Parliamentary Internship Program

03 December 2014

I rise today to place on the record how impressed I am by the quality of the Parliamentary Internship Program

Mr SPEIRS ( Bright ) ( 15:29 :10 ): I rise today to place on the record how impressed I am by the quality of the Parliamentary Internship Program, coordinated by Professor Clem Macintyre from the University of Adelaide and Associate Professor Haydon Manning from Flinders University. The South Australian Parliamentary Internship Program is a collaborative venture between the South Australian parliament and the three South Australian universities.

This program enables students, who are selected to undertake it, the opportunity to work with a member of the South Australian parliament or a parliamentary committee for a semester, and assessment is primarily based on a final research report produced by the student on a topic of interest to both the Member of Parliament and to the student. I know that many MPs are involved in this program and all who I have spoken to about it have praised the quality of reports they receive at the end of the process.

Judith Spencer was the intern allocated to my office, and I am pleased that Judith has been able to join us today in the Speaker's gallery. For her internship I asked Judith to investigate the role of government in supporting a healthy small business environment in South Australia. As we all know, this is a vexed issue with much debate as to how hands on government should be in its quest to create a thriving business environment in South Australia. There are those who advocate a fairly interventionist approach, with government seeking out and supporting the establishment of particular industries in South Australia, seeing government get actively involved in business development activities.

At the other end of the spectrum is the view that, apart from basic regulation, government should remove itself entirely from the business world, letting the market drive itself uninhibited by the barriers created by the bureaucracy of all tiers of government. In truth, a middle ground is likely the best approach, with government seeking to create a business environment within which entrepreneurs and business people can have the freedom to establish, grow and prosper their business interests, creating jobs and paying an appropriate level of tax which can be used to build social, environmental and economic capital in our state.

One of the things that I most admired about the report that Judith Spencer has put together was her ability to narrow down what was potentially a large and unwieldy topic to some key points of analysis. Early in the report she identified the real challenges facing the state; namely, our slowed growth, high unemployment rates and a general lack of confidence, in part triggered by the impending closure of General Motors Holden. She outlines that the purpose of her report is to find a balance of recommendations between supportive measures to drive the economy and other support aimed at reducing constraints on small business.

In developing her report, Judith undertook a substantial literature review and met with representatives from business, academia and business representative bodies. She explored a range of relevant barriers to small business success, including taxes and costs facing small business, red tape, regulatory burdens and government inefficiencies, negativity and lack of confidence, size of population and our difficulties attracting skilled staff to the state. Her analysis of the tax regime facing South Australian businesses is particularly useful in that it succinctly analyses the great taxation barriers facing our state's business sector. The report, of course, discusses payroll tax, stamp duty, land tax, the emergency services levy, WorkCover and the price of electricity and water in the state, and it highlights how we lag so far behind other jurisdictions in Australia in terms of our business competitiveness.

All these barriers add up to make South Australia a particularly unattractive place to do business. Judith's report does not just concentrate on barriers to small business growth. She also explores government's role in setting up clusters to attract businesses, often of a similar ilk, to participate at a particular geographic location so they can share knowledge and resources. Judith's analysis of the benefits of clusters particularly focuses on the vastly an expensive Tonsley site, which, although with good intentions behind it, has yet to demonstrate a broad base of tenants beyond those which are largely government entities. Interestingly, Judith's extensive analysis of clusters both in Australia and overseas shows that there is no robust evidence that clusters lead to economic growth and that it is a concern that such a quantum of public funds is being spent on a project with potentially negligible outcomes.

I congratulate Judith Spencer on her involvement in this program, and I would urge as many members as possible to take up the offer of an intern through the parliamentary intern program, because there is a significant opportunity to obtain a high quality body of work which can inform policy development within our parties and government.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER: I would like to concur with your remarks, member for Bright, about the value of the intern program and perhaps just put on record that Deirdre Tedmanson is the coordinator from the University of South Australia. She is doing a great job as well. Thank you to the interns. Member for Giles.

Extracted from Hansard

To read a copy of Mrs Judith Spencer's report, click here.