The 2016 NSW Budget brings bad news for public transport, housing affordability, TAFE, the Arts and our environment.
Here are some facts on where our public funds are being allocated.
The largest single roads and transport infrastructure budget item in the NSW Budget this year is WestConnex, at $2.9 billion. A massive $800 million of that will be spent on planning and preconstruction. This is a waste of public funds that will simply result in more traffic congestion for Sydney – at the expense of real public transport solutions.
Of the $41 billion set aside for Roads and Transport, by far the biggest spend is on urban roads. The privately owned Sydney Metro gets the largest allocation of any public transport project ($2.7 billion) while only $248 million has been earmarked for works to make NSW train stations accessible. Less than 0.4% of the transport budget is being allocated to cycling infrastructure that will reduce reliance on roads and take pressure off our public transport systems.
While the NSW Government continues to rake in record amounts of stamp duty revenue, nothing is being done to address housing affordability in Sydney. The Treasurer has emphasised that housing supply is growing due to increased approvals for new housing - but has done nothing to ensure that new housing is affordable for aspiring homeowners, not just cashed up investors.
Many public housing residences in the Electorate of Newtown are literally falling apart, with residents forced to live with leaking roofs, broken stoves, mould, and dodgy plumbing for years on end. The State Government budget has failed again to properly address the maintenance crisis, allocating just $2.9 million to social housing upgrades within the Electorate, which will barely scratch the surface.
Climate change barely gets a mention in this Budget, despite record temperatures and extreme weather events across our state. NSW was recently named as the worst performing Australian state in terms of renewable energy and that poor performance looks likely to continue, with just $1.4 million set aside for renewable energy programs. In contrast, the Coal Innovation Fund gets $23 million to prop up the coal industry while we watch coal prices continue to fall.
The 2016 NSW Budget includes funding for big, established arts venues, including $12 million to upgrade the Sydney Opera House and $129 million to enhance the Walsh Bay Arts Precinct. But small independent and community arts organisations are being left out in the cold - after facing devastating reductions in federal funding there has been no recognition of the funding emergency many of them now face.
Funding for TAFE in 2016/17 has been slashed by $175 million. This follows a year of under-spending on TAFE capital works and programs, which came with a massive drop in student numbers, from 533,762 in 2014 to just 428,985 in 2015.