Financial responsibility emphasised while jobs and infrastructure are highlighted
By Bryce Prosser
The release of the Victorian State Budget by Treasurer Tim Pallas on 5 May focused on growth, creating jobs, investing in infrastructure and encouraging innovation.
According to the Budget papers, Victoria is expected to remain in a strong financial position over the next four years with a projected budget surplus of $1.2 billion in 2015-16, rising modestly to $1.8 billion come 2018-19.
Over the next four years, the Victorian economy is forecast to grow by an estimated 2.5 per cent in 2015-16 raising to 2.75 per cent in 2018-19, supporting government revenue generation and growth.
Employment is expected to remain near trend over the next four years at 1.5 per cent growth with unemployment expected to fall from a forecast 6.25 per cent in 2015-16 to 5.75 per cent in 2018-19.
New investments to support industry, innovation and create jobs
The Budget invests $508 million to establish the Premier’s Jobs and Investment Panel, which has been tasked to use this fund to create more high-skill, high-wage jobs in Victoria with funding reserved for strategic job-creating investments.
An additional $200 million has been allocated to establish the Future Industries Fund which has been designed to help grow traditional industries and invest in emerging sectors and will offer grants of up to $1 million to firms working in the six high-growth sectors that have been identified.
These sectors include:
- Medical technology and pharmaceuticals
New energy technology
Food and fibre
Transport, defence and construction technology
$60 million has also been allocated for a "start-up" initiative that has been developed to link entrepreneurs with ideas to help get these new businesses established.
The Budget also allocates $100 million to fund the Back to Work Scheme, which offers funding for companies that hire unemployed young people, the long-term unemployed and retrenched workers. The objective of this scheme is to help create 100,000 new jobs.
Other investment initiatives include $10.5 million for Melbourne’s North Innovation and Investment Fund and $7.5 million for the Geelong Regional Innovation and Investment Fund as part of the Regional Jobs Fund.
One of the key announcements in today’s Budget is the commitment to a range of transport and infrastructure investments.
This Budget has committed $5-$6 billion, including $2-$2.4 billion over the next four years, to remove Victoria’s 50 most dangerous and congested level crossings. This program is expected to be completed within the next eight years.
On of the largest investments in the budget is the commitment of $9-10 billion to deliver the Melbourne Metro Rail Project, including $1.5 billion over the next four years to complete the planning and design of the project with construction expected to commence by 2018.
An additional $600 million has also been allocated towards building and refurbishing Victoria’s tram and train fleet over the next four years.
The Budget also includes further road funding projects, including:
$150 million towards the M80 upgrade
$110 million to duplicate the Chandler Highway bridge over the Yarra river
$40 million for the first stage of the West Gate Distributor project
$73 million to widen Citylink and the Tullamarine Freeway
Trade and Small Business
Several initiatives have been announced to support trade and small business in Victoria, including:
$11.4 million for stamp duty exemptions for small businesses purchaing mobile plant equipment, such as tractors
$10.4 million to help fund the activities of the Victorian Small Business Commission
$2 million to Ethical Clothing Australia to help elimate unfair exploitation of home workers
$12 million for inbound trade missions to bring investors to Victoria
$6 million to establish Victorian Government Business Offices (VGBO) in key trading countries including South America, Singapore and Turkey.
Vocational Education and training
Additional and continued state funding has been allocated towards vocational education and training programs including:
$300 million to complete the $320 million TAFE Rescue Fund
$50 million for the TAFE Back to Work fund, helping TAFE meet the needs of local employers and create new training courses
$32 million for Local Learning and Employment Networks
$12 million to establish new Tech Schools
Health and Community Care
An additional $200 million has been allocated to increase hospital capacity and $60 million towards funding elective surgery to cut waiting times.
$560 million has also been allocated to build and renovate hospitals in Victorian growth areas including the Western Women’s and Children’s Hospital, Sunshine Hospital and the Casey Hospital.
An additional $118 for mental health including $88.2 million to provide 80 adult and up to 500 older people with intensive, specialist support services.
$81.3 million to support the Royal Commission into Family Violence, $45.5 million to fund the Ice Action Plan and $28.9 million to address Aboriginal disadvantage.
$78 million for emergency services including 450 new career firefighers, $226 million in additional police funding and $99 million for ambulance services.