FEDERAL Member for Ballarat, Catherine King said the Liberal government’s federal budget has “bypassed Ballarat.”
She said the government has acknowledged rail and roads in other areas but hasn’t remembered her electorate.
“Ballarat and Bendigo are two of our biggest inland cities with massive population growth, they seem to have completely forgotten about that.
“It seems a lot of their road projects are really focussed on Liberal National Party seats across the country and certainly not on Ballarat,” Ms King said.
“I thought they might have reversed the cuts to our public hospital, and I thought we might have got some funding for hospital infrastructure.”
Ms King was disappointed that city projects seeking cash, like Her Majesty’s Theatre, sporting facilities and the Ballarat Airport were “absent from the budget.
“It just feels like we have substantially missed out,” she said. “It’s hard to see where the good bit is.”
Although Ballarat Airport hasn’t specifically been allocated money, the City of Ballarat welcomes the budget’s $100 million funding for regional airports.
Mayor, Cr Samantha McIntosh said council will work to make sure Ballarat benefits.
“The Ballarat Airport is a key piece of regional transport infrastructure,” she said. “Council’s long-term vision for the airport is to partner with State and Federal governments to deliver on the Ballarat Airport Masterplan 2013-33.
“If the airport is to reach its full potential to service and connect the broader region, the north-south runway needs to be extended, reinforced and strengthened,” she said.
“We also need to plan for future development of an air-based emergency services hub with a focus on aerial fire and flood response capacity.”
Cr McIntosh said the budget was good for regional Victoria, welcoming tax cuts to support the community, funding for VET training and investments in regional roads, rail and air, although the spotlight didn’t make it to Ballarat.
“We hope Ballarat will be a beneficiary in budgets to come,” she said.
Broadly, the government said there was $134.8 million to support regional university students over four years with scholarships, improved facilities, more study places and a National Regional, Rural and Remote Education Strategy.
STEM initiatives encouraging women in science will get $3.4 million, $277 million will be invested in Indigenous education, and $525.3 million will be put towards improving the quality of vocational education and training over five years.
Vice-Chancellor and President of Federation University, Professor Helen Bartlett, was happy to see regional students and higher education supported in the budget.
“The investment in TAFE and focus on skills and training is much needed and will complement the work Federation University is already doing with local industry to revitalise skills training, tackle shortages and support the local economy,” she said.
“While we welcome measures to encourage more domestic and international students to study in regional areas, we would have liked to see more investment in university infrastructure so we can ensure our equipment and facilities match the high quality of our teaching and research.”
A Commerce Ballarat spokesperson said the organisation welcomes the investment in training and apprenticeships, and the money broadly allocated to rail and roads. However, the group is not ecstatic and again emphasised an oversight regarding Her Majesty’s.
“It was extremely disappointing not to see some of our major projects funded,” the spokesperson said.
“All projects are important to the city, but from Commerce Ballarat’s point of view, the completion of the Ballarat Link Road and Her Majesty’s completion are critical for our economic stability and growth.
“The closure of the theatre has far reaching repercussions on our hospitality and retail sector plus, of course, impacting on Royal South Street which is a premier Ballarat event.”