$1.605 billion paid for Lands Titles Office

August 1, 2018

The Hon. J.A. DARLEY (14:51): My question is to the Treasurer. The former government sold the Lands Titles Office and valuation services to a private sector consortium, Land Services SA, for $1.605 billion. Can the Treasurer advise what has happened to the $1.605 billion?

 

The Hon. R.I. LUCAS (Treasurer) (14:52): That's a very good question. As with the money from the Motor Accident Commission, the broad answer to the question is that it went into a big pot and essentially, under the former Labor government, a lot of that big pot was wasted through financial waste and gross financial mismanagement. I have highlighted on any number of occasions the lack of financial competency and the wasteful expenditure of the former government.

 

I have highlighted the personal slush fund of the former treasurer. There was $2.6 million in the fund leading up to the state election, which he handed out left, right and centre to any struggling or marginal Labor seat candidate or MP who wanted a dollop of money. As I said, I suspect—and of course no criticism to the Greek communities involved; good luck to them—there would not be a Greek community or church in South Australia that did not get a very generous donation from the former treasurer, from the $2.6 million or $2.7 million personal slush fund that the treasurer had.

 

In aggregate, as I said, there was money both from the Motor Accident Commission privatisation and the Lands Titles Office privatisation. I think the underwritten narrative behind the honourable member's question is, of course, that this comes from a government that has said they oppose privatisation and they never privatised anything in their 16 years.

But put that to the side: I think the overwhelming majority of the money in relation to the Lands Titles Office went into the lump of money available to government from which it could spend money on infrastructure-related projects and debt funding. The Motor Accident Commission was a combination of moneys which could be used to offset net operating expenditure, wasteful expenditure, of the former government and, in some cases, to offset expenditure in relation to infrastructure projects and investing projects.

 

The Lands Titles Office money, because of the way the money was received—and if my answer is incorrect I will bring back clarification—I think virtually all of it, if not all of it, had to be directed in that particular way in terms of offsetting the net debt levels of the state. Of course, as the money came in they could then spend money on any infinite number of capital works projects. I could imagine future programs such as 'Every suburb can have its own tram service' at $250 million; if you happened to vote for a Labor government you could have your own tram service to Norwood or Port Adelaide, wherever you happened to be you could have your own tram service at $250 million.

 

It was those types of wasteful projects that the former Labor government committed themselves to. Of course, in that same space—albeit it might have been in the one particular project—if you have an infrastructure project that is meant to cost a couple of hundred million dollars and ultimately, through waste and financial incompetence, it ends up costing $300 million, again that is an impact on your net debt figure and your infrastructure spending.

 

So the answer to the member's question is that essentially it went into the big pot of money the government had. Sadly, the former Labor government wasted a lot of that money on wasteful expenditure, wasteful projects, gross overspending, financial incompetence and negligence.

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