A COST-CUTTING state budget has largely spared the south-west with most Spring Street pledges set to be rolled out in the region next financial year.
Worldwide economic uncertainty and the high Australian dollar were cited by senior cabinet ministers as the main reasons behind the belt-tightening, which will result in 600 jobs being slashed from the public service.
Deputy Premier Peter Ryan told reporters yesterday that rural Victoria would benefit from “strong regional investment”, considering the unfavourable outside financial trends.
The commitment to construct six passing lanes along the Princes Highway between Colac and the state border is on course to be completed by June 2013, with $8.54 million injected into the region’s main link in 2012-13.
Planning and earth movement works has already started for the two passing lanes between Yambuk and Port Fairy with a third lane expected to be constructed west of Heywood as well.
Regional Cities Minister Denis Napthine said the south-west had secured funding for several important projects despite turbulent economic circumstances.
He said the region’s road and rail networks were set for expansion in the next two years in order to accommodate growing commuter numbers.
“Yes, it is a tough budget and there’s three main reasons driving that,” Dr Napthine said.
“Firstly, we have Victoria receiving less than its fair share of GST revenue from the Commonwealth. Secondly, we have a high Australian dollar and overall sluggish national economy, and thirdly, we’ve been focused on clearing up the mess left by the previous state government.”
Dr Napthine said he would put the case forward for the Warrnambool line to benefit from the cash commitment towards new rolling stock on regional V/Line services.
Government officials said they could not confirm which lines would get the new train infrastructure, with manufacturing details still to be determined.
Opposition transport spokeswoman Fiona Richardson said the new rolling stock commitment was “too little, too late” and claimed it could be some time before regional commuters see any difference to train services.
Meanwhile, more details emerged about yesterday’s surprise announcement that $5 million would be allocated to a cancer care centre based at Warrnambool Base Hospital.
The state capital program showed $200,000 would be spent on planning works in 2012-13 with the remaining $4.8 million scheduled to be spent in 2013-14.
Accounting professor at Deakin University’s Warrnambool campus, Graeme Wines, said the government had made much of the drop in GST and stamp duty revenue, claiming a fall of $7.6 billion over four years.
“However, that decline relates to estimates made in 2010,” Professor Wines said.
“The budget figures actually show that total government revenue has increased steadily and that this will continue to be the case.”
He said total revenue would increase by 3.2 per cent for 2012-13 and then by an average of 4.4 per cent for the following three years.
“Hence, delivery of the $155 million surplus for 2012-13 has not been as difficult as the government has attempted to make out.
“Despite the $155 million operating surplus, total borrowings and other liabilities will increase by 15 per cent over the 2012-13 budget period.
“The result is a 40 per cent increase in the government’s interest bill in the coming year of almost $500 million.
“Moreover, the interest bill will continue to increase over the following three years.”