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Leaders squabble over diary dates as jobless rate lags


South Australia’s jobless rate improved dramatically in the month to July, but it still lags behind the rest of the nation.

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However, the state’s leaders have spent the morning embroiled in a spat over diary dates, after Opposition Leader Steven Marshall pulled out of a scheduled bipartisan visit to Finland, saying it was more important to attend parliament for debate over the Nyland Royal Commission’s recommendations on the state’s child protection regime.

After jumping to 7 per cent last month, the state’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate eased to 6.4 in the latest figures released today by the Australian Bureau of Statistics.

That’s still well above the national average of 5.7 per cent (down 0.1) and remains the highest in the country, but is remarkably only 0.1 per cent above Western Australia, whose jobless rate blew out from 5.7 to 6.3 per cent.

But languishing unemployment took a back seat today to a political spat, spurred by Liberal leader Steven Marshall’s decision to withdraw from a planned trip to Finland with Premier Jay Weatherill, to tour nuclear storage facilities there.

The trip was scheduled to coincide with the first parliamentary sitting week after the winter break, in mid-September.

But Marshall told ABC891 today that Nyland’s “unprecedented” royal commission findings had shifted the goalposts, and it was no longer appropriate “for the Premier and myself to be missing from parliament when we have the first opportunity to consider this report”.

“I think this report is far more extensive and damning than anybody considered that it would be when the trip was planned and I think there’s no alternative [but to cancel],” he said.

However, InDaily can confirm the trip was only scheduled in the sitting week to accommodate Marshall’s own vacation plans to visit his son overseas – a trip he has refused to reschedule.

The trip was originally scheduled to take place last week, however that was moved at the Opposition Leader’s behest when it became clear it would clash with the delivery of the Nyland report.

Emails from the Premier’s office, seen by InDaily, show that it then suggested the delegation leave this weekend, on August 21, however this was turned down by Marshall’s office due to an existing commitment.

An alternative suggestion to leave on August 28 and return September 4 was similarly rebuffed on the same grounds.

Weatherill’s office insisted a visit in early September from a Shandong Government delegation and a scheduled country cabinet meeting meant the only alternative was for the trip to run for a week from September 16 – noting that this would entail both leaders missing a week of parliament.

“The next couple of weeks were times when we suggested we could go to Finland; it happens to coincide with Mr Marshall’s personal leave,” Weatherill said today.

“We suited his convenience to do that… we should’ve been away either next week or the week after instead of a sitting date; it was to accommodate his personal circumstances that we changed these dates.”

Marshall confirmed he would be on leave for 12 days from this weekend.

“Look, we are entitled to take leave and I’ve got a son who is living overseas and I’ve arranged about 12 months ago to meet him at this time of the year,” he told ABC891.

“Well I’m sorry, but I have not taken leave since Easter of this year.”

But despite the timing of the Finland trip being adjusted to accommodate his own travel plans, Marshall insisted “this state trip is completely and utterly inappropriate at this time of the year when the parliament will be considering the most damning royal commission report into a state administration probably in this country”.

“The Premier wants to flee the scene of the crime, he doesn’t want to be there to answer questions and that is completely inappropriate,” he said.

The Opposition had previously demanded the Government recall parliament immediately to debate the Nyland recommendations.

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