South Australian Budget: "Bring on the election"
The South Australian budget has drawn fire for its failure to deal with unemployment, its lack of a strategy to create long-term, secure jobs and for announcing even more cuts to education. These failures are made even more serious because of the economic downturn which has slowed job growth and increased the danger of a deepening recession. The United Trades and Labor Council described the budget's approach to the State's jobs crisis as high on rhetoric and most disappointing. "Unemployment will go up", said Labor Council Secretary, Chris White. "The long term unemployed and new young job seekers are entitled to be disillusioned with this Budget. "It is mean not to increase State Government traineeships or the graduate program to give young people a chance." The stamp duty tax cut and payroll tax cut are no guarantee of increased jobs, and if they do result in new jobs it is most likely to be in short- term casual or part-time positions. The Labor Council had proposed a billion dollar capital works program to help stimulate the economy and increase job creation. During the privatisation of the State's electricity provider, ETSA, Premier John Olsen promised huge social dividends to the community in jobs, education, health and other services. None of these were in the Budget. Chris White said that South Australia has the highest level of poverty in the nation but the Budget had failed to address basic, fundamentally important social issues. The Australian Education Union said teachers were shocked that the Budget ignored education, despite government promises that it would be a priority. Instead it delivered another round of cuts. Education funding has been reduced by $363,000. The union's State President, John Gregory, described it as "a real cut, in real terms, that hurts real people — students and their parents." Mr Gregory said the Budget failed to address the single most important issue in state schools — smaller class sizes — and in fact has moved in the opposite direction with staff cuts that will intensify problems. To add insult to injury, public schools are expected to pay an extra $10 million, or 12 percent, in state grants to private schools. That is on top of the Federal Government's increase in funding to private schools during the coming financial year of 33 percent. "By contrast, this year our department is expected to sack 173 staff." Mr Gregory said the Government had tacked on a few high gloss gimmicks, but had done nothing to address the basics in education — buildings, permanent programs and more manageable class sizes. "They've ripped out much needed personnel counsellors and ordinary staff, and kept the fat bureaucrats on higher and increasing salaries. The sooner they bring on an election so we can end this charade, the better."