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ACT Budget 2019 reaction: ‘It’s a rip-off’ to ‘steady as she goes’

Ian Bushnell 5 June 2019

ACT Budget 2019 reaction

Canberra Liberals< Opposition Leader Alistair Coe says Canberrans are being monumentally ripped off. "Despite record revenue, the ACT will soon be in debt by more than $3 billion,'' he says. For the amount the Government is spending and borrowing each year, Canberrans would expect a premium level of service. Instead, this government fails to deliver even the basics well. "Canberrans are paying more but getting less. It is nothing short of a rip off.'' The ACT Greens

Leader Shane Rattenbury says while this Budget makes some investments in climate change initiatives, much more will be needed.

“While this Budget makes some important investments in climate change, it is still not yet consistent with addressing the climate emergency. The Greens will be looking to ensure that future budgets are framed around climate change, and invest in measures to mitigate and adapt to climate change.”

Caroline Le Couteur says there needs to more investment in public transport, less on roads, and future buses should not be diesel.

She welcomes the inclusion of 80 new public housing properties and 60 new community housing properties in the Budget’s Indicative Land Release program. “The Greens would now like to see these blocks gifted or sold at a discounted rate to allow these community housing providers to deliver better housing outcomes,” Ms Le Couteur says.

She says the Government’s tax reforms could be fairer by rates being based on property value rather than just land value, ‘making rates fairer for all members of our community’.

Building and construction industry

Master Builders ACT says the budget shows an increasing reliance on the construction and property sector to return it to surplus despite ABS building approval figures showing that total dwelling approvals have declined 19.9% over 12 months to March 2019.

Master Builders ACT CEO Michael Hopkins says the budget has failed to set out a long term infrastructure vision for the city, instead outlining a gradual decline in capital works funding from close to $1 billion in 2016-17 to $581 million in 2022-23.

He says a long-term plan is necessary so the sector can gear up for developments and Federal funding can be acquired.

Master Builders would also like to see more englobo land sales and joint ventures.

He welcomes moves to increase building quality and speed up development applications but says these will be increased license fees, building levy and DA fees.

Housing Industry Association welcomes the boost to housing, the investment in the modernisation of the ACT Land Titles system, and the future delivery of e-conveyancing, along with improvements to accessing online services through Access Canberra.

But it says the building quality and service improvements should not be funded through new charges. “It is disappointing that these services are being funded through new levies and charges that will ultimately be passed on to the public when they build a new home,” HIA’s Greg Weller says.

The ACT Council of Parents and Citizens Associations

The peak body for Canberra’s public school parents sees the budget as a mixed bag, welcoming the new schools and capacity in Gungahlin and planning for the Inner North but believing more needs to be done to accommodate expected increases in student numbers.

Council President, Kirsty McGovern-Hooley says parents are pleased to see funding set aside to address occupational violence, but Council is concerned that targeted resources are required to support students experiencing violence in schools.

She says it is also disappointing that there is no commitment to properly staffing public school libraries. “Students and teachers need strong library services today more than ever. Qualified library staff teach kids to negotiate the morass of information on the internet – to sort fact from fiction – and access and assess information they can trust.”

Australian Medical Association

The AMA welcomes commitments to fund an expanded SPIRE Centre at Canberra Hospital and new operating theatres at Calvary.

AMA (ACT) President Dr Antonio Di Dio also welcomes an improved and expanded urological service at Calvary Public Hospital, expanding the public dermatology services at Canberra Hospital, additional staff at the Fracture Clinic at TCH, a feasibility and needs assessment for a medically supervised injecting facility in the ACT.

But he says the Government needs to look at how it funds ACT public hospitals as costs continue to increase.

“Public hospitals are expensive to run and despite the best efforts of our hard-working staff, we continue to lag behind on elective surgery and emergency department waiting times.” Dr Di Dio says.

“The ACT health system faces unique challenges that we all acknowledge – the obligation to treat costly interstate patients, the difficulty in attracting and retaining some medical staff, the need to improve co-ordination between Canberra and Calvary hospitals and other challenges identified by the Culture Review – but equally, every doctor I’ve spoken with has been willing to work together to meet these challenges.”

ACT Council of Social Services

ACTCOSS Executive Director Susan Helyar said: “We are glad the government has chosen to be ambitious about investing to meet the needs of a growing city, especially when it comes to health, justice and community facilities. There are a number of investments in disability services, mental health programs, legal assistance, planning for better school and community partnerships, transport infrastructure development and continuing to reduce and respond better to sexual, domestic and family violence.”

But the failure to fund the implementation of the ACT Community Services Industry Strategy that the government endorsed in 2016 is disappointing, given the ongoing growth of health services and social assistance as a major employer, a key driver of human capital development and ongoing contributor to economic activity.

“Overall, we see the ACT Government has recognised the need to better respond to highly at-risk groups. The bulk of new funding goes into government-delivered programs, not non-government services. We will continue to advocate for more resources to come out into community-managed organisations and to be dedicated to reducing risks, not only responding when they have emerged. Adoption of a set of social wellbeing indicators should increase the incentive to focus more on widespread and timely responses to the risk of adversity and more effective approaches to supporting people to get back on their feet and doing well.”

Canberra Business Chamber 

Chamber CEO Dr Michael Schaper says it’s a “steady as it goes” budget, but there is still room for additional business support and it would be preferable not to go into deficit.

“At the macro level, it is pleasing to see provision for new infrastructure, and continuation towards Stage 2 of the light rail project,” he says.

“Initiatives such as additional support for tourism, major events, Brand Canberra, revitalisation of local shopping centres and funding for Canberra Innovation Network are also to be encouraged.”

But with the private sector now accounting for more than 62 per cent of all jobs in the ACT, supporting it is more important than ever. The private sector deserves more support. “However, there is no funding for a general small business advisory service for firms outside the new technology sector. We remain the only state or territory without such a function,” Dr Schaper says.

Original Article published by Ian Bushnell on The RiotACT.

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