THE State Government has touted a record spend on regional road and transport upgrades in their "responsible" 2019-20 budget, revealed in Adelaide today.
State Treasurer Rob Lucas said it had faced significant challenges, with an estimated reduction of $2.1 billion in GST revenue, however, the government still promised a small operating surplus of $101 million.
Mr Lucas said the budget ensured SA's sustainable future, with the government cutting inefficiencies and increasing fees in order to invest in a massive program of infrastructure investments across the state.
This "hi-vis and overalls" wearing budget promises to literally build a better South Australia.
"The Liberal Government's second State Budget is focused squarely on building South Australia, through a significant pipeline of infrastructure projects that will not only transform the face of Adelaide and the regions but improve the day-to-day lives of South Australians across the state,'' he said.
Overall, $1.1 billion will be spent on regional road projects over the next eight years; including $525m of upgrades to the Princes Highway, Eyre Highway, Sturt Highway and Barrier Highway.
Transport and Infrastructure Minister Stephan Knoll said the regions formed the backbone of South Australia's economy.
"The Marshall Government is investing record amounts in regional roads to improve road safety in our regions, as well as help build regional communities and create jobs," Mr Knoll said.
"We will help unlock the economic potential in our regions by ensuring South Australia has the regional road network to encourage new investment and improve productivity for existing regional businesses."
New funding of $878 million for regional roads and infrastructure will be directed at helping to save lives on our country roads and build regional communities.
"We also know that the majority of road deaths every year occur in our regions and while there are many factors to a road accident, the condition of the road can play a significant part," Mr Knoll said.
The government announced it would continue to take 30 per cent of mineral and petroleum royalties to maintain and improve the performance of regional and remote transport networks.
Another key element of the State Budget is a $104m Housing Stimulus Package which allows low-income earners to borrow up to $10,000 interest free, for five years, to help cover the upfront 'costs' of buying a home, such as deposit, fees and charges.
Human Services Minister Michelle Lensink said about 60 per cent of South Australian households were on low-to-moderate incomes and many hardworking people wanted to enter the housing market but simply could not afford it.
Additionally, a $74m Remote Housing Boost will aim to address critical housing needs for people in remote communities.
To support regional schools, $32.7m will be provided to fund a range of upgrades to regional high schools, including to facilitate the state-wide transition of Year 7 into high school and to redevelop the Berri Senior Campus of Glossop High School.
Country health missed out on any significant spends, with the State Government announcing only $14 million per every year for 10 years to improve the amenity of regional hospitals and health infrastructure and $20 million over four years to address the shortage of doctors in rural areas.
The agriculture sector will benefit from the State Government's contribution of $10m towards replacing the ageing 1600km component of SA's dog fence, alongside a similar contribution from the Federal government and $5m from industry.
Our regions contribute around $25 billion a year to our states economy and we want to see continued growth.Regional Development Minister Tim Whetstone
Regional Development Minister Tim Whetstone said telecommunications were also vitally important to regional communities.
"This is why we will continue to put additional funding ($10 million over three years announced in the 2018-19 Budget) towards the Federal Government's Mobile Black Spot Program to improve efficiency and boost jobs."
"This budget also provides $25 million to upgrade the 100-year-old Dog Fence, which our primary producers have long-identified as a key piece of infrastructure to protect our livestock industry," he continued.
Primary producers will receive $7.5m to implement a red meat and wool industry growth program to significantly improve on-farm productivity, increase product integrity and market confidence to boost the state's exports of agricultural products.
Other investments across the regions:
- ACCELERATED MINERAL DISCOVERY: $10m to facilitate new minerals discoveries and new mine development in our regions.
- ENERGY SUPPLY SCHEME: $5.6m to install smart meters and improve energy efficiency for remote communities and a pre-payment framework to reduce customer energy debts.
- CFS: $4.5m to support the CFS to meet national heavy vehicle laws.
- REGIONAL COASTS: $4m to secure our regional coastline.
- NATURE AND HERITAGE: $3.3m to upgrade our parks to activate nature and heritage based tourism.
- VISAS: $1.8m to provide dependents of 457 and 482 visa holders with an exemption from student education contribution fees.
- SES: $1m for additional upgrades to SES facilities.
South Australians will feel an increase in fees and charges through a 10 per cent increase in fees relating to occupational and trades licences, including for builders, plumbers, gas fitters and electricians, as well as certificates for births, deaths and marriages.
An increase in the cost of hospital car parking, public transport will also hit South Australians.
Treasurer Rob Lucas also confirmed that last year's cuts to public servant employment and government efforts to increase services efficiencies will continue.
MORE TO COME...