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Old economy wins while new economy loses

Public mental health and private mineral wealth are the big winners out of this year's budget, Greens Leader Bob Brown said today.

"The Greens are celebrating the $1.5 billion boost to mental health funding, although we are shocked to discover that almost $0.5 billion is outside the forward estimates. There is a bias in the overall budget to the influential mining barons who are unelected and send massive profits overseas. While the mining corporations gain, programs for Australians, including the environment have been cut by billions," Senator Brown said.

"While slamming the tax break for big business, the Greens welcome the company tax cut for small businesses."

The good and bad of this budget:

a) Good:

  • A Greens initiative: $2.2 billion, including $1.5 billion of new funding, for mental health, but $490 million of the funding is delayed until 2015;
  • Another Greens' initiative: $53 million down payment on national dental care;
    A National Advisory Council on Dental Health will provide advice on the dental health system.
    "This new investment in the dental workforce will ensure the system is well placed to meet future demands. Significant reform to dental health, in line with the Government's agreement with the Australian Greens, will be a priority in the 2012-13 Budget." (Budget paper No. 1)
  • In line with the government's agreement with the Australian Greens, a new Parliamentary Budget Office will be established, at a cost of $24.9 million over 4 years;
  • Another Greens' initiative: curbing FBT concessions for company car use - a $1 billion victory for commonsense;
  • More than $300 million in disability support has been included;
  • A Greens and community campaign success: medical health research has not been cut, although funding to the more general (CRC and CRN) research program has been reduced by $54.1 million, and;
  • While the Greens have scored $8 million for national heritage grants and $12.5 million for community radio, this is far short of what is needed.

b) Bad:

  • A range of punitive measures will make life harder for young mothers, for single parents, and people on the disability support pension. Additionally there will be an expansion of the misguided and ineffective income management scheme;
  • New enterprise migration agreements that will allow the resource industries to get out of training Australians for regional areas;
  • Absence of new funding for public transport and renewal of our cities, while funding for roads and rail destined to carry coal to the polluters is supported with billions of dollars; and bikeways lose out;
  • An effective cut of approximately $500 million to renewable energy, including defunding of the solar schools program;
  • The cost of cuts to national institutions such as the National Gallery and the National Library is small but the impact is huge, and the Greens will work to reverse it;
  • The Heritage department budget has been cut for the second year in succession, this year by a whacking 30%
  • Indigenous Australia and the Environment are not mentioned in the Treasurer's speech;
  • There is effectively no funding for saving Tasmania's forests;
  • Inhumane and misguided stance on asylum seekers, the cost of off-shore asylum seeker management has quadrupled, it is costing $1 billion in this year alone; and,
  • The expanded role and funding for Infrastructure Australia is positive but no substitute for a sovereign wealth fund to provide for the needs of future generations.

"We note the Labor government's goal of reaching a surplus in 2012-13, but there are better ways of getting there in this era of a mining boom. We will not block supply but we will seek to responsibly improve the budget via the Parliament. That is our job," Senator Brown said.

You can listen to Senator bob Brown's press conference from budget night here.

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