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"Unprecedented" $15.3 billion supply bill rushed through State Parliament

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UPDATED | State Parliament is rushing through an “unprecedented” $15.3 billion Supply Bill today as the Premier flags more support for business and does not rule out rolling back planned reforms in a bid to keep the state economy afloat.

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Treasurer Rob Lucas said the Supply Bill would allow the government to continue paying for essential services, with the budget due to be pushed back to later this year.

It passed the Lower House this morning, and will progress through the Upper House later today, with bipartisan support.

However, InDaily understands the initial passage of the Bill has to be rescinded and re-introduced, because it was pushed through before the required assent from Governor Hieu Van Le – and thus deemed unconstitutional.

It is, however, still expected to pass today.

“We need to make sure we have supply to continue to pay doctors, teachers, police and everybody else,” Lucas told InDaily.

“So we’ve sought the emergency passage of the supply bill to allow us to do that if need be for up to a nine or 12 month period and the budget will still be accumulatively brought down after the [federal] budget in October.

“This will allow us to ensure future public services and servants can be paid.”

Shadow Treasurer Stephen Mullighan said Labor would support the measures as it was “important to give the Government flexibility and funds to respond to the coronavirus pandemic”.

“But the amount is unprecedented, and the concern is that once the Government has the funds it will put off future sittings of Parliament,” he warned.

He said the Bill itself was similarly unprecedented, as supply is “usually only approved for four or five months… to get the Government through until the budget bills pass”.

It comes after Premier Steven Marshall this morning flagged more support for businesses in a second stimulus package, expected to be unveiled within days.

It follows SA’s initial $350 million bailout bid earlier this month.

“We want to help as many businesses get through the next six months … and we can have the fastest recovery of any state in the country,” Marshall said.

He did not rule out rolling back planned reforms, including a looming planning overhaul and controversial land tax changes, which passed parliament late last year. He also didn’t rule out winding back increases to a variety of fees and charges in last year’s budget that were then designed to bolster the budget bottom line.

“The reality is that parliaments are not even going to be meeting around Australia for much of this year and there are a whole pile of implications that we’re going to be working through,” Marshall said.

“Our first priority is the health and safety of every single South Australian and our second priority is making sure we can keep this economy moving and keep as many people employed as possible.”

Last month South Australia’s unemployment rate increased to 5.8 per cent – topping the nation’s unemployment table.

Flinders University Australian Industrial Transformation Institute director John Spoehr said South Australia’s unemployment would “essentially double” in the coming months.

He said the State would begin to see the impact of coronavirus at the beginning of May when unemployment would hit “double figures”.

“We’re starting with a very high labor underutilisation rate. Essentially there was a high portion of people who were seeking more hours before this crisis hit us,” Spoehr said.

“The high proportion of under-utilised workers, the high proportion of casual and contract workers does make us more vulnerable than other parts of the country.

“But, we’re all in this together and the hardship is being felt right across the nation and, in that sense, South Australia is no different.”

He said it was difficult to detail the scale of South Australia’s unemployment figures with new restrictions being implemented each day.

“There’s this unprecedented exponential rise in the unemployment rate, which sort of mirrors the unemployment rate of COVID-19, and social distancing measures are underpinning that reality,” Spoehr said.

“It’s lead to the closure of thousands of businesses here in South Australia in sectors that are particularly vulnerable … including restaurants, cafes, arts and cultural facilities and now extending to a wide range of other facilities as the Prime Minister announced last night.”

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