By Bridget Vallence
Last week the State Budget was handed down, and unfortunately it represents a troubling picture for our economy and completely ignores our local community. The Budget will result in a deficit of $7.9 billion, with State Net Debt a staggering $167.5 billion by 2025-26 taking Victoria’s debt level to that of NSW, Queensland and South Australia combined. Victoria has lost its triple AAA credit rating, meaning that interest repayments on Victoria’s debt will only increase and our grandchildren will be the ones left to pick up the tab. Spending on Health and Covid recovery is crucial, yet the State Budget revealed a disturbing $2 billion cut to Victoria’s health system. That’s despite ambulances ramping at hospitals every day, hundreds of calls to Triple-Zero being left unanswered, and nearly 100,000 Victorians on the surgery waiting list. Our community will recall in April 2020 being sent into lengthy lockdowns ‘in order to prepare the health system’. Regrettably, Victoria’s health system remains in crisis, our amazing healthcare workers are exhausted, and we still don’t know what happened to the $1.3 billion that was promised for 4,000 staffed ICU beds. Unfortunately, the Budget is putting patients last.
For the Evelyn electorate, the Budget was incredibly disappointing. There was not one cent to upgrade any roads or to duplicate the rail track between Mooroolbark and Lilydale. The removal of the Lilydale rail boom gates has resulted in not one, but two additional sets of traffic lights on Main Street, causing traffic chaos. Local residents are now actively avoiding the intersection, causing traffic pressures in other parts of Lilydale and local traders losing customers. The half billion spent on removing the Lilydale and Mooroolbark level crossings has not resulted in any improvements in commuting times or reliability or frequency of train services. Further, it is astonishing the State Government has again refused to commit to the duplication of Maroondah Highway Coldstream and fix the dangerous Killara Road intersection, despite being gifted $20 million in Federal funding three years ago. The Victorian Liberals remain committed to this project. Additionally, we’ve pledged $5 million to upgrade the dangerous stretch of Warburton Highway between Douthie and Peters Roads in Seville East if elected this November.
Victorians deserve better than a Budget that cuts funding to health at the worst possible time. Instead, they deserve a dose of positivity and a plan to recover and rebuild our health system. I’ll keep advocating for better local healthcare services, support for small businesses, improved learning environments for our children, and better and safer roads and transport infrastructure.