Good and Bad of the State Budget

The State Budget was handed down yesterday and, having worked in a pollie’s office previously, I can attest to the fact that the amount of paperwork coming out as a result can keep a pulp mill running for a good three months on its own.

So, to get through things more quickly and efficiently (a word most government departments don’t know exists…), here are the key points coming out of this year’s budget for the EP:

- Eyre Peninsula park upgrades to campgrounds, roads and telecommunications worth $2 million;

- A special $25m Regional Growth Fund Strategic Business Round in 2020;

- $20.3m in additional infrastructure works in regional health facilities over the next two years, adding to $15 million acceleration of SA Health’s existing regional sustainability works program from future years;

- $24.5m to support the sustainability of the marine scale-fish industry through the implementation of reforms, including a government funded licence buy-back scheme;

- $20.9m towards a Drought Support Package aimed at supporting farm families, local businesses and rural communities dealing with drought conditions;

- Over the forward estimates, projected deficits are $2.59bn for the current 2020-21 financial year, $1.42bn for 2021-22 and $435m in 2022-23, before returning to surplus the following year.; and

- $135m over 3 years to complete a continuous sealed corridor to the Queensland border ($180m total cost).

There are two other measures which I want to applaud, although the second one makes my head spin, given I’m supporting a new tax.

The first is the decision to scrap the possibility of charging community groups for a police presence where required.

This was a boneheaded idea to begin with, and the state government has done well in walking away from something which would have made community festivals prohibitively expensive.

The second decision is the introduction of a new tax.

A new car tax.

A new ELECTRIC car tax.

So no, you won’t be hit for buying a regular new vehicle that lives off regular unleaded.

But if you buy an electric vehicle, you’ll be stung by a new annual road user charge.

This will be similar to a rego payment and will comprise both a fixed component and a variable element, based on the number of kilometres travelled.

The justification for this, according to the Treasurer, is that electric vehicles do not pay fuel excise, and therefore contribute far less to roads maintenance.

As someone who has hated the idea of tax his whole life, I can’t believe I actually like this idea.

But why?

Well, when was the last time anyone, other than a school student, caught a bus to get around town in Port Lincoln?

Cummins? Wudinna? Streaky Bay?

Right, which means we’re having to pay for the upkeep of those roads because there’s no alternative.

And how many electric charging stations are there available on the EP?

This means rural and regional communities pay more than a proportionate share in maintaining roads as city dwellers take to their new vehicles.

This is as much a city-country equaliser as it is a fiscal equaliser, and I couldn’t be happier to see it.

So while we may not have got a whole lot of cash dedicated exclusively to the Eyre Peninsula this year, it’s good to see the state government hasn’t forgotten about us.