Education, roads and drug rehab money

MONEY for a regional roadworks blitz and Boisdale Consolidated School was confirmed in the state budget on Tuesday.

In addition to $25 million for a new Federation Training campus at the Port of Sale and $35.5 million to transform the Fed Training Morwell campus, the budget includes $172 million to make priority TAFE and pre-apprenticeship courses free — helping to fill skills gaps.

More students will be able to access this training, with $304 million to open new classes and fund more than 30,000 new training places.

More young people will be able to get a trade and go straight into a job with new Head Start apprenticeships and traineeships, giving students the option to undertake an additional year of high school, and graduate with an apprenticeship or traineeship, ready to work in high demand or high growth industries.

An extra $44 million will also update learning materials, introduce independent assessments and bring back trade papers to make sure apprentices are trained to the same high standards with recognised qualifications.

The budget includes $181 million to build, plan and upgrade 60 regional schools, including Boisdale Consolidated School.

There will be a $50 million boost to the Regional Health Infrastructure Fund, a fund which is upgrading hospitals and health centres, including in Bairnsdale and Sale.

From $941 million to fix the regional road network, $66 million is set to be spent in Gippsland, and a dedicated country roads body, Regional Roads Victoria, will be established.

As part of a road work blitz, repairs will be carried out on sections of the Princes and South Gippsland highways, as well as dozens of other roads needing repairs.

This year’s budget also includes $704 million to give Victorians in regional areas more reliable public transport, including money to provide extra stabling and maintenance, alongside design work and pre-procurement for the next generation of VLocity trains.

Businesses in Gippsland will also benefit from additional payroll tax cuts.

The regional payroll tax rate will be 2.425 per cent — half the metropolitan tax rate and the lowest rate in the nation — with the aim to help local businesses expand and grow local jobs.

The budget includes $102.7 million for the hydrogen energy supply chain pilot which seeks to demonstrate a viable low-cost, low-emission supply chain for exporting hydrogen energy to Japan using the Latrobe Valley’s brown coal.

This pilot is being undertaken with the support of the Victorian, Commonwealth and Japanese governments, and includes a proposal for carbon capture and storage off Golden Beach.

The state government will deliver almost $760 million for local priorities identified by Regional Partnerships. This includes $700,000 to implement a Gippsland food and fibre taskforce.

Premier Daniel Andrews said the budget delivered on the “things that matter — new skills, good jobs, more schools and better roads”.

“It’s an investment in the big projects that regional Victoria needs and the people we need to deliver them,” he said.

Eastern Victoria MLC Harriet Shing said the budget also invested in local health — particularly of note, a record investment in mental health services.

“This budget continues our record investment in Gippsland’s future – upgraded schools, roads fixed and the funds our TAFE system needs as we rebuild it after it was decimated by the Coalition.

“This is getting things done,” she said.

However, Gippsland South MLA Danny O’Brien said the government had served up a “raw deal” for the people of Gippsland South.

Mr O’Brien said Mr Andrews had delivered a typical high taxing, city-centric Labor budget that was more focused on the coming election than the needs of the people of Gippsland.

“This budget has failed to address the main things we need in Gippsland South, just like the three budgets Labor delivered before it,” he said.

“It’s clear again that Daniel Andrews is the Premier for Melbourne, and can’t get beyond the tram tracks.”

Mr O’Brien said Gippsland projects ignored in the budget included the final two stages of the Princes Highway duplication between Traralgon and Sale, additional train services to Sale, and a dedicated Gippsland rail line to reduce congestion through Melbourne’s south-east.

“I am staggered that there is no funding to complete the Princes Highway duplication,” he said.

“This project has been going for nearly 10 years with bipartisan support at both state and federal level, but Daniel Andrews has now broken that chain,” Mr O’Brien.

“With the current stages due to be completed in the next 12 months or so, this project will grind to a halt now and condemn Sale and east Gippsland residents to an extended period of roadworks and longer delays.

“We’ve all had enough of that.”

Gippsland East MLA Tim Bull said the budget didn’t include anything for Maffra or Heyfield.

“We never even got a matching commitment to replace our long-haul carriages, so under Labor you will have the same old train sets for the next four years,” he said.

There will be $40.6 million for residential drug rehabilitation centres in the Gippsland, Barwon and Hume regions, with Mr Bull disappointed there wasn’t a funding commitment for the proposed Hope Restart Centre at Lucknow.

“Given my colleague Darren Chester secured $3 million in federal funding for the project and there has been a very significant matching philanthropic commitment for the facility in east Gippsland plus further fundraising by the local committee, I don’t see why the Andrews government is refusing to say where it will be built,” he said.