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Public service has "had it too good for too long": Business SA

Business

Business, economic analysts and the public service are at loggerheads over Labor’s state budget, with a private sector lobbyist arguing the unions have had it “too good for too long”.

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Business SA chief Nigel McBride has taken umbrage at the strident response from the Public Service Association and Nursing Federation to Tom Koutsantonis’s push for wage restraint, which ANF secretary Elizabeth Dabars likened to a declaration of war.

PSA general secretary Nev Kitchin said the suggestion was a slap in the face to workers “at the coal face” after recent larger rises for police and teachers.

“We are creating a second class of public sector workers, which is unacceptable,” he said.

But McBride said the move to cap public sector wages at 1.5 per cent a year for three years was an important step towards a broader reappraisal of the public service in SA – and one that only a Labor Government could pull off.

He decried the union response as “appalling”, telling InDaily there was a “broader need for us to pull together in this state” and that the unions “risk the general public saying ‘You’re really out of touch’.

“They should walk a mile in the moccasins of the private sector,” he said.

“They’ve had it too good for too long.”

McBride had earlier praised the Treasurer’s “pro-business” budget for its $10,000 grants scheme for small to medium businesses that hire additional staff.

But one economic commentator disagreed, firing his own broadside at Business SA.

Michael O’Neil from the SA Centre for Economics told a Master Builders SA post-budget breakfast today that the mooted jobs growth was “largely on the back of a lot of handouts”.

“I’ve never seen an economy grow based on government handouts,” he said, questioning how the business community could praise the measure while simultaneously advocating for less government intervention.

“You can’t have it both ways,” he said.

“The business sector needs to bloody well grow up… it would be better for the business sector if SA moved to a lower taxation state.”

Master Builders SA CEO Ian Markos agreed with the latter sentiment, telling InDaily that while the grants scheme would help incentivise businesses to hire, “the state is still overtaxed generally”.

Despite Premier Jay Weatherill yesterday enthusing SA was the “best place in the nation to do business”, Markos said there was still much to be done to achieve such a mantel.

“We need the best business conditions in Australia – that would be our competitive advantage,” he said.

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