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Short-sighted SA budget won't grow jobs, says Speirs

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The South Australian budget does nothing to foster jobs growth and fails to deal with growing cost of living pressures, Opposition Leader David Speirs says.

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Delivering his reply speech in parliament on Tuesday, Speirs said the budget was focused on the near term, aiming to get the books in order for a short period as the Labor government tried to pay for some election promises.

“It does nothing to set this state up for jobs growth or deal with an extremely likely cost of living crisis,” he said.

Speirs took specific aim at Labor’s proposal to build a $593 million hydrogen energy plant in the state’s mid-north, and its decision to push out completion of Adelaide’s north-south road corridor by a further year.

He said the hydrogen plant had been strongly criticised by industry experts and he suspected it might ultimately be shelved.

If it did proceed, it was likely to be significantly modified, the leader said.

On the South Road project, Speirs said the 12-month delay in the completion date to 2031 would be a blow to the thousands of people who used the transport corridor every day.

He also questioned public service advice to the government after the election that the project had issues, suspecting significant ministerial pressure had been brought to bear.

He said those same senior departmental officials had told the previous Liberal government the project was ready to go.

In last week’s budget, the Labor government forecast a surplus of $233 million for the next financial year, growing to $645 million across the forward estimates.

But it said total state debt will rise marginally more than previous forecasts to hit $33.8 billion by 2025/26

Economic growth was tipped to be steady at 2.25 per cent over the next four years, with employment growth also flat at one per cent.

The budget confirmed an ongoing infrastructure spend of $18.6 billion, including $7.8 billion on roads and big spending on education and health.

Health would also receive an extra $2.4 billion over the next five years to employ 350 more paramedics and ambulance officers, 100 more doctors and 300 more nurses.

Treasurer Stephen Mullighan said the budget would provide the funds to deliver Labor’s $3 billion in election commitments, and begins the process of putting the state’s finances back on track.

“The challenge of doing so, however, has been made more complicated by further pressures arising since the state election,” Mullighan said in his budget speech to parliament.

“The combination of conflict in Ukraine, record fiscal stimulus and sustained low interest rates have contributed to price inflation not seen for decades across Australia.

“While households and businesses are facing huge additional pressures on their finances, the government confronts not just higher costs for goods and services, but wage pressures and rapid escalation in infrastructure delivery costs as well.”

– AAP

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