Media Release

Predictable State Budget shows skewed priorities

by Greens' MLC Mark Parnell

September 4th, 2018 7:00 pm

The first Liberal State Budget in 16 years is a predictable piece of work that takes the axe to public servants, ignores the environment, cuts services to those who most need them and keeps the big end of town happy.  There’ll be plenty of ribbons for Ministers to cut but the harshest cuts are reserved for programs that help reduce climate change, help reduce crime and help low income families to make ends meet. Thousands of public servants are facing forced redundancies.

It will take time to fully digest thousands of budget pages, but here are three portfolio areas for starters.

 Climate Change & Energy

  • $5 million to protect the coast from the impact of climate change whilst cutting double that amount ($11.6m) from climate change programs. Go figure!
  • More money for fighting bushfires (which are exacerbated by climate change).
  • Continuation of home battery and grid battery programs. Good, but more needed.
  • Minor reduction in public handouts to mining & energy companies (but still $64 million this year, much of which is to subsidise the search for new fossil fuel opportunities).

 Missing:

  • No serious commitment to reducing our State’s carbon footprint.
  • No rollout of solar panels or solar hot water on tenanted public housing properties.
  • No publicly-owned energy retailer to keep bills down.
  • Insufficient energy concessions for low-income households.

 Verdict:

They might not gleefully pass lumps of coal around in Parliament like their Federal colleagues, but the State Liberals still don’t get climate change.  We need measures to reduce our impact on the climate, not just react to the problem.  That means more investment in renewable energy, storage and energy efficiency.  Funding can come from reducing taxpayer subsidies such as fossil fuel rebates and handouts to big mining companies, especially oil and gas.  Extending the renewable energy revolution to low income households and protecting the most vulnerable through a not-for-profit public energy retailer are simple measures that would make a big difference to the cost of living.

 Environment

  • Re-badging existing reserves as a new urban National Park
  • Upgrading some walking trails
  • Opening up reservoirs for fishing and recreation
  • Employing 20 new park rangers (whilst sacking 115 other environment staff).
  • Selling off more Crown land to private developers

 Missing:

  • No action to address species decline
  • Very little on pollution and public health

 Verdict:

The Government has confused conservation and recreation.  Allowing people to paddle a canoe on one of Adelaide’s drinking water reservoirs does nothing to stop species going extinct.  Investment in the environment as a percentage of the State Budget continues to decline year after year.  Polluting projects such as underground coal gasification are bad for the environment and public health, but continue to be supported by the Government.

 Transport

  • Plenty of money for roads ($2.3 billion) whilst cutting $45 million worth of public transport services – mainly bus routes.
  • Gawler line electrification (a perennial budget favourite – announced year after year)
  • Putting in the tram right hand turn to North Terrace before it has even committed to a city tram loop or any tram extensions.

 Missing:

  • No improved commitment to cycling ($90m needed over 4 years)
  • No incentives for zero emission or car share vehicles
  • No extension to free seniors travel on public transport or school kids travelling to and from school.

Verdict:

Given that road traffic always expands to fill the available space, nothing in this budget addresses the problem of providing genuine alternatives to private cars to reduce congestion in the metropolitan area.  Adelaide is set to remain the most car-dominated city in Australia.  Contrast with Melbourne which is to spend $50 Billion on new rail lines.

Authorised by M. Parnell, Parliament House Adelaide.