South Australia election: Economy, jobs dominate leaders’ debate between Jay Weatherill and Steven Marshall
Updated 9 hours 21 minutes ago
The economy and jobs have dominated the first leaders’ debate of the South Australian election campaign between Premier Jay Weatherill and Opposition Leader Steven Marshall.
The two men took questions from an audience of 120 voters who gathered in Adelaide for the ABC State Leaders’ debate, which covered topics from mental health resources, leadership and environment to business and rural community support.
Mr Marshall, a first-term MP, focused his attack against the Premier on the government’s jobs record, saying 25,000 jobs have been lost in the state over the past eight months.
“We’ve heard from the Premier that we’ve got this resilient growing economy but that’s just not the case,” he said.
“Our domestic economy contracted last year, our exports went backwards. We’re the only state in Australia where last financial year our exports went backwards.”
Mr Weatherill, who is aiming to win a fourth term in government for Labor, accused Mr Marshall of making factual errors.
“Exports have actually grown and they grew the strongest of almost any state except Western Australia in the year to November,” he said.
“And we also know that the South Australian economy actually grew last year – it didn’t contract.”
Mr Weatherill said Mr Marshall’s planned Productivity Commission review of government spending was a sign the Liberals would make deep cuts to bring the budget back into surplus quickly.
“People voted for both Campbell Newman and Tony Abbott on the basis there would be no cuts and then they set up their cuts commission just as Steven Marshall will do after the election and they got a whole lot of nasty surprises,” he said.
But Mr Marshall says there will be a cap on public sector job cuts. He says curbing government spending over four years will bring the budget back into the black.
“We’ve done our modelling and we believe by setting that cap (of) 5,170 we’ll be able to return the budget to surplus within two years and that’s what we need to do in SA,” he said.
“We need to balance the budget.”
The two leaders earlier had a face-to-face debate on ABC radio which was dominated by business support projects and economic reform.
The election will be held on March 15.