• Rikki Lambert

Labor laments Lucas leaving lasting liability legacy


South Australian Treasurer Rob Lucas will deliver a big-spending state budget which Labor says leaves unprecedented levels of debt in the Liberal veteran's last budget before retiring at the next election.


Health, education, roads and rail are set to be the big winners in the South Australian budget.


On Tuesday, the budget was designed to assist in the recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic and appeal to voters ahead of the March state election.


The budget is likely to be in better shape than last year's predictions, thanks to increased GST and stamp duty payments, but is still expected to forecast a sizeable deficit for 2021/22.


SA is also tipped to continue to borrow, taking advantage of record-low interest rates.


The last budget projected debt would reach unprecedented levels, as would the revenue to debt ratio, exceeding 100 per cent for the first time in the forward estimates.


The budget will feature big spending on infrastructure, allocating $17.9 billion over the next four years, including funds for a number of significant road and rail projects.


But health will also get extra cash with the government likely to reveal the projected cost of Adelaide's new Women's and Children's Hospital.


At least one new school will be included in the government's plans, with more money to go to upgrades at other facilities.


The government has also been hit with some unexpected bills, including a $200 million blowout in health, $64 million extra to police for border and security duties and up to $30 million to combat a spate of fruit fly outbreaks threatening the state's horticulture industry.


Premier Steven Marshall said he wouldn't say he was feeling emotional about it being the treasurer's final budget but was looking forward to the occasion:


"He's done an outstanding job.
“(He’s had) a very steady hand on the tiller, during some pretty choppy waters with the coronavirus.
"The thing about Rob Lucas is he's demonstrated he can pivot based upon the circumstances that we find ourselves in.
"I don't think he ever envisaged he would be spending as much money as he has in the last 16 to 18 months."

The State Opposition have criticised the projected debt levels in the budget, well in excess of when Labor was in office. Labor say Mr Lucas will deliver the biggest ever deficit and record state debt among the worst unemployment rate in Australia, and what they say are the worst performing emergency departments in the nation and ramping is 'worse than ever'.