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What industry thinks of it all

Business

Reactions have flowed thick and fast from industry bodies across South Australia to the State Budget and what it means for the future of the state.

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While lauding the big spend on big infrastructure, Civil Contractors Federation SA Chief Executive Rebecca Pickering said it was now time to get the jobs moving and maintain the momentum in the state with a raft of projects that have been on the table for a while.

“We are eagerly awaiting the finer detail now that the government has boosted confidence and shown they are listening to our recommendations as we advocate for current and future projects that help make South Australia one of the greatest places in the world to live,” Pickering said.

She pointed out that the large number of road upgrades and projects earmarked in this budget was a result of past neglect, causing a backlog of jobs and deteriorating infrastruture.

“Although 2021-2022 road maintenance increases in some areas, we are still some way from the $1 billion per annum required to maintain our roads,” she said.

Pickering said she would raise this when the CCF SA hosted “The Great Infrastructure Debate” luncheon next Thursday, 1 July at the Adelaide Oval, where Infrastructure Minister Corey Wingard and ShadowMinister Tom Koutsantonis will debate the issue.

Business SA CEO Martin Haese said the major infrastructure spend on road upgrades – which, like much of the budget, is aligned with major Commonwealth support – would “create jobs for South Australians and opportunities for businesses to take on additional work and increase employment.”

“While not unexpected, this further secures opportunities for regional tourism, especially as international borders re-open,” Haese said.

Better roads help keep drivers safe but the Green Triangle Forest Industries Hub in the South East also lauded the budget for providing funding for heavy vehicle driver safety.

The driver training reform initiative provides $4 million over three years to implement driver training reforms for the light and heavy vehicles industries and ongoing expenditure of $920,000 per annum (indexed) from 2023-24 to administer the program.

Not all groups were as positive about road-related aspects of the budget.

Noah Schultz-Byard, SA Director at The Australia Institute, lamented that Treasurer Rob Lucas had imported Victoria’s electric vehicles tax.

“The Treasurer may say he’s not in the business of importing taxes from Victoria, but that’s exactly what he’s doing on electric vehicles,” said Schultz-Byard.

“The Victorian EV Tax has been panned by global auto-manufacturers and industry experts as the world’s worst EV policy.

“The South Australian Government should do a U-turn on this policy and pursue a far more balanced and measured approach, as the NSW Coalition Government have done.”

Another industry group leader who was not entirely pleased with the budget is South Australian Chamber of Mines & Energy (SACOME) CEO Rebecca Knol.

“Despite being the powerhouse of the state’s economy, contributing increased royalties and supporting the state through the worst impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, the resources sector will receive only modest funding in the 2021-22 State Budget,” Knol said.

She welcomed continued support for the Northern South Australian Productive Water Security Project and increased road maintenance, given the significant maintenance backlog pointed out by CCF SA, but was disappointed the Accelerated Discovery Initiative was defunded.

“Exploration incentives are a proven economic multiplier – for every $1million invested, an additional $23m in benefits is returned,” she argued.

“This is a baffling decision by a State Government who has made economic growth one of its key policy objectives.

“While the modest funding measures announced in the 2021-22 State Budget are welcomed, they fall short of driving the radical economic change the government has tasked the South Australian resources sector with helping to achieve.”

Arguing the same rationale but in a different industry is James Trimble, the general manager of Raine & Horne in South Australia.

He said that while the infrastructure spending will underpin the state’s robust real estate markets and future growth, Treasurer Rob Lucas could have used some of the $214 million stamp duty windfall to help empty nesters downsize and therefore free up housing stock.

“We need to look at ways to boost the supply of properties, and one option is a stamp duty break to encourage empty nesters to move out of the superfluous family home,” he said.

According to Trimble, the transaction costs associated with selling an existing home and buying a smaller property are major financial hurdles for many older South Australians.

“Older homeowners are doing their sums, and downsizing doesn’t stack up after taxes such as stamp duty on their next home are included,” he said.

“A stamp duty tax break for empty-nesters selling an Adelaide property who are aged over 65 could be worth costing up.”

Lucas might not have got Trimble’s reaction because it was not included in the Treasurer’s official press release filled with industry group repsonses to the budget – all of which were glowing – including from some that he had not seen eye-to-eye with before such as Daniel Gannon, the CEO of Property Council SA.

“This is an economic blueprint that will put hard hats and steel caps on workers now and into the future, helping to transform South Australia’s skyline,” Gannon was quoted in the release as saying.

“Importantly, the budget strives towards making Australia’s most liveable city the nation’s most attractive place to invest and do business.”

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