Heating, health and housing in SA Budget
For the second time since regaining power in March 2022, South Australia's Labor government has handed down a state Budget.
In his Budget speech to parliament on Thursday afternoon, Treasurer Stephen Mullighan made sure to emphasise the strength of the South Australian economy, but conceded that the current moment was not without its challenges.
"Over the past 12 months, households and small business have been hammered by the dual blows of soaring inflation, and the fastest increase in interest rates in a generation.
"The Budget provides substantial cost of living relief, allocates large increases in funding for health, housing and child protection, and invests in our economy.
"We have targeted these measures to ensure we are supporting the community without adding to inflation: there is no point giving with one hand, only for the Reserve Bank to take with another."
So along with housing and health spending, here are some of the other major takeaways from the Budget that South Australians will want to know about.
1. Affordable housing
As part of the Budget, the South Australian government has committed $475 million to a range of housing measures, including a pledge to build an extra 564 public homes (on top of commitments already made), and to stop the sale of 580 existing homes.
Then $1.7 million will go towards extending the Aspire homelessness program which provides support for South Australians who have either experienced recurrent homelessness or who are at risk of returning to homelessness. The government expects the funding to help an additional 88 people.
2. First home buyers
Acknowledging the considerable financial hurdles faced by homebuyers trying to enter the housing market for the first time, the government has also announced the abolishment of stamp duty for eligible first home buyers.
The stamp duty exemption will apply to those purchasing a new home worth up to $650,000, or vacant land valued up to $400,000 which is then used to build a new home. The property value cap on the state's First Home Owner Grant (FHOG) will also be increased from $575,000 to $650,000.
Labor says it will put an extra $2.3 billion over the next five years towards health spending, with reducing demand on hospitals and addressing ramping issues among its top priorities.
$27.6 million will be used to fund more doctors and other health staff to work on weekends in order to help boost weekend discharge rates and free up more hospital beds. On that note, a further $39.9 million will go towards freeing up more hospital beds by helping patients waiting for NDIS or aged care placements to transition to those faster.
Public hospital workers are also set to benefit from a $56.4 million initiative which will see parking fees at public hospitals reduced and public transport made free for eligible workers.
4. Virtual healthcare
Elsewhere on the health front, the government has used the Budget to announce a $98.6 million funding boost for two existing virtual healthcare programs which, again, it hopes will help to take pressure off emergency departments and free up hospital beds.
The Child and Adolescent Virtual Urgent Care Service, which provides assessments and advice from doctors and nurses for children aged between six months and 18 years, will receive $30.8 million over the next four years. Meanwhile, the SA Virtual Care Service, which provides a similar service for adults, will get $67.8 million over five years.
5. Child protection
Aside from housing and health, one of the other priorities highlighted by Mullighan in his Budget speech was greater funding for the child protection system which will see $216.6 million in the way of additional funding over the next five years.
That spend includes $109.5 million for non-family-based care placements and $32.1 million for higher carer payments. From July, general foster and kinship carers will receive $50 extra a fortnight for each child or young person under 16 in their care, and there will also be a general 4.8% boost to all carer payments to adjust for cost of living increases.
6. Energy bills
Around 500,000 South Australian households and businesses will receive $250 million worth of financial relief on their energy bills. The initiative, which is co-funded by state and commonwealth governments and was originally announced in the recent federal Budget, will see eligible households receive rebates of up to $500 on their bills and small businesses up to $650.
The state government will also use $44 million over the next five years to index existing energy, medical heating and cooling, water and sewerage concession payments for eligible households. For the 2023-24 financial year the concessions will be indexed at 8.64% in recognition of elevated inflation.
7. Road safety
The government has also committed $98 million for a road safety package which comes after a higher-than-average number of fatalities on South Australian roads so far in 2023.
Around half of that figure will be used to fund major infrastructure projects which are hoped to improve safety, $10 million will be spent on improving line marking and safety barriers on rural roads, and $17.8 million will go towards funding 15 new speed cameras and upgrading a number of existing cameras.
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