NSW Treasurer Dominic Perrottet on Tuesday announced his budget for 2017-18, splashing money raised through a string of privatisations on schools, hospitals and the justice system. With a big budget and an impressive $4.5 billion surplus, there’s plenty of money to go around, but there’s also a line of losers.
WINNERSKids in sportGood news for families wanting to raise healthy, active kids but feeling restricted by big sports club fees. $207 million has been poured into the new Active Kids Rebate, which will allow eligible families to receive up to $100 per child in school each year. It is not means-tested, so whether the parents are rich or struggling to pay the bills, they can access the rebate.
HospitalsDescribed as the “mothership”, Randwick Hospital will undergo a $720 million “reconfiguration”. Another $632 million and $534 million have been directed, respectively, to the Campbelltown Hospital and Tweed Hospital redevelopments. Also, a $1 billion injection will allow hospitals across the state to cater for about 28,000 more emergency department attendances and 45,900 more acute inpatient admissions. The budget also commits an extra $20 million to bolster community-based mental health services.
School studentsMore than 120 schools will be built or upgraded, with the government topping up its investment in education infrastructure by $1.6 billion, bringing the total to $4.2 billion over four years. If all goes to plan, there will be 27 new schools, 32,000 more student places and 1500 new classrooms, easing the crisis of overcrowding. Deputy Premier John Barilaro says regional schools will receive a fair share of the “historic investment”.
First home buyersNew stamp duty concessions are expected to help 24,000 people get a foot on the property ladder. The new package includes abolishing all stamp duty for first home buyers on existing and new homes up to $650,000 and stamp duty discounts up to $800,000. Sweetening the package is a $10,000 grant for those eyeing new homes up to $600,000. The changes come into effect on July 1.
KoalasKoalas rejoice, the government’s giving an extra $800,000 to koala conservation projects. Some of the projects will try to protect koalas in the Port Stephens, Campbelltown and the Mid-Coast areas and support carers rehabilitating injured marsupials. The Treasurer said: “Any threatened Australian species is a serious issue and we want to invest in the important conservation work to help stabilise and eventually increase koala numbers across the state.”
MotoristsNearly $73 billion has been committed to unclogging roads and improving public transport, including the funding of the third stage of WestConnex, Sydney Metro City and South West and the Pacific Highway upgrade. Local roads haven’t been forgotten, with money to be spent on road upgrades around the planned airport at Badgerys Creek and Parramatta Road.
Art loversBudget funding for the Sydney Modern Project will turn the Art Gallery of NSW into a global museum of the future with new spaces for art, live performance and film along with spaces to learn, study and participate in cultural experiences. The ambitious expansion has been given the go ahead by the state government via a $244 million funding.
LOSERSForeign InvestorsForeigners looking to snap up homes in NSW will be stung by hefty surcharges. The government has doubled the foreign investor transfer duty surcharge to 8 per cent and lifted the land tax surcharge from 0.75 to 2 per cent in a bid to help locals buy their first home in a heated property market.
Investors eyeing off-the-plan homesThe concession for residential off-the-plan purchases, which allows for a delay of up to 12 months in the payment of duty, has been tweaked to benefit first home buyers. It will now be targeted to owner occupiers only.
The EnvironmentFrom environment editor Peter Hannam: Climate change, the biggest environmental challenge, is largely absent from this budget. It is silent on how the state will meet the net-zero greenhouse gas emissions goal by 2050. Some $325 million, though, will be spent in 2017-18 on building resilience to environmental hazards and risks. This sum includes $40 million to manage fire threats in national parks and reserves, and $41 million to assist local councils to prepare coastal and floodplain management.
Environmental measures are mostly annual portions of multi-year programs already under way, such as $44 million earmarked for private land conservation as part of the overhaul of land-clearing laws.
Officials highlight $3.9 million for a new visitor precinct at Wattamolla in the Royal National Park and $2.56 million for Royal Coast Track upgrades as new spending of appeal to Sydneysiders.
CriminalsBad news for the baddies, good for the public. The government is investing to strengthen the justice system and keep the public safe from terrorism, with $62 million spent on curbing reoffending rates, $47 million to combat radicalisation in prison, and $15 million to improve NSW Police’s counter-terrorism capability and air support.
Independent Commission Against CorruptionThe government has slightly cut funding. While the some of the other agencies in its cluster, such as IPART and Audit Office will receive slightly more money, ICAC will receive a little less than what was budgeted in 2016-17.
Train commuters with disabilitiesThousands of commuters with a disability, as well as the elderly and parents with prams, are cut off from the public transport system because more than 100 stations are not accessible. The government will slash $200 million in 2017-18, but the Greens claim this isn’t enough if it’s aiming to make all stations in NSW fully accessible. Greens transport spokesperson Dr Mehreen Faruqi MLC, has called for the government to commit to a program to achieve this by 2022.
No matter how hard NSW’s public servants work, and despite them delivering a surplus, they’re unlikely to see a significant pay rise. The government has maintained its wages of policy of capping growth by 2.5 per cent per year. The Treasurer said: “We have to maintain discipline … it is a difficult conversation.”
From environment editor Peter Hannam: NSW’s addiction to coal royalties has increased in the past year – and in the budget’s forward estimates – thanks largely to events beyond the state’s borders. Royalties, mostly from thermal coal burnt in power stations, will deliver $1.558 billion to the budget in the current year, up $301 million against what had been expected. China’s domestic coal production limits contributed to “substantial coal price rises” during the December half of 2016, and these had a “a significant influence on future prices”.
That price jump will lifts expected royalties for the four years to 2019-20 by $839 million than forecast a year ago. Queensland’s budget posted a similar boost, citing Cyclone Debbie’s positive boost to prices because of supply disruption. Judging where commodity markets will land, though, is a risky business. NSW’s state budget relies on thermal coal prices rising from $US70 a tonne in 2016-17 to $US75 in the coming year. These will then ease to $US64 by 2020-21, according to estimates sourced from the federal government and private brokers.