The Pencil Guy: Hourann's illogical blog

Fixing the city centre: not a State priority

Friday 11 May 2007 at 7:14 pm

An ugly Perth Rail Yard with lots of construction work

The coverage of the State budget in today’s West Australian looks to me like little more than a jumble of ill-considered low blows — for example, Mike Nahan (who sounds increasingly like a Liberal lackey with every column) criticises it for not being as reformist as the Federal budget, without stopping to note that Tuesday’s biggest reform was allowing the ATO to pre-fill our tax returns so we can file with one click (great though it is, it’s hardly earth-shattering).

But today’s paper did reveal something that I didn’t have time to confirm yesterday: no funding has been allocated for the new footy stadium, the still-under-wraps foreshore development, or most worryingly, the Northbridge Link project. Assuming the project goes ahead, the earliest anything could happen is July 2008. And that would require it to be funded in next year’s budget — which may well focus on vote-buying measures for the February 2009 election instead.

So the vista above is likely to continue looking like that for a while. Possibly a long while. Now I know what Charles Landry was on about when he said that Perth’s immense potential is “blocked in innumerable energy-draining ways”.

(Also in the “budget WTF” category: the $100 million over five years that the Premier promised to deal with climate change looks all the more feeble when you realise that $88 million is to be spent in the next 12 months on our coal-fired power stations. In fairness, some of this will go to efficiency-improving measures, but it still makes the “commitment” look awfully lame.)

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And now for the State Budget

Thursday 10 May 2007 at 2:43 pm

So, Eric Ripper has just finished his State Budget speech. For 2007-08, the total allocation is $16.1 billion for services across WA, but we’ve not been given much in major new funding commitments (after all, the State election is some time away).

The big-ticket item that everyone’s been talking about is tax cuts, and this budget delivers exactly what was predicted: reductions in stamp duty for first homebuyers and for car purchases, and reductions in land tax. This will cost about half a billion dollars per annum.

Health-wise, the investment is all in construction and infrastructure, such as upgrades to various regional hospitals, rather than in any management changes. Half of this year’s surplus is being spent to construct the Fiona Stanley Hospital in Murdoch, that being the fashionable way to fund projects these days as opposed to the traditional issuing of bonds. (Each time the Treasurer mentioned this, the Opposition kicked up quite a ruckus.)

Other than that, most of the announcements aren’t new: the environmental measures announced earlier this week, for instance, will cost a ridiculously generous $20 million per year. Meanwhile, next year will also see $44.5 million spent on improving TAFE colleges — a good sum, to be sure, but just like Tuesday’s budget, this seems like small change in the face of our skills shortage.

$48 million will go to upgrading vehicle licensing services, in the wake of criticism from Today Tonight (et al.). The new Department for Child Protection will be funded with $104 million over four years, and $55.3 million will be spent next year to recruit 260 additional police officers. But all of these figures are dwarfed by recurrent spending, which is about $4 billion for health and $3.3 billion for education.

So in short, this Budget is mostly a business-as-usual affair, with tweaks and increases around the place, plus a bunch of moderate-sized tax cuts, but nothing revolutionary.

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