NSW Budget: Big Spending On Mental Health, Education, Transport
A "better than expected" $3.9 billion surplus has been delivered.
What you need to know
- Election budget filled with big spends on infrastructure, health, education and 'sweeteners' for voters
- Major projects include Sydney's long-awaited F6 motorway extension and a high speed metro linking Parramatta to the CBD
- New 'NSW Generations Fund' dividends to funnel money into community projects, to be voted on by the public
- 'Creative Kids' initiative gives parents $100 voucher to enrol children in arts programs
The NSW government has set the scene for a pre-election fight with Labor, with a big spending budget focused on health, transport and education.
All eyes were on the surplus -- $3.9 billion for 2017-18. The 2018-19 surplus is forecast to be $1.4 billion.
The net debt is estimated to have fallen to -9.8 billion for 2017-18, but is projected to climb back up to $28 billion over the next four years.
Treasurer Dominic Perrottet called the result “better than expected”, due to increased investment returns, higher GST receipts and mining royalties – though much of the cash can be put down the state government selling off public assets such as the power grid and NSW’s share of the Snowy Hydro.
Despite falling revenues, significantly on stamp duty, the government is spending big on infrastructure -- $87.2 billion over four years, including major road and rail projects.
Here’s everything you need to know about this year’s budget, and how it affects you.
Children’s preschool education will be given a funding boost, with $197.8 million over four years for the ‘Strong Start’ program.
The initiative extends funding to all three-year-olds in community preschools from next year, and 4,800 new community preschool places.
A program designed to target the early learning needs of disadvantaged and vulnerable children too young for preschool will also provide “pathways” into early education.
“Creative Kids” initiative
A new initiative will give parents and caregivers a $100 incentive to enrol their children into creative programs, to “eliminate barriers to opportunity."
Each child who participates in an out-of-school program in the arts, including music lessons, drama, second language, coding, graphic design, digital, visual and performing arts activities and lessons, will be eligible.
NSW Generations Fund
The government announced $3 billion for a new “debt sustainability” fund, touted as the first of its kind in the world, which will also funnel money back into community projects.
The fund aims to keep debt at sustainable levels down the track, while dividends on interest earned - up to 50 percent - will go directly back into community sponsored projects, through the "My Community Dividend" initiative.
Projects of all kinds -- from community gardens, to support services for people with disabilities, to anything aimed at creating “livable, safe and revitalised communities” -- will be nominated by members of the public and voted on by anyone over the age of 16.
Funding will range in value from $20,000 - $200,000 per project, divided evenly across every electorate in the state, with $27.5 million initially available.
A board of directors will ensure proper oversight over the project, with government eager prevent punters from trolling the system (a la the “Ferry McFerryface” debacle).
The government is investing $6 billion into school building projects over the next four years, with 10 new schools to be built and 10 upgraded.
The government says new and current projects will bring 43,500 new student places and more than 2,000 new permanent classrooms.
Free apprenticeships will be offered to 100,000 aspiring tradies over the next four years, part of a $285m skills and training boost.
The placements will be on offer in any course at TAFE, and from non-TAFE providers approved to deliver apprenticeship programs, from July 1.
Almost 1400 new nurses, doctors and health workers will be employed in hospitals which, along with recurrent funding, will bring the 2018-19 health budget to $23 billion.
New medical staff will include 950 nurses and midwives, 300 doctors and 120 allied health workers. The move is aimed at allowing more surgeries and faster emergency care.
Mental health funding will also see a boost, with $700 million going towards new and upgraded hospital wards and more beds as part of an Australian-first Mental Health Infrastructure Program.
The funding includes $100 million per year over four years to boost early intervention and community mental health teams, as well as helping transition long-term patients back into the community. Additional funding will see an extra 260 mental health workers, and 1400 more mental health admissions to hospitals.
The “baby bundles”, valued at $150, are part of a $157 million parenting package. They will include “essential and everyday care items” such as a baby-safe sleeping bag, room thermometer, wipes and nappies.
Other measures in the parenting package will see investment into perinatal mental health teams and expanding screening of life-threatening diseases. Additional nurses across the state will also expand postnatal visits while additional family care centres will be set up in rural areas.
More than $1 billion will be spent in a massive boost to our state’s ambulance services, helping to hire an additional 750 paramedics and call centre staff over the next four years, including 200 who will be hired and trained within the next 12 months.
The cash will also buy a fleet of 26 new ambulances.
Heart Disease Research Funding
$150 million in new funding to combat Australia’s number one killer – heart disease – will be rolled out over the next 10 years, with $60 million going to researchers over the next four years. One in six Australians are living with a heart condition, and heart disease kills one person every 12 minutes.
The state government said the funding is meant to make NSW an “immensely attractive option” for researchers, the pharmaceutical sector and the biotechnology industry worldwide.
The move was applauded by The Heart Foundation NSW, whose CEO Kerry Doyle said the government has "shown vision and foresight".
Poorly designed train stations will be given a $133m boost to improve accessibility. Eleven stations will get upgrades including lifts, ramps and footbridges. Train stations flagged for improvements in last year’s budget – Glenbrook, Beecroft, Millthrope, and Como – will also see “further progression” in their upgrades.
Extra bus services
The government is injecting $1.5b into regional, metropolitan and school bus services, including $15.6 million for extra buses on busy routes in Sydney’s west, north west and northern beaches.
The boost will fund more than 2,000 extra weekly services statewide, as well as 30 new buses (about 20 of which will be used for school services) and more than 400 replacement buses this year.
Sydney’s northern beaches will see more than 1,000 extra weekly services, while more than 500 extra weekly services will be rolled out in western Sydney.
Extra train services
The train network will get an additional $880m in technology improvements, meaning additional services will run during morning and afternoon peak times on the T4 Illawarra Line and the T8 Airport Line.
South Coast, Revesby and Campbelltown customers will also see improved services. However, the new services won’t be rolled out until the early 2020s.
A new “super train” connecting Parramatta to the CBD and slashing commuter travel time to as little as 20 minutes will be built with an initial investment of $3bn.
Construction on the high speed underground metro is slated to start in 2020, with trains expected to operate as soon as 2025.
Sydney F6 extension
Stage one of the F6 motorway in Sydney’s south will finally be built, with $1.2 billion for the initial stretch from Arncliffe to Kogarah.
The tunnels – which will allow motorists to bypass 23 sets of traffic lights and are expected to remove 10,000 vehicles a day from General Holmes Drive – are expected to cost between $2.2 and $2.6 billion.
The project is slated for completion in 2024.
Princes Highway Upgrades
The NSW government will spend $1.5 billion on roads and infrastructure projects south of Lake Illawarra, including the Shoalhaven River Bridge, the Albion Park Rail bypass, the Berry to Bomaderry upgrade, and the Batemans Bay Bridge replacement.
The Princes Highway will also get a $10 million safety package, with funds going towards resurfacing, installing roundabouts, roadside barriers, increased signage, alignment upgrades, improved lighting and line marking.
COST OF LIVING
Some good news for drivers – the NSW government is slashing fines for 10 of the most common parking infractions by 25 percent.
The government is also launching a review of all fines, except those that impact road safety, and investigating options for fixing confusing parking signs.
A new “common-sense” approach to fines may include a 10-minute grace period for drivers who overstay their parking meters.
Currently, the minimum parking fine is set by the state government, at the $110 mark, but new legislation will allow flexibility for local governments and other authorities to reduce the amount.
The first round of cuts will kick off on July 1.
A new program aimed at delivering electricity customers the cheapest rates will be launched after a $4 million investment into a new government-run ‘energy switch’ service.
The ‘One-click’ service will allow customers to find the best deal on power on a single website, and switch plans instantly to save money.
The service could help families save up to $1000 per year, according to the NSW government.
The State Emergency Service will be given a $56.4 million funding boost over four years, with money going toward almost 500 new vehicles, marine vessels and trailers in a large fleet upgrade.
A $3.9 billion package will go to the NSW Police Force, including $225 million for new officers and police stations.
One hundred new officers will be added to the force, and six new police stations will be built. Eight more will be redeveloped.
$83 million will go towards policing on country roads, and mobile drug testing will be doubled with an additional 100,000 new tests each year.
The funding will also include money for three new police helicopters.
An additional $26 million will be spent enhancing post-sentence detention and supervision for offenders both in custody and on parole who pose an “unacceptably high risk of committing a serious terrorism crime” upon their release.
The government has boosted drought funding by $284 million.
The money will include $4 million toward mental health services, and funding for a kangaroo management strategy, to reduce kangaroo numbers in affected regions.
Featured Image: NSW Treasurer Dominic Perrottet hands down the state budget at NSW Parliament House. (Image: AAP Image/Joel Carrett)