This year’s State Budget is great news for the region according to State Member for Gippsland East, Tim Bull.
“The highlights for this region include:
• $16m towards the $32m first stage of the Macalister Irrigation District (MID) upgrade, the biggest investment in this area for decades,
• $1m allocation to mental health services specifically for East Gippsland and additional Mental Health beds at Latrobe Regional Hospital,
• $6.9m to complete sealing of the Omeo Highway.
“However, of equal importance to the region is the State funding 720 additional Individual Support Packages (ISPs) in the disability sector, $62m for people with high needs in supported accommodation and $26m for a wage rise for about 13,000 disability workers.
“This $224m funding increase takes the total annual disability budget to $1.6 billion. It comes on the back of Victoria signing up to the full roll out of the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS). To me, these are the most important of Budget week.
“On top of this there is over $280m in additional funding for the restoration, maintenance and upgrade of the state’s roads, another important announcement for this region.
“It will also allow the continuation of works in addition to the many roads projects that have already been completed and are underway in the electorate as we continue to play catch up after years of neglect.”
Mr Bull said the MID commitment that will see $32m invested into upgrading the irrigation network, was a huge vote of confidence in the region.
“The $1m allocation to mental health services in the region will also allow for improved services in this very important area.
“Many will also benefit from the reforms to the Fire Services Levy. The property levy replaces the old levy on insurance premiums, leading to a fairer system – with all property owners making a contribution, rather than just those who insure.
“The Coalition has removed the unfair tax-on-tax, which charged GST and stamp duty on the FSL. Almost all who have been fully insured and paying the FSL will receive significant savings and for the first time there will be concessions for pensioners.
“The record $6.1billion infrastructure spend will be welcomed, including the commitment to the East West Tunnel, that will improve metro traffic conditions for all Victorians.”
Mr Bull highlighted other initiatives that would benefit East Gippslanders, including:
• a record $14.34 billion in health funding state-wide to treat more patients, including $81.5m for regional hospitals and health services,
• $11.6 billion in education funding statewide to improve student outcomes and ensure Victorians have the skills needed for the future,
• $33.7m over the next two years to expand the planned burning program, as recommended by the Victorian Bushfires Royal Commission,
• $8m tourism campaign to drive regional tourism, while raising awareness interstate and internationally, of Victoria’s regional destinations and experiences,
• $61m for upgrades and replacements of rural fire stations,
• $4.7m over two years to help better protect the livestock industry from serious disease, with a particular focus on foot-and-mouth disease,
• $16m for grants to landholders and regional organisations to support native vegetation and threatened species,
• $2.3m for Rural Financial Counselling Service providing assistance to primary producers, fishers and small rural businesses suffering financial hardship,
• $91m extra for out-of-home care across Victoria to continue work in improving the lives of vulnerable children,
• $42.4m for continued support for mental health beds across Victoria,
• $46.2m extra to support Victorian children across the State in the vital years before school, including $7m to build and upgrade children’s centres and kindergartens across Victoria, growth corridors and regional areas, and
• supporting first home buyers and job creation in the housing construction industry by boosting the First Home Owner Grant to $10,000 for newly constructed properties and reducing stamp duty from 1 July 2013.
Mr Bull said the Budget announcements had come on the back of many other significant announcements for the region.
“The way government operates has changed somewhat in recent decades with many announcements now being made year round outside the budget process.
“For instance, we have had a high number of significant announcements in the electorate of recent months including:
• $650,000 – Australian Sustainable Hardwoods mill expansion in Heyfield,
• $500,000 – Bullock Island refuelling facility in Lakes Entrance,
• $479,000 – Great Alpine Road reseal works west of Omeo,
• $100,000 – Omeo Recreation Reserve Upgrade,
• $1.25m – Bairnsdale Library Redevelopment,
• $120,000 – Vegco expansion,
• Over $1m in river stabilisation works across the region,
• $155,000 on upgrades to sports/community facilities at Heyfield and Coongulla,
• Medical equipment grants to Bairnsdale, Orbost and Omeo hospitals,
• More than $1m to extend kindergartens in Paynesville, Stratford, Bairnsdale and Swan Reach,
• Over $1m worth of new fire fighting vehicles to Boisdale, Briagolong, Sarsfield and Kalmina West Fire Brigades, and
• $500,000 towards Bairnsdale central business district improvements.
“These are just some of the announcements made outside the budget process in Gippsland East,” said Mr Bull, who added the region was certainly getting its share of funds in what were globally and nationally challenging financial times.
“The good news is that I am also looking forward to some further significant announcements in the coming weeks and months.
“All this is being delivered on an estimated operating surplus of $255m. In Australia we see governments living beyond their means, spending more than their income and then having the pain of leaving massive debt to future generations.
“Not in Victoria, we are spending within our means and spending in priority areas.”