The New South Wales Government has been accused of being deliberately secretive about the details of cost savings and program cuts unveiled in yesterday’s state budget.
Along with thousands more jobs being axed in the public service, the State Government has identified $1.24 billion worth of cuts to existing programs.
Treasurer Mike Baird is refusing to reveal which programs will go, saying it is up to individual ministers to announce them.
Opposition Leader John Robertson says Mr Baird is not revealing details because he knows the cuts are unfair.
“What we’ve seen in 15 months of the O’Farrell Government is when they cut services they cut them from the most vulnerable,” Mr Robertson said.
“We saw foster carers’ allowances cut, we saw the vision care program cut, we saw increases in public housing rents of 10 per cent.
“There’s no doubt, wherever these cuts come from, they’re going to impact on the most vulnerable.”
Greens MP John Kaye says the Government’s approach to the cuts sets a low bar for transparency.
“In the decade that I’ve been looking at budgets, this is the most opaque. It’s impossible to find many of the cuts that are hidden within this document,” Dr Kaye said.
“The New South Wales Government should come clean. If they say we have to take the medicine, we should know what the prescription is. We should know where these cuts are happening.”
Labor says the Government has also put the construction of dual carriageway for the entire Pacific Highway in jeopardy.
“The Commonwealth Government has put $3.5 billion, the New South Wales Government has only put $1.5 billion. That’s $2 billion short of meeting the target for the duplication of the highway by 2016,” Mr Robertson said.
Premier Barry O’Farrell has suggested the Federal Government end the impasse by transferring money allocated to Sydney’s Epping to Parramatta Rail Link.
“The Federal Government has the money. The Epping to Parramatta Rail Link is going nowhere because our clear priority, our clear mandate, was to build the North West Rail Link and that allegedly leaves more than $2 billion in federal coffers,” Mr O’Farrell said.
“If the Federal Government were determined to upgrade the Pac Highway, if it was determined to stick to the existing 80-20 funding agreement, [it] could be done overnight.”
Unions on war footing
The budget includes a cap on departmental wages costs, with agency heads to reduce labour costs growth by 1.2 per cent a year.
Jim Casey from the Fire Brigade Employees Union says the budget papers paint an even grimmer picture for his members.
“There’s a $30 million cut to the wages budget for Fire and Rescue New South Wales. Now that either means we cop a three per cent wage cut or we see firefighters’ jobs go,” he said.
“Either is unacceptable for us. We’re not going to go backwards and we’re not going to see our service go backwards.”
The Public Service Association (PSA) says the Government has deliberately avoided the usual practice of listing the number of jobs it has budgeted for in each department and agency.
PSA general secretary John Cahill has also slammed the Treasurer’s announcement he is pushing for funds held by State Super to be spent on NSW infrastructure projects.
“We now see the Treasurer with his eyes on public sector workers superannuation and seemingly he wants to use that money as his own private piggy bank,” Mr Cahill said.
“We’ll have to resist this, we’ll have to resist this right across the board.
“Not only do members of that scheme look with horror on the idea of privatising public assets, but for those who are still at work they might find that their own super funds invest in the privatisation that has made them ineligible to remain members of that scheme.”