Independent Federal Member for Indi Helen Haines has welcomed much needed cost of living relief in the Federal Budget and a huge boost for the Flying Fruit Fly Circus School on the Border.

Dr Haines’ key priorities in the Indi Budget Submission included cost of living relief, investment in regional housing, health care and regional development.

Cost of living measures – energy bill relief

In the Budget, the Government has announced it will extend and expand the Energy Bill Relief Fund to provide an additional $300 rebate to all households as well as a $325 rebate for some eligible small businesses.

“So many people I speak with in Indi are under intense cost-of-living pressure,” Dr Haines said.

“Ahead of this budget I urged the Government to think about sensible and direct measures they could take to ease that pressure. One suggestion was reducing power bills through a non-inflationary rebate.

“I welcome the Government’s decision to provide all households with a $300 rebate on their energy bills and to offer some relief to small businesses as well.”

The Budget also includes power bill savings measures to make it easier to change to cheaper energy plans, reduce fees and charges and to ensure discounts are passed on to households.

Flying Fruit Fly Circus

“The Budget has delivered $7.3 million for the Flying Fruit Fly Circus School, the biggest funding boost in the organisation’s 45-year history,” Dr Haines said.

“I celebrate this significant investment in our region’s talented young people and the border community should feel very proud about this recognition.”

Investment in the Flying Fruit Fly Circus was detailed in Dr Haines’ Indi Budget Submission that she presented to the Treasurer earlier this year.

Rent Assistance and Jobseeker

To reduce rental stress for Commonwealth Rental Assistance recipients, the Government will direct $1.9 billion over five years to increase all Rent Assistance maximum rates by 10 per cent from September this year.

“The change to Commonwealth Rental Assistance will be welcome relief to some of the most vulnerable renters but there is little relief for others who are ineligible for Rent Assistance. Many people in our community are struggling with rent and this leaves them continuing that struggle,” Dr Haines said.

The Budget failed to increase the rate of JobSeeker and other welfare payments.

“I’ve been pushing the Commonwealth Government to raise the rate since 2019 and we’re still waiting for any meaningful movement on this. This is a missed opportunity by the Government to show they value and support those doing it tough right now,” Dr Haines said.


The Budget allocates more funding for housing, notably an additional $1 billion for critical enabling infrastructure – a need that Dr Haines has strongly advocated for since before the last election. The new funding will be delivered to states and territories via a ‘priority works stream’ within the Housing Support Program.

“This shows the Government has been listening to me when I have explained the barriers to building new houses in regional, rural and remote Australia. This will help kick along the critical enabling infrastructure needed to unlock housing supply, particularly in regional Australia,” Dr Haines said.

“What I want to see now is the Government guarantee a minimum of 30 per cent of this funding for regional, rural and remote Australia – where 30 per cent of us live. My Unlocking Regional Housing Bill would make this happen.

“The regions must get their fair share of this housing funding to ensure homes are built where they are needed most.”


The Budget announces an increase of federal funding towards public hospitals from 2025 under the National Health Reform Agreement with the Commonwealth Government’s contribution increasing from 40 to 45 per cent.

“If agreed to by the States and Territories, this Agreement could result in billions of dollars for hospitals,” Dr Haines said.

“With this increase from the Commonwealth Government there is no excuse for New South Wales and Victorian Governments to withhold funding for a single-site Albury Wodonga hospital that fully equips our region for future growth.”

Community benefit from renewable energy projects

The Budget includes measures that would implement the recommendations of the Community Engagement Review that Dr Haines worked with Energy and Climate Change Minister Chris Bowen to establish last year.

“I am pleased to see the Government acting on the Community Engagement Review’s recommendations through this budget,” Dr Haines said.

“This is a starting point – $20.7 million to improve engagement with communities impacted by renewable energy projects, movement on national developer standards and a package to realise community benefits.

“The devil will be in the detail. I want to see these measures deliver long-term prosperity for regional communities. The Government must offer meaningful community benefit if it wants its Future Made in Australia plan to succeed.”

Regional Development

Regional communities will benefit from increased funding under the Roads to Recovery program which will progressively rise from $500 million to $1 billion per year. A further $200 million will be delivered via the Safer Local Roads and Infrastructure program.

“These programs deliver much needed funding and certainty to our local governments to deliver the essential services and infrastructure our communities expect,” Dr Haines said.

“The mayors and CEOs of Indi’s nine local councils often tell me how vital this funding is to maintaining thousands of kilometres of local road networks, particularly after extreme weather events.”

Dr Haines expressed disappointment and concern that the Budget delivered no increased funding for the Growing Regions Program and regional Precincts and Partnerships Program. Announced in October 2022, the Growing Regions Program and the regional Precincts and Partnerships Program have received applications but not a dollar of the $1 billion fund has been delivered to communities.

“This isn’t just a missed opportunity for the Government to invest in the regions, it amplifies the blind spot that Labor has for the needs and aspirations of regional, rural and remote Australians,” Dr Haines said.


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