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Thanks so much for your company today as we watched the first Labor budget unveiled in over a decade.
If you’re just joining us and a bit overwhelmed by it all (the budget is hundreds of pages, after all), let me commend to you reporter Millie Muroi’s five-minute summary: everything you need to know about the state budget.
Are you a winner or a loser? Laura Banks has summarised the impacts here.
And if TikTok’s more your style, we’ve got you covered too:
The day is over, but the Herald’s work in covering the impacts and implementation of this budget has just begun. Stay with us.
Here’s the view of the Herald on today’s budget:
Labor’s first budget in 12 years delivers on election promises but stops short of providing the NSW public with a clearer picture of the Minns government’s long-term agenda.
It is a budget that allows the government to give a pay rise to public sector workers, claws back some infrastructure spending excesses, and extends modest cost of living assistance without adding to the inflation problem.
But it does not radically cut expenditure beyond scrapping some Coalition’s pet projects and funds. Despite the tough talk before the budget of savage cuts and hard decisions, there is very little pain for voters. On balance, it is responsible but lacks bravery.
Read our full editorial here.
NSW Opposition Leader Mark Speakman has accused the government of abandoning families to deliver pay rises for Labor’s “union mates”.
In response to the state government’s first budget today, the Coalition sharpened its attack on the government’s “unfunded” pay rises, questioning how the $3.6 billion in wage increases would be offset.
Speakman said the budget offered little in cost of living relief for families, while Nationals leader Dugald Saunders claimed the government had taken a razor to funding for regional and rural NSW, underlining cuts to the seniors travel card.
Opposition Leader Mark Speakman says the budget’s pay rises go to Labor’s “union mates”.Credit: James Brickwood
“The government has let the genie out of the bottle and has no productivity or savings to pay for this. We all want better salaries and wages for frontline workers but the government promised this wouldn’t cost the taxpayer anything,” Speakman said.
“This is a government that is delivering for union mates at the expense of families.”
Saunders said: “Unfortunately for regional NSW, it once again shows that NSW stands for Newcastle, Sydney and Wollongong.”
Every NSW budget, hundreds of the state’s reporters are crammed into offices to have a look at the budget papers before they are released. It’s called the lock-up, and being in it feels somewhat like sitting an exam – at least for the first hour or so.
From 7am, the Herald’s journalists began rocking up at an office building in Martin Place and by 8am, the doors were closed.
Minutes after stepping into the building, we handed over our phones and were cut off from the internet to prevent leaks.
Sitting together in a room, we pored over the budget papers, mostly in silence for the first hour.
Treasurer Daniel Mookhey and Finance Minister Courtney Houssos visited the Herald’s section of the lock-up.Credit: James Brickwood
Then came a discussion about what we thought and questions we had, the tip-tapping of keyboards as everyone wrote their stories and the occasional cart of food coming around to fuel our coverage.
On two occasions, a few journalists were taken to a room where they had the opportunity to ask questions directly to the treasurer.
Daniel Mookhey also made a visit to our room with NSW finance minister Courtney Houssos, fielding questions from the Herald’s editor, Bevan Shields, and anyone else wanting to hear directly from the treasurer’s mouth.
At noon, our first stories went live and, having our phones returned to us, we were reconnected with the world.
NSW Labor’s first budget since 2010 is on brand for the Minns government. Just like its small-target approach taken in the election campaign, this budget is largely risk-averse, unsurprising and gifted with fortunate timing.
Rising revenues – thanks to soaring housing prices and a strong labour market – have helped Labor position itself to deliver a modest surplus next financial year while, at the same time, keeping its election promises.
Premier Chris Minns in question time following the budget on Tuesday.Credit: AAP
There are no big cash splashes. Rather, the government has made cuts and trims to programs, including the popular family-friendly vouchers such as Active Kids and Back to School.
This could have been a risky move during a cost-of-living crisis except, as luck would have it, the former government had not forward funded those programs anyway. Labor has prioritised and redirected spending, as you would expect a new government to do, and makes the point that it is keeping cash aside for a rainy day. Labor was elected to be safe and its first budget reflects that.
Read all our expert analysis here.
We spoke to people across NSW for their reaction to the budget, in key areas of healthcare, transport, housing affordability, employment, family life and education. Here’s what they thought of today’s announcements.
The budget has delivered a blow to thousands of flood victims in northern NSW, after a program to buy back flood-prone houses and make others safer only received a fraction of the money needed to complete the scheme.
The Resilient Homes and Land program was set up with $800 million of state and federal funding last October but in June, the agency delivering it said the money would only cover about a quarter of flood-affected properties.
Survivors reach dry land after floods inundated homes in Lismore on February 28, 2022.Credit: Elise Derwin
It was revealed the scheme had originally been costed at $1.5 billion, but the Perrottet government had deferred half the funding.
Premier Chris Minns had been under pressure to deliver the remaining $700 million so the program could help more people but his government has only allocated $150 million in the budget “to address natural disasters” in the Northern Rivers and Central West, which also suffered flooding in 2022.
Labor member for Lismore Janelle Saffin said that money would go into a new Community Restoration Flood Fund and would be partly directed towards the Resilient Homes program. She said more funding would be delivered once the NSW Reconstruction Authority had determined a list of priorities.
“I’ve been given a commitment there will be more,” Saffin said.
But Greens member for neighbouring Ballina Tamara Smith said she was “deeply disappointed and devastated” that the government had not funded the remainder of the Resilient Homes program in the budget this morning, given some of her constituents were still sleeping in their cars because their homes were uninhabitable.
“Thousands of flood-ravaged people, who were promised support for the government, have been left with no certainty of when any help is on its way. This is a completely unacceptable outcome 18 months on from the floods.
“Budgets are about choices, and Labor’s budget has chosen to leave thousands of people waiting for desperately needed support.”
The Northern Rivers Reconstruction Corporation, which is delivering the buyback scheme, said in February that about 2000 homes would qualify for a buyback, with another 4000 qualifying for raising or retrofitting, but that number was revised down in June to 1100 buybacks and 340 retrofits and raises.
Mapping released by the NRRC in June flagged that more houses would be suitable for assistance if more funding was made available.
The government’s new flood fund will also help communities prepare for disasters, rebuild and improve assets including bridges and roads, and assist with housing, the government said in a statement.
It has also budgeted $3.3 million over three years for natural disaster detection systems, and $5 million for a community-led “Two Rooms” project, carried out by Resilient Lismore, which is partly repairing the homes of flood victims to make them liveable.
Tweed Shire Council also received $2 million over two years to fund urban flood resilience and mitigation projects.
Back on Macquarie Street, the Legislative Assembly has been sitting for its daily question time.
Premier Chris Minns said he was a fan of the later start, saying it gave the opposition a chance to sleep in – to a raucous uprising from the other side of the chamber.
“The premier has woken the beast,” Speaker Greg Piper said – but everyone was already awake with plenty to talk about, given the budget was handed down only a few hours ago.
Premier Chris Minns speaks during question time at NSW parliament.Credit: AAP
Jenny Leong, the Greens member for Newtown, asked the premier why the government implemented a road toll cap – which she said would give money to “a private polluting toll road company like Transurban” – but not a rental cap.
“We have to do this,” Minns replied. “It’s too important for western Sydney families that don’t have access to public transport, they have to use toll roads in NSW.
“We’re now in a situation where we have to provide some subsidy for them … and they shouldn’t have to pay exorbitant tolls to get to and from work. Now we wouldn’t have designed the system that way but [the cap’s] essential.
“In creation to a rent cap … we’re not going to pursue that.”
He said landlords would only use the scheme to “jack up rents” even further.
The government was awake to the severity of the housing crisis in NSW before the election. Since coming to office, it has only strengthened expectations of what it might do to fix the chronic supply shortage that has sent house prices and rents skyrocketing.
Indeed, the word “crisis” was stamped all over the budget papers and Treasurer Daniel Mookhey’s speech. But when it comes to putting money on the table for housing, Labor’s first budget is bigger on rhetoric than investment.
The government has declined to make a substantial investment in public housing in this budget.Credit: Dean Sewell
Read the full analysis here.
The government will spend $3.9 billion in a single financial year as part of its commitment to transitioning to renewable energy.
With a goal of reducing the state’s emissions by 50 per cent by 2030, and reaching net zero by 2050, the government will spend $1 billion on establishing the Energy Security Corporation to invest in energy storage projects.
“Projects could include community batteries and virtual power plants that will allow households and communities to pool electricity generated from rooftop solar, reducing their reliance on the grid and cutting their power bills,” the government said.
Renewable energy zones will be connected to the grid at a quicker rate under an $804 million plan involving the Transmission Acceleration Facility.
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