Duplication cash secured

THE end of continued roadworks on the Princes Highway between Sale and Traralgon is in sight, with the federal government allocating money for the remaining stages of the highway duplication.

Unveiled by Treasurer Scott Morrison on Tuesday night, the federal budget included $132 million for the final two stages of the duplication at Kilmany and Flynn.

However, the works are contingent on the state government providing $33 million.

Gippsland MHR Darren Chester said the money would “create a safer and more productive road, and help to attract visitors to our region”.

Wellington Shire mayor Carolyn Crossley said council was pleased the Princes Highway duplication would now be completed, improving Wellington’s connection with the Latrobe Valley.

“This stretch of highway has been under construction for years now, so it’s a relief to see that final funding allocation to see this project completed,” she said.

On Monday, Eastern Victoria MLC Harriet Shing told the Gippsland Times she would be “working hard to ensure the duplication goes ahead”.

Mr Chester said the federal budget continued the government’s focus on creating new jobs, investing in better infrastructure, delivering essential services and helping families with the cost of living.

The budget includes increased funding for aged care services, helping elderly Gippslanders to stay in their own homes longer.

Mr Chester said many Gippslanders would benefit from income tax cuts as the government’s plan for a stronger economy delivered results.

“This budget is all about delivering local jobs and creating a stronger economy by living within our means, so we can keep on delivering essential services and infrastructure in regional areas like Gippsland,” he said.

“As a government, the only way we can continue to fund these services, and to pay for improved community infrastructure, is to have a strong budget bottom line — and the Treasurer has achieved this.”

Mr Chester welcomed low and middle-income tax cuts, with stage one to be delivered by an additional targeted tax offset through annual tax returns.

The budget also included changes to the pension work bonus, to allow older Australians to work more hours without reducing pension payments.

“The federal budget includes funding for 14,000 more home-care packages to help elderly Australians stay in their own home longer rather than moving into an aged care home,” he said.

“This will be particularly good for residents in smaller towns across Gippsland where we have many elderly community members who prefer to be in their home, near to family, in the neighbourhood that has been their home for many years.”

Mr Chester said once a surplus was delivered, funding currently used to pay interest on government loans could be redirected into more money for health and community services and important infrastructure.