THE Federal Budget has been widely panned as containing few initiatives of value to Gippsland.
Yesterday leading university academics joined business umbrella organisations, an environmental lobby group, a regional development group and Member for Gippsland Darren Chester in criticising a budget they agreed was “a disappointment”.
While broader Federal Government statements sought to promote the roll-out of multi-billion dollar capital works projects, none were relevant to Gippsland and a proposed East-West link (road connection), favoured by this region, was not funded.
Gippsland’s peak regional advocacy group One Gippsland said none of six key regional projects for Gippsland secured commitments from the budget, prompting it to warn both East-West link and the proposed full duplication of the Princes Highway from Traralgon to Sale would now be election issues.
“We’ll see who is prepared to demonstrate that they are fair-dinkum about supporting the longer-term growth of our region,” One Gippsland spokesperson Dick Ellis said.
Victorian Employers Chamber of Commerce and Industry executive director of workplace relations Richard Clancy told The Express there was “nothing of substance” for business in the budget and Gippsland had missed out on funding for local employment coordinators in “priority areas” nationally despite the high unemployment rate in parts of the region.
VECCI believed incentive payments to employers who took on apprentices was a “really practical” measure the government should have restored.
An increase of levies set to affect small businesses, the absence of cuts to corporate taxes and “no meaningful cuts to red tape” would also hit local businesses hard, Mr Clancy said.
VECCI said the East-West Link remained “the number one priority project for business” and Mr Clancy said the project offered Gippsland businesses the prospect of much improved access to markets.
An assembly of Monash University professors issued a statement welcoming Federal Government moves to contribute to disability insurance and extra school funding but slammed planned cuts to the tertiary sector as “a short term response” and “not a smart move”.
Environment Victoria welcomed signs the government had “lost patience with so-called clean coal technologies” by reducing funds to Carbon Capture and Storage projects but raised “great concern” about other cuts to the Clean Energy Future Package.
Mr Chester said the budget confirmed structural adjustment monies to regions hardest hit by the carbon tax had been abolished, exposing previous government pledges of support to the Valley as “a complete sham”.
While he said the National Disability Insurance Scheme was “a great reform” worthy of continued bi-partisan support, he claimed the government’s Gonski education reforms were “still very sketchy”, raising inevitable questions about “how we will pay for them”.
Asked whether a Coalition Government would reinstate measures including the baby bonus, which was cut in this week’s budget, Mr Chester said he was not yet in a position to “rule in and out” future Coalition measures. He warned “any political party with aspirations for reform has to find a way to pay for them” and rising national debt would present “big challenges” to any future government.
Meanwhile ALP district president Darren McCubbin said Gippsland would benefit from an extra $4 million in schools funding if the State Government signed on to the Federal Government’s Gonski plan.
He also said almost 16,000 Gippsland home-owner pensioners could benefit from means test changes while raised income free thresholds would assist other income support recipients.
Extra funding to young people with cancer, and expanded breast cancer screening, were also promoted by Mr McCubbin and welcomed by the Public Health Association of Australia.