Politics

Four things to know about South Australia’s new premier Steven Marshall

Caleb Triscari /

South Australian Liberal leader Steven Marshall has taken the reins from former Labor leader Jay Weatherill and will commence his term as Premier from today.

With 66.2% of the vote counted so far, The ABC reports the state’s Liberal party has clinched the 24 seats needed to secure power.

Marshall will take the leadership after eight years in parliament, having been elected in 2010 as the member of Norwood, then serving as the member for Dunstan once Norwood was abolished.

A former business owner, Marshall was previously running his family’s manufacturing business Marshall Furniture from 1997. Before his debut in politics, he was appointed general manager of the textile division of South Australian wool exporter Michell Pty Ltd. He was subsequently elected as leader of the South Australian Liberal Party in 2013.

As the first South Australian Liberal government in 16 years, here’s a crash course on what a Marshall government plans to bring to South Australia and what it means for SMEs.

Labor “offers no solution”

Marshall has long been critical of the Labor party’s approach to business growth in the state.

This was on display during Marshall’s rebuttal to last year’s state budget, where he criticised the Labor government for failing to bring the state out of “deep economic trouble”. Marshall said the policies and taxes proposed by Labor will place a strain on businesses and their finances.

“This is unequivocally a tax budget. It raises almost $420 million in new taxes and increased government charges in real terms, when wages are not growing and household and business budgets remain under severe pressure because of our flagging economy,” Marshall said.

Marshall also said the economic growth rate in South Australia during Weatherill’s term has been 1.4% on average, which he claims is less than half of the national average.

Scrapping payroll tax

Marshall campaigned on a policy of scrapping payroll tax for small businesses in South Australia. The Liberal party has promised to exempt businesses with taxable payrolls of up to $1.5 million from paying any payroll tax. This will remove payroll tax for SMEs employing 25 employees on average. The policy is expected to be introduced by the start of 2019.

“Quite simply, this is a tax on jobs and, in an economy that is reliant on small and medium businesses, we cannot expect employers to grow and create more jobs if government is constantly adding to their cost base, and especially to the cost of employing South Australians,” the Liberal Party explains in a policy statement on its campaign website.

Marshall said the South Australian payroll tax is one of the most uncompetitive in the nation.

Shaking up shopping hours

The South Australian Liberal Party has promised to deregulate trading hours statewide if elected.

South Australian trading hours have been a strong talking point in the lead up to the election, with some independent retailers claiming the deregulation of shopping hours will be detrimental for their business.

Trading restrictions currently mean businesses with more than 200 square metres of retail floor area or grocery stores with a floor area of more than 400 square metres are limited to when they can trade, including before 11.00am and after 5.00pm every Sunday if they operate within the Central Business District Tourist Precinct.

However, this policy has been widely criticised by independent retailers, who say the policy will actually have the effect of crushing small businesses while the big supermarkets thrive.

Lower energy prices

Marshall has also proposed $100 million towards a household storage battery fund, which would provide $2500 to homes that wish to install home storage batteries.

The fund would cover around 40,000 South Australian households. The new government has also outlined plans to spend $200 million on a new electricity interconnector, which will connect South Australia to New South Wales’ power grid.

Former Premier Jay Weatherill has been involved in a number of high profile policy announcements around South Australia’s energy situation, including working with Elon Musk to build a giant battery in the state.

On the arrival of Elon Musk and Tesla, Fairfax reports Marshall said more companies are welcome to invest in South Australia’s energy sector. However, Marshall is not particularly keen on $376 million worth of state-owned wind turbines that were built by APR Energy last year.

“We’ll be welcoming all people who want to invest in South Australia,” he said on Sunday.

NOW READ: South Australian election “about keeping the lights on”: Will Tesla and Weatherill’s home battery commitment help businesses?

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Caleb Triscari

Caleb Triscari is a former SmartCompany subeditor.

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