Ross Womersley, CEO
SACOSS has mixed feelings towards this year’s State Budget which comes against a backdrop of sustained high unemployment and underemployment, and significant economic challenges, particularly in some of our regional areas.
On the one hand we welcome the Budget’s focus on jobs and the announcement of two new taxes to help address our need for additional revenue. But at the same time we are disappointed there is nothing targeted towards helping people on low incomes, no funding for health prevention, nor for early intervention to prevent children and young people entering our child protection system.
SACOSS has been arguing for some time now on the need to ensure that South Australia has the ability to fund the services and infrastructure our state needs now and into the future.
Therefore we are pleased to see the introduction of the SA Major Bank Levy and a conveyance duty surcharge on foreign buyers of residential property. These new taxes are set to raise over $400m across four years and will be an important contribution towards revenue into the future.
There is no doubt that this Budget would have been in deficit without these two new revenue measures.
In terms of job creation, we welcome the extension of job accelerator grants and the Future Jobs Fund, as well as the locking in and extending of payroll tax concessions for small business.
Having a job and a living wage is the best way for people to escape poverty, and we’ll be watching closely to see whether these measures do result in small businesses taking up the Budget incentives and employing more staff.
And while we welcome the plans for renewing our hospitals, we are extremely disappointed that there are no commensurate investments in services and activities that would prevent people from needing hospital care.
Similarly, while there is additional funding for the child protection system, none of this appears to be directed towards intervening early to ensure that children and young people never have to enter into the system in the first place.
SACOSS also recognises that the Government has made big announcements in relation to its energy plan and we remain hopeful that this will result in increasing the reliability, stability and affordability of our energy supply.
While we welcome the indexation of the energy concession, we maintain that it is essential for the concession to be restructured in order to be fit for purpose and provide better protections for vulnerable South Australians by moving from a flat rate to a concession based on a percentage of the bill.
We’ve also been arguing that SA must put in place a plan to capitalise on the digital economy by boosting skills, access and affordability.
We know that a large proportion of the jobs that have disappeared in recent times have been as a result of advances in digital technologies. Similarly, many of the future opportunities will be in the digital economy.
SA is the currently the most digitally-disadvantaged state on the mainland but this Budget missed the opportunity to fix this problem.
SACOSS is calling for a statewide plan to capitalise on these opportunities and to ensure that no groups within our community find themselves excluded.
This Opinion piece was published on Adelaide Now on 23 June 2017.