MPs: It’s for the whole state

THERE were no surprises for the North East in Victoria’s 2014-15 budget, but the region’s MPs insisted it was still a “budget for all”.

Benambra MP Bill Tilley denied the budget was “Melbourne-centric” while Benalla MP Bill Sykes said further funds were expected once departments allocated their new resources and programs.

Education remained the biggest winner in the North East.

More than $20 million had been announced pre-budget for school upgrades, including $3.8 million for Wodonga West Primary School and $7.6 million for Yarrawonga P-12 College.

That funding comes from $500 million for school infrastructure works statewide.

The North East will see little of the $27 billion construction funds earmarked primarily for roads and rail works in and around Melbourne, including $10 billion for the western half of the East West Link and the $11 billion Melbourne Rail Link.

But Mr Tilley said the budget was “not city-centric, not by any shape, means or form”.

He said many of the projects would improve productivity and exports, which in turn would be good for the state’s economy as a whole.

“If you look around the state, there are some big infrastructure projects and yes, some of them are in Melbourne,” Mr Tilley said.

“But we benefit too, as it will all make it better and easier for us when we do travel through Melbourne.”

He said while the North East may not have been named in this budget, there were many ongoing projects under way such as the new Wodonga ambulance station and redevelopment of Wodonga Senior Secondary College.

Regionally, many of the big ticket items fell into some of the most marginal electorates, including $15 million for Bendigo’s new aquatic centre and $30 million to create a new “employment zone” in Ballarat West.

But Mr Tilley said the government had not been “playing favourites”.

“Absolutely not — if you look across the board this budget serves every community,” he said.

He pointed to general budget items that benefited every Victorian such as changes to stamp duty for first home buyers, abolishing stamp duty on life insurance and a forecasted reduction in unemployment.

Dr Sykes said the North East would be likely to receive a share of other programs, like $28 million for new CFA vehicles.

“Over time it will become clear how much comes into our electorates,” he said.

“Things could change once we get a clear handle on what the federal government hands down (in its budget) next week.

“This is not the end, it’s just the beginning.”

Other funding programs the North East could share in include:

- $13 million for tasers for 24-hour police stations;

- $730 million for maintenance of regional and rural roads;

- $12 million from the Regional Growth Fund for councils to seek assistance in planning and infrastructure needs;

- $35.4 million to boost exports to Asia; and

- $2.3 million to establish a poppy farming industry.

Bill Tilley

Bill Tilley