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NSW Budget protects the vulnerable

Residents of western Sydney and children at risk of abuse are well protected in the NSW Budget with the government promising funding that can be easily delivered, reports state political editor Sean Nicholls.

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More than $1 billion will be spent on child protection, homelessness and disability services in NSW in 2014/15 as the state government seeks to deliver on its “obligation to help those in need” in its last budget before next year’s election.

Western Sydney has also emerged as a potential big winner with infrastructure promises including $400 million for the first stage of a new Parramatta light rail network.

NSW Treasurer Andrew Constance.

NSW Treasurer Andrew Constance. Photo: Peter Rae

In his first budget as Treasurer, Andrew Constance has announced an additional $500 million will be spent over the next four years on child protection.

The money will assist the transition of children from out-of-home care to the non-government sector, support caseworkers and deliver an IT system upgrade.

There will also be increased spending on supported accommodation for people with a disability and homelessness services, while $107 million will be spent on pensioner concessions to make up for cuts announced in the federal budget.

“You test the heart of a government when it comes to the treatment of the most vulnerable and those in need of support,” Mr Constance told Parliament.

In Western Sydney, the Treasurer has announced $400 million will be set aside for construction of  stage one of a new Parramatta light rail system, while there will be a $4.6 million feasibility study for a new western Sydney M9 motorway running from the Hawkesbury to Camden.

The government has already announced it will spend $16 million on upgrading Parramatta Park.

Elsewhere, business will benefit from a 5 per cent reduction in WorkCover premiums and $83 million will be reserved in Restart NSW for a housing acceleration fund for south western Sydney.

As previously announced, from July 1 the threshold below which first homeowners can claim the $15,000 grant for the purchase of new homes will be lifted from $650,000 to $750,000.

Another $25 million will be set aside for planning for road upgrades linked to the proposed Northern Beaches Hospital at Frenchs Forest, while the government has also committed to a $5 million feasibility study for a tunnel under congested Military Road.

Mr Constance has announced the NSW budget is forecast to be $283 million in deficit next financial year but return to surplus of $660 million in 2015/16.

He said the state would have returned a forecast $440 million surplus in 2014/15 but for a federal government decision to bring forward a payment of $703 million for Pacific Highway upgrades.

The decision means the 2013/14 budget result is a surplus of $988 million.

The budget papers show transfer duty, including stamp duty, was revised upwards by $938 million “due to strong growth in residential property transfers”.

However this was partially offset by a drop of $194 million in forecast payroll tax and a decrease of $139 million for land tax.

Weakness in coal prices has meant a 10 per cent downward revision of coal royalties worth $153 million.

But fines, regulatory fees and other revenue was up by more than 19 per cent or $433 million.

Mr Constance raised the impact of $80 billion of cuts to the states in education and health spending in the federal budget. The decision will cost NSW $2 billion over the next four years.

“There is no point pretending that the broken agreements of the federal budget won’t hurt the people of NSW,” he said.

“However, the prudent decisions of this government has taken over three years means we are able to cushion the blow of these cuts."

In a reference to next year’s election, the Treasurer also highlighted Labor’s opposition to the proposed partial privatisation of the state’s electricity network distribution businesses.

He said the measure, which will be taken to the election and is estimated to reap $20 billion, would “deliver enormous benefits to consumers”.

Mr Constance said the budget “marks the change from repair to the rise of NSW”.