“Whenever we make the big decisions around the cabinet table, we are trying to think about the 2030s.”

That is how South Australia’s premier, Peter Malinauskas, framed his government’s thinking leading into its third state budget.

Billions of dollars are being spent on early childhood education, skills and training, and infrastructure projects, to help the state prepare for future challenges such as the AUKUS nuclear submarine build.

But for many voters, current challenges like the rising cost of living, ambulance ramping and the housing shortage are likely to be at the forefront of their minds.

Having crossed the critical halfway point of the political term, the government is now staring down the barrel of the next state election in 20 months’ time.

So, has its third budget done enough to address the state’s current problems?

Premier Peter Malinauskas addressing the media to announce the government’s state budget plans.(ABC News: Che Chorley)


While the premier wants people to look to the future, the pressure is on the government to deliver on its past promises, most of all, its key 2022 election commitment to “fix the ramping crisis”.

Treasurer Stephen Mullighan said this financial year, the state government spent $1.5 billion more on health than the previous Liberal government.

In the past six months alone, health spending blew out by almost half a billion dollars.

Yet, the system remains in crisis.

Since Thursday, SA Health has been operating under a “code yellow” internal emergency, with 101 elective surgeries postponed on Thursday alone.

Meanwhile, ambulances last month spent a record 4,773 hours stuck on hospital ramps, unable to offload patients due to a lack of available hospital beds.

Funding has been allocated specifically to address the ramping crisis.(ABC News: Che Chorley)

The government is tipping $2.5 billion into the health system over five years.

But when asked by ABC News if health was a bottomless pit, Mr Mullighan said: “No”.

“We’re having to make the investments to keep up with demand and also the costs of providing these important services to the community,” he said.

“We’ve had the capacity to do that from a strong economy and improved revenues, but we’re hoping we’re making progress in improving the performance of the system.”

The government hopes a mammoth health spend will result in quick improvements, with the clock ticking on whether it will make good on one of its key election promises.

Cost of living

Ahead of budget day, the government announced it would spend $715 million on early childhood education.

Some of that money will go towards delivering universal three-year-old preschool from 2026, benefiting children who are yet to be born.

Cost-of-living relief measures have been announced to try to help those doing it tough, with many South Australians struggling to afford essentials like groceries.(Unsplash)

Meanwhile, South Australian families are struggling to put food on the table now.

Cost-of-living relief measures announced in the budget are largely targeted at those who are doing it toughest.

More than 210,000 South Australians on concession payments will receive a one-off payment of $243.90.

According to data from a NielsenIQ survey of more than 5,000 Australians, released in November, Australians spend about $200 each week on groceries, meaning most of the government’s one-off payment could be eaten up in one trip to the supermarket alone. 

The government is also doubling the number of sports vouchers, reducing the materials and services charge and extending public transport concessions, as part of a broader $266 million cost of living package.

Opposition spokesperson Matt Cowdrey says the government has not done enough to help with the cost-of-living crisis.(ABC News: Lincoln Rothall)

Opposition spokesperson Matt Cowdrey said the government had done “very little” to help families make ends meet.

“Relief that was provided [on Thursday] is simply a drop in the ocean in comparison to where South Australian families now sit,” he said.

But Mr Mullighan said the state’s cost-of-living package, combined with relief announced in the federal budget, would make a “significant” difference. 

“Our job as a state government is not to replicate or outdo what the Commonwealth is doing, but to focus our support for those South Australians who need it the most,” he said.


While the government’s coffers have been cushioned by a surge in stamp duty payments, some South Australian first homebuyers are struggling to enter the property market.

According to CoreLogic data, Adelaide house prices jumped by 1.8 per cent in May, with the median house price now sitting at $811,059.

An artist’s impression of the completed housing project at Seaton in Adelaide’s west.(Supplied: SA government)

To help more first homebuyers enter the market, the state government has abolished stamp duty for those purchasing or building new homes.

But those wanting to move into existing homes – and avoid waiting for a new home to be built – will still face a stamp duty charge.

Meanwhile, the government is spending more than $500 million building more than 1,900 homes at Seaton and Noarlunga.

Despite welcoming the funding, the SA Council of Social Service said that’s not enough.

“In order to address the housing shortage in South Australia, we need them [the government] to build more than 1,000 properties a year,” the council’s CEO, Ross Womersley, said.

Ross Womersley, CEO of SACOSS, says more properties need to be built to keep up with demand and address a state housing shortage.(ABC News: Che Chorley)


There are measures in this budget that will make a big difference to the many South Australians needing to access healthcare, struggling to pay the bills, or looking to buy their first home.

But they come at a cost.

Overall, surpluses have been forecast over the next four years, but state debt is expected to swell to an eye-watering $44 billion in four years’ time.

PlanSA recently estimated South Australia’s population at 1.86 million.

If the forecast debt was divided equally between all 1.86 million, that would equate to about $23,700 per person.

While the premier and his cabinet look to the 2030s when making decisions, it’s future generations who will have to carry the spending burden.

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