Deputy Leader of the Opposition, Peter Walsh
The Andrews Labor Government has missed a golden opportunity to create and support more prosperous regional communities through the 2016/17 State Budget.
With Labor’s record tax increase adding billions of dollars to the budget, this year was an opportunity for the Andrews Government to significantly invest in rural and regional communities and make a positive difference to families’ lives.
But unfortunately the further you live from Melbourne the less you get from this government.
A few major projects have been promised in some regional centres, but the bulk of the funding won’t actually be provided for years to come.
For example, Ballarat has been promised a $518 million railway upgrade but will get just 6 per cent of that funding this year. The project isn’t due to be finished until mid-2020.
It’s the same story with the new Yarrawonga bridge. All it’s getting is $625,000 this year – which barely covers the artist’s impression.
Rural and regional communities need infrastructure projects that start today, not five or 10 years down the track.
On top of this, the Andrews Government is significantly adding to the cost-of-living pressures faced by regional households and families.
Despite an unequivocal promise not to increase taxes or fees, the Andrews Government has increased the Fire Services Property Levy (FSPL) by around 15 per cent.
The levy is paid by all property owners through their municipal rates and pays for fire fighting personnel training, infrastructure and equipment.
The former Liberal-Nationals government introduced a fairer FSPL which saw the cost to many households decrease.
But the Andrews Government is hiking it back up to repay its IOUs to the United Firefighters Union, whose members campaigned for Labor at the last election.
The FSPL will rise even higher again if the Andrews Government agrees to a union deal that would see CFA volunteers replaced by paid fire fighters.
Making life even harder for families, the government has also tripled the tax on coal that energy companies must pay. This is nothing more than an electricity tax that will be passed onto households through higher power bills.
The electricity tax will also lead to huge cost increases for farmers and irrigators, reducing their bottom line and leaving less money in their pockets.
It comes at a particularly tough time for dairy farmers and irrigators who are high energy users.
The Andrews Government has forgotten that farmers and families can’t afford ever-increasing costs.
The government should be doing all it can to ease cost-of-living pressures and to promote business growth in regional Victoria – not making life harder.
The sad reality is that the further you live from Melbourne the less you get from this government.
Media contact: Sarah O’Connor 0432 074 888 email@example.com