Tax cuts would hit welfare: SA premier

South Australia’s three main political leaders will debate social welfare issues.The social services sector will bear the brunt of tax cuts promised during the South Australian election campaign, Premier Jay Weatherill says.

At a debate focused on social issues on Tuesday, Mr Weatherill said the sector was not “industrially strong” enough to fight off cuts promised by Opposition Leader Steven Marshall and SA-BEST leader Nick Xenophon.

He referred to a commitment by Mr Marshall to scrap payroll tax for some businesses Mr Xenophon’s promise to reduce the state’s land tax.

“With razor think surpluses and presumably they don’t want deficits, we’re going to see cuts and it’s going to fall on the social services,” Mr Weatherill said.

The debate was hosted by the South Australian Council of Social Services, and focused largely on the living standards of South Australians.

Other issues raised included digital inclusion, energy prices and child protection laws.

The premier said Mr Marshall’s promised state-based productivity commission and Mr Xenopon’s proposed royal commission into the state’s health system would also jeopardise funding to the welfare sector.

“That’s what’s happened at the national level and that’s what’s going to happen at the state level,” he said.

But Mr Xenophon and Mr Marshall found common ground refuting the comments, both leaders accusing the premier of running a scare campaign.

Mr Xenophon defended his health investigation which he said would focus on how to better harness the power of the public and not-for-government sector to better deliver services.

“These are the sorts of things a government ought to be able to do,” he said.

Mr Marshall said the premier could rethink Labor’s advertising campaigns and proposed tram lines to direct funds into programs that supported disadvantaged South Australians.

He also assured those at the debate, many employed in the industry, an effective social services sector would be a measure of success if his party were to win government in March.

“I know we talk a lot about economic growth, and I make no apology for that,” he said.

“But I make this commitment to each and every one of you today. If we are elected on March 17… we will not consider ourselves successful unless we address the entrenched disadvantage.”

Australian Associated Press