What a year that we have faced as South Australians. The government has had to produce a budget in that environment that will provide a stimulus to the state's economy and provide lasting and significant benefits to South Australians.
But picture our situation in February this year and what was about to befall us. We had just survived bushfires in four major regions across South Australia. People's lives had been lost, their livelihoods smashed and their homes incinerated. We had some enormous challenges as we then faced what was going to be happening around the world in the following months. The rest, as we all know, has created an enormous challenge for us.
As Attorney-General, one of my first jobs was to ring the Coroner and talk to him about what we might do in the event that the pandemic resulted in a significantly high number of deaths in South Australia. How would his court manage? How would we deal with multiple potentially contaminated deceased? We discussed the use of freezer containers as portable mortuaries and it was a serious issue on the agenda.
In hindsight, although we planned for the worst, thankfully this was not required. Very significant attention was given to how we were going to protect our pathologists in dealing with the deceased, who might be carriers. I learned that the coronavirus was able to survive death and continue to live in the body for a period of time. Those were the sorts of things we had to have been agile enough to pick up, assess and make decisions on.
For me, dealing with how to create a safe environment to get South Australians through this was quite a new frontier. That was clearly the priority of the government. We then crafted a budget that has been announced, that had to deal with how we were going to get the whole of South Australia into the next era of financial security, employment and continued opportunity.
Before I outline the features of this budget as they relate to the Attorney-General's Department and other areas of responsibility, I want to thank the courts—in particular, the Chief Justice and members of his council—for ensuring that we were able to continue to operate an important arm of the trilogy of executive parliament and our judiciary. This was ably supported by agencies such as the DPP and the Legal Services Commission, for which I am responsible.
There was an early introduction and adaptation to enable jury trials to resume in a COVID environment. We had to have an enormous technology uplift, and it is a huge credit to all of those who worked in that regard. Consumer and Business Services worked night and day to be able to provide relief to people who had anything from a trade licence issue to dealing with liquor licensing reforms, the management of gambling revenue, and with the financial fallout of the loss of businesses and commercial obligations in tenancies. The Small Business Commissioner and Commissioner for Consumer and Business Services were under the pump during those months, and I thank them.
Finally, can I say that nothing would have been able to be done legally without the Crown Solicitor's Office. The team within that office have worked—I am yet to tally up the millions that have been spent, which nobody has paid for, but we have had to carry so far—to meet the obligations of legislative and regulatory reform.
They also made sure that, whether we were fighting in the High Court, as we did last week in relation to the application before the High Court—Mr Walker was representing a restauranteur in Victoria in order to challenge the validity of that legislation. He suggested there was an implied freedom of movement; I am pleased to say that idea was smashed. The legitimacy and validity of state legislation, and the implementation of directions to keep residents within those regions safe, was upheld. I thank our Solicitor-General for his excellent management in relation to those matters.
It has been a busy and challenging year. This time around in the budget, we have introduced an increase in the victims of crime levy of 50 per cent. People know what the victims of crime levy is all about: the bad people who commit offences and are convicted have to make a direct payment into a fund. Since 2011, there has been no increase to this levy. This increase will help offset the increase in payments from the VOC Fund, which increased from $25.7 million in 2016-17 to $35 million in 2019-20. I have not been known to be a spendthrift but I can tell you that I think I have been generous in the application of funds, including ex gratia payments, from this fund.
There is an enormous list of agencies—I will not go into go through them during this contribution—which that Victims of Crime Fund supports, including funding for a homicide support team. There is also funding for Yarrow Place, which provides support to those who are victims of rape and sexual assault. There is a long list of them and this should not be overlooked: compensation for those who are deserving of support, given the physical assault or trauma they have suffered as a result of a crime.
Included in the compensation, payments have been increased from $13.3 million to $19.9 million over the same period. I remind members that we also put $146.6 million from the VOC Fund in 2017-18 to meet the anticipated costs of participating in the National Redress Scheme. I am still in awe of the Premier. One of his first acts as a Premier was to sign up to the national scheme. That increase in the levy will be used to assist the victims of crime as its purpose. I think about $11 million has already been paid out of the fund in relation to applications that have been made, but members might recall this is a 10-year fund from which parties can come forward to seek redress.
There is a range of spending initiatives in this year's budget that I am proud to outline, including $14.2 million over two years to increase the AVL capacity across the justice sector as part of the Digital Restart Fund, which will improve remote access to justice, through improving and increasing the use of AVL, and provide jobs to local IT suppliers and installers, apart from creating new jobs, as an example of the government backing the businesses that we know are in desperate need of support.
We have allotted $638,000 in 2020-21 and $523,000 per annum thereafter for point-of-entry searches and improved security measures in regional courts. I was pleased to announce this recently in Port Pirie and ensure that we bring up the level of support and security to what we enjoy here in the city. It will reduce the risk of harm to members of the judiciary, court staff and court users in regional areas and provide a boost for regional business providing the upgrades and is an example of the government backing business again to create new jobs.
There is $546,000 to undertake disability access at the Supreme Court, which will see the installation of new ramps, signage, automatic doors and an access bathroom. This will also assist a number of South Australians and make our courts more accessible for people with disabilities. Works will be undertaken by local businesses—again, another example of us as a government backing business. I remind members that years ago our own Chief Justice returned from Europe in a wheelchair and could not even get into his own courtroom. This has taken years and years. We have made it a priority under this government to make sure that we have accessibility to our court services for those with disability.
There is additional funding of $941,000 for the Deputy Coroner to reduce the backlog of cases in the Coroners Court. This will provide comfort to many South Australians who are grieving the loss of a loved one and waiting for that final determination. We have assigned $11.6 million over three years to upgrade the facade of the Sir Samuel Way building. As a newly minted Minister for Local Government and Planning, I can say I am also very proud that this has been part of the heritage of our state and that we will ensure this will be there as a precious resource for future generations. It is apparently designed on some French fashion house but, in any event, it has a long history and it is a history we cherish.
In 2018-19, $43.5 million was outlaid to purchase the site from Funds SA. This further investment ensures ongoing preservation of the historic building and will provide again for local tradies. There is $200,000 per annum to Crime Stoppers. This is a group that has come to us over a number of years and this government has put its money where its mouth is: $800,000 over four years, the first of its kind for this not-for-profit organisation to detect and reduce crime. Ongoing funding will allow Crime Stoppers to expand its operations across South Australia, including measures to stop rural criminal activity. Crime Stoppers helps SAPOL keep the community safe by collecting vital information about criminals and suspicious activity. For those who do not know, it provides a telephone service at SAPOL to enable the community to work with SAPOL and assist in this regard.
There is $1.4 million to the Office of the Public Advocate (OPA) and a further $884,000 to OPA and SACAT in 2020-21, and $1.4 million ongoing will address increased requirements relating to the case management and formalisation of arrangements for NDIS clients. Additional funding of $884,000 will also be provided to address the increasing guardianship orders. There is $1.1 million to OPA and SACAT to manage increased requirements and activity levels for the authorisation of restrictive practices. This can be anything from restraining somebody from entering an area to, as they say, sometimes shackling in a circumstance where management is necessary at that other level.
In planning and local government, my new area of responsibility, there is $100 million on the table to invest in local infrastructure projects. This is to be matched dollar for dollar with local government. That leverages $200 million to vital job creation over the next two years. This new Local Government Infrastructure Partnership Program will fund the construction of new community infrastructure faculties and the upgrade of existing facilities. I have made it abundantly clear to mayors and CEOs across the state: 'Pull those programs out of your top drawer and let's get cracking on this because it is a win-win situation.'
There is $15 million in grant payments from the Planning and Development Fund. This is in addition to the usual estimate of about $14 million a year to undertake projects that contribute to the revitalisation of reserves and parks, linear parks, coastal reserves, trails, riverbank precincts and town squares. Projects are jointly funded with local councils on a fifty-fifty basis. I can tell you there are no Manchurian pear trees in this lot; there are real benefits to communities, which they identify as priorities. There is a total of $22.7 million paid into the Open Spaces and Places for People in 2019-20 and a further $20.4 million to be allocated in 2020-21. The grant round has opened and I have sent letters just this week to all the agencies, namely, the local governments across the state.
There is $9.1 million over two years for municipal services in Aboriginal communities. The funding, often called the MUNS program, will ensure 15 Aboriginal communities in regional South Australia continue to receive basic municipal services, waste collection, road maintenance, landscaping, vet services and necessary water, wastewater and airfield maintenance. The funding also provides the urgent repair and renewal of MUNS-related infrastructure and again will generate local employment and local jobs stimulus in this regard.
The program will be overseen by the Office of Local Government and supported by a cross-agency MUNS advisory group including representatives from the Department for Infrastructure and Transport, the SA Housing Authority and the Department of the Premier and Cabinet (Aboriginal Affairs and Reconciliation).
There is $3 million over two years to provide consolidated flood mapping data development planning. This project will support emergency response agencies and the planning approvals process for delivering consistent and contemporary flood mapping through a modern digitised system that maps flood risk and consequence in step with other Australian jurisdictions. We will be catching up and it is not before time. It is part of the $150 million Digital Restart Fund, and I am proud to say that our government is getting on with this.
There is $1 million to implement the Local Government Information Network. Basically, this is to set up a website to provide communities with information on their council's performance so that they can actually have some direct capacity to compare performance relative to other councils. That is an important performance comparison which the LGA has welcomed and which we are pleased to be offering the funding for. In the government's response to the final recommendations of the inquiry the Premier committed to:
…invest in a new initiative to release critical information and data about all councils, their services, functions and operations, in a single, accessible and user-friendly website. Ratepayers will be able to see how their council performs in key areas across time, and in comparison with other councils.
Thank you, Premier. I am sure South Australians will appreciate that transparency and the effective use of those funds.
Can I also advise of $2.4 million over three years to the Electoral Commission, which will implement a number of improvements to election processes, including new learning systems for temporary election staff, additional staff for increased engagement with Aboriginal electors and upgrades to the online electoral results platform. This includes electronic roll mark-offs in polling booths, an online portal for candidate lodgements and the ability to apply for a portal vote for phone or online. This is again from the Digital Restart Fund.
There is $3.7 million over four years for electoral reforms—another initiative being funded from the Digital Restart Fund. This will enable ECSA to undertake several reforms, including electronic roll mark-offs in polling and pre-polling booths, the creation of an online portal for candidate lodgements and the ability to apply for a postal vote online or over the phone. These are major initiatives, and I know they will support the Electoral Commissioner and his staff in the 21st century.
For my own electorate of Bragg, I feel very privileged to represent the people of Bragg. I have been very concerned that my constituency, along with other South Australians, has an opportunity to reset the cost structure. The government's record investment in parks will get a further $17 million boost in this budget to improve nature-based tourism across the state. The new funding takes total investment in our parks under our government to more than $130 million—the highest amount in the state's history.
As part of this $130 million investment, $3 million will go to upgrading the Mount Lofty precinct, including trails, amenities and an overflow car park, and there is an additional $1 million for the Cleland Wildlife Park to build a new purpose-built koala hold facility. It is a wonderful facility that people across the state and international visitors enjoy, and I am very proud to say that geographically it is the biggest entity in my electorate. I do not think many people live there who vote, but I have lots of beautiful wildlife.
Funding for education continues to grow, with the budget delivering a massive boost for schools and preschools. On the border of my electorate is Glenunga International High School. It will receive over $12,000—this will accommodate year 7s into high school—to support future growth in the number of students enrolled and improve general learning areas. Very soon that will be the largest public high school in South Australia, and I am very proud that it is able to provide services to families in my electorate.
There is $35 million to upgrade and resurface the South Eastern Freeway between the Tollgate and Crafers. This will make the freeway safer and smoother for all motorists. Importantly, every road improvement ensures that we get home earlier, we get to work quicker and we are actually able to enjoy all the good parts of our life more efficiently. Other initiatives announced in the budget include:
$10,000 cash loan grants for small business and not-for-profit organisations that employ staff, with significant payroll and land tax relief;
$3,000 cash grants for eligible businesses that do not have employees;
$5.7 million in payroll tax relief for employers who take on a new apprentice or trainee;
$18 million to allow households to continue to invest in larger batteries, lowering their household costs;
$13 million to support further works, if required, to deliver Project EnergyConnect, the interconnector between SA and New South Wales; and
construction of the state's largest solar farm, and another big battery in a 10-year power deal, saving the state $12.8 million per annum.
The state budget will continue to fund key commitments from the government to deliver cost-of-living relief for hardworking families. Let's just look at those:
emergency services levy reductions, $90 million a year;
abolition of payroll tax to all small businesses, $44 million per year indexed; and
huge land tax savings of more than $200 million over three years for investors.
Essentially, even on the cost of living for a family of two adults and two children, we are looking at savings in excess of $800 a year just from their own personal budget.
The other opportunities that come with these initiatives mean they have much greater opportunity for job security, business viability and growth for the rest of South Australia because every one of us has a responsibility and a duty to provide for and support those who cannot support themselves—and that is government and all of us as individuals who are in a position of secure employment and able to assist others. So I congratulate the measures. They are sensible, they are strategic and they address an unprecedented challenge we have faced in a very difficult year. I commend the state budget 2021 to the parliament and seek its positive consideration and support for the same.