A cost-of-living budget investing in health, education and communities.
After just six weeks in the job, Tasmanian Deputy Premier and Treasurer Michael Ferguson delivered the 2022-23 State Budget today.
Amid a backdrop of political change, Mr Ferguson has sought to provide certainty by delivering a budget focused on addressing cost-of-living pressures and future-proofing the state.
On the weekend, the island state bucked the national trend in the Federal Election with swings to incumbent Tasmanian Liberal MPs. With that in mind, this is a budget that seems to reflect the fresh political landscape in Canberra with a strong emphasis on investing in health, education, communities and infrastructure. This positions Tasmania as a constructive partner of the new Federal Labor Government as it looks to reset Commonwealth-state relations. This follows a challenging period during which Premier Jeremy Rockliff was at odds with the former Coalition Government over what Tasmania saw as unfair GST distributions.
Treasurer Ferguson promised to deliver “a budget with heart”. Below are the key measures announced:
Favourable government revenues saw this budget offer concessions to help low-income Tasmanians offset the rising cost of living. While this is expected to cost the state around $305 million, the Government is clearly banking that voters will prioritise jobs and health ahead of debt management. The recent SEC Newgate Mood of the Nation poll backs this sentiment, showing cost of living pressures have surged as the main issue on voters’ minds.
This announcement follows the release of some solid employment numbers, with Tasmania recently hitting its highest level of full-time employment.
The budget delivers a big spend on infrastructure, with $2.7 billion allocated for roads and bridges across the state over the forward estimates – up $2 billion from the previous year.
This boost sees funding allocated for the largest transport infrastructure project in Tasmanian history – the new Bridgewater Bridge across Hobart’s Derwent River – co-funded by both the Tasmanian and Federal Governments in a 20-80 split.
In response to skyrocketing house and rent costs, $538 million has been allocated to social and affordable housing and $36 million to specialist homelessness services.
To be allocated over the forward estimates, $204 million will be spent this year to build 1,169 homes, with a target of 1,500 by June of next year.
In total, $1.5 billion has been earmarked for 10,000 homes over the next decade. The Treasurer said that this approach of rapidly increasing supply is “the only way we can address the housing demand”.
This is in-step with the Federal Government’s Housing Australia Future Fund – delivering 20,000 social housing properties and 10,000 affordable homes for frontline workers.
Tasmania has leveraged its extensive portfolio of dams and hydro-electricity assets, committing to generating 200% of the state’s current energy needs from renewables by 2040. Earlier this year, the Federal and State governments both pledged an investment of $75 million to progress the Marinus Link to its final stage of planning and design. This underground and undersea transmission connection will enhance Tasmania’s link to Australia’s national electricity grid, allowing it to export new supplies of clean energy.
The new Premier and Treasurer have laid the foundations for Tasmania to continue to be one of the nation’s strongest growing economies. They have also made moves to grow the pool of parliamentarians, introducing legislation to increase the lower house by 10 MPs. The Battery of the Nation energy project that will be delivered by the Marinus energy transmission link and strategic hydrogen projects will be vital to the success of Australia’s energy transition. The Albanese Labor Government is expected to continue to provide support for new renewable energy projects through its Powering Australia Fund.
In response to the budget speech, the Tasmanian Labor Opposition has criticised the government for prioritising the construction of a $750 million ‘floating stadium’ ahead of giving health and emergency workers a pay rise.
Matt Williams, Associate Partner, SEC Newgate Communications – [email protected]
Nick Maher, Special Counsel, SEC Newgate Communications – [email protected]
Alistair Coleman, Consultant, SEC Newgate Communications – [email protected]
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