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NSW Budget 2018: Opposition counts the cost

NSW Budget impacts 2018

Savage cuts to environment, parks, tourism promotion,
Rangers and area managers sacked,
Did Monaro get any budget goodies?
Regional: roads backlog, service downgrades, job losses

THE NSW GOVERNMENT is showing form in continued assaults on the natural environment in city and regional areas with additional budget cuts equivalent to 20% imposed on the functions of the Department of Environment and Heritage.

The 2018 Budget papers (Budget Paper No 3, page 7–25) reveal that the Berejiklian Government has cut $66 million out of the state’s chief environment agency the Office of Environment and Heritage (OEH) in addition to a large underspend of $165 million from last year’s budget.

Together that means

$231 million less funding available for the environmental challenges facing NSW

– including for national parks, tackling plastic pollution, solving the waste and recycling crisis, and endeavouring to save the more than 1,000 threatened species in NSW.

According to the Labor Opposition the cuts mean this year’s budget for OEH is less than the Government’s first budget eight years ago and demonstrates that the Liberals and Nationals have continued a slash and burn path through the key environmental agency in NSW.

Rangers and area managers sacked en masse

Shadow Environment Minister Penny Sharpe said “We have seen constant underfunding, under-resourcing, and denialism in the face of science and evidence telling us we need to do more to protect the environment. It is simply a disgrace”.

She ticked off some effects of the latest cuts in the context of recent attacks on the NSW natural environment including:

  • Introducing laws that will increase land clearing and bulldoze native wildlife and vegetation, including threatening up to 99 percent of core koala habitat;
  • Previous cuts of $121 million from the National Parks and Wildlife Service and sacking 26 percent of permanent rangers and 35 percent of area managers;
  • Seven years of inaction on koalas before finally releasing a Koala Strategy this year, resulting in plummeting koala populations around the state and dire predictions for koala extinction in NSW;
  • Refusing to ban plastic bags to protect marine and bird life (NSW is the only Australian state with no ban);
  • Pursuing renewal of the 20-year Regional Forest Agreements without reference to proper science or the impact of these agreements on the state’s ability to combat dangerous climate change; and
  • Failing to protect the marine environment by watering down sanctuary zones within marine parks and refusing to establish a marine park for Sydney.

Heritage places disregarded

The Government has failed to meet targets for heritage protection: no new Aboriginal places of significance were declared in the previous year, out of a target of 10; and only four listings were added to the State Heritage Register of items nominated last year, out of a target of 20.

Tourism and events budget cut, why?

In a state boasting a healthy budget surplus thanks to public asset sales, the 2018 Budget continued with funding cuts to services that will affect the regions. Notable is a cut of $33 million to Destination NSW, down from $206 million last year to $173 million this year – a 16 percent reduction in tourism spending (Budget Paper No 3, page 5–33).

The new allocation is lower than the same budget handed down three years ago which was then $176 million.

Tourism is a significant jobs driver in NSW, with the industry generating $38.1 billion in spending and supporting employment for more than 261,000 people across the state.

Budget goodies for Monaro:  Not much happening charges Opposition

It’s all about the photo op for the Member for Monaro

Is the National Party delivering for the Monaro electorate?   

A list of re-announcements, delays and empty promises sum it up for the Monaro electorate of Deputy Premier John Barilaro, according to his Labor opponent Bryce Wilson.

“The latest budget has shown key election promises continue to be delayed. Both Queanbeyan Police Station and Cooma Hospital will not be completed until at least 2020.

“After failing to include a new public primary school for Googong in the education announcement, it has been a late addition to a list of schools to be planned for, with no money attached and no start or completion date.” Labor has promised a new school for fast growing Googong if elected in March.

Courtney Houssos, Labor’s Duty MLC for Monaro noted:  

“For John Barilaro it is all about the oversized cheque and the Facebook post.

His record is of delays and re-announcements –  he makes big promises and can’t keep any of them.”

classroom young childrenRegional budget impacts – roads, jobs, hospitals and schools

“This year’s budget continued a trend of job cuts, service downgrades and under investment on vital infrastructure. Few in the bush would be feeling any better off as a result of this budget,” said the Shadow Minister for Primary Industries, Lands and Western NSW Mick Veitch.

“Sydney has continued to get the lion’s share of the budget – with less than 15 percent of the total government expenditure on roads going to country NSW. West of the divide, spending was less than 10 percent of the total budget.

“While the Sydney stadium splurge was front and centre of the budget, vital upgrades to rural hospitals and schools were being ignored. A number of rural hospital rebuilds have been pushed back to the middle of the next decade, with regional school upgrades more of a wish list than a concrete plan.

“The budget also had to be looked at in the context of eight years of neglect by the Liberal-National Government which has inflicted long term damage on rural and regional NSW – job cuts, service downgrades and crumbling infrastructure.”

Rural communities most affected by job cuts, National Party looking after the bush? Really?

A recent report  by the Australia Institute’s Centre for Future Work shows public service job cuts (more promised) and downsizing have the greatest impacts on rural communities.

National Party held seats like Upper Hunter, Barwon, Murray and New England had been in the firing line, with some towns losing more than a quarter of its public sector workforce.

Mick Veitch said in contrast public servant numbers were abundant on Sydney’s North Shore, with the Premier’s own electorate getting more than a

30 percent increase in public servants

over the last seven years.

“The growing divide between the city and the bush has been exacerbated through a reckless privatisation of public assets such as the electricity network – only to be wasted on a series of costly and wasteful road and transport projects in Sydney.”

MAIN IMAGE: Heritage-listed Bathurst Railway Station, Public Domain / Wikipedia. INSET: School children in classroom / Shutterstock.

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