GIPPSLAND’S peak regional advocacy group will continue its campaign to secure funding for six key regional projects despite receiving no commitments in this week’s Federal budget.
One Gippsland spokesman and East Gippsland mayor Dick Ellis said while the group was naturally disappointed Gippsland’s major infrastructure priority projects were overlooked, it remains confident of positive announcements in the coming months.
“We will now shift our focus to this year’s Federal election, particularly in respect to the full duplication of the Princes Highway from Traralgon to Sale and the State Government’s plan to construct the East West Link,” Cr Ellis said.
“We’ll be putting our strongest cases forward to each side of Federal politics, and we’ll see who is prepared to demonstrate that they are fair-dinkum about supporting the longer-term growth of our region.
“We are conscious of the fact that the Federal opposition has committed $1.5 billion towards the construction of the East-West Link, should it win government.
“We also expect that the project will deliver significant economic benefits for Gippsland and that’s why we’re joining the State Government in calling on the Commonwealth to commit funding to this important project.”
The group, which formed late last year to represent the collective interests of the Gippsland Local Government Network, Regional Development Australia Gippsland and Committee for Gippsland, was widely praised for its regional unity and collaboration during it’s first advocacy visit to Canberra in March this year.
“We know we are one of a small handful of regions which have developed a well-organised, collaborative approach to advocacy and we will continue to use that to our advantage, on behalf of the people of Gippsland,” Cr Ellis said.
Cr Ellis said the group is currently planning its follow-up visit to Canberra for June.
The 2013-14 budget will deliver $14.3 billion in additional funding over seven years to roll-out DisabilityCare Australia (the National Disability Insurance Scheme) by 2019, ensuring all Australians with significant and permanent disability get the care and support they need, $9.8 billion in additional funding over six years to deliver a fairer funding model for all schools, $300 million to attract and retain qualified professionals in early childhood services and $99.4 million over four years in new farm household support payments to help meet future challenges such as drought.
In 2013-14, the government will continue the roll-out of its Regional Development Australia Fund, building on the first two rounds which invested $350 million to leverage projects worth $1.2 billion.
Federal Nationals leader Warren Truss said the budget highlighted the government’s disinterest in regional Australia.
“Two billion dollars have been slashed from the dedicated Regional Infrastructure Fund, which Labor said would help redress the imbalance between city and country,” he said.
“Labor made the funding contingent on mining tax revenue, but the mining tax has collapsed and Labor is now ditching its commitment to the regions.
“The $2 billion regional communities Labor promised for local development works was always based on phantom funding, and now with the government’s botched mining tax failing to raise any significant funds, the fund has been exposed for a cruel hoax.
“There are no new announcements in the budget. The small number of new measures have been leaked to the media over the past month.
“The Gillard government, in 2013-14, is projected to raise $80 billion more in revenue than at the end of the Howard government, but spending will be $120 billion more.
“Over the last five years, the Gillard government has spent $192 billion more than it has raised.
“At the last election, Julia Gillard promised that Australia’s net debt would peak at less than $90 billion. The budget exposes the truth, that net debt will be a record $191 billion – out of whack by a mere $100 billion, more than double the forecast.
“Labor has pointedly turned its back on regional families, businesses and communities.
“For regional Australia’s sake, it needs to be a case of six and out for Wayne Swan and Labor.”
National Farmers’ Federation president Duncan Fraser was pleased agriculture had been spared from major cuts in the budget, but was disappointed the government was simply moving funds around within agriculture and other portfolios, rather than committing additional funds to new projects.
“What the government has done tonight is rob Peter to pay Paul. The budget papers show that there will be a redirection of $141.5 million of Caring for our Country funds over five years to fund the household support package and other initiatives.
“We are pleased to see the government recognising the importance of infrastructure, through the announcement of a $24 billion investment in road and rail, including freight corridors. While these are not agriculture specific, it is positive to note that two thirds of these infrastructure projects will be in rural and regional Australia, providing a flow on benefit to agriculture.
“Overall though, tonight’s budget is a disappointing one for the Australian agricultural sector. The government is not taking a long term, strategic view and investing in the future of this important sector – rather it is simply moving money around within the existing tight agricultural budget.”
Environment Victoria campaigns director Mark Wakeham described the budget was a lost opportunity to remove fossil fuel subsidies, and a disappointing result for the environment and clean energy.
“Only one of the five major fossil fuel subsidies has been cut – with taxpayers to save $1.1 billion over the next four years from the government’s decision to reduce depreciation for mining exploration and prospecting. That decision is welcome, however other wasteful and polluting programs like the $5.9 billion Fuel Tax Credits program which subsidies the diesel costs of wealthy mining companies were left untouched.
“Astonishingly our most polluting power stations will continue to receive billions of dollars in carbon price compensation despite the fact that the carbon price impact will be much lower than anticipated.”