Key peak bodies in South Australia’s health and community services sector have urged the major parties to protect their funding ahead of the upcoming state election, with fears that “efficiency dividends” will be implemented by the incoming government.
SA’s Labor government announced an “efficiency dividend” in December’s mid-year budget review, to cut departmental funding after a proposed state bank tax failed to get through parliament.
The Liberal Party has indicated it would also use efficiency dividends if elected.
This has led 11 non-government health and community services peak bodies to write a joint letter to the premier, the leader of the opposition and Nick Xenophon’s SA-BEST party, calling for a commitment to protect the sector from any funding cuts.
Ross Womersley, CEO of South Australian Council of Social Service (SACOSS), which is leading the campaign, told Pro Bono News that an efficiency dividend was just a politically convenient way to cut funding.
“Essentially it’s a measure where the government says to departmental heads, ‘you’ve got to save x or y’, and departments then have to make decisions about how they will save that money,” Womersley said.
“It removes it from any ministerial involvement and allows ministers to separate themselves from decisions.
“It seems likely that whoever forms the next government in South Australia will put us in a position where there’s a reduction of available funding, and all parties are likely to use an efficiency dividend as a mechanism for trying to recover expenditure.”
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