In the Media

Bank tax vote secured in return for $41.5 million in mental health funding

ABC

Up to $41.5 million for mental health and disability services has been negotiated from the South Australian Government in return for the Dignity Party’s support for its controversial bank tax.

The proposed levy on SA’s five major banks is expected to be voted on this week in Parliament’s Legislative Council as part of Treasurer Tom Koutsantonis’ Budget Measures Bill.

Dignity Party MLC Kelly Vincent said she would support the Bill in return for a number of programs being established or reinstated in Budget Forward Estimates from 2017-2022.

The centrepiece of the deal is a $10.25 million Borderline Personality Disorder Centre of Excellence, which will have specialist-resources for people struggling with mental illness.

Other programs include:

  • $17.1 million to reinstate the Intensive Home Based Support Service
  • $6.6 million to continue funding the Centre for Disability Health at Modbury until 2022
  • $5.9 million to maintain the cross-Departmental Exceptional Needs Unit
  • $1.7 million in grants for Changing Places

“In exchange for the Dignity Party’s support of the bank tax, the Government has finally agreed to invest $41.5 million in properly supporting the most disadvantaged and under-recognised people in this state and in this country,” Ms Vincent said.

“I’ll take every possible opportunity to vehemently defend those who have gone without vital supports and make sure government money is spent on those who need it most.”

Upper House showdown looms on bank tax

The measure to impose a 0.015 per cent impost on 6 per cent of major banks’ liabilities passed the Lower House during August.

Despite Ms Vincent’s support, the Government has a hard task to pass the Bill through the Upper House, where it holds eight seats, as does the Liberal opposition.

There are two Greens MLCs who have indicated they will vote in favour, but there are also two conservatives who said they would not, and Independent John Darley has ruled out voting in favour.

Australian Conservatives (AC) MLC Robert Brokenshire said the tax would be voted down in the Upper House and urged the Government to “reflect” on its stance.

“If they’re offering carrots, then obviously they’ve got plenty of money,” he said.

“Why do they need [the] tax?”

Fellow AC MCL Dennis Hood said the Government had made a number of approaches in an attempt to negotiate, “and there’s nothing wrong with that”.

“But they haven’t gone very far, to be frank, because the truth is, we don’t believe this tax is in our state’s interests.”

The vote appears deadlocked with 11 in favour and 11 against.

Premier Jay Weatherill and Treasurer Tom Koutsantonis walk off an escalating carrying the 2017/2018 state budget

But Mr Koutsantonis warned Legislative Council members not to block the Bill, saying they would also risk payroll tax cuts for small businesses, stamp duty concessions and pre-construction grants for off-the-plan apartments.

“This week I will be imploring crossbenchers to choose thousands of South Australian small businesses over five East Coast banks,” he said.

He said “every single claim” the banks had made in their public campaign against the tax had been “proved wrong”.

“They said the levy would lead to a drop in business confidence, then reports from NAB and ANZ showed business confidence in South Australia has dramatically improved,” Mr Koutsantonis said.

He also said “billions” had been invested in SA’s economy in recent months by Tesla, Neoen, Solar Reserve, BHP, OZ Minerals, SkyCity, GFC Alliance and the Macquarie Group.

“And they said it would cost South Australia jobs, but latest jobs figures has seen our unemployment rate improve by a full percentage point compared to this time last year.”

A Budget Measures Bill has never been blocked in South Australia before.