NSW Budget 2016: Winners and losers

File pic
File pic

THE WINNERS

Schools: A billion dollars has been committed to catch up with the explosion in public school enrolments, to build 1100 more classrooms over the next four years, and address the maintenance backlog.

Business: Three business taxes have been dropped (mortgage duty, share transfer duty and non-real transfer duty), saving the business sector $400m a year.

Small business: Jobs Action Plan incentive will be retargeted towards businesses with less than 50 employees, who will be offered a payroll tax rebate of $6000 for each extra staff member taken on.

Syrian refugees: The Budget allocates $146 million over four years to resettle refugees fleeing Syria, after Mike Baird led calls last year for Australia to lift its refugee intake and pledged that NSW was prepared to help. The money will fund English language centres, health, school enrolments, youth peer mentoring and a cultural transition program.

Police dogs: $15 million for a new home.

The vulnerable: A $560 million boost over four years for the foster care system, which is in crisis. The extra funds include $190 million to 'reform the system' with a greater focus on restoring children to their families by offering intensive help to 1000 families, half of which will be Aboriginal families. Another $370million to meet the increased demand for foster care.

Social housing reform to get $280 million extra over four years, with 73 per cent of new funds going to private rental subsidies to divert families in crisis, and women fleeing domestic violence, from the 60,000 family long waiting list for public housing.

Homeless youth to get $40 million over four years for a new fund to assist teenagers who are leaving state care find their feet in the community with education, housing and jobs.

A $75 million boost over four years for drug and alcohol services including detox and treatment programs for young people and pregnant women.

Women fleeing domestic violence: Spending on specialist domestic violence services has doubled to $300 million over four years, including $53 million for the expansion of the Safer Pathway program to 19 more sites next year, and $43 million for housing support for women and children escaping domestic violence. The Women's Domestic Violence and Court Advocacy Program gets $6.3 million extra over four years to handle an increase in demand.

Public transport users: A $10.5 billion investment in public transport next year, including $1.4 billion to start the Metro City and Southwest, and $1.3 billion to build eight metro stations for the Metro Northwest.

Buses get a $108 million boost for 12 new routes, double-decker buses for Rouse Hill-city services, Blacktown-Macquarie Park, and Liverpool-Parramatta, and all-night services for Green Square and Zetland.

Light rail projects in Sydney and Parramatta will get $135 million, of which $64 million is planning money for the Parramatta project, for which a route is yet to be settled.

Westmead Hospital: The Westmead redevelopment will receive $100 million this year, towards the overall $900 million project, which is the biggest hospital redevelopment in NSW.

Western Sydney: The $9.7 billion to be spent on roads next year delivers on projects already promised at the 2015 election, with a focus on western Sydney: the controversial WestConnex, and western Sydney road upgrades to support the second Sydney airport at Badgerys Creek.

Unicorns: A Sydney School of Entrepreneurship to be set up with $25 million as a joint venture between universities and TAFE. The idea is to give 1000 students a year the mentoring and practical training they need to kickstart innovative businesses. The unicorn? That rare beast that is the start-up that grows to a $1 billion company. NSW wants them.

Endangered animals: $12 million towards the Taronga Institute of Science and Learning to promote global leadership in conservation science.

Seniors: The NSW Seniors Card program, which offers retail discounts to people over 65, will be expanded to include new businesses across a wider area of the state.

The $500,000 expansion will help support the growing group of Seniors Card holders, which is forecast to increase from 1,478,000 people in 2015-16 to 1,580,000 in 2016-17.

There will also be an extra 3500 places for computer literacy classes for older people over three years under the Tech Savvy Seniors program, at a cost of $500,000.

Elder abuse, which was the subject of a parliamentary inquiry earlier this year, will also be addressed through a $600,000 fund to support the Elder Abuse Helpline and Resource Unit.

People with disabilities: The transfer of people with disabilities still living in large institutions to more suitable accommodation in the community will continue, with $22 million in funding to go towards new housing.

There are still hundreds of people in large institutions in Sydney, the Central Coast and the Hunter who will be moved to small group homes as part of the wider roll out of the National Disability Insurance Scheme.

The NSW government will spend $1.3 billion as part of its contribution to the implementation of the NDIS which begins a three year roll out from July 1.

Opera Lovers: $12 million for the first stage of a $202 million upgrade project for the Sydney Opera House.

Lucy Turnbull: Mrs Turnbull chairs the Greater Sydney Commission, which will get a $41 million boost ($62 million over four years) to overhaul Sydney's blueprint for growth to fit another million people in the next 10 years. The Commission will coordinate planning for transport, housing and jobs growth, and consult the community.

Public libraries: After a persistent campaign against government MPs by their most loyal users, libraries will wring an additional $2 million in funding, but it's unclear if that will stop the letters.

District court judges: Waiting lists in the court system have ballooned, so the government will direct $39 million to address it in the next two years.

New communities: More than $260 million has been set aside to accelerate the development of new communities across Sydney, reports Melanie Kembrey.

The funds will be spent on infrastructure projects, such as bridges, roads and intersections, to speed up the construction of new homes in areas that the state government has determined as "priority precincts" or "priority growth areas".

Key projects to receive funding include the M4 off ramp at Hills Road in Lidcombe, Hambledon Road, Alex Avenue in Blacktown, the first stage of the Spring Farm Parkway in Camden and planning for the upgrade of Appin Road in Campbelltown.

There will also be a $60 million investment in infrastructure to support new homes in The Hills and Blacktown local government areas and $40 million for building parks, paths and streets in Sydney areas being redeveloped, including Carter Street in Lidcombe and Macquarie University Station. The funds are the fourth tranche of the Housing Acceleration Fund, which the government says will accelerate the construction of more than 160,000 homes.

The Western Sydney Parklands Trust will receive $22 million to create and improve parks and business hubs at Horsley Drive and Eastern Creek, while there will be a more than $17 million investment in upgrading facilities in Centennial Parklands.

As the forced amalgamation of dozens of councils across the state continues to cause headaches for the Baird government, the budget includes a record $700 million investment in local government.

The funding includes the previously announced $10 million for merging councils, $14 million for other reforms like the creation of "joint organisations" between councils that are not merging, $79 million to subsidise council rates and charges for pensioners, and $1.5 million to create an online dog and cat register.

THE LOSERS

Foreign property investors: Foreigners buying real estate will pay a 4 per cent stamp duty surcharge that starts on Budget Day. A 0.75 per cent land tax surcharge will begin in 2017. Similar surcharges for foreign property buyers have been applied in Victoria and Queensland, although NSW's new charges have been pitched slightly lower. Both new foreigner levies are expected to generate $1 billion over four years.

Criminals: With $3.8 billion pledged to build 7000 new prison beds in the next four years, the prison overcrowding crisis will be eased, but Corrective Services Minister David Elliott clearly foresees an increasing number of clients.

James Robertson reports: The government is touting an all-time record investment in the justice sector in this budget; spending will top $8 billion in the next year. Much of this money will go to address the state's bursting-at-the-seams prisons, which will receive $3.8 billion over four years for 7000 new beds. The state's prison population is at a record high.

But a new initiative, worth about $570 million will try to stop people arriving at prison in the first place.

The government is trying to overhaul the justice system and reduce the rate of reoffending by prisoners, one of Premier Mike Baird's top priorities.

But it does not yet know how most of that money will be allocated. The money is yet to be attached to any programs for reducing reoffending, one of the toughest policy conundrums facing state bureaucrats at present.

One in two people currently in prison in NSW will return; the state's recidivism rate is among the worst in the nation, behind the Northern Territory's.

A small portion of that money has been allocated: $40 million over two years for the district court system, to address a growing backlog.

Police also get a big funding increase. Their infrastructure budget is up by half to $57 million worth of new stations. Police will also have new capabilities and equipment, such as body cameras, helicopters and better drug testing technology.

Drunk drivers: The police forecasts the number of random breath tests it undertakes will grow from 5.8 million to 6.5 million a year.

Public servants: Treasurer Gladys Berejiklian will continue the unpopular "efficiency dividend" of 1.5 per cent a year, and a wages cap. It is expected to cost NSW government agencies $1.4 billion in cuts, although frontline workers in schools, health and police are exempt.

Social Affairs editor Rachel Browne reports that the number of public servants providing community support for people with a disability, their family and carers will also drop dramatically in 2016-17 as the state government transfers services to the non-government sector.

Budget estimates show the number of employees providing respite services, personal assistance and day programs for people with disabilities next year will decrease by 11.6 per cent from 2013-14.

The number of staff providing short-term support such as transition to work programs will also drop in 2016-17.

Services provided by Ageing, Disability and Home Care, part of Family and Community Services, is being transferred to the private sector. Home Care was acquired by Australian Unity in February this year.

The environment: Environment editor Peter Hannam reports that the environment appears to be a loser, with climate change entirely absent from Gladys Berejiklian's budget speech and garnering just two mentions in the 467-page Budget Estimates tome.

That's despite NSW and Australia coming out of their hottest autumns on record and climate scientists predicting an increase in east coast lows bringing beach-eroding storm surges.

New spending identified as climate-related includes $31 million to support Planning Minister Rob Stokes' new coastal and floodplain management plans, while $12 million has been set aside for "urgent repair works" at seven sites hard-hit by flooding in the Hunter Valley. There's also $49 million, up by $15 million, to make energy use more efficient, including just $1.4 million for renewable energy programs in a state that lags all but Queensland in the share of clean energy in the electricity sector. The cost of the Solar Bonus Scheme that bolstered solar panel demand shrinks to $109 million in 2016-17 from the $202 million last year.

By contrast, the Coal Innovation Fund - to sustain the coal industry - will get $23 million, even as falling coal prices and export volumes slash royalties. The Baird government concedes they will reap $1.7 billion less in coal royalties over the next four years than was predicted just a year ago.

The government, though, says it has found a further $50 million to lift the budget of the Office and Heritage about 3 per cent to a record $1.707 billion. There will be almost $170 million for the Environment Protection Authority, which will expand it staff numbers by about 7.5 per cent to 529. The EPA is also getting $10 million for its NSW Gas Plan (up from $5.6 million) supporting coal seam gas even after one of its main proponents AGL has signalled its exit from the industry.

The government also hailed the allocation of as much as $15 million that it will set aside in 2016-17 as part of $240 million over five years to pay farmers for "strategic biodiversity conservation" when the government controversially replaces the Native Vegetation and Threatened Species acts later this year. The Save Our Species program, meanwhile , will get $16 million – as part of $100 million promised over five years – in this year's budget.

Concessional loans under the Farm Innovation Fund to help primary producers to prepare for future droughts has been lifted to $80 million, up from $63 million a year earlier.

There is also $6.2 million to help deal with the contamination at the Williamtown Royal Australian Air Force Base.

Nepean Hospital: Only gets $1 million to plan for a badly needed upgraded, as the hospital faces the longest waiting list for elective surgery in metropolitan Sydney.

Transparency: The government has revised downward by 20 per cent the number of reviews of freedom of information requests received this year. Numbers are forecast to stay down.