SA budget to deliver Labors plan

first_imgTom Koutsantonis – South Australia’s newly-appointed Treasurer – said this week that his first budget on June 19 will recommit the Weatherill government to infuse the state’s public services and infrastructure, and leave debt reduction on the back-burner – to “when the economy returns back to a growth phase.”“When the economy returns back to a growth phase, we’re allowed then to start paying down debt. That’s the mode we’re going down.”In one of his first interviews since being appointed, Mr Koutsantonis told Neos Kosmos that he would seek to realise all the pre-election commitments Labor had made in order to maintain and enhance public services and grow the economy.On specifics, the Minister said upgrades to hospitals and extending Adelaide’s O’Bahn – the city’s busway system – were high on his agenda.Asked whether he would commit to returning the state budget to surplus, the Treasurer said he would honour Labor’s pre-election promises, though he did not put a time-scale on bringing the SA’s balance sheet back into the black.“We made that commitment before the election and when we can deliver those surpluses we will,” he said.“We’re not borrowing money to pay wages, we’re borrowing money to build roads, bridges, hospitals, schools, police stations – things that are productive in our community.”Mr Koutsantonis added that Labor had “paid a heavy price” at the closely-fought election for pursuing the borrow and build policy, but that “it was the right thing to do, because we don’t want to see long-term unemployment going up in South Australia, we want to see people working.”With SA’s triple-A credit rating downgraded in 2012, Labor’s critics have called for action to limit the state’s debt burden, but the Treasurer suggest such calls are premature.“It’s far too early to be talking about the triple-A credit rating. What we want to do is maintain our double-A rating as is, and maintain it in the plus zone, to make sure that we are able to sustainably deliver infrastructure,” said Mr Koutsantonis.“When the economy returns back to a growth phase, we’re allowed then to start paying down debt. That’s the mode we’re going down.”While Labor has been returned as a minority government, Mr Koutsantonis said that the implementation of its plans would not be adversely affected by their slim majority.“Our first four years of government between 2002 and 2006 were as a minority government, and some people have remarked that they were the best years of Labor’s term in office.“I think compromise and working with Independents is a good thing. It brings out the best in people.”With 24 seats on Labor’s side in the SA House of Assembly the government has an absolute majority – and the leave of absence taken by veteran Independent Dr Bob Such on health grounds – is unlikely to affect Labor’s majority.Mr Koutsantonis said that if the Liberals had been returned at the SA election, an audit commission – similar to the one being conducted by the Abbott government in the run up to the federal budget – would have embarked on savage cuts to public services.“If there was a Liberal Treasurer sitting in my chair here today we’d be seeing our water assets being sold. We’d see wholesale closures around the city,” said the Treasurer.“South Australia is in an enviable position. We have more police per capita, more nurses per capita, more doctors and teachers per capita, than any other state. Those frontline services would have all been at risk had we lost the election.“South Australians have said with one voice ‘we want to maintain those services, and we also have to grow the economy’. That’s the balancing act we have to maintain.” Facebook Twitter: @NeosKosmos Instagramlast_img read more