Roads Agriculture | May 04, 2022

Roads funding cut again as Labor ignores regional needs

Lowan communities hoping to see increased investment to maintain and upgrade local roads have been short-changed in the Andrews Labor Government’s 2022-23 budget.

After cutting the state’s road asset management funding by 23 per cent last year, the government has again slashed its budget, which will see road asset management investment drop from $616.9 million to $592.7 million.

Member for Lowan Emma Kealy said Labor had wasted yet another opportunity to adequately invest in a crucial issue for the local community, and regional Victoria more broadly.

“So many of our roads are in desperate need of repair to make them safe and usable so that people in our region can safely to get school, work, healthcare appointments and other vital activities. But instead of fixing the gaping potholes and crumbling edges we are forced to endure every day, Labor’s answer is to put up speed reduction signs,” she said.

“The shocking state of Victoria’s roads is an economic drain on our state, and we can’t afford to be continually pushed down the list so that Labor can spend enormous amounts of money plugging cost over-runs on city transport projects.

“Roads are the single biggest issue that constituents contact me about, but Labor seems to think it’s a joke, with its MPs even standing up in Parliament to say that any suggestion that regional roads weren’t up to scratch was just an ‘imagined fantasy’.

“It’s clear from comments like that and today’s budget that Labor truly does not understand just how desperately we need investment in our roads.”

Ms Kealy said while it was very pleasing to see $12 million announced for a new alternative proteins glasshouse complex and incubation hub at Horsham’s Grains Innovation Park, other funding for the region – including much-needed support for mental health initiatives – was scarce.

Ms Kealy said the government announced it would provide support to regional health services including Grampians Health to help people experiencing eating disorders, but had not committed to more extensive funding for critical care and community-based mental health supports.

“After cutting funding for the Rural Outreach Program last year, which provides crucial mental health support to people across the Horsham, Hindmarsh, West Wimmera and Yarriambiack council areas, Labor had an opportunity to right a wrong. But disturbingly, the budget appears to provide little in the way of targeted mental health funding for our region,” she said.

“Too many people in our community are stuck on long waitlists and have no choice but to travel outside the region for crisis-level support. While investment in mental health services in other parts of the state is absolutely critical, it should not come at the expense of support for our region.

“We need and deserve our fair share, and Labor has again failed to deliver.”

Ms Kealy said despite the Andrews Labor Government promoting the budget as “putting patients first”, budget papers revealed a $2-billion cut to Victoria’s health system, with funding reductions for admitted and non-admitted services, emergency services, residential aged care, aged support services, and acute health in small rural settings.

“Even where Labor has provided actual health funding, such as for ambulance emergency services, it equates to no more than a gold coin for every Victorian,” Ms Kealy said.

“Labor has also cut $87.1 million from regional development and $47.8 million from its agriculture spend.

“Regional Victoria is the engine room of the Victorian economy, with our farmers and farm businesses and key industries all crucial contributors to Victoria’s recovery. But instead of providing investments in better services and infrastructure that support the growth of communities like ours, we’re getting less while Labor taxes us more.

“Only a change in government in November will put an end to Labor’s debt, waste and mismanagement and make sure all of Victoria thrives.”

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