A budget follows Keating's course
By Stephen Robson
PERTH — Following in the footsteps of the federal budget, the Lawrence government brought down a slightly expansionary budget on September 1.
With a state election expected in February, the Labor government is planning to run a budget deficit of $500 million, in order to shave a few thousand off the unemployment figures.
Premier Lawrence predicted 20,000 new jobs would be created. She projected an optimistic growth of 4% in the economy for the next 12 months. With 10.4% unemployment, 20,000 jobs will make only a small dent.
Education expenditure was increased by $50 million to $1.046 billion, with Lawrence claiming 800 jobs would be created. The State School Teachers Union indicated that this funding will just cover the increasing student population, whereas it had been hoping to improve the quality of education.
Health expenditure has risen by 1.7%, representing a cut of up to 2.5% in real terms.
With 9200 new jobs projected through building 2700 rental houses, some $560 million is allocated to housing.
Reductions in power bills will save 5% for the estimated 80,000 small businesses.
Capital works are increased by $367 million to $1.5 billion. Of this, railway works expenditure was $172 million, almost double the previous year. An important part of this is funding the building of a new northern suburbs line.
The WA government has adopted controversial legislation against juvenile offenders, dramatically increasing sentences. With the economic crisis and the massive unemployment rates among youth, crimes such as car stealing have been on the increase.
$2.3 million was allocated to juvenile crime, up on $1.9 million last year. The government has a Youth Justice Bureau with the responsibility for prevention programs, Children's Court orders and detention of repeat offenders.
Paul Rajan, the chairperson of the Youth Affairs Council, told Green Left Weekly that YAC was "disappointed that broader youth issues have not got the attention warranted".
While YAC saw that a number of important initiatives had been made in the budget, there was a "concern that they still see young people as offenders".