Baird and Berejiklian play Budget Grinch

In Parliament |

Patients, students, and aspiring homeowners are the biggest losers in today’s NSW Budget handed down by the Baird Government.

Premier Mike Baird and Treasurer Gladys Berejiklian have turned budget Grinch, hoarding away over $8 billion in surplus taxes over the next four years, ignoring a raft of health, education and housing affordability priorities.

The Government claims the state is debt free, yet have chosen to stash away the rivers of stamp duty gold flowing from Sydney’s property boom rather than invest in better schools and hospitals. 

Ms Berejiklian also used her Budget speech to take aim at Malcolm Turnbull and NSW’s declining GST revenue.

During Question Time, Ms Berejiklian refused to rule out restarting the NSW Liberals’ push – previously championed by Mike Baird – to increase the GST to 15 per cent. 

Health

The importance of hospitals and health care has been downgraded in this year’s budget. 

Funding for much needed hospital upgrades across the state have been delayed or allocated a token amount of planning money. 

Nepean Hospital, the most overstretched in the state is in urgent need a $360 million upgrade. The budget contains a paltry $1 million. 

Grafton, Cooma and Prince of Wales Hospitals have also been neglected. 

The Budget also fails to address elective surgery waiting lists or cut waiting times in the state’s emergency departments – which have blown out under the Liberals and Nationals to record levels. There were 74,351 patients on the elective waiting list in March 2016, up from 66,000 in March 2011. 

Education 

More money is allocated in the budget for building new prisons than building new classrooms. 

The Liberal-National Government has failed to restore funding cuts that started in their first budget in 2011, when $270 million was slashed from school capital works funding. 

Promises for new schools at Jordan Springs in Sydney’s west and Medowie in the Hunter have fallen by the wayside. 

Meanwhile Wentworth Point has almost certainly created NSW Budget history, by appearing for the sixth year running without a sod being turned. 

The Government today made a point of tackling the $732 million school maintenance backlog – which has blown out from $156 million in 2011. 

The Treasurer today committed $330 million for school maintenance over the next two years. However, the Auditor-General’s report reveals the maintenance backlog increased by $195 million last year alone.

Based on the Government’s own numbers, their announcement today will not reduce the crippling school maintenance backlog across NSW. 

The decimation of TAFE has continued. Budget documents confirmed an underspend in TAFE during 2015-16 of $313 million. 

Since 2012, the Liberal-Nationals have sacked 5,200 teachers and support staff. Forecast enrolments are down by more than 120,000 a year compared to 2012. 

Housing affordability 

A record $8.9 billion in transfer duties was delivered to the budget in 2015-16 on the back of Sydney’s property boom. That trend is forecast to continue with stamp duty receipts of over $37 billion over the next four years (2016-17 amount is $8.8 billion). 

Despite the rivers of stamp duty gold, it has never been harder and more unaffordable to buy a home in Sydney. 

While celebrating a budget surplus, there were no new measures in the budget to drive housing affordability or assistance measures for workers like police, nurses and teachers who are finding it near impossible to buy a home in Sydney. This is on top of the fact that the First Home Owner Grant was cut by $5,000 at the beginning of 2016. 

Quotes attributable to Opposition Leader Luke Foley 

“This is a budget that fails to invest in our schools and hospitals. 

“The story of today’s budget is: Gladys the Grinch. She’s hoarding the proceeds of a property boom rather than investing in the schools and hospitals that our growing population so desperately needs. 

“At a time when rivers of gold flowing into the state’s coffers from a property boom, pupils, parents and patients should be the winners in today’s budget – but they’re not. 

“This budget spends more money on housing prisoners than making it affordable for nurses, teachers, and paramedics to buy a home in Sydney. 

“Giving $1 million to the state’s most over-stretched hospital at Nepean, when it needs a $360 million, is paltry and shameful.  

“It never gets as good as this in terms of property taxes – while we have the revenue let’s invest in schools and hospitals.” 

Quotes attributable to Shadow Treasurer Ryan Park 

“Despite her own Treasury’s advice that increasing the GST to 15 per cent would add tens of thousands of dollars to the cost of housing, in question time today the Treasurer refused to rule out reigniting the Liberals’ campaign for a higher GST. 

“Mike Baird collected $10 billion from the sale of Transgrid and yet that money isn’t being ploughed into schools and hospitals. 

“Already we are seeing some of these major projects blow out and they are only at the very early stages. There are $10 billion in infrastructure blowouts that this budget and previous budgets have confirmed. 

“This Government is spending more on housing criminals that it is providing assistance to struggling families.

“Baird and Berejiklian have their priorities wrong.”

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