Labor fears for SA

Main street retail is a "canary in the coal mine" for South Australia's economy, state opposition leader Peter Malinauskas says.

So the signs are ominous, judging by the main streets of many regional centres.

Speaking to Australian Community Media in Adelaide last week, Mr Malinauskas said a lack of consumption across the economy had him worried.

Corporate profits were up and incomes were flat for workers and, he said, small business owners.

"Most say they're working longer hours for the same amount of money, often at the expense of people they used to employ," he said.

In that context, he said, the state government's 2019 budget had not made sense.

Debt had gone up without a corresponding investment in health and education, and taxes had not been cut.

"I don't fully understand what the government's objective is," Mr Malinauskas said.

"Ordinarily you'd expect our government to be increasing debt because it's trying to increase the number of jobs in the economy, but in the government's own forecast the number of jobs in the state is going down.

"(Premier) Steven Marshall says the economy is going well, that there are green shoots ... but both things can't be true."

Labor's treasury spokesman, Stephen Mullighan, said the number of unemployed South Australians had increased since the 2018 election, that jobs growth had halved and that population growth remained low.

He urged the government to bring forward more spending, including on regional roads, while defending Labor's historically lower levels of spending in that area.

He also suggested fewer South Australian building companies would be forced to close if the government boosted its spending on new Housing Trust properties.

In a wide-ranging interview, Mr Malinauskas and four of his colleagues said they would like Labor to increase its primary vote in regional areas.

That would mean resuming the Country Cabinet program, dormant since the Liberals' election win; and building up the party's membership, which was fair in areas such as the South East and Port Lincoln, but less so elsewhere.

It was a hard task when sporting and service clubs were also struggling to find new blood and people were generally time-poor, the opposition leader said.

"Nevertheless, our cause remains important and strong and as relevant to regional SA as it has ever been," he said.

This story Labor fears for SA first appeared on The Murray Valley Standard.