Western Victoria is a big winner in the Victorian Budget . It’s all about jobs, with a record investment in infrastructure and other projects to create new jobs in the regions and help workers gain a foothold in the fast-growing sectors that will define Victoria’s economic future. The Budget includes:
- $325 million in jobs initiatives for infrastructure and services, with upgrades to irrigation, water security, mobile blackspots, street scaping and important planning work for local projects across Victoria. This includes $40 million towards connecting residents in the Wedderburn district to a secure water supply.
- A massive investment of $1.6 billion to improve regional public transport and roads, including a $518 million upgrade of the Ballarat line.
- A $101 million Regional Tourism Infrastructure Fund, which will upgrade tourist landmarks and encourage the growth of the lucrative tourist dollar across the whole state.
- A $4.2 million investment to establish the Ballarat Innovation Lab and Digital Space (BILDS) to grow the region’s ICT industry and attracting new investment.
- $15.3 million for six school upgrades across Western Victoria, and a Tech School in Ballarat and Bendigo.
- A payroll tax cut for approximately 36,000 businesses across Victoria, with the payroll tax-free threshold lifted to $650,000 over the next four years.
In regional Victoria, safe and reliable transport is everything, and the Budget provides a massive investment to improve public transport and roads across rural and regional Victoria.
The Budget invests $1.3 billion to make regional rail services more frequent and reliable, and position the whole system for the longer-term expansion that our growing regions will eventually need.
A major $518 million upgrade to the Ballarat rail line will duplicate a 17-kilometre section of single track between Deer Park West and Melton and three kilometres of track west of Warrenheip. New passing loops will be built at Bacchus Marsh, Ballan and near Bungaree so that more trains can run reliably and more frequently. This upgrade will allow two extra peak services for Ballarat once constructed.
Second platforms at Bacchus Marsh and Ballan stations will mean that passengers can board and exit trains more easily and safely. More car parks at Rockbank and Bacchus Marsh stations will also be built
The $280 million investment in 27 new VLocity carriages, alongside $131 million for increased passenger rail services will deliver two additional off-peak return services for Ballarat. There will also be an extra off-peak return service each weekday for the Maryborough line.
The Andrews Labor Government will partner with Graincorp and invest $8.5 million to upgrade and build new train loading infrastructure and sidings facilities along the soon to be upgraded Murray Basin Rail network. This will mean an additional 500,000 tonnes of grain per year can be transported by rail, taking trucks off our roads and delivering lower transportation costs to farmers.
The Budget provides $260 million to repair unsafe and deteriorating road surfaces across regional Victoria. Further investment will fund measures such as flexible road barriers and centre line upgrades. The Budget invests $51.6 million to build overtaking lanes on other major highways across the state.
The Western Highway gets $10 million to fund pre-construction works for the Ararat to Stawell section of the important road upgrade. This will mean that the upgrade can continue seamlessly when the current construction stage between Buangor and Ararat is completed in 2019.
The Budget also funds $427 million in road safety upgrades, most of which will be invested in regional Victoria, as well as a $52 million package of works for the smaller, local roads that people rely on every day.
$151 million will be invested in modernising, upgrading or regenerating regional schools. Local schools to be upgraded include Ballarat Secondary, Mount Clear College, Casterton Secondary, Donald High, Warracknabeal Secondary, and Warracknabeal Special School. Natimuk Primary, Rainbow P-12 and Timor Primary will receive funds for special projects that build school pride. Baimbridge College will also get funds to plan for a future upgrade.
Jobs start with skills. The Government’s $320 million TAFE Rescue Fund has already saved campuses across the state including those in Western Victoria’s such as Federation Training, Melbourne Polytechnic and South-West TAFE. A $92 million investment in 10 new Tech Schools, including in Ballarat and Bendigo, will bring a real, hands-on education into the secondary school curriculum.
Early learning gets a boost. The Government is investing $4.4 million to help struggling regional kinders keep operating, $3.8 million to support occasional child care services in rural areas, and $133 million to make sure parents can access free Maternal and Child Health services.
The Budget invests $2.9 billion in our health system, so families in rural and regional Victoria have hospitals and services they can rely on. This includes $200 million for the Regional Health Infrastructure Fund, which will invest $3.5 million in the Wimmera Cancer Centre and $6 million for a new 18-20 bed drug and alcohol facility in the Grampians region.
Other investments include $132 million for clinical mental health services, $57.3 million to support vulnerable children and their families, and additional funding to confront the ice crisis that is gripping regional Victoria.
It’s a fact: there are higher rates of family violence reports in regional areas, and the Budget invests $572 million to implement the initial response to the Family Violence Royal Commission, including a housing blitz and more support for specialist services.
Country police deserve our support, too. The Budget invests $596 million in additional police, equipment, technology and services across the whole state, so police get the resources they need to keep us safe. $36.8 million will upgrade and replace rundown regional police stations, including in Colac and Murtoa.
Regional emergency services need the best training to deal with the threat of fire. The Budget includes $80.7 million to upgrade facilities at six emergency training centres, and $74 million to boost forest fire management. A further $37.1 million will be invested to continue and expand the Emergency Medical Response Program to 35 integrated Country Fire Authority brigades.
As part of a $46.2 million package, a new training facility will be built in the Ballarat area to replace the Fiskville Training College, ensuring high quality training facilities are available to the State’s firefighters.
Victoria is the sporting capital. The Budget invests $46.6 million for community sports and events, including support for country football and netball clubs. In addition, funding is provided to promote responsible hunting and boost recreational fishing. The Budget also creates a $20 million Regional Events Fund, to support a strong and sustainable calendar of regional events.
Quotes attributable to Premier Daniel Andrews
“All Victorians deserve decent services – no matter where they live. That’s why we’re investing in regional public transport, schools and roads to deliver jobs and prosperity for regional Victoria. “
“This Budget is all about ensuring the regions remain great places to work, live and do business.”
Reviewed 19 August 2020