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Great disappointment for Latrobe Valley from Andrews Labor government state budget 2022/2023 budget says Russell Northe
Member for Morwell Russell Northe said the 2022/2023 state government Budget would be met with great disappointment by many within the Latrobe Valley.
Prior to the budget Mr Northe had stated that it was crucial that the state government announced initiatives in the budget to support local employment and job growth opportunities given the impacts associated with the early closure of local power stations and the government's policies relating to the timber industry that will cost jobs.
Mr Northe also said Victorians would be alarmed at the state of the books and level of debts. With massive budget blowouts on major projects and the response to COVID-19
Mr Northe had also been advocating to the government for investment in a number of sporting and recreation facilities, health and mental health services, road and transport infrastructure and additional suicide prevention services. "Despite the importance of maintaining and growing employmentin a region where jobs are under threat it's disappointing that no substantive announcement was made in the budget to help ease the transition of workforce changes within the Latrobe Valley." Mr Northe said.
"It's disappointing that the Lake Narracan precinct plan that supports housing and community development continues to be ignored despite being approved years ago. This is one example where the State could invest in a local project whilst creating jobs and building infrastructure and I remain mystified why they won't help to commence this project off the ground" Mr Northe said.
Amongst the announcements is an investment of $6.5 million to deliver a new emergency department mental health and alcohol and other drugs crisis hub at the Latrobe Regional Hospital. The purpose of the hub is to provide specialist care for urgent treatment for those experiencing mental health, alcohol and drug issues whilst relieving pressure on the emergency department to treat other patients.
Specialist hub announcement
Mr Northe is hopeful with the announcement of a specialist hub that will assist in picking up on the dual diagnosis of mental health and drug or alcohol crisis in a one stop support system for those needing assistance.
"I'm pleased the government is referencing mental health, drugs and alcohol in the same context as many people do suffer from both mental health and drug and/or alcohol problems. We need more information on what the crisis hub might provide but it makes sense to provide a specialist crisis area within the hospital" Mr Northe said.
"I did note an announcement in the budget for the Mildura region for a drug and alcohol rehabilitation facility that importantly includes a withdrawal facility. So with the Mildura announcement the government has articulated that residential rehabilitation beds and detox beds should go hand in hand yet despite that no such announcement was made for withdrawal or detox beds for our region where they are desperately needed" Mr Northe said.
Funding to upgrade
Mr Northe noted that there were a few positives to come out of the state budget for the Morwell electorate, and he was thrilled for the Yinnar Primary School community who have secured $7.3 million in funding to upgrade their school. "Yinnar Primary is a fabulous school but the buildings are really in a poor state and I know recent rain events have caused even further damage so this funding will be welcome news for the whole school community" Mr Northe said.
Mr Northe has over previous months been lobbying the state government to provide $7.5 million towards the $10 million 'Traralgon Flood Recovery Project'. Following major flooding of the Traralgon Creek in June of 2021 a number of community and sporting facilities were severely damaged. The 'Traralgon Flood Recovery Project' seeks to rebuild some sporting and recreation facilities at the Traralgon Recreation Reserve whilst relocating other groups such as the Traralgon Men's Shed and Gippsland Roller Derby to Glenview Park Traralgon.
"It seems that partial funding has been granted for this project with $4.75 million provided through the State budget. More specific information is being sought on the detail as its critical the totality of funding required to deliver this project is found to ensure all sporting and recreation clubs and community groups affected by the June 2021 floods are adequately supported and new facilities built" Mr Northe said.
No budget commitment
In terms of roads it seems that as part of the Regional Roads upgrades the Strzelecki Highway between Morwell and Mirboo North has been allocated funding for the purposes of an overtaking lane. "Whilst those roadworks are important many people would argue that funding to progress the Traralgon Bypass project is long overdue."
There is no commitment in the budget for planning or other works associated with the Traralgon Bypass and many local residents and motorists will be quite rightly asking as to what the plans are in this regard" Mr Northe said.
"This is not only an important piece of transport infrastructure but it has been proposed that the project could initiate flood mitigation works on the Traralgon Creek to better protect residents and sporting and community groups in Traralgon in the event of a flood. It's frustrating when you observe the sheer billions of dollars being spent on transport infrastructure projects in Melbourne, and the further billions in cost blowouts yet the Traralgon Bypass doesn't even seem to be on the radar" Mr Northe continue.
Missing out on funding
Disappointingly Mr Northe said no funding had been announced for local community, sporting and recreation projects including facilities at Newborough Yallourn United, Morwell Fortuna, Morwell Pegasus, Latrobe City Sports and Entertainment Centre, Twin City Archers in Morwell and a new Skate Park for Traralgon. Mr Northe indicated his dismay that Lifeline seemingly missed out on securing a relatively small amount of funding to enhance their crisis support and suicide prevention services.
"Victorian calls to the Lifeline 13 11 14 number have increased markedly in the past two years or so, but the reality is that approximately 60% of these calls are actually being answered in Victoria. For $5.5 million Lifeline believes it could address this massive problem yet despite pleas to the Treasurer and Minister for Mental Health our calls have gone unanswered" Mr Northe said.
Mr Northe also highlighted that many local service providers and charitable organisations such as Barrier Breakers, Life Education Gippsland and Gippsland Carers Association who continue to deliver important support in our community were not supported in this year's budget which is disappointing.
Mr Northe also said many Victorians would be alarmed at the state of the books and level of debts. With massive budget blowouts on major projects and the response to COVID-19 the the current operating deficit sits at $17.6bn. The government has indicated that the State will only realise its next surplus in the financial year of 2025/2026 with a surplus of $650 million.
Net debt is expected to be $101.9 billion at 30 June, 2022 and rising to $167.5 billion by June 2026. For more information on the Victorian 2022/2023 budget please see the 'Budget Map - Victorian Budget page'.
Pictures from Russell Northe MP Facebook page.
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