WHEN handing down his state budget last week a key message from Treasurer Rob Lucas was that he was focused on fixing the mess left by the previous 16 years of Labor government, and that there would be an increased awareness of regional SA’s needs.
But, shadow Treasurer Stephen Mullighan says there are many parts of the budget that regional SA should be concerned about, particularly tafeSA closures, as well as PIRSA and regional road funding cuts.
tafeSA closures have also drawn concerns from the state’s horticulture sector with the Urrbrae campus set to be closed, which is where all the major certificate and diploma courses for horticulture are undertaken.
“This is one of the areas that is most disappointing,” Mr Mullighan said.
“tafeSA has undergone significant change in the past five years, and particularly in the last 18 months.
“The former government commissioned a report that recommended all seven tafeSA campuses be retained.
“What’s not clear is how training will be provided in the future. If it’s left up to the private sector, we’ve already seen that private providers aren’t always up to the same standards.”
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Opposition industry and skills spokesperson Clare Scriven said it was disappointing that people in regional areas would now be forced to travel hundreds of kilometres to undertake face-to-face courses.
“It really flies in the face of the Liberal motto that regions matter,” she said.
Mr Lucas said upgrades of regional roads and transport networks would be a priority for the Liberal government, with $315 million committed across four years through a Regional Roads and Infrastructure Fund. But, Mr Mullighan said that equated to a $26m cut in funding, compared to the $341m across four years that was being invested under the former Labor government.
Mr Mullighan said it was concerning that the Royalties for Regions program would raise an estimated $315m for the fund, based on taking 30 per cent from mining royalties, but that figure was dependent on no downward trend in mining.
“What’s even more disappointing is the amount of road funding that will have to be contributed to specific infrastructure projects, like the Port Wakefield bypass, which will mean a shrinking base of money leftover for the overall network,” he said.
Mr Mullighan said PIRSA had more than $36 million taken away, including winding up the SA Premium Food and Wine Credentials grant program worth $6.6m, cutting the economic sustainability grant program worth $10.6m, dropping the food innovation taskforce and advanced food manufacturing grant program, as well as a variety of other grant programs, worth $8.8m.
The Northern Adelaide Food Park tenant attraction program worth $5.5m would also be abolished and the government will not be extending the Local Government Association’s Regional Youth Traineeship Program.
SARDI will also be charged more than $5 million in additional costs across the next four years to access services from PIRSA.
“SARDI is not the wealthiest research organisation, so this will come at a cost to what they do,” Mr Mullighan said.
Mr Mullighan was also concerned $10m was being put into mobile blackspot funding, when it was an area that should fall under the federal government.
“Spending money on areas of federal responsibility is money that’s not being spent elsewhere in the regions,” he said.