SA budget 2017-18: 'Nothing' for regions, says Pederick

There is "nothing" in the latest state budget for regional South Australia, says Adrian Pederick, the Murraylands' representative in Parliament.

The state government will spend $2.2 billion on infrastructure in 2017-18, a record.

But only $30.5 million worth of new projects in country South Australia were announced when the state budget was revealed last Thursday.

"It's nice to have all these big projects in Adelaide ... but we need projects out here: overtaking lanes on the Mallee roads, more duplication of the Dukes towards the border," Mr Pederick said.

"We need to be serious about what we're doing with our major road funding."

There was a $150 million backlog in spending on regional health, he said, including the need for a new emergency department at the Murray Bridge hospital.

The same was true for education, Mr Pederick said, noting Murray Bridge High School was at capacity; and for courts, as Murray Bridge's was due to be replaced.

He criticised the $420 million worth of new taxes the government planned to raise, mainly through a levy on major banks.

He also singled out cuts to agriculture, regional development, further education and the environment; described a small reduction in the Emergency Services Levy as "tokenism"; and wondered why the Country Fire Service's membership had fallen by 500.

Even the government's commitment to a 100-megawatt battery bank, intended to shore up the state's power supply this summer, came in for questioning.

"Eight to 10 years from now, when the batteries are dead, what are you going to do with them?" he asked.

"I've got no problem with the battery technology, but there'll be legacy issues."

He suggested most of the government's new initiatives were in the suburbs Labor was afraid of losing at next year's state election, and that the projected $72 million surplus would be "thrown around like lollies" in February and March.

Talking points

The other major measures announced in the budget included a Future Jobs Fund, a mix of grants and loans available to businesses; a permanent reduction in the payroll tax rate for small businesses; bigger grants for enterprises which add extra staff; and a Fund My Community scheme, which will allow taxpayers to vote online to decide where $40 million is spent.

But health spending was the major talking point in the lead-up to Treasurer Tom Koutsantonis' budget speech to Parliament on Thursday afternoon.

The government will spend $1.1 billion on a new Adelaide Women's Hospital and upgrades to the Queen Elizabeth, Lyell McEwin, Women's and Children's, Modbury and Mount Barker hospitals, Flinders Medical Centre and SA Health and Medical Research Institute.

But none of the other 81 hospitals and health centres outside Adelaide will be upgraded.

When confronted with that fact on Thursday, Mr Koutsantonis was unequivocal.

"Our largest regional hospital is the new Royal Adelaide Hospital,"  he said.

"That's the biggest hospital and where most emergencies are dealt with, that's where we'll invest most.

"That deals with regional and rural patients."

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