Labor’s Thebarton barracks cost blowout could have covered more cops on the beat

Labor’s Thebarton barracks cost blowout could have covered more cops on the beat

Posted on: 08 May 2024

A huge $63 million cost blowout to remove SAPOL from the Thebarton barracks could have been spent boosting South Australia’s police force amid a crime crisis across the state.

It has been revealed the total cost to move SAPOL from the site has ballooned to $153m – an extra $63m on top of the original $90m price tag that Treasurer Stephen Mullighan promised was “in line with what we’re expecting to spend from the outset” in September.

Opposition analysis shows $63m could have funded:

  • 985 Cadets (annual salary $63,950) or
  • 682 Constables (annual salary $92,259) or
  • 593 Senior Constables (annual salary $106,174).

Or part of the funding could have been used to launch and aggressive recruitment campaign – as seen in interstate with 2000 people in Queensland’s police application pipeline – through incentives like $20,000 towards relocation costs.

It follows new figures from SAPOL that show 196 officers have abandoned the force this year up until March, while the Malinauskas Labor Government’s recruitment campaign had only managed to lure 207 people to the job.

Shadow Treasurer, Matt Cowdrey, said SAPOL currently has a shortfall of 210 officers.

“Stephen Mullighan gave assurances SAPOL’s move from Thebarton was going to cost taxpayers $90m – but now we know there’s an extra $63m on top that has blown a huge hole in the budget,” Mr Cowdrey said.

“Even worse, $153m might not even be the final cost of the project with new admissions the price could skyrocket even further.

“South Australians are becoming more vocal about rising crime in the CBD, what they’re witnessing on their doorstop, and the impact it’s having on community safety.

“South Australians are crying out for more frontline police officers to tackle the crime crisis and the $63m blowout could have helped reassure the community by employing 985 new Cadets, 682 new Constables or 593 Senior Constables.

“This enormous cost blowout of $63m could have been avoided if Peter Malinauskas and Labor didn’t rush this project out the door. They didn’t plan properly – it was hurried to avoid public scrutiny and the consequences are a huge bill with not a single new police officer to show for it.”

Shadow Minister for Police, Corrections and Community Safety, Sam Telfer, said Labor’s current rate of recruiting means SAPOL is only gaining net 11 new recruits each year.

“The $63m cost blowout could have been better spent putting incentives on the table – like what the Opposition has been calling to see for more than a year – to boost our police force,” Mr Telfer said.

“Queensland’s recruitment drive is costing $87.5m over 5 years and they have more than 2000 people in the police application pipeline.

“We would only need to spend a fraction of that amount to increase community safety and put hundreds of new officers on the beat to tackle South Australia’s crime crisis.”