My Daily Advertiser Op Ed column for 26 June 2018

by ray goodlass

An election budget that is all smoke and mirrors

Superficially, and if one believes the Murdoch press unreservedly, last week’s NSW state budget from the Lib/Nat government is a good one, but a closer look will reveal it is a smoke and mirrors conjuring trick aimed at fooling the gullible in the lead up to next year’s state election. What might well be seen as an attempt to bribe the voters, as such ‘cash splashes’ always are.

Let’s get the local business out of the way first. Given that budget allocations to Wagga and the wider Riverina region are so paltry that won’t take long. A new but totally unfunded primary school for Wagga, $20 million for Stage 3 of the Base Hospital redevelopment, $10 million for the new PCYC, and 1.9 m to Wagga Wagga City Council for roads are the main points.

Nothing either locally or state-wide to address the big issues at all. Public libraries receive a massive 18%cut. Regional public transport misses out, as does housing affordability, so its bad news for renters. Ditto cyclists, as no new projects or infrastructure will be built in 2018-19.

Local government certainly misses out. Funding for NSW councils via grants and subsidies will be reduced by about $32 million in 2018-19. So do Public Services, as departments and agencies will have to find an extra $1.6 billion in savings over four years.

Seniors aren’t very well cared for either, given that they will get only $8.8 million for elder abuse services and technology training.

Right from the outset the NSW treasurer showed a complete lack of understanding about global warming and climate change when he referred to NSW’s diminished share of GST revenue being due to what he claimed us paying over $1bn in 2021 for South Australians who can’t even keep their lights on,” the Guardian Australia reported.

Responding to the NSW Budget, Jenny Leong Greens MP said “The Liberal’s budget speech did not mention climate change once and that’s indicative of the thinking behind this budget. with massive funding for private toll roads and a failure to recognise the real needs of the community”.

In its pre-election sweetener after years of spending on roads and rail, the NSW government will put more money than allocated in previous years towards schools and hospitals rather than on big ticket infrastructure and privatisation of public assets.

Yes, this is more towards these public resources than we’ve seen in recent times, but it hardly makes up for the years and years of neglect, and the fact that the Berejiklian government will continue to devote a large chunk of the budget to its ambitious roads programs, with its controversial WestConnex project to receive a whopping $3.2bn.

As Jamie Parker Greens MP said “The allocation of funds to destructive projects like WestConnex and the Western Harbor Tunnel toll road dwarf this funding. The government should be taking every cent of the billions proposed to be spent on these polluting toll roads and invest into world class public transport”.

The dollars allocated to public resources still pale in comparison with what is being wasted on metropolitan roads.

Greens MP David Shoebridge also pointed out that the government’s failed law and order auction will see record spending on police and prisons, while gutting millions from Legal Aid at a time when it is needed the most. “Thousands of vulnerable kids have been betrayed by a budget that focuses on the Minister’s ideological push for adoption rather than the hard evidence contained in the Tune Report”.

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