By Jon Singer
PERTH — The state ALP government's 1991 budget, announced on August 29 by Premier Carmen Lawrence, cut community services, health, education, arts and environment funding to pay for increased funding of housing and capital works. The result is that workers and the poor will pay for a minimal response to the state's dramatic housing slump and 11% plus unemployment while privatisation gathers pace.
The latest cuts follow earlier government decisions to cut 3000 jobs from the public sector and to increase charges.
Spending on both government and non-government community services was cut 4.5% in real terms. Six services will close. Emergency relief assistance was cut by almost $1 million.
Health funding was cut by 3%. Public hospitals are again facing ward and theatre closures and cuts in outpatient services.
Allocations to the Environmental Protection Authority and to artists and arts agencies were both cut by more than 5% in real terms.
Education allowances of $100 for secondary students and $50 for primary students were abolished, providing much of the increased funding for school maintenance and minor works. The Education Department's communication and publishing arm will be abolished, with contractors being employed to produce education programs.
Out of these cuts, Labor proposes to increase capital works funding by 9.2% and put $420 million into housing to create 9000 jobs. This is a necessary response to a crisis in the construction industry, with housing demand down to 15% of that of two years ago and many city construction sites nearing completion.
However, only $79 million will be spent to build and improve public housing, while $300 million will go in home loans to fund private contract home building. Most capital works funding will also go to private contractors. Meanwhile there are threats to close the public sector Building Management Authority, the building industry's most stable employer.