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Budget 2021: The key measures

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Here’s our easy-to-digest summary of the key measures in today’s pre-election State Budget. They include a major focus on tackling the public hospital and mental health crisis, a massive blowout in the South Rd upgrade bill and a strategic decision to kill an unpopular, expensive suburban project.

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Economic Growth Forecasts

The 2020 budget is the second of three forecast to carry “significant deficits” to 2021-22 due to the pandemic.

The deficit for 2020-21 is expected to be about $1.8b – down from $2.6b forecast last year – while total net debt is expected to rise from $22b to $33.6b by 2024-25.

But the government predicts a return to surplus in 2022-23 – a year earlier than expected.

Employment in South Australia is forecast to grow by 1 per cent in 2020-21 and by 2 per cent in 2021-22.

North South Corridor

Treasurer Rob Lucas revealed the cost of the Torrens to Darlington stage of the South Rd project had blown out by $1 billion to $9.9b, up from the $8.9b set out in the 2020 budget.

The higher estimate had been driven by updated plans which included expanding the tunnels from two lanes to three, to accommodate three lanes due to greater traffic volumes than first predicted. Lucas said it made sense to adjust the project, and budget, before work began: “Now is the time to make the decision.”

However, Budget papers said projects costings “will be finalised on completion of the business case”.

The project is expected to slash travel time by 24 minutes and be completed by 2030.

Hove rail crossing

The Marshall Government announced today it had scrapped the controversial Hove crossing project, saving up to $450 million in state and federal government funding on a project which had generated significant community opposition.

The project to remove the Brighton Rd crossing was announced in April 2019 at an initial cost of $171 million, but raising the rail line over Brighton Rd to reduce traffic congestion was costed at $295 million and prompted resident anger over a proposed 1.5km concrete bridge.

The community-preferred rail under design was costed at $450 million, but Treasurer Rob Lucas said the Commonwealth Government was not prepared to fund it.

He said the decision to scrap the project was based on a number of factors including the cost blowout and the strong community opposition.

“It’s crossed off the books, that money will be held in contingency and we’ll look at other projects over the next four years,” he said.

“The minister (Corey Wingard) will be announcing further work down Brighton Road that might tackle some of the issues.

“What they are at this stage I will have to leave to him.”

Riverbank arena

The government has committed $78m from 2022-23 to 2024-5 for planning and preparations to build the new 15,000 arena for sports, entertainment and conventions, which is expected to cost $662m and be completed in 2027-28.

Early site works will include a tunnel under Morphett St. Lucas said the revised total cost was less than the $700m originally forecast, and would be further offset by the sale of the Entertainment Centre at Hindmarsh, which he estimated at “tens of millions of dollars”.

Health

The troubled health portfolio has been allocated $7.4 billion for the next financial year. The government will spend $110 million to provide 140 new treatment spaces in hospital emergency departments and $45 million over four years to fund an already announced extra 74 paramedics and ambulance staff.

The government today revealed a $1.95 billion price-tag for a new 500-treatment space Women’s and Children’s Hospital, to open in 2027, alongside the Royal Adelaide Hospital.

Mental Health

The government has allocated $163.5 million over four years to address the state’s mental health crisis. It will include $20.4 million to build a new 16-bed crisis stabilisation centre in the northern suburbs as an alternative to emergency departments for people in crisis. A further $12 million will be spent next year to create an extra eight psychiatric intensive care beds.

COVID measures

$86m allocated over two years for vaccinations in state-run facilities, offset by $16m from the federal government. The government has also put $872,000 towards extending the lease and bed capacity of the former Wakefield Hospital until February 2021 in order to guarantee backup hospital care during the pandemic.

Aboriginal Affairs

As flagged by InDaily last year, the Government will introduce “major reforms” to the way it engages South Australia’s Aboriginal communities, including giving Aboriginal people the power to elect members to the state’s Aboriginal Advisory Council for the first time.

The Budget includes $650,000 – plus $120,000 every two years – to implement the new model, which is being led by Aboriginal Engagement Commissioner Roger Thomas.

Commissioner for Aboriginal Children and Young People April Lawrie will also receive a funding boost of $500,000 next financial year – increasing to $1 million each year from 2022 – to support her work advocating for the state’s young First Nations people. She will also receive $616,000 to move into her own dedicated office, after working from Commissioner for Children and Young People Helen Connolly’s office since her appointment in 2018.

The Government will increase funding for Aboriginal heritage assessments by $325,000 each year and hand $240,000 to the Aboriginal Legal Rights Movement to continue its Aboriginal justice advocacy service.

Funding for the Aboriginal Affairs and Reconciliation division of the Department of Premier and Cabinet has increased by about $150,000 compared to this year’s estimated spend.

Arts

The Government will spend $3.1 million on an internal refurbishment of the Adelaide Festival Centre, with works including new seating and updated dressing rooms.

Child Protection

Spending on child protection is set to increase by about $38 million next financial year to support the growing number of children and young people entering care.

The Government projects that the number of child abuse notifications will increase by about 1200, while 200 more children will enter out-of-home care compared to 2020-21 figures.

The total $647 million spend on child protection includes $1.2 million over two years to establish a significant incident reporting unit within the Department for Child Protection.

It follows a recommendation from former District Court Judge Paul Rice, who handed down a damning independent review into the department’s mishandling of the sexual abuse of two teenage girls in state care in February.

The Government will also spend $3.7 million to establish an ongoing family group conferencing program, following the completion of a successful two-year trial. The program aims to keep children with their parents, if it is safe to do so.

Child Protection Minister Rachel Sanderson said the Government would also spend $2.7 million over the next four years to support young people with complex needs, who are at risk of homelessness and housing instability when they leave care.

The Department of Human Services will contribute $11.3 million over a six-year period to establish a new home-based family support intervention program in Adelaide’s south that will be delivered by not-for-profit organisation The Benevolent Society.

Community Services

The Government will spend $20.7 million on libraries each year.

As InDaily reported last month, librarians had expressed concerns that a funding cut could spell the end of a national-first service allowing South Australians to borrow resources from any library across the state.

But Premier Steven Marshall said he was confident that the state’s 137 libraries would be able to continue operating as they have for decades.

“A key pillar of our Budget for a stronger South Australia is all about delivering better services, and this ongoing funding for libraries does just that for thousands of South Australians who enjoy borrowing a few books, catching up with friends and being part of our strong communities,” he said.

Meanwhile, the Government will spend $2 million on new multicultural community grants.

Human Services

Children aged 10 to 13 who are at risk of being remanded into custody are set to have access to a new $1.3 million youth justice diversion program.

The program, which is funded for two years, will connect at-risk kids to family support services and short-term accommodation.

People living with disabilities will have access to a new “safeguarding app” that has inbuilt functions to connect them to a community volunteer. The app, to cost $500,000, will also provide information to advocacy bodies and state and Commonwealth regulatory authorities.

It will feature wellbeing checks and emergency help services, as well as referrals to agencies.

The Department of Human Services will also contribute funding to a voluntary out-of-home care program, which is run by the National Disability Insurance Scheme, as well as a disability access and inclusion directorate.

Courts

The Government will boost Youth Court funding by $339,000, following a budget plea from the Law Society of SA, who in their submission to the Government claimed that the court was “overstretched”.

According to the society, between 2014-15 and 2019-20, appearances in the care and protection jurisdiction of the Youth Court increased by 141 per cent, while criminal appearances increased by 15 per cent.

Attorney-General Vickie Chapman said the funding would be used to employ two additional staff at the Youth Court.

The Coroner’s Court, which is currently dealing with a backlog of cases, will receive $939,000, which will be used to appoint an additional Deputy Coroner and four full-time staff for 12-months.

An additional $624,000 will be spent preparing a business case to determine the “future operational requirements and service needs” of the Supreme, District and Environment, Resources and Development Courts. 

But funding for the criminal jurisdiction of the courts will be cut by $2.1 million, with about 40 full-time staff to be axed.

The civil jurisdiction will also receive a $900,000 funding cut and lose about 32 staff.

Education

$84m over three years to build a new 1200 student high school on the site of the current Norwood Morialta High School at Rostrevor. The school is set to open in 2023.

TAFE

Despite course cuts and subsidy withdrawals leading to full-fee courses as the government leans towards private training providers, it will spend an extra $49m on TAFE in 2021-22, rising to $56m in 2024-25, in response to lower revenue growth forecasts and “a reassessment of what can be achieved through efficiency measures”.

Liquor licence fees

Annual liquor licence fees to be halved for eligible businesses which received JobKeeper payments from January to March 2021.

Tourism

Another $4m this financial year towards the great state voucher scheme, to provide accommodation vouchers to stimulate the sector in Adelaide and across the state.

Wine industry

More than $5 million will be provided over four years to help the state’s wine exporters recover from Chinese tariffs that have threatened to cripple the industry.

The funding will support SA wine industry export growth and diversification in priority markets such as the US, UK, Japan, Korea, Hong Kong, Malaysia, Singapore, Korea, UAE, Vietnam and Europe.

The initiative is funded from the Jobs and Economic Growth Fund and follows the tariffs of more than 200 per cent placed on Australian wine by the Chinese government last November and later extended for five years.

Trade Minister Stephen Patterson said the $5.4 million Wine Export Recovery and Expansion program will focus on major e-commerce and retail campaigns, as well as in-market tasting programs in developing markets.

“We’ve been consulting extensively with the industry and the Department for Trade and Investment has collaborated with regional, state and national wine industries and government partners, and we’ll continue to do so as the program is delivered over the next four years,” Patterson said.

South Australia’s wine exports are valued at more than $2 billion, accounting for 70 per cent of the total value of Australian wine exports in 2020. However, a reliance on the Chinese market in recent years has highlighted the need for urgent diversification.

Mining

A test mine and innovation centre will be built at the existing OZ Minerals Prominent Hill Mine in South Australia’s north with the help of $8 million in state government funding.

The Arkani Ngura National Test Mine and Innovation Centre will support the development and commercialisation of technology in the resources, space and defence sectors in partnership with industry.

“From the potential to store hydrogen underground to the testing of prototype mining and defence equipment this new facility will place South Australia at the forefront of industrial innovation,” Energy and Mining Minister Dan van Holst Pellekaan said.

The State Budget also includes a $1.1 million commitment to a state-of-the-art spectral geoscience instrument for the State Drill Core Library to help discover the resources that will become the mines of the future, and $2.2 million over the next four years to expand a free, confidential Landowner Information Service to support landowners in engaging with mineral exploration companies.

Film Industry

The success of recent South Australian productions has prompted an additional $29.4 million investment to ensure the state continues to be a destination of choice for the production of film, television and digital content.

The funding includes $22.8 million to extend the Post-Production, Digital and Visual Effects (PDV) Rebate Scheme, introduced this year, to 2024-25 and $6.6 million for the Screen Production Fund.

The PDV initiative provided $2.7 million in 2020-21 and has allocated $2.1 million in 21-22 before increasing to $6 million per year until 24-25.

The Screen Production Fund will provide am indexed $1.6 million a year to the SA Film Corporation to bring the total fund to $3.1 million a year.

The fund supports the production of screen content for the commercial release via theatrical, broadcast or digital platforms that generate significant economic outcomes for the state.

Projects funded under the scheme are expected to be substantially produced and post-produced in SA.

Roads

Hundreds of millions of dollars has been allocated to upgrade country roads and highways.

 The projects, which comprise of Commonwealth and State funding in an 80:20 split include $202 million over three years to build a Sturt Highway bypass around the town of Truro and $180 million over four years to complete the next stage of the duplication of the Augusta Highway from Nantawarra and Lochiel.

A $60 million upgrade of the Heysen Tunnels on the South Eastern Freeway over two years has also been included under the shared funding model as has a $40 million project to upgrade Key Kangaroo Island road corridors over three years.

The State Government has also  set aside $36 million over two years to increase the life of the Old Murray Bridge to increase its operational life by 30 years.

In Adelaide, $45 million has been budgeted over three years under a 50:50 arrangement with the Federal Government to upgrade the intersection of Marion Rd and Sir Donald Bradman Drive at Cowandilla in a bid to improve traffic flow to and from Adelaide Airport.

Funding of $6 million has also been set aside over two years for upgrades to the intersection of Nottage Terrace and North East Rd at Walkerville. 

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