25 October 2022
Important projects for Indi included in Labor Government’s first Budget, but Haines calls out lack of hospital and road commitments
Important projects for Indi have been retained in the new Labor Government’s first Budget after intensive advocacy from Independent Federal Member for Indi Helen Haines.
The $80 million in Federal funding promised to the Albury Wodonga Regional Deal has been retained in the Budget, and $9.8 million for road upgrades in Mansfield promised by the former Government will be delivered.
“During the election, crucial projects were promised to Indi by the former Government, and through my discussions with new Infrastructure Minister Catherine King I have been able to ensure that they are still delivered,” Dr Haines said.
“The Albury Wodonga Regional Deal was announced by the last Government but never appropriated and could have ended up on the chopping block, but I made sure that funding continued.”
But the Independent Federal Member for Indi said the Budget fell short when it came to funding for a new hospital on the border.
“In this Budget, the Government has funded a hospital in Perth, a medical centre in Adelaide and cancer centres in Brisbane and Adelaide – but not in Albury Wodonga. We know the Federal Government do contribute to building hospitals, but we need the Victorian Government to stand up and make sure the NSW and Federal Governments can also come to the table and deliver a world class, single site hospital on the border.”
Dr Haines also criticised the Government for the lack of new funding for roads, especially in the aftermath of the floods experienced across the North East.
“Everyone knows how bad the roads are at the moment, and the third La Nina in a row this summer is making it incredibly difficult for local councils to keep up with the necessary repairs. This area needs significant investment and Labor has missed an opportunity to strengthen roads further in light of the recent floods.”
Dr Haines was pleased that funding for roads in Mansfield promised in the election campaign would continue after confirmation the Remote Roads Upgrade Pilot Program would remain in place.
A promise made by the former Government for $900,000 for the Biggara Recreation Reserve will be delivered in the next six months, Dr Haines confirmed.
Two new funding streams have been announced for regional Australia, including the Growing Regions Program, which will provide new opportunities for regional local councils and not-for-profit organisations through an annual open, competitive grants process.
“This program will run annually, and I will support our councils and eligible organisations in Indi to take full advantage of the funding on offer,” Dr Haines said.
A new regional Precincts and Partnerships Program will be a new funding mechanism for larger-scale projects to transform a place to benefit communities in regional cities and wider rural and regional Australia.
“I look forward to speaking more with Infrastructure Minister Catherine King about how Indi can benefit from this fund.”
Dr Haines slammed the Government for reducing the amount of money available through the new funds compared to previous regional development funds, instead funding election promises through closed grant programs.
“The bulk of new regional funding is confined to closed grants programs which will be used to fund Labor’s election promises. Labor criticised the previous Government for similar non-competitive grant processes and has talked a big game on bringing integrity and transparency to funding for the regions. It’s not good enough to just do the same thing again.”
National Anti-Corruption Commission
Dr Haines welcomed the allocation of funding for the National Anti-Corruption Commission at $262 million over the next four years.
“At the last election voters sent a strong message about the need for integrity in politics, to stamp out corruption and improve trust in our democracy. I am working hard as Deputy Chair of the Joint Select Committee on the National Anti-Corruption Commission Bills and I am confident that we will see the integrity watchdog up and running next year. This is crucial to the people of Indi and I am glad to see it will finally happen.”
Dr Haines welcomed the Housing Accord, an agreement between all levels of Government, institutional investors, and the construction sector to address housing supply with the goal to build one million new homes over five years from 2024, including in regional areas.
“Our housing crisis is a handbrake on our regional economy. Our workers have nowhere to live and families struggle to find social and affordable housing,” Dr Haines said.
“Under this Accord, States and Territories will expedite zoning, planning and land release, which is a major supply constraint.
“Now we need to see councils funded to build the enabling infrastructure of roads, sewerage and water that makes these transformational housing developments possible.”
Dr Haines welcomed the Government’s commitment to regional community energy projects, including 400 community batteries for household solar to assist up to 100,000 households, and the Community Solar Bank Fund to allow 25,000 households to access community-scale solar and clean energy technologies.
“I’ve fought hard to lower the cost barriers for people to access renewable energy, which disproportionately affect regional people. Renewable energy should be cheap, accessible and reliable in a crisis, and I’m so pleased to see the Government has responded to the momentum that is building around community-owned renewable energy.”
New programs to support 10,000 people to complete a New Energy Apprenticeship were welcomed by Dr Haines.
“I have long said that taking action on climate change would be a jobs boom for regional Australia. I have spoken to apprentices in Indi who already see renewable energy as an avenue to reliable, well-paid careers and measures like this recognise, reward and incentivise people to work in renewables.”
Phone and Internet Coverage
The Budget includes significant funding for improving phone and internet coverage, including $400 million for improving mobile reception, $200 million for further rounds of the Regional Connectivity Program and $30 million for farmers to improve connectivity on their properties and enable better use of digital technologies to increase productivity.
“I am pleased to see the Mobile Black Spot Program will continue under this Government, as well as other programs to improve mobile and internet coverage,” Dr Haines said.
“Indi has been the most successful electorate in Victoria when it comes to federal funding for mobile phone towers, and I intend to continue that record and continue removing dangerous black spots across Indi.”
Regional and rural health
The Government announced a $185 million program to increase the rural health workforce, including incentives to attract, retain and support doctors and allied health professionals.
“Investment in bringing doctors and health professionals to rural and regional Australia is absolutely crucial to address the health crisis we are experiencing in our region,” Dr Haines said.
“This funding is welcome, and I look forward to speaking more with Health Minister Mark Butler about how we can benefit from these measures in Indi.”
Preparing for and responding to natural disasters
After lobbying the Minister for Emergency Management Murray Watt to address skyrocketing premiums for businesses and households affected by bushfires, Dr Haines said she welcomed the Government’s commitment of $22.6 million over four years to start tackling this problem.
“Insurance premiums are driving our iconic businesses to the wall, especially in the Alpine areas. I’m looking forward to the evidence that shows the Government’s proposals for partnerships between the government and insurance sector and to inform mitigation projects reduces the cost of this essential protection.”
With floodwaters still receding across Indi, Dr Haines welcomed the Government’s rebadged Disaster Ready Fund which promised up to $1 billion over four years to mitigate disaster loss and damage.
“Our community has faced rolling natural disasters with bushfires and floods. We need to shift our focus from recovery towards prevention and mitigation, so we reduce the economic and psychological impact of these disasters which are increasingly becoming a part of our lives.”
Dr Haines said the $50 million TAFE Technology Fund to modernise IT infrastructure, workshops, laboratories, telehealth simulators, and other facilities could benefit GOTAFE and Wodonga TAFE, noting that outdated buildings were not fit for purpose.
“Our TAFEs are willing to train our workers for the jobs of the future, but often their facilities were built before advent of electric cars and renewable energy. Investments like this will give our young people pathways into careers that are adapted for the future.
“I discussed this exact issue with Skills Minister Brendan O’Connor and I am heartened that he has recognised that modern facilities are necessary to train a modern workforce.”
Boost to aged care workers
After a Parliamentary Delegation to Fiji earlier this year where she explored opportunities for the aged care workforce to be expanded here in Indi with workers from the Pacific, Dr Haines was pleased to see the Budget expanded the aged care skills pilot programs under the Pacific Australia Labour Mobility scheme to deliver 500 additional aged care workers under the PALM scheme in 2023.