CPSU BUDGET EDITION
TREASURER DELIVERS A CONSERVATIVE BUDGET WHEN TASSIE NEEDED VISION
Treasurer Gutwein’s fourth budget is a budget built around Health and Education but on the whole does not deliver for public services. It lacks vision and fails to build on the growing confidence in Tasmania.
Instead of setting positive targets it aims low.
- Accepting an anaemic growth of 2% across the forward estimates that won’t generate jobs;
- Accepting an unemployment rate of 6% and labour force participation of just 60% – 5% below the rest of the country; and
- Accepting a 0.6% population growth when national population is booming;
There was an opportunity on Thursday to improve the living standards of all Tasmanians by investing in and strengthening our public services. To do this we needed to see an increase to recurrent funding to public services but we certainly didn’t get that.
Will certainly didn’t show he has a heart, courage or sense …
With rising notifications to Child Safety what was needed on Thursday was an investment in staffing at Child Safety Service, but instead our Premier has failed to have a heart, as not one additional Child Safety Officer will be funded.
The $2 million allocated to Biosecurity recently announced by the Premier Will Hodgman at Agfest doesn’t employ more Biosecurity officers, it’s actually funding for farmers to manage weeds and pests on their properties.
Despite having the lowest per hectare investment in our National Parks across the country what we see in this budget is more one off investment solely focused on tourism infrastructure. What we needed was recurrent funding to employ more rangers and field officers in our National parks.
All of which could have been funded by the $60 million that Treasurer Gutwein will now pay to local councils to take over TasWater.
The kicker for all public sector employees is the fact that the Treasurer Gutwein has made the decision to continue to apply the 2% wage cap policy until at least 2020/21. This would mean public sector employees copping a decade of below inflation wage increases.
When Prime Minister Turnbull’s own budget forecasts wages to grow by 2.5% in 2017/18, 3% in 2018/19, 3.5% in 2019/20 and 3.75% in 2020/21 its completely unrealistic to expect Tasmanian public sector workers to accept just 2%.
Wages and public services together determine the living standards of all Tasmanian’s. Today Will Hodgman and his Treasurer showed that they have little thought of public services outside Health and Education and don’t value the staff that work tirelessly day in day out to provide the services Tasmanians need.
Where has the money been spent?
There are some good initiatives including:
- 106 new beds in Health across the State, but from our number crunching about 72 are already in operation – so not quite new beds. What has been funded is the staffing for these additional beds and just 34 new beds.
- 117 schools will get capital works programs and there is $57 million over four years for the implementation of the Education Act (included funding for transition of early learning and care sector to earlier starting age)
- $50 million investment in ICT infrastructure across Justice, CYS, DPFEM and DHHS through the establishment of a Digital Transformation Priority Expenditure Program.
What we needed was funding for more biosecurity officers in our airports and ferry terminals but that wasn’t delivered.
They found $158,000 a year for ‘seasonal’ Biosecurity staff but nothing for more permanent staff.
There is $2m a year to partner with industry to improve weed management on farms – important work but surely not a higher risk than a porous barrier.
The budget includes $235,000 a year for livestock officers. An important initiative but in a budget that found $2m for a pool at Oatlands its a small commitment.
Schools and TasTAFE
Funding for an additional 14.8 FTE allied health professionals in schools to improve student health and welbeing is welcome.
Sadly the long term issue of properly funding school admin has been ignored.
There is no initiatives to improve first aid or attendance. The only bright light is that the Department has agreed to allocate a proportion of infrastructure funding to admin resources and with $115m to be spent on school infrastructure in 117 schools over the next 4 years this may help some schools.
Apart from the Drysdale Centre for Excellence there is very little in the budget for TasTafe.
Community Corrections, Courts and Legal Aid
Funding of $2.4m per annum has been provided to phase out the use of suspended sentences. There is no detail on how this money will be spent but its clear more money will be needed as it’s described as funding only the ‘first tranche of reforms’.
There is a tiny amount of $350,000 to employ parenting and family integration facilitators and to provide prisoners with transitional accommodation assistance. Unfortunately this is the only initiative from the ‘Breaking the Cycle’ strategy funded.
There’s $150,000 to develop a business case for ‘Justice Connect’ – a new criminal justice IT system with an indication of money from the $50m Digital Transformation Priority Expenditure Program if the business case stacks up.
There is $5m to increase the capacity of the prison including a mother and baby unit, 16 additional pre-release unit beds and 40 minimum security cells but nothing across the next 4 years to address the real shortfalls in maximum beds.
There is $2.5m over 2 years for legal aid but this only replaces the same money cut by the Federal government.
Parks and Wildlife Service
We asked for boots on the ground but we got infrastructure spending.
$8m for priority visitor facilities in our flagship Parks. The money is to be used to ‘focus on the enjoyment of the parks estate by the public, commercial enterprises and tourism’. Sounds like a hand out to some of the commercial enterprises.
There is an ongoing commitment to the Three Capes Track, $250,000 for signage on the South Coast Track, a decent $3.2m to support the preservation of the Orange Bellied Parrot and $1.8m for restoration work on Maria Island. Great initiatives but they do little to help PWS staff with the mountain of work they face every day.
Child Safety Service
There is an additional $27.5m over 4 years for additional support for out of home care. While that’s good news the devil is in the detail and the detail is scarce.
The money will be used to provide children in care with tailored therapeutic support. An undefined amount will also be used to fund the recommendations of the Children’s Commissioners report into OOHC which includes a visitor program.
While exactly how this money will be spent is a bit vague, we know one thing – the money won’t be used to employ any additional Child Safety Officers so if you are still asking yourself if Will has a heart, the answer is no!
There is $300,000 to develop a business case for a new CYS Client Information System and a promise of money from the $50m Digital Transformation Priority Expenditure Program is the business case stacks up.