl Gobbett, who also works for the Centre of Economic Studies in Adelaide Uni ... I’ve asked you to have a look at the ESL, what can you tell us?) ... first thing, you know the prescribed rate that was set back in 2014/15 you know when the rebates came off that’s actually gone up 6.1% ... in 2016/17 from the Government’s own numbers. That’s now running at you know point one two seven cents per dollar ... so the rate itself has gone up, so if we have another rise in rate that would come on top of the rise.. (Byner: ... so it’s a double whammy then?) It’d be a double whammy if they’re talking about putting the actual ESL rate up ... you know we’ve had a rise of 6.1%, which you’d sort of say is ahead of inflation in South Australia, then so we have another rate rise in addition to the rise in property values ... we would be seeing ... gone up something like fifteen to sixteen percent. (Byner: Goodness.) You know over the 2 years. The other point I’d make looking back at the budget numbers ... the ESL has actually gained ... the amount that is estimated to be collected in 16/17 was actually up $26 million on what the Treasury forecast back in 14/15. So when they took the rebate off they had a lift, which was reflected in their forward numbers, but if we look at the budget for 16/17 that has gone up again, so the Government is actually getting more from the ESL than they expected in 14/15 after they’d taken the rebate off ... you sort of say where’s that money going and, you know, as.. (Byner: Well the Government will swear black and blue that despite the fact that Treasury’s been relieved of $90 million – well they used to put more than that in – now they are saying ‘well every cent we collect from that levy goes to Emergency Services’.) Well it’d be interesting to actually see those numbers because I went looking for the actual fund that those monies go into ... I really can’t see where that money is ... I’d be interested to know, just as we have you know with ... the Victims of Crime Fund ... that money is building up in there ... which you know helps the Government in terms of.. (Byner: Zero Waste Levy, yes.) So you’d sort of say ... why isn’t the Government transparent about how much money is actually sitting in that community Emergency Services’ fund. (Stay on the line I’ve got John Darley ... used to be a Valuer-General.)

John Darley, Independent MLC (5AA 9.48-9.52) Emergency Service Levy

(Byner: John, what can you tell us about the ESL?) ... Darryl’s hit the nail on the head – where is the money going because if you look into it, I can tell you for example SAPOL get a cut of that. (Byner: Really?) There’s a contribution to their communications effort ... that should be in SAPOL’s budget not in the Emergency Services Levy. (Byner: You’re telling us that money that would be paid by Treasury from our taxes into SAPOL some of it’s coming from the ESL.) Absolutely and I’m not too sure that other agencies haven’t got a finger in the pie as well. (Byner: Well that’s not exactly what we’ve been told.) No I know. Well, you only get told what they want to tell you. (Byner: Well they are giving the impression that all the volunteers and CFS and others are getting this money to have better equipment. You’re saying hang on a minute, not so.) Well, in terms of the equipment I asked the question the other day ... what is the replacement policy for ... fire engines and those sorts of things? Now you wouldn’t change them ... every couple of years, that’s for sure. (Byner: So Police communications are getting money from the ESL?) Yeah, I wouldn’t mind betting that Department of Environment of Environment get a contribution as well, but it would be interesting to ask the Government where does the money actually go, who receives it because I mean I don’t object to SAPOL having the money but ... that should be in the SAPOL budget not coming from Emergency Services.

Back to Darryl Gobbett

(Byner: Darryl Gobbett, what do you say about that?) Well as John has just said I think we need to know where that money’s going and, as you’ve raised, which of the buckets is getting it, which should actually be getting out of general revenue. They should be, you know, cutting their cloth to suit their needs and I also went back, because you know the biggest expense is people in the public sector, and it’s really quite amazing ... 2014/15 for example they were forecasting 77,600 people would be in the public sector by June ’17 this year ... the latest forecast is 81,000. So we’ve had a 4,000 increase in people in the public sector between the 2014/15 and 2016/17 budgets. (Byner: But we should rely on them less, according to the Government.) Well that’s right and what’s … really galling is … as we’ve seen with Vili’s and others they’re having to put in their own generators even though we’re paying the highest in Australia and I believe some of the highest in the civilised world electricity prices. I remember Mr Rann saying 10 or 12 years ago that South Australia was going to be a high cost, high service state. Well, we’ve certainly got the high costs but I think a lot of people would be wondering … how high the service is. (Caller David: … the reason the police are getting the money is they’re in charge of the Government Radio Network … which is used by all the emergency services. And that’s fine but it only has a backup of four hours during a blackout. So it’s an emergency service network that works providing we’re not having an emergency.)

Back to John Darley

(Byner: John … are some questions going to be asked about this?) Well, I’ve already started asking questions in the Budget and Finance Committee about that … we know we’re the highest taxed state in the country and even the Government acknowledges that because if you look at your latest water and sewerage rates they’re blowing their trumpet about they’re reducing water rates. (Byner: Well, are they?) Yes. (Byner: Well, that’s a good thing.)

Back to Darryl Gobbett

(Byner: …where are we in the cost of doing business table?) In some areas we’re not too bad but I’d say we’re well at the top … when you look at the electricity, the water costs significantly higher and … the cost of regulation in this state where the delays, the cost of just having to abide by the various regulations starting up a business, running a business, we’re well at the top. The Government tends to focus on things like stamp duty which really are not a major part of running a business here. It’s issues like payroll tax and the energy costs … I think businesses are going to get a big shock over the next 12 months as to the impact on their water costs as a result of the increase of electricity costs because … water really is liquid electricity and the councils are going to have to be putting their stuff up. So I’d say we were still well up the top and then we add on these other issues now of having to have our own backup supplies that’s going to significantly increase the cost for something which it’s the Government should be making sure the policies are right. This is what concerns me when the Government says it’s the private sector that provides the poles and the wires. Remember it’s state governments which actually can provide the policies on which those things are actually built and maintained. (Caller Andrew: … out here at Elizabeth the State Emergency Service had a headquarters here that was built beautiful for them, everything they needed. All the members lived nearby. They then built a brand new headquarters down the other side of Salisbury on Main North Road. This place is now sitting there. Now, why are we wasting money on a brand new headquarters when they’ve got a beautiful big headquarters and their members all live nearby?) (Byner: How old is that place?) (Caller Andrew: Well, I was the controller there at the time and we got it built in ’93 and it had everything … it had hundreds of thousands of dollars spent on training rooms and stores equipment … we even had a crèche running there for a while for our members’ children … then all of a sudden they decided they were going to build this place up with the new MFS station at Salisbury … I asked why are we wasting money? It’s in an industrial area, it’s easy to get to. No the members take nearly 20 minutes on a callout because it’s peak hour traffic to get there. There’s another unit from Enfield five minutes away so they’re just wasting money.) (Caller Steven: … we pay Emergency Services Levy twice … we’re charged twice.) (Byner: … there are two charges: there’s the capital value charge then there’s the charge the Government decides they want to increase.) (Caller Steven: … you pay an ordinary Emergency Services Levy bill on your property and you also pay it on your registration.) (Byner: Yes … for a vehicle or a boat trailer … this Government is in the business of extraction from pockets … if they become a little more generous and say … ‘people are expecting too much … we’ll reduce the taxes, they can be then in a position to buy the generators, the batteries, the solar and then they can fend for themselves better’ but I don’t think that’s what they’ve got in mind have they?)