Ai Group’s NSW Head, Helen Waldron, welcomed the strong emphasis on education and training; infrastructure; and energy and the environment among the cornucopia of economic and social initiatives in the NSW Government’s 2021-22 Budget.
Ms Waldron said, “The fiscal position and outlook contained in the Budget highlights the profound impact of the global pandemic on the state’s finances. The path back to an operating surplus in 2024-25 is a sensible approach that combines continued stimulus with a return to greater financial sustainability.
“The Budget will help secure a continuation of the recovery in business activity and employment; it will support a range of important social programs; and through its emphasis on laying the foundation for future productivity growth, it reinforces the reputation of NSW as a leader in the development of a progressive economic agenda.
“The initiatives to lift opportunities for young people by investing in schools and the state’s TAFEs, as well as the important initiatives to lift the quality of education and training are particularly welcome.
“Investments in education and training infrastructure will expand access to high-quality, modern learning facilities for school children and people engaged in training. They will also provide work to a wide range of businesses and employees who are in position to contribute to the considerable pipeline of new buildings, upgrades and installation of new technologies over the next few years.
“The measures to remove barriers to mid-career transition to teaching pick up on the recent report of the NSW Productivity Commission as part of a suggested program of measures to lift the quality of school education in the State.
“Ai Group’s members will welcome the commitments the Government is making towards securing the long-term energy supply for the state. With the end-date for closure of existing coal-fired generators getting ever closer, the funds allocated in today’s Budget towards the implementation of the Government’s Electricity Infrastructure Roadmap will provide businesses with greater confidence to invest in future growth and job-creating projects.
“The measures the Government has announced to improve the viability of electric vehicles and to bring forward their take-up will accelerate of electric vehicle use. The substitution of a deferred road user charge for the current stamp duty arrangements will provide incentives for faster take-up while clarifying the way owners of electric vehicle will contribute to NSW’s road funding task in the future.
“The Government’s continuing investments in infrastructure including in hospitals, transport, and social housing and in embracing digital technologies in the provision of health and other services will help build productivity and improve amenity as well as providing ongoing stimulus that will lift business activity and employment. There are numerous projects underway or in the planning stage with a solid pipeline in place for several years. This includes the Bradfield city centre; the Parramatta light rail, the Great Western Highway upgrade and the Muswellbrook bypass.
“It will be critical for the Government and its agencies to work closely with industry to ensure the necessary supply chains are in place as needed and, critically, that appropriately skilled people are available to deliver the projects on time and on budget.
“Ai Group’s many small business members will welcome the announcements to shorten payment terms for small businesses and to take steps to improve small business participation in public sector procurement. It will be critical that the improvements are made without imposing additional complexity to procurement arrangements for businesses both large and small.
“The plethora of budget initiatives blends important areas of social spending with a range of measures to help businesses grow, recover and create jobs. The social spending areas include social housing including accommodation for people living in the shadow of domestic violence and measures focussed on addressing mental health including among younger people.
“The business-orientated measures include the initiatives to revitalise the Sydney CBD including the Friday vouchers and the innovative Cahill High Line; programs that will help attract global events and business investment to the state; and measures to support regional tourism.
“Throughout the Budget, the Government adopts, and commits to pursuing further recommendations of the Gonski-Shergold Report into vocational education and training and the recent NSW Productivity Commission White Paper. Ai Group commends the Government’s focus on building the foundations of the future social and economic progress of the state and we urge it to continue to engage widely in the further development and implementation of these agendas,” Ms Waldron said.