The 2022-23 NSW Budget has been released at a time of soaring cost of living pressures, ongoing challenges with high community transmission of COVID-19, and regional communities struggling to build back from an onslaught of natural disasters.
This is our third state budget since the onset of the pandemic, and while the NSW economic recovery has been relatively strong overall, it remains uneven across regions, sectors and population cohorts. It is widely acknowledged that the pandemic has exposed growing inequality in NSW, and that many families and vulnerable people continue to struggle.
At the outset of the COVID-19 crisis, the NSW Government responded swiftly and invested significantly to address the immediate impacts of the recession. These investments, along with the increased support provided by the federal government, have been critical to supporting the people of NSW.
However, as the bulk of the critical supports provided by the government have been withdrawn, many people in NSW are facing significant hardship.
The pandemic and multiple natural disasters have greatly impacted the price of goods and housing, and families continue to struggle to make ends meet and pay for essential items and services. The Budget’s commitment to alleviate some cost of living pressures through toll relief, financial assistance for childcare and energy support for low-income households is welcome, but more is needed.
This Budget’s heightened focus on increasing women’s economic opportunities and workforce participation through better childcare support, shared parental leave rights for public sector workers, and access to more learning and business opportunities is certainly positive. Further, the decision to set indexation for social services funded by the NSW Department of Communities and Justice at 5.5% for 2022-23 is to be congratulated. However, indexation remains a year-to-year guessing game for the sector and the government has once again missed a key opportunity to improve wages, job security, workforce participation and career pathways for a vast number of female workers by overlooking the need for a significant and permanent boost to core funding of the female-dominated social services sector, where 3 out of 4 jobs are occupied by women.
For a Budget meant to be focused on women’s opportunities, it was also extremely disappointing to see a lack of investment in the specialist domestic and family violence sector and the substantial boost to social housing supply that is needed. While the extension to the Safer Pathways program is positive, as is the funding for the Core and Cluster model announced in October 2021, significantly greater investment is required to address domestic and family violence long-term, and the social and economic harm that it imposes on our communities.
We also know that significant investment in social housing is critical to supporting women and children to leave violent relationships and get their lives back on track; as it is to ensure that homelessness services are not turning away people in dire need or are not able to assist people into long term housing once they exit crisis accommodation.
This Budget does not provide a comprehensive solution to the enduring challenge of housing affordability and increasing rates of homelessness in NSW. Another state budget with no commitment to significantly increase social and affordable housing supply, despite the collective calls of advocates and economists to invest in more than 5,000 homes a year, is an ongoing failure. Moreover, the commitment to the construction of 320 new homes, does not even come close to providing a home for the close to 40,000 people in NSW that experience homelessness (2016 Census).
As we move towards a state election in 2023, future government budgetary measures must recognise that persistent disadvantage and community recovery from extreme events is a long, enduring process that can take many years and must be supported by sustained, long-term investments that go beyond temporary, piecemeal funding boosts in response to crisis.
Read our analysis on specific policy areas below: