State Budget 2017: An underwhelming result for SA's regions

There are no surprises for regional SA in today's State Budget.

In fact, it could well be the most underwhelming budget to come from the present government.

Touted by the Treasurer Tom Koutsantonis as a "Labor budget" which "reflects the party's values" – health, public transport, infrastructure and education – new regional and rural projects are a glaring omission.  

While significant money has been thrown at health infrastructure, the only good news for regional SA is the announcement of $800,000 in funding for a 24-hour on-site emergency doctor at the Mount Barker District Soldiers' Memorial Hospital – which is still under an hour from the city centre.

Improvements to transport infrastructure rely heavily on funding commitments from the federal government.

The Weatherill Government is seeking a 50:50 funding commitment from federal to complete stage two of the Gawler Rail Electrfication.

All other projects are centred in the city.

A commitment of $14.6 million across two years (already underway) to repair damage from September's statewide storm is welcome news – but only applies to repairs and upgrades within the state's national parks.

Meanwhile, many country roads still remain in disrepair, awaiting state government support.

Regional dwellers can also expect mobile communications infrastructure to remain as is, with no commitment from the state government towards the federal government's Mobile Black Spot Program.

The SA government has only contributed once to this program, in 2016-17, and as a result, SA remains at the bottom of the communications food chain.

There are some bright notes in the budget for areas around the Upper Spencer Gulf, with a commitment to redevelop Whyalla Jetty and continued support for the town as it works to secure a future for the Arrium steelworks.

There is an additional $38.3m to operate an additional 160 beds at Mount Gambier Prison, and $1.1m for upgrades to the Mount Gambier airport.

And – for the famished journos in today’s lock up – the food wasn’t too bad, either.

But a number of previous projects have also been rehashed, only serving to highlight the government's lack of new ideas.

The 2017-18 State Budget, while set to deliver a surplus, has been a missed opportunity for the Weatherill Government as it faces a state election in under  a year.

If Steven Marshall's Liberal Party can deliver some strong new policies and projects, the next election could be interesting.

The ball is most certainly in their court now.

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