Federal budget takes care of local government

By Lilia Guan

The Federal Government is determined to return budget to “surplus”.

In its 2012-2013 budget, the government’s National Health Reforms will provide an additional $19.8 billion in Commonwealth funding for public hospitals by 2019-20.
According to Treasurer Wayne Swan, this Budget delivers 76 new health infrastructure projects to upgrade regional hospitals and support training
where doctors are needed most, costing $475 million.
This is part of $5 billion from the Health and Hospitals Fund with new hospitals and clinics creating better services in regions where previously they had little coverage.
“Our national e-health agenda gets a boost of $234 million, so people can have digital, accessible, and consistent health records for their whole lives,” he stated in his budget speech.

“The National Broadband Network is transforming our economy and our $36 billion Nation Building programs are improving our road, rail and port networks.”
Infrastructure projects like $3.6 billion to duplicate the Pacific Highway, meets its commitment to fund half the project, provided the New South Wales government also contributes its half, Mr Swan stated.
“Joining with the private sector to develop the Moorebank Intermodal Terminal, to help freight flow in Sydney and take the equivalent of 3300 trucks off busy roads,” he said.
“[The] $232 million towards the Torrens and Goodwood rail project to help ease congestion on Adelaide's suburban and east west freight rail networks.”
The Australian Local Government Association (ALGA) has welcomed the budget’s continuation of funding for local roads and infrastructure.

ALGA vice president Felicity-Ann Lewis has applauded government for recognising the needs of councils by extending the Roads to Recovery (R2R) program to provide direct funding for local roads for a further five years beyond 2014, when the program was due to finish.

The government has also announced that it will be providing blackspot funding of $60 million a year for five years from 2014-19 and, in addition, the government will provide $20 million a year over seven years from 2012-13 for heavy vehicle safety, including more rest stops for truck drivers. 
“Both of these initiatives are vital to help achieve the target of a 30 per cent reduction in fatalities and serious injuries on our roads by 2020,” she said.
Financial Assistance Grants (FAGs) to local governments will also be maintained in real terms, with the Government deciding to bring forward the first two quarterly payments of the 2012-13 FAGs into 2011-12. 
This funding is very important to assist councils to deliver their services, maintain local roads and upgrade local community services and early payment will assist councils to manage their cash flow and be appreciated by those councils continuing to recover from natural disasters in recent years.
Despite funding available to local governments, the Australian Construction Association believed the budget met the government’s undertaking to deliver a surplus.
However it was "austere" and "missed an opportunity to significantly develop the nation’s infrastructure", Australian Constructors Association, executive director, Jim Barrett.

“Australia has been running too lean for the challenges it needs to meet,” he said.
“With an infrastructure backlog of over $700 billion it is disappointing that the Budget did not use the current economic environment to further build our national infrastructure stocks.”
Has the government’s austere budget affected your agency’s procurement plans?

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