The NSW government will cut hundreds of dollars from household bills and road tolls. Find out what you can save.
On the back of an “unprecedented” year in which the state continued to struggle through “the hangover of Covid” and floods, the NSW government has announced a budget focused on health and women.
NSW Treasurer Matt Kean’s first budget unveiled massive spending on areas emphasised in the federal election like women, healthcare and the rising cost of living.
The pre-election budget was full of sweeteners for all NSW residents, including a $150 back-to-school voucher for all children and massive cuts to road tolls and household energy bills.
Billions of dollars will be spent on supporting families and those worried about the increasing cost of living and inflation pressures, which the Treasurer blamed on the “lingering effects of Covid” and the international supply chain.
“This is a reform budget. It’s helping people with the challenges they face today,” Mr Kean said.
One of the biggest benefactors of the NSW 2022-23 budget is the state’s women.
Following on from a strong voter swing towards accountability and equality in the federal election, the NSW government announced it would spend $5.6bn over the next decade to make “to make NSW the best place for women to work, live and raise a family”.
In this budget, $1.2bn will be spent on getting women back into the workforce and supporting survivors of domestic, family, and sexual violence.
By encouraging women to re-enter the workforce, Mr Kean forecast the state economy would grow 8 per cent by 2060.
“The women of NSW are some of the most highly educated anywhere in the world, yet the workforce participation rate of women is 9 per cent lower than the participation rate of men,” he said.
Up to 95,000 women are expected to enter the workforce as a result of the reforms, mainly in childcare, which will increase household incomes by $4400 a year.
Mr Kean noted too many families couldn’t access childcare, so women are left earning 30 cents of every dollar they make due to the loss of family tax benefits and costs of childcare, which leads to a lower participation in the workforce.
“There are a number of structural and cultural barriers that are still in the way of women looking to progress in our society. We’re looking to remove those barriers,” he said.
The government has also committed to protecting women by providing $100 million over four years to help domestic and family violence survivors and put an end to harassment of women at work and on the streets.
Australia’s National Research Organisation for Women’s Safety has welcomed the financial support of safety measures for women.
Chief executive Padma Raman said the not-for-profit commended the government for committing to ending violence against women and funding case management for survivors of domestic and family abuse.
“We know that in Australia, women with experiences of complex trauma typically have multiple needs,” she said.
“Expanding referral pathways will support women to navigate multiple services and agencies in order to have their needs met.”
FAMILIES AND CHILDREN
The NSW government has committed billions of dollars to families after a year of disruption and discord.
Notably, families have been promised a whopping $7.2bn to support their budgets.
All primary and secondary-aged schoolchildren in NSW will be eligible for a $150 back-to-school voucher in 2023 to assist with the cost of school supplies.
The government announced it would spend $3.8bn to support education for young children as a “once-in-a-generation investment” in the future.
After research revealed one-third of NSW children were living in childcare deserts where they were unable to access childcare, the state government announced it would invest $4bn to make preschool affordable for NSW families.
Parents of preschool children will be eligible for fee relief of up to $2000 a year, while students at community and mobile preschools will be able to claim double that amount.
The government will also spend more than $280m over four years to attract childhood educators to the profession to ensure the scheme is viable.
Children will also benefit from a $1.6bn decision to build and upgrade public schools around the state.
“Our children are our future and a great education can set them up for life,” Mr Kean said.
NSW residents hoping to buy a house will benefit from being able to choose between paying annual stamp duty or a property tax.
That choice will cost NSW taxpayers $729m over the next four years but allow homeowners to get a foothold in the increasingly inflated housing market.
Mr Kean estimated potential homeowners would pay $1200 instead of the current average stamp duty of $30,000.
The government also announced $2.8bn would be spent to expand access to affordable housing across the state, including in regional communities.
For single, vulnerable or elderly people, $780m will be committed over two years to a shared equity scheme to assist in purchasing a home.
“We’re making it as easy as possible for people to enter the housing market,” he said.
“Owning your own home is owning a stake in this nation.”
One of the biggest benefactors of the NSW budget is healthcare, with a $4.5bn investment into the health workforce over four years.
The staggering cost will attract an 10,000 additional staff to bolster the system and ease pressure on staff and overloaded hospitals.
Nearly half of that multibillion-dollar push will go to improving regional healthcare facilities.
Healthcare staff and other public sector workers are set to benefit from a 3 per cent wage increase over the next two years that the NSW Treasurer labelled “one of the most generous public sector pay increases in the country”.
Frontline health workers will also receive a one-off $3000 payment in acknowledgment of their tireless efforts during the pandemic. Mr Kean strongly denied there would be any cuts to frontline services.
The government will also put $1bn into science and technology to encourage innovation in laboratories and testing rooms.
Mr Kean noted the state experienced the power of medical science during the pandemic and said NSW could play a part in future scientific developments. He said $1 spent in research and development yielded $3.50 in economic benefits for the state.
Mr Kean assured NSW residents that investments into renewable energy would avoid a recurrence of last week’s energy crisis.
He said the record $1.9bn investment would transform the state into a “renewable energy superpower” to “hand the planet to our children in a better state than we found it”.
The commitment to renewable energy included a newly announced $218.9m plan to create a fleet of zero-emissions buses over seven years.
The installation of rooftop solar and energy-efficient appliances will save households $600 a year on power bills, the government predicts.
The Energy Bill Busting initiative will cost the state $128m and cut the costs of gas and electricity for eligible households.
“This is about future proofing our state and driving down bills,” he said.
“We may be a sunburnt country, but we are also sun blessed.”
Mr Kean noted the government was on track to meet the goal of zero emissions by 2050.
The NSW government expects the nearly $2bn investment in renewable energy infrastructure will make regional NSW into an internationally recognised powerhouse of clean energy.
Mr Kean spruiked the 2022-23 budget as a road map “that leaves no one behind”, including residents in regional areas who felt isolated during the pandemic.
The budget commits to investing $1.6bn in regional and rural NSW on top of an eye-watering $3.5bn investment in disaster relief for flood affected communities.
The vast majority of that regional investment – $1.3bn – will be injected into the Regional Growth Fund, which has already delivered more than 2700 projects across the state.
More than $835m will go towards developing a regional rail fleet to connect the state.
“Your opportunities in life should not depend on where you live,” the NSW Treasurer said.
The flagging critical minerals industry will be also be rejuvenated by a $130m expansion package to help create future employment.
Most importantly, regional healthcare will get a much-needed helping hand in the form of $2.4bn. After the ravages of the pandemic, the NSW government has recognised the need for equitable and quality healthcare in regional areas.
The budget has also committed to boosting the housing availability for crucial workers like healthcare employees and police so communities.
After months of agonising over rising road tolls and increasing petrol prices, drivers in NSW will be relieved to know the government will lend a helping hand.
The NSW government will provide toll relief to the tune of $520m for those feeling the pinch. Mr Kean estimates the investment will save drivers up to $750 a year.
Mr Kean said the government was committed to “transforming the state through roads and rail”, with upgrades to the Western Harbour Tunnel, extension of the M6, upgrades to the Great Western Highway, and a Metro network for Sydney.
First Nations residents in NSW have been recognised in the budget with a $716m investment into housing, education, and community services.
Two-hundred new homes will be built for First Nations people and 260 homes will be upgraded in a push to improve housing, land rights and community infrastructure priced at more than $317m.
Nearly $100m will be spent on building nine new Aboriginal Family and Child Centres and expand existing centres. The NSW government has also committed to the creation of a $9.9m Family and Child Advocacy Support program.
First Nations languages and cultures have secured a boost of more than $91m, which will also be aimed at survivors of the Stolen Generation and repatriating the remains of First Nations people.
THE BOTTOM LINE
All of these initiatives will cost NSW taxpayers a record-breaking $182bn, the highest state budget cost in NSW history.
Of that, $42bn is new spending announced by the NSW Treasurer on Tuesday.
The NSW government has revised the state’s deficit to almost double the mid-year expectation at $11.3bn for 2022-23.
The estimated deficit is an improvement on the 2021-22 budget deficit of $16.6m as the state begins to recover from the pandemic and the natural disasters.
The budget projects the NSW government will return to surplus in just two years for the 2024-25 budget. The following year, Mr Kean said the Treasury estimated the surplus would be in excess of $1.4bn.
Despite the record billions of dollars in spending, Mr Kean denied the budget was a “cash splash” to win votes.
“We will be the envy of the country because of the policies we’ve outlined in this budget,” he said.
In response to the 2022-23 budget announcement, NSW Opposition Leader Chris Minns criticised the government for “spraying money in every direction at a rate of knots months before the general election”.
Originally published as NSW budget: Women and families given financial boost