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Shoot low, aim high: Marshall's plan for a "confident" SA

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Premier Steven Marshall says he wants his Liberal Government to “under-promise and over-deliver” as he prepares to test his legislative agenda in a newly-configured parliament from next week.

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Parliament re-opens on Thursday, with the state’s first Liberal government for 16 years hoping to make swift work of a range of bills whose success or failure will set the tone for Marshall’s first year in office.

The Premier nominated the deregulation of shop trading hours, council rate-capping and a raft of freedom-of-information legislation covering whistleblowers, shield laws for journalists and open ICAC hearings as matters of urgency.

Thus far, new Opposition Leader Peter Malinauskas has left Labor open to support each new measure – except shop trading deregulation, although he has signalled a compromise on allowing major supermarkets to trade from 9am on Sunday mornings.

“We’ll be seeking for them to join with us,” Marshall told InDaily today.

“Our position was supported by the people of the South Australian community, [and] we’ll be seeking Labor’s support.”

Marshall has now met with all but one of the crossbenchers across both houses (he hasn’t yet been able to co-ordinate a time with new SA Best MLC Connie Bonaros), and says “what I’ve asked them [all] to do is have an open mind, listen to the debate and not rule out a position too quickly”.

“That’s by and large been agreed to,” he said.

Marshall argues the Liberal Party is “better positioned to negotiate [with the crossbench] than Labor” because “we’re respectful of individual positions”.

“The basis of our party is the rights and freedoms of the individual, whereas they think people should just fall in line with their position,” he said.

However, Marshall isn’t giving much impression that his party’s position on shop trading is for turning, or even watering down.

“We’ll be advocating for the position we took to the people of SA,” he said.

Asked why he would expect parties such as SA Best and the Greens to retreat from policy positions they took to the election when the Liberals won’t, Marshall said: “Because the people of SA want deregulation.”

He insists “all the published polls and all the anecdotal information we have” shows broad support for the Liberal position, adding: “Why would it be that people in the parliament say ‘we’ve got more knowledge than the voters’?”

“The reality is the people of SA favour deregulation of shop trading hours – it’s up to individual legislative councillors to argue why the people of SA are wrong,” he said.

“There’s a lot of compelling evidence it [deregulation] will grow the SA economy and will help keep young people here in our state… if people want to oppose that, they’ve got to put a pretty good reason.”

SA will be a far more confident place, with a government focused on getting the basics right

In the longer term, Marshall points to pledges to create advisory panels such as Infrastructure SA and an SA Productivity Commission, the re-introduction of a Disability Inclusion Bill, a bill to give police greater power to employ lethal force in declared terrorist situations, tougher school truancy measures and a legislative crackdown on ticket scalping as key planks of his agenda.

It’s an agenda he concedes is devoid of bells and whistles.

“I think what we took to the election is a massive underspend compared to Labor,” he said.

Much of that might be attributed to the fact much of the Liberals’ budget was taken up with long-promised tax cuts, but Marshall says the contrast was most stark on one day of the campaign in his own electorate of Dunstan, when Labor pledged $270 million to take trams up Norwood Parade.

The Liberals’ counter-punch was $28,000 for a “scramble crossing” at the intersection of The Parade and George Street.

“I think that was symbolic of the election campaign,” he said.

“We were very careful about the commitments we made – we’d much rather under-promise and over-deliver in government, and I think the people of SA value that.

“We want to get the basics right.”

Having said that, he quickly adds that “I think our legislative agenda will be much fuller than what Labor offered”.

He points out the Liberals made almost 300 separate commitments before the election, and “we’ll deliver every one of them”.

But he concedes some key infrastructure projects will necessarily require more than a four-year term to implement.

“Some of them will go into the next election cycle,” he said.

The revitalisation of the old Royal Adelaide Hospital site, for instance, “won’t be able to be fully realised within the next four years”, and nor will the then-Opposition’s first big foray into the infrastructure debate – the Globelink freight corridor connecting Port Adelaide to a prospective privately-funded freight-only airport near Monarto.

The Libs had merely pledged to do a cost-benefit analysis on the scheme, but Marshall says: “To my mind it will definitely stack up.”

He concedes Labor critiques that SA’s trade exports are not of significant volume to justify the airport, saying that was “absolutely right… but we have a much greater ambition to increase our level of exports out of SA”.

Marshall’s Liberals also pledged to abolish Labor-appointed boards such as the Economic Development Board and Investment Attraction SA, although he says the agency’s boss Mike Hnyda will remain in a similar role under the umbrella portfolios of Trade, Tourism and Investment.

Marshall says there is “quite a lot of complexity around the machinery of government changes” he wants to implement, which will see those moves delayed until the new financial year.

“I made it clear before the election we wouldn’t be continuing with EDB – that model I don’t think can continue to serve us well,” he said.

The Liberals will establish their own economic advisory committee, but the Premier says it will be “much smaller and more focused”.

“But it’s going to be focused on the issues that are important to the people of SA,” he added.

“We’re going to be having a final meeting in a respectful way with the EDB before the end of the financial year, where we’ll be getting a download on all the work around projects they’ve dealt with so we don’t lose any of the work that’s been done in the past.”

Marshall said he hopes SA in a year’s time will be “a far more confident place, with a government focused on getting the basics right”, in areas such as “quality health and education”, and “addressing some of the issues Labor failed to address adequately, like child protection”.

“I want there to be a newfound confidence, providing the people – especially younger people – with real hope, and an economy which will support their ambitions and opportunities going forward,” he said.

“This is just the start.”

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