The Nationals leader and Member for Murray Plains, Peter Walsh, has made it crystal clear regional Victoria needs to be treated much better in next week’s Victorian budget than it has been in recent years by the Andrews Labor Government.
Mr Walsh said there are major infrastructure challenges across regional Victoria – and no realistic solutions being offered; which is why he has released his budget wish list.
He said that extends from the regional road and rail network to the state’s first responders and the urgent need for a massive overhaul of social housing assets.
“It doesn’t matter where you go in regional and country Victoria you pretty quickly find out what the first big problem is – our road network is decaying,” Mr Walsh said.
“Next week’s budget must provide the money to fix regional Victoria’s roads – dropping the road speed limit to 80km/h is not a solution; it’s a vain hope the problem will go away; for a while,” he said.
“It is also a penalty for the hundreds of thousands of people, who will make millions of trips on those roads.
“And it doesn’t stop there, the budget must include more money for local government; so it can play its role in maintaining the network of local roads and; finally, Victoria must match the Federal Liberal Nationals and their commitment to upgrading our highways.”
Mr Walsh said running parallel with the need for major road upgrades is the regional rail network.
He said despite having a $689 million budget ($440 million from the Liberal Nationals in Canberra) to do complete the Murray Basin rail project to boost its freight capacity as well as general services, the Andrews Government failed to get the job done.
“It mirrors the same fail rate as Andrews Inc had had with its major tunnel projects in Melbourne – deadlines missed and billion-dollar cost blowouts,” Mr Walsh added.
“The Andrews Labor Government must put up the $5 million to match Canberra’s $5 million to get the Murray Basin rail project fixed and finished,” he said.
“But when it comes to social housing; we are all faced with a much bigger problem; one that is going to take a concerted effort over many years to come even close to repairing the damage that has been done there.
“Regional Victoria is beyond being overwhelmed by demand for social housing and there simply isn’t any sign of new projects on the horizon.
“Home prices – rent or buy – are forcing more and more people out of the market and there has to be a better alternative.
“That doesn’t even take into account the complete lack of emergency housing for domestic violence victims.
“And there are immediate, simple solutions, such as buying one or two motels in towns across regional Victoria where there are ready-to-go facilities that could provide 30 or 40 or more units instantly, without any need for protracted planning challenges, labour shortages, funding applications and all the other bureaucracy that delays too many projects such as these.”
Last – but far from least – Mr Walsh said the shrinking number of first responders compared to the growth of regional Victoria’s population must be corrected.
He said in many cases police are strained well beyond their capacity to do a thorough job in regional hubs as well as smaller country towns despite the spin coming from the Andrews Labor Government.
“Some hubs only have one or two uniformed vehicles available at night – and they are responsible for covering many outlying towns; so if you need help and the patrol car is 50km away, you’ve got a problem,” Mr Walsh explained.
“Or look at the Highway Patrol and if you can get an accurate number out of the government about how many staff are actually available to be on the road at any given time; then measure the kilometres of freeways and highways across the whole state and do the arithmetic – trust me, those numbers will never add up,” he said.
“And we all know the revelations about worsening ambulance response times – it’s not the fault of the ambos; it’s the breakdown of the whole system.
“Which is why the Andrews Labor Government really needs to deliver for regional Victoria next week because if it doesn’t, we will all be in a much bigger mess by this time next year.”