Member for Morwell Russell Northe said today’s budget handed down by the Victorian Treasurer was a mixed bag for the Latrobe Valley community.
Mr Northe said this year’s budget was one of the most important in a generation given the economic damage attributable to COVID-19 and the costs to the State’s coffers.
“The fact that net debt will reach $87 billion this year and growing to $155 billion by June 2024 is a real concern as is the operating deficit of $23 billion this year” Mr Northe commenced.
“There is no doubt that the Government needed to spend big to ensure our economy and the business community were able to endure the impacts of COVID-19 but nonetheless these are big deficits that will take a long time to remedy” Mr Northe said.
Mr Northe said he was pleased that some long overdue projects had been committed to in this budget which was some positive news.
“I am thrilled that funding has finally been allocated towards a new Newborough Fire Station to which the dedicated volunteers of this brigade had waited so long for. To say they have outgrown their existing station is an understatement and we look forward to a new build occurring sooner than later” Mr Northe said.
“It was also good news for Hazelwood North Primary School, Kurnai College and Traralgon College senior campus given these schools have been included in the Regional school upgrade program. These schools are well overdue for an upgrade and this announcement will be most welcomed by principals, teachers, staff, students and families of these wonderful local schools” Mr Northe continued.
“The commitment within the budget to duplicate Princes Highway East between Traralgon and Sale will also be embraced by travellers and transport companies who are regular users of this important road network” Mr Northe said.
There were a number of economic and business-related initiatives announced that hopefully provide some confidence to the business sector.
“Changes to certain aspects of the regional first home owner grant program, land tax discount for build to rent projects, stamp duty provisions, stamp duty concessions, wage subsidies, land transfer duty concessions and pay roll tax thresholds hopefully relieves some of the financial burden many local businesses are encountering at present, and at the same time provide some form of stimulus” Mr Northe said.
“It seems the Latrobe Valley Authority will continue its operations as part of the Rural and Regional Victoria group, but it still remains unclear what role they will continue to play and what programs will exist under their remit” Mr Northe said.
“As I have mentioned many times, if we have such an Authority in our local community then why do they not have the capacity or powers to enable already approved projects to commence. It makes no sense that we continually hear of proposals that will be bought to the Valley and fall over, yet we have long approved projects in our community sitting idle which is ridiculous” Mr Northe continued.
“I do commend the Government for their continued support and investment for the Latrobe Youth Space program which has played a key role in ensuring young local persons have a voice and feel included within the local community” Mr Northe said
Mr Northe said he was disappointed that a specific local jobs program had not been announced, nor funding for a number of worthy organisations.
“The Government had announced within the budget a massive program that supports the transition to clean energy, yet the Latrobe Valley who will be most impacted by such a program is not even mentioned in the budget. It’s staggering that the Government has announced many policies that directly affect the future life of our local power stations, our local businesses and suppliers and our local community yet there is no commitment to support and assistance to the Valley on any transition plans or otherwise” Mr Northe said.
“There is a reference to an electric vehicle fast charging network to be established but disappointingly no reference to the seemingly failed electric vehicle manufacturing facility that was promised for Morwell. It’s difficult to fathom that the Government speaks so fondly of its big battery proposal in Geelong, yet it is silent on the Latrobe Valley community in its transition to clean energy” Mr Northe continued.
“It’s well known our community for some time has experienced relatively high unemployment rates and my fear is this will continue unless local specific initiatives are introduced or re-introduced including the Latrobe Valley Back to Work scheme which ceased as of 30 June 2020” Mr Northe said.
“We have many wonderful service and charitable organisations who continue to deliver critical and important services in our community and the calls for additional funding for Lifeline Gippsland, Barrier Breakers and Gippsland Carers Association will have to continue as unfortunately these and other worthy groups have not been supported in this budget” Mr Northe said.
“It’s also imperative the Government provide some timelines as to when previous budgeted projects such as Morwell and Moe ambulance stations and the proposed youth drug and alcohol rehabilitation facility earmarked for Traralgon will actually be delivered” Mr Northe concluded.
For further information on the Victorian 20/21 budget please see the following link: