SACOSS Welcomes SA Budget Jobs Focus But Says It Misses Vulnerable Australians
Friday, 8th July 2016 at 11:39 am
The South Australia state budget provides a welcome boost to infrastructure and job creation but misses support for vulnerable Australians, according to SACOSS.
The peak body welcomed the centrepiece initiatives on infrastructure and job creation, but expressed disappointment at the lack of measures specifically addressing the needs of vulnerable South Australians.
SACOSS CEO Ross Womersley said they were concerned the budget, which was announced by SA Treasurer Tom Koutsantonis in Adelaide on Thursday, did not target the most disadvantaged.
“We acknowledge the treasurer’s strategy in investing in large-scale infrastructure projects, including the package to upgrade schools, which should stimulate the economy and provide jobs for skilled workers in both metro and regional areas,” Womersley said.
“But we know that unemployment and underemployment fall disproportionately on workers who are most disadvantaged including the longer-term unemployed, young people seeking entry-level positions, as well as older and lower-skilled workers. We are concerned that the budget lacks specific measures that targets these people.”
The budget builds on last year’s budget which focused on small business.
At its centre are grants to encourage small businesses to employ more people, invest in innovation and entice companies to relocate to South Australia, in a bid to stimulate growth as the state continues to grapple with the country’s worst unemployment rate.
Grants from a $109 million scheme will offer small and medium-sized businesses with taxable payrolls of $5 million or less, up to $10,000 for every extra person they employ in the next two years.
Small business and start-up grants of up to $4,000 will be available over two years for each new job of 22 hours or more per week created by eligible businesses which do not pay payroll tax.
The budget also includes an $80 million support package to start and retain businesses in the state, which is set to lose its tradition manufacturing base with the impending closure of Holden.
In his speech to Parliament, Koutsantonis said the 2016/17 budget spoke to their values and vision.
“Its ambition is to create jobs, develop future industries and ensure our children have the right skills for a transforming, modern economy,” he said.
“This budget will deliver unprecedented upgrades to our schools. It will incentivise South Australian small businesses to employ more people. It continues our record infrastructure spend and backs our entrepreneurs and start-ups.”
He also announced $500 million would be invested in upgrading maths and science facilities at 139 schools, with half of that going towards a cheap loan scheme for private schools to refurbish their science and maths infrastructure.
Womersley said SACOSS welcomed the investment in education.
“SACOSS was also pleased to see the treasurer’s announcement of $250 million to build STEM facilities at public schools. We welcome this investment recognising that education is essential for future life opportunities and jobs,” he said.
“We also welcome the new low-interest loan facility for private schools. Indeed, we think there are real opportunities to increase access to social housing using a similar model, and we look forward to exploring this with the government as soon as possible.”
Similarly SACOSS welcomed announcements around extra funding for: Closing the Gap initiatives, people living with a disability, problem gambling intervention, the Multi-agency Protection Service to address domestic violence, mental health rehab services in Whyalla, and expansion of home detention, rehabilitation and support programs for offenders.
In particular, Womersley said they were “delighted with the announcement of four years of funding for our work in the area of utilities research and advocacy”.
“SACOSS has established itself as having an important consumer advocacy role in protecting the interests of South Australians who are struggling to pay energy bills, and this ongoing funding will allow us to continue to make sure that energy prices in this state are as low as possible,” he said.
“We estimate that our work has led to savings for 2015/16 of $1090 per average residential customer over five years ($721 in electricity savings and $369 for gas). Our recent advocacy on cost of living also saw the government boost the energy concession and the medical heating and cooling rebate by $50 each, as well as introducing a new Cost of Living Concession (of $200 for homeowners and $100 for renters).”
However, Womersley said they were disappointed that the government “missed opportunities” to enhance utilities concession, set aside real funding for addressing child protection reforms created within a wellbeing framework, fund justice reinvestment programs, address the need for broader health prevention initiatives, and enhance support for people with mental health issues across the community.