Budget gaps for Gippsland

Member for Eastern Victoria Melina Bath has highlighted a number of oversights for Gippsland in the 2017/18 state budget in her budget reply speech to parliament this week.

Ms Bath, who is also Shadow Parliamentary Secretary for Country Schools, raised upgrades to major regional secondary colleges as one of the most significant omissions.

“$87 million has been cut from the schools upgrade program. In my electorate, stage 2 development funding for three major school centres was missing in action,” Ms Bath said in parliament.

Ms Bath then went on to list the three schools – Bairnsdale, Korumburra and Wonthaggi secondary colleges.

Wonthaggi Secondary College in particular has been the subject of much community discussion over the past six months, and many stakeholders had anticipated good news in this year’s budget. Ms Bath suggested this week that funding was being withheld until the 2018 election year.

Speaking outside parliament yesterday, Ms Bath shared the frustrations of the Wonthaggi and Bass Coast communities.

“The principal, teachers and school community are scratching their heads over the lack of any progress for the next year at least.”

“If the government is proposing to instead hold off for the election year next year, they are playing a cruel trick on the families of the Bass Coast district.”

In parliament, Ms Bath also referred to Foster Primary School; another in urgent need of increased funding.

“Foster Primary School was originally built in 1965 and is now in a poor state of repair. There is asbestos lining all through the school. Much of the money that is required for routine maintenance is used to patch up holes between the bricks to contain this hazardous material.”

Ms Bath also highlighted the need for major funding to relocate Federation Training’s Fulham Campus, near Sale.

“This is now well outdated, it is out of town, it is not fit for purpose and, sadly, many courses are being slashed and removed from that TAFE campus. Again, universally the councillors and the mayor of Wellington Shire and my counterpart in the lower house, the Member for

Gippsland South Danny O’Brien, have been pushing for an upgrade of this facility, but it is missing from the budget.”

Ms Bath also raised issues of road and rail infrastructure funding, pointing out that the successful Country Roads and Bridges Program remains on the Andrews Labor Government scrapheap.

“Again, the Country Roads and Bridges Program was vital for important infrastructure upgrades across Gippsland. It was strongly supported by all shires, councillors and CEOs when we listened to the Environment and Planning Committee hearing. It is stated in the report that the recommendation is that it should be reinstated.”

“If we look at rail across Gippsland, we see that the Gippsland rail services are widely known to be the most unreliable rail services in Victoria. The Andrews Labor Government has neglected the Gippsland line compared to other regional lines. It is inadequate, and service levels are poorer in relation to journey times, reliability and frequency. Passenger trains operate at the lowest average speed on any Victorian main line. In fact, compared to 2011, from Warragul to Melbourne the journeys are now 10 to 15 minutes slower than 15 years ago.”

Ms Bath also highlighted budget deficiencies in relation to crime and policing, support to address youth unemployment and uncertainty over continuation of parts of the timber industry in her speech.