Shadow Treasurer Rob Lucas said today this week’s budget estimates committee process would be the last major opportunity prior to the election to probe Rann Government waste and election slush funds totaling hundreds of millions of dollars.
Detailed analysis of budget papers shows three separate Treasurer’s contingency lines totaling $230m for 2005-06 compared to only $128m held in the same lines in 2003-04. Senior Treasury sources have confirmed that Treasurer’s contingencies for each of the next three years are even higher.
This means that total Treasurer’s contingencies or unallocated funds over the budget forward estimates are more than $1000 m and probably closer to $1500m!
Whilst a portion of this contingency will be required for enterprise bargaining agreements the experience of 2004-05 shows there is considerable flexibility for discretionary spending. Future expected GST surpluses of more than $200m a year (even after trade off tax cuts forced by Peter Costello) are partly accounted for in these Treasurer’s contingencies.
The budget papers also reveal that ‘hollow logs’ everywhere are being emptied in the election year to increase election slush funds.
For example the Rann Government has made major changes to its dividend policy for some statutory authorities to provide more election spending money. Increased dividends and tax payments to be paid by SA Water will be $47m, SAFA $58m and LMC $20m.
Kevin Foley will also be asked to try and explain why his revenue estimates this year should be believed when his average error in each of his last three budgets has been a $600m underestimate of total revenue.
Examples of massive Rann Government waste will also be pursued during the estimates committees. Kevin Foley will be asked to explain reasons for a $42m blow out in just one year in the cost of the Port River Bridges project. Last year Kevin Foley told the estimates committee the estimated cost including opening bridges would be $136m and now that cost has already blown out to $178m.
Other examples of waste already include:
• major blow outs in other capital works projects such as Sturt Street school($5m) and Dr. Margaret Tobin health unit ($7m).
• blow out in public servant numbers of 1800 in just one year most of which are not police, teachers, nurses etc
• blow out in Ministerial staff salary costs by $16m over 4 years
It is now clear that the Rann Government has been drowning in so much money from GST surpluses and property taxes they have completely taken their eye off the ball in terms of controlling waste and mismanagement.
There is considerable scope to reduce waste and mismanagement and still bring down a comprehensive tax relief package for long suffering taxpayers as promised by Rob Kerin.