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SOME GOOD INITIATIVES BUT BUDGET LACKS VISION AND OVERSIGHT

11 May 2021

The Treasurer has tonight delivered an election Budget with social measures that are foreign to the Liberal-National party’s DNA. They have been dragged into many of the measures by crisis and controversy. I support many of the big social measures – increased child care subsidies, increases to aged care and NDIS spending, better mental health services and multiple programs in support of women’s economic welfare and safety, more money for rural doctors and personal tax cuts – but I note that the devil is in the implementation. Implementation has not been a strong point for the Morrison Government.

The spending pie is bigger than previous years, not through any real policies that value add or increase the complexity of our nation’s economy. Rather, it’s enlarged by a 107 billion forecast deficit. The Government seems content with just exporting rocks and not making Australia make again. Leadership and vision are lacking.

There is also very little in the budget to address national resilience, a problem revealed at the height of the COVID pandemic.

Whilst the push for growth in farm gate output sounds great, it fails to identify where the water to feed crops will come from. In 2018 the Government announced a program to grow 1 billion trees, and yet none have been planted for lack of identified water supplies. Coupled with the Governments “water to the most valuable crop” policy, rather than a policy based on food security for Australians, we’ll just end up growing more cotton and almonds for export and won't have diary, citrus or rice.

The Budget also fails in relation to openness and transparency. I welcome the announcement that the Government will fill the role of Freedom of Information Commission for the first time since 2014, and only after extensive lobbying by myself, but note that the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner need for other additional resources has not been met. The Auditor General also receives extra money, but as the Government seeks to spending grows from $550B in 19/20 to $588 in 21/12, the number of audits carried out by the auditor needs to substantially increase. The Auditor provides such bang for buck in terms oversight and exposing serious maladministration, whether it’s Sports Rorts, WaterGate or Leppington Triangle. It is crucial we give him the capacity to monitor Government spending properly.

I note that there is no funding set aside for a Federal ICAC.

SA Specifics

I welcome the additional Family Law Court resources for SA, with an additional superior court justice, two judges and additional registrar resources. I also welcome 14 million in funding for a family law legal service pilot program in SA. These were negotiated by me and agreed with Government in February of this year.

The Government has also provided an additional $13.3 million to increase the capacity of the Australian Space Agency to deliver regulatory services and support the growth of the industry. This follows considerable criticism from me throughout 2020 and this year on the failure of the Agency to issue launch permits, crippling industry who were moving much faster than Government.

Finally, I welcome spending on infrastructure in SA, particularly on roads.