• Loddon Herald

Regions 'deserve more investment'

Northern Victoria Region MP Tania Maxwell has spoken on the 2022-23 state budget appropriation bills, noting that regional areas deserve a much stronger health system than exists now.

The Derryn Hinch’s Justice Party Member for Northern Victoria said the budget pitched some big numbers and a lot would be riding on promises of investment to deliver more workers, more services, reduce wait times and address critical needs across the health system, emergency services, courts and child protection.

In her statement:

My Maxwell said the economies of scale are harder to prosecute in regional areas, but our regions deserve a much stronger healthcare system than we have right now.

“The people that work within the system give it their all, with great compassion and care each and every day. But we have shortages right across the board—and it is not a new story; however, it is one that is getting more pronounced—from GPs to allied and community health, ambulances, hospitals, mental health support and aged care.” 

“If the budget is about health, which was the government pitch, I think the next one and the one after that will need to be as well, until our system is back on a better footing.”

In 2021, Derryn Hinch’s Justice Party requested the Parliamentary Budget Office investigate the split of assets between regional and metropolitan areas, which revealed that regional Victorians were at least 11 per cent worse off than their metropolitan counterparts when it comes to asset investment.

“There are suggestions that this budget delivers half of the investment into regional areas compared to the investment per person for people residing in metropolitan Melbourne. I would like the government to respond directly to this claim. If the figure of $7142 for every person residing in regional Victoria is not correct, then what is the figure?”

Ms Maxwell proposed that regional communities would benefit from the government issuing a

detailed regional impact statement to accompany the budget papers each year, one which gives some real comparisons and quantifies the parity of spending proportionate to population for both assets and services.

“There seems to be a bit of smoke and mirrors in this budget with some big figures touted, but the fine detail raises questions about what has already been expended or represents co-funding which has been listed in one area but cut from another.”

“There is no doubt that the nature of geography and topography often makes the claim for regional areas needing more, not less.”

Ms Maxwell said they were pleased to see funding for more police and PSO’s and the rollout of tasers to frontline police officers.

“I raised police resourcing in question time last sitting week, and while I finally received a response to that question earlier this week, I did not really get an answer on how many of the 500 police announced in the budget would be allocated to Northern Victoria.”

In relation to emergency services, Ms Maxwell noted that despite the fire service levy estimated to collect $800 million in this budget, the CFA was being squeezed out of funding.

“There are 1200 CFA stations to share only $49.6 million of funding in this budget, yet Fire Rescue Victoria has been allocated $120.6 million across 80 fire stations.”

Ms Maxwell said she would prefer to see a hold on the Suburban Rail Loop, which it is reported could cost up to $120 billion by the time it is completed “for at least another term of government until our health and child protection systems are functioning properly”.

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