House of Assembly: Wednesday, April 10, 2024


Grievance Debate

Wages Growth

The Hon. V.A. TARZIA (Hartley) (15:12): Today, I want to talk about some economic challenges that some of my local residents are raising. Of course, these are also economic challenges that are being raised by everyday South Australian's right across the board. The first one of those is in relation to wages. While the government likes to talk highly of the South Australian economy and its so-called rise from strength to strength, we know that many South Australians, and many of the local South Australians that I have been talking to, are being left behind by this government. They are getting hit where it hurts, and that is in their pockets.

Despite the current low unemployment rate, we know that everyday South Australians are still being left behind by this government. In fact, recent data shows that the typical South Australian family is actually $20,000 a year worse off under Labor. As has been reported recently in The Advertiser, and many of my local residents are sharing this as well, we know that average wages in some instances have actually been cut by 7.6 per cent in real terms—the worst in the country—and pockets of South Australia are certainly hurting, and that is what many of my local residents are telling me at the moment.

While this government seems to be applauding itself on the back of what it calls our growing economy, and some of these major events, we know that many local people are not being able to keep up with the growth of the nation when it comes to their wages. In fact, recent reports show that our wages growth in South Australia remains materially lower than the national average, which is something that we really need to improve, but also we need to see and discuss how that actually correlates into housing.

Many residents in my own electorate—many residents who actually are on good incomes—are telling me, 'Vincent, we are at the moment struggling to make ends meet. We are struggling to pay our bills. We are struggling to pay our interest rates each and every month under this Labor government.' That also has an effect on housing. We saw some really diabolical figures just recently, but there are significant local economic headwinds that my residents are talking to me about.

The opportunity for home ownership is something I think we really need to grasp and we really need to talk about a bit more and help people with. The opportunity for home ownership in this state is so important. Home ownership is important for financial security. Home ownership is so important for stability. It is important for aspirational people to get a foothold on the home ownership ladder.

Adelaide has the second-worst dwelling affordability amongst capital cities right across the country. That is affecting many of my local residents as well. Historically, however, South Australia has been better off than the national average, but unfortunately under this government it is now more affordable to buy in parts of Melbourne than it is to buy in parts of Adelaide. That is what has happened only in the last couple of years under this Labor government.

New data released by Master Builders Australia shows that South Australian new home builds in 2022-23 declined by some 21.2 per cent to just 11,250. This data includes a 17.3 per cent reduction in new detached house starts, while the higher density home building market suffered a 37.5 per cent drop in South Australia. That reduction in new home building activity came at a time when the housing market pressure intensified—rents in Adelaide rising by 5.8 per cent over the year to December 2023, and the cost of new-build homes in the city climbing by 8.3 per cent compared with 12 months ago.

The question is: how can South Australians afford this? The rising cost is a bigger escalation than in nearly every other capital city. At a time when real wage performance in South Australia is well below the national average, when there is a rise in the cost of rents, when rental property availability is decreasing to below the national average and when there is such a rise in the cost of building a new home, how this government is giving itself a pat on the back is beyond me. This government needs to work on improving housing. There is a little bit of talk about releasing land—not a lot of building going on, I have to say. They have to continue to look at rental affordability, look at the cost of new builds and also ensure that South Australian wages follow or exceed, preferably, the national average.

In a nutshell, this government is failing young people when it comes to them trying to get onto the housing ladder. They are failing young people when it comes to wages. Despite having a low unemployment rate at the moment, there is still a lot of room for improvement in the local economy when it comes to helping South Australians to get ahead.