Did you ever hear the fable of the Treasurer who cried infrastructure spending in South Australia?
Well, once upon a time there was a road in Adelaide that needed to be upgraded called the North-South Corridor. The Federal Treasurer went to all of the townspeople and proudly boasted that there was $2.6 billion dollars in the Budget to pay for it.
The townspeople rejoiced, but some couldn’t help wondering: haven’t we heard all of this before?
And it turns out they had! All the way back in financial year 2018-19.
So what’s going on here? The simple answer is that the Federal Budget comes out every year and governments often use that opportunity to re-announce the same funding for long term projects, over and over again. The first section of the North-South Corridor isn’t scheduled for completion until 2028, which is a whole decade after the initial announcement. That means the Government can re-announce that funding 10 times on the way through!
While having 10 bites of the cherry might sound like a good idea, it isn’t a particularly satisfying meal.
Amid a sea of announcements, pre-announcements and re-announcements, it’s often hard to keep track of what is actually new money in the Budget and what isn’t. Well, Budget Paper 2 is the place where new spending initiatives can be found and, if you turn to page 155, you’ll see that just $131 million of funding has been announced for infrastructure in South Australia next financial year.
That might be less exciting than the multi-billion dollar headline figures being thrown around, but at least it isn’t a fairytale!