NSW budget 'a scam based on stamp duty, asset sales': Socialist candidate

Issue 
A protest outside NSW parliament on budget day 21 June that took up public transport and Westconnex funding.

"The NSW state budget brought down by the Mike Baird government on June 21, which was trumpeted by Treasurer Gladys Berejiklian as 'the strongest in the country,' is a scam, based on stamp duty from overpriced housing sales and the sell-off of the state's electricity assets," Peter Boyle, Socialist Alliance candidate for the seat of Sydney in the federal election, said on June 23.

Berejiklian said the overall state budget surplus would be $3.4 billion this financial year, with a total of $8 billion in surpluses to 2019–20. However, these figures mask a forecast decline in surpluses in the latter years of this decade.

The forecast $3.7 billion surplus for 2016–17 includes $1 billion in "asset recycling" payments from the federal government in return for NSW privatising the state's power system.

"Premier Baird and Co are riding a tiger by relying on stamp duty for their windfall budget surpluses," Boyle said. "Look at what happened to the Western Australian government, which squandered the revenue from the mining boom and is now in crisis, facing a massive $33 billion state debt.

"The Baird government's fake budget surplus has been artificially boosted by the sell-off of Transgrid, the state's high-voltage network operator, for more than $10 billion. The privatisation of the two state-owned, urban-based electricity distribution agencies, Ausgrid and Endeavour Energy, will swell the government's bottom line by more than $20 bilion.

"However, this so-called 'asset recycling' means that profitable public agencies are being flogged off to big business and any future profits are lost to the public purse forever.

"In the nine months to March 31 this year, about $1.2 billion worth of government property was sold to private interests. This fire sale of public assets is escalating as the government ramps up its push to privatise everything that is not nailed down in this state.

"The Socialist Alliance calls for an end to all privatisation and outsourcing of public assets. In this upcoming federal election, we say: 'Take back the wealth so that it can be used for social and environmental purposes; oppose and reverse the privatisation of public assets and services'."

The NSW Greens point out that the largest single infrastructure item in the NSW budget this year is the WestConnex tollway, with $2.9 billion earmarked this coming financial year, including nearly $800 million for planning and pre-construction costs.

"The Liberal government is committing billions to the wasteful and polluting WestConnex project, but has failed yet again to deliver simple public transport improvements like accessible lifts at Redfern, Stanmore or Petersham railway stations," Greens MP Jamie Parker said.

"Contrasted with the excessive spend on WestConnex and associated road infrastructure is the paltry, slum lord-style lack of investment in urgent repairs for public housing properties. The deterioration of public housing properties continues apace, with a miserable allocation of just $2.9 million for repairs. These funds will fail to address the huge backlog in maintenance, which tops $300 million across the state.”

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