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Principles not policy in Marshall's "manifesto" for 2036

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Liberal leader Steven Marshall has released an 80-page “manifesto” for the year 2036, outlining his principles for government but supplying little policy detail.

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The manifesto – titled 2036 – sets out the Liberals’ principles in nine policy areas that Marshall wants to tackle by the time of South Australia’s bicentenary in 20 years.

Marshall said this morning that the document lays the foundation for the policies the liberals will develop over the next two years, ahead of the 2018 election.

2036 represents the values we will bring and the reforms we will implement to restore prosperity to South Australia and make our community a better place to be,” he said.

However, those looking for concrete proposals will, by and large, be disappointed.

The only firm policy commitments in the document are those that have been previously announced, such as the establishment of a state Productivity Commission and increased autonomy for state schools.

It does contain a few hints at other changes, particularly a greater focus on primary health care and, signalling a shift away from the Weatherill Government’s CBD-focused “vibrancy” agenda, a renewed investment in Adelaide’s middle and outer suburbs.

Marshall told InDaily the South Australian Liberals realised they had to improve their approach following their failure to win Government in 2014, and the manifesto was part of their renewed focus.

“We need to improve what we have done in terms of policy development and communication in South Australia,” he said.

“We have got to do a better job at the next election.”

As a result, the Liberals had decided to do things differently, first releasing this “substantial” manifesto before following up with detailed policy announcements focused on repositioning South Australia by 2036.

“We make no apologies about the fact that it’s long range,” he said.

In an echo of Weatherill’s 10-point economic plan, Marshall has come up with a nine-point manifesto for the future: growing our economy, the best education system in Australia, being a healthy state, strengthening communities, building our state, ensuring safety and justice, protecting our environment, embracing our unique culture, and running an efficient and stable government.

On the economy, Marshall promises a reduced tax burden for businesses and households, red-tape reduction, increased investment in export programs, and measures to foster start-ups. The only firm tax proposal is a restoration of remissions on the Emergency Services Levy. A state-based Productivity Commission, which Marshall announced before the 2014 election, will play a role in identifying and removing red tape that affects economic growth.

The education commitments include previously announced measures to increase the autonomy of schools, as well as a promise to reward excellence in teachers.

The health principles include a greater focus on preventative health care, but little detail about how the hospital system would be managed apart from a commitment to “a broad network of emergency departments” (a reference to the Government’s Transforming Health agenda to rationalise EDs).

It does hint at greater investment in primary and community health care. “Real transformation in health comes when we support people to stay healthy, not wait until they are sick,” the document says.

Marshall told InDaily that the de-funding of community health services by the Weatherill Government following the McCann review of health in SA had been a disaster for preventative care.

On communities, the document promises to transform Families SA to focus on the needs of children, and a previously announced policy for the agency to be separated from Education. It also promises streamlined paperwork for NGOs that work in the community sector.

On infrastructure, the document says South Australia can support a growing population as long as plans are put in place now to “ensure our quality of life is not compromised”.

It also includes an interesting take on the development of the CBD versus the suburbs.

“While the Adelaide CBD is the focal point for the State’s economic activity, businesses, industry and jobs, we understand that the majority of South Australians actually live in our city’s middle and outer suburbs,” the document says.

“… It is important that these middle and outer suburban communities have the facilities they need in order to share the load of the CBD by decreasing congestion and increasing services outside of the city.”

The section on public transport contains very broad commitments to improving its efficiency and safety, with a focus on the customer experience.

On the justice system, the document promises to improve rehabilitation services in prisons to prevent recidivism, and to improve the courts’ IT systems (although it’s silent on the need for new court infrastructure).

The environment section says that for too long environmental policy has been driven by “outdated and philosophically driven agendas”, and promises to both restore scientific input into policy decisions, as well as involve more closely “those who are on the frontline of environmental management”.

The cultural commitments include making the arts community sustainable year-round, “not just in Mad March”.

It promises upgrades to recreational, sporting and cultural infrastructure, including a requirement for professional sporting venues to be “fully equipped with female changing rooms and other facilities to ensure that our outstanding sportswomen are given every chance to succeed”.

The section on the public sector is glowing about the contribution of the bureaucracy, but argues that it has been “the victim of politicisation”. It says senior positions have been “handed out as rewards for political loyalty”, and promises to restore its independence. The job of identifying “productivity gains” in the public sector would be handed to the state Productivity Commission.

 

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