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Insight into NSW budget 2023

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The NSW budget 2023 highlights achievements for workers and acknowledges the financial burden on coal companies as the government aims to improve the state’s financial situation.

Treasurer Daniel Mookhey’s inaugural budget, following Labours victory in the NSW election this year focuses on funding for public services while making cuts to previous government initiatives.

Let’s look at who benefits and who faces challenges in this year’s NSW budget.

House and Infrastructure Plan

At the core of the budget is a $2.2 billion Housing and Infrastructure Plan, which reflects the government’s commitment to addressing the housing crisis in NSW.

Treasurer Daniel Mookhey emphasised that housing affordability and availability remain pressing concerns for residents of NSW.

In his budget speech he stated, “NSW is in the midst of a fierce housing crisis. Rents are rising. Interest rates are climbing. Home ownership rates are falling,” Mookhey said in his budget speech”.

“Demand for social housing is increasing. Homelessness is worsening.

“The next generation fears permanent eviction from safe and secure housing.”

The government has introduced a $2.2 billion plan to build the foundations of a better living environment for NSW residents.

The $2.2 billion Housing and Infrastructure Plan includes:

$1.5 billion to build infrastructure such as roads, parks, hospitals and schools to support the construction of new homes across Sydney, the Lower Hunter, Central Coast and the Illawarra

$400 million reserved in Restart NSW for the new Housing Infrastructure Fund, to deliver infrastructure that will increase housing supply across NSW

$300 million for Landcom to accelerate the construction of thousands of new homes, with 30 per cent affordable housing

The $1.5 billion is to create practical infrastructure around housing developments.

That $400 million Housing Infrastructure Fund is financed from money left over after more than 700 Restart NSW projects were finished.

“Many of those dollars have been idling in the government’s bank accounts for years,” Mookhey said.

In essence, $1.9 billion will go towards ensuring new housing developments across the state have the infrastructure to support residents.

From new city lights, sewage, footpaths, schools, and parks, the treasurer said the funding aims to create comprehensive developments with holistic infrastructure to accommodate the housing crisis.

“You can’t get to the keys to your house if you can’t get the road to your driveway,” Mookhey said.

The $300 million for publicly owned agency Landcom is the government relocating existing funds into a practical source to fast-track the construction of new homes.

It will use “reinvested dividends” to deliver 1409 affordable homes and 3288 market homes by 2039 to 2040.

“30% of the new housing will be for affordable housing, targeting infill sites and government land for development,” budget documents said.

Landcom has “featured heavily in our housing past”, Mookhey said, and it needs to “feature prominently in our housing future too”.

The $300 million is in addition to the $60 million already set aside for Landcom to pilot publicly owned build-to-rent projects in the NSW Northern Rivers and Illawarra-Shoalhaven regions.

Teachers

Teachers are set to be the highest-paid workers in Australia with a “historic” 12% pay rise agreed on by the government following an ongoing dispute between unions and politicians.

The entry-level pay will now be $85,000 for teachers compared to $75,791 previously.

The government also plans to convert 10,000 teachers and 6000 administrative staff to permanent positions, all of whom have accepted the job offers.

There’s also a $20 million boost to the Innovative Teacher Training Fund to “attract the best teachers”.

Healthcare workers

The NSW government is investing a whopping $2.5 billion in supporting healthcare workers.

There’s funding to recruit an additional 1200 nurses and the government will making temporary nurse and midwife positions permanent.

There’s also funding for 500 new rural and regional paramedics.

A 4.5% pay increase for health care workers has been promised too.

New students studying healthcare will be capped at 12k over five years to study and join the profession.

They will also receive scholarships of $4000 per year while existing students will receive one-off payments of $8000.

Parents

Parents of three to five-year-olds are in for a small win with the government trialling a $500-a-year preschool fee relief in long day care.

The budget is also keeping fee relief of $4220 per year for parents and carers of three to five-year-olds in community and mobile preschools.

And there’s $2110 in fee relief for children aged four years and older attending preschool in long day care centres.

The government is fast-tracking 100 new preschools on public school sites.

There are also going to be new primary schools built in the Carter Street precinct, Gables, Nirimba Fields, Tallawong, Westmead South, Gregory Hills and Melonba.

New high schools will be built in Melrose Park, Schofields-Tallawong, Jordan Springs, Leppington, Gledswood Hills/Gregory Hills, Melonba, Edmondson Park and Wentworth Point.

The budget also puts aside funding for upgrades to primary schools and high schools across Western Sydney.

Hospital patients

As hospitals have faced consistent pressures since the COVID-19 pandemic and patients see extended wait times, the government is promising more beds and upgrades to the health system.

There’s funding for 600 more beds in Western Sydney hospitals.

Blacktown and Mount Druitt Hospital will have their bed capacity increased.

Royal Prince Alfred Hospital, Canterbury Hospital and Fairfield Hospital will also be upgraded.

For residents in Rouse Hill, there’s good news for more infrastructure with a new hospital development.

For regional and rural hospital goers, free parking at public hospitals will also be continuing for patients, staff and visitors.

Western Sydney budget

The $60 toll cap the government promised in the election will start from January 1, 2024 to assist more than 700,000 motorists.

There’s also a 33% reduction in the truck toll multiplier on the M5 East and M8.

A two-year trial to reduce the truck toll multiplier is designed to encourage more trucks to use the motorway network and “help address the heavy vehicle traffic that has choked roads and hampered businesses near these toll routes”.

Fine revenues revised

It’s good news if you’re a speeding driver in NSW – although it’s not recommended – as fine revenue has been revised down by $226.2 million over the four years to 2026-27.

Why? Well, the government expects the number of mobile speed camera fines to decrease as warning signage is reintroduced.

Tourism and the arts

The government is also continuing to fund the state’s iconic festivals like Vivid, Mardi Gras and the Sydney Festival.

To encourage families to head to the cities museums, the government is introducing free general admission at the Australian Museum and Museums of History NSW.

Women and girls in grassroots sport

FIFA Women’s World Cup for the state, with $30 million put towards “supercharging” sports facilities for women and girls in grassroots sport.

There has also been $14.5 million put aside for the Football in Schools Program in Western Sydney and $3.7 million for Central Coast infrastructure.

Middle-income families

The Active Kids Vouchers and Creative Kids Vouchers will become a combined voucher of $50 twice per year and is means-tested instead of being available to everyone.

This means low-income families benefit from the vouchers, but middle-income families are scrapped from the benefits.

Drivers

Although there’s the $60 weekly toll cap win, the treasurer has taken a red pen through the previous government’s infrastructure projects.

The Great Western Highway Tunnel and the Northern Beaches Tunnel have been scrapped.

For anyone wanting the ease of technology for Sydney parking, consider the Park’nPay app unfunded and scrapped.

Electric vehicle tax breaks have also been cut.

Coal companies

Mookhey described the budget as finding extra cash under the sofa and coal companies are at the front of that as the government increases royalties for the first time in 10 years.

Now, royalties are expected to rake in $2.7 billion over four years.

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China drops heavy tariffs against Australian winemakers

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China drops heavy tariffs against Australian winemakers

Most recently, China has abolished heavy tariffs against Australian wine, marking a significant step towards improved diplomatic relations and trade ties between the two nations. The Chinese government had agreed to review the wine tariffs five months ago and has gradually unwound the trade barriers since then. The Commerce Ministry in Beijing announced on Thursday that it was no longer necessary to impose anti-dumping duties and other levies on imports of Australian wine.

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese expressed his gratitude for this development, stating that the re-entry of Australian bottled wine into the Chinese market will benefit both Australian producers and Chinese consumers. The removal of these tariffs comes at a critical time for the Australian wine industry, which had faced difficulties exporting to China due to the imposed trade barriers.

In 2019, Australian wine exports to China were valued at $1.1 billion before the tariffs were implemented during the height of diplomatic tensions in 2020. The removal of these duties means that Australia will no longer pursue legal action against China at the World Trade Organisation, which had been initiated by the former coalition government.

While the Australian government’s approach is to cooperate with China when possible and engage in its national interest, some trade barriers still remain. Chinese tariffs are still in place for Australian rock lobster and beef, and in 2020, Beijing imposed trade sanctions worth $20 billion on a variety of Australian products, including coal and cotton. The tariffs on Australian wine specifically amounted to a hefty 220 per cent tax.

As South Australian Wine Industry Association president Kirsty Balnaves noted, the Chinese market has evolved since the imposition of tariffs. There is now stronger in-market competition for wine, increased choices for consumers at various price points, and a decline in alcohol consumption. Balnaves emphasized that South Australian exporters will need to invest time in assessing opportunities, creating awareness, educating consumers, and reintroducing their wines to the market.

Despite the remaining challenges, Prime Minister Albanese reaffirmed his government’s commitment to trade diversification and supporting Australian businesses in selling their products on the global stage. The removal of tariffs on Australian wine is seen as a positive step towards strengthening trade relations between Australia and China, and it is hoped that further trade impediments affecting Australian exports will be addressed in the future in the interests of both countries.

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Emma mistakenly flew with her wheelchair

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Emma mistakenly flew with her wheelchair

Many people with disabilities face challenges when it comes to air travel, and Emma Weatherley’s recent experience highlights some of these issues. Emma, who has Facioscaplohumeral Dystrophy (FSHD), a muscle-wasting condition, was left stranded when she was told her motorised wheelchair could not be transported on a recent flight.

Despite having a wheelchair that met aircraft-approved specifications and weight limits, Virgin staff prohibited Emma’s 190kg chair from boarding the Link Airways-operated flight, citing a 120kg weight limit on the plane. This left Emma, a regular traveller and mother of two, feeling frustrated and discriminated against.

Virgin Australia later admitted that allowing Emma’s wheelchair on a previous flight was a mistake due to procedural errors made by staff members. The airline issued an apology to Emma and refunded the cost of the initial flight. They also pledged to improve their service and processes for passengers with specific needs.

Emma’s ordeal sheds light on the challenges faced by individuals with disabilities when it comes to air travel. Despite having her mobility information stored in the airline’s system, Emma still had to navigate through misunderstandings and a lack of awareness surrounding procedures for wheelchair transportation.

Issues like these not only impact the individual’s confidence and independence but also highlight systemic barriers faced by people with disabilities. Emma’s experience of being rerouted through another city at her own expense due to a lack of accessible flights underscores the financial burden and inconvenience faced by many in similar situations.

Furthermore, Emma’s call for financial penalties for transport services that fail to provide adequate accessibility support raises important questions about accountability and inclusivity in the transportation industry. She also advocates for increased awareness about conditions like FSHD and the need for government funding to support new treatments and clinical trials.

Emma’s story serves as a reminder of the importance of creating a more accessible and inclusive environment for individuals with disabilities, both in air travel and broader community settings. By sharing her experience and advocating for change, Emma hopes to prevent others from falling through the gaps and facing similar challenges in the future.

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Australians Doubt Labor’s Efforts to Ease Cost of Living

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There has been a dip in support for the Labor government as Australians continue to feel the burden of the high cost of living, according to the latest Newspoll.

The poll, conducted for The Australian, shows that Federal Labor’s primary vote has fallen by a point to 32 per cent, while the Coalition has gained a point, reaching 37 per cent.

Treasurer Jim Chalmers highlighted the government’s efforts to alleviate cost-of-living pressures without adding to economic inflation, stating, “Our job is to do the right thing for the right reasons and the politics will take care of themselves.”

However, opposition finance minister Jane Hume criticized the government, suggesting that they are focusing on the “wrong priorities” and are distracted by the “chaos on our borders.”

The poll also revealed that Labor’s two-party-preferred lead over the Coalition has been reduced by two points to 51-49 per cent.

With a year to go before the next federal election, Nationals leader David Littleproud emphasized the importance of addressing the cost-of-living crisis, stating that voters will support the party that can best explain how they plan to tackle this issue.

Overall, 31 per cent of voters indicated that they would not support either Labor or the Coalition, signaling a trend away from the major parties. Combined support for Labor and the Coalition stood at 69 per cent.

On the other hand, the Greens saw a one-point increase to 13 per cent, while Pauline Hanson’s One Nation also rose one point to seven per cent in the poll.

Approval ratings for both leaders, Mr. Albanese and Mr. Dutton, saw little change in the past month. Mr. Albanese’s approval rating rose to 44 per cent, while Mr. Dutton’s approval remained at 37 per cent.

In terms of the better prime minister choice, Mr. Albanese saw a one-point increase to 48 per cent, while Mr. Dutton fell one point to 34 per cent.

The Newspoll surveyed 1223 voters nationally between March 18 and 22, providing insights into the current political landscape and public sentiment amidst the ongoing cost-of-living pressures.

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