Regional projects need budget dollars

Statement on report

Tania MAXWELL (Northern Victoria) (17:24):

I rise to speak on the 2022–23 state budget, and I will start with the good news and then move on to some projects we still hope to get over the line.

During the Legislative Council regional sitting in Bright in 2021, I first raised the need for redevelopment of the Bright hospital, and we held a joint meeting with the hospital to discuss its needs and master planning. I would like to thank the Treasurer and the Minister for Health for meeting with me to discuss the funds and processes required.

Suffice to say the community was delighted with the announcement of $1.52 million in this budget to progress the planning for a high-care public aged care facility. I also thank the Attorney-General and fellow member for Northern Victoria for meeting with Alpine Health at the time of the regional sitting. Getting everyone on board from all levels of government is helping Bright and the surrounding towns it services so that they can get what they need and deserve.

I look forward to working with Alpine Health in any way necessary on the next steps. Suffice to say we hope the federal government will open its chequebook and give their share of funding for the hospital and its Bright-by-name and bright-by-nature community.

Similarly, Mildura is thrilled with the commitment of $36 million to deliver a 30-bed residential alcohol and drug rehabilitation unit.

The use of most drugs is higher per capita in regional communities and contributes to family violence and general crime. Mildura is challenged by both social disadvantage and remoteness, something that I discussed with both Minister (Martin) Foley MP and local MP Ali Cupper in separate meetings to talk about the need for a local residential rehabilitation facility.

I was in Mildura only last week for its field days—and I love visiting Mildura. I had many conversations with local people and caught up with the Mildura Rural City Council chief executive Martin Hawson. We discussed future planning for the residential rehabilitation facility and also my hope that Mildura will be next on the list for a dedicated drug court. We know drug courts work, and the government has expanded them into Ballarat and Shepparton.

KPMG’s evaluation shows drug courts are cost effective and an alternative to imprisonment, and most importantly they help reduce recidivism and improve lives. I wrapped a drug court in with my pitch for the residential rehabilitation unit in my budget submission to the Treasurer this year. We have ticked off one, and now we will work together to try and get commitments ahead of the November election for the second important part of that package.

GOTAFE and Wodonga TAFE both have solid bids in with the government for Education First Youth Foyers in Wangaratta and Wodonga. While they were not part of the announcements in this budget, I am confident that the government is on board and recognises the value of youth foyers in helping young people at risk of homelessness to continue their education and build a positive pathway. Just shy of $25 million is needed across the two projects, and again, I have had positive discussions with the Treasurer and Minister Wynne on these two projects. I hope we will soon be celebrating good news with the Wodonga and Wangaratta stakeholders. My colleague Stuart Grimley was pleased to see funding continue for the Geelong project, and we would like to see the same model delivered in Wodonga, so I will keep that advocacy going this year.

I have consistently raised ambulance response times and associated health service issues in this Parliament. These issues are serious and enduring. They existed before COVID, but the pandemic has turned a bad situation worse. I hope the new investment of $457 million to employ 400 new triple-zero dispatchers will turn these issues around. I know it is not as simple as more money and more people, but that part is certainly necessary. Hand-in-glove with this is addressing hospital ramping and workforce shortages.

On that note I will leave my contribution there for when we debate the appropriation bills. But we will celebrate these wins, and I will keep advocating for other necessary funding for my electorate of Northern Victoria.