Vic budget: Health system, schools, rail and clean energy among the big winners

By Shannon Jenkins

Tuesday November 24, 2020

Tim Pallas and Daniel Andrews
Tim Pallas and Daniel Andrews, 2020. (Image: AAP)

Victorian Treasurer Tim Pallas has handed down the state’s budget, with the papers projecting a deficit of $23.2 billion and a debt of $86.7 billion in 2020/21.

While debt is expected to grow to $154.8 billion in 2023/24, Pallas on Tuesday said the government’s current priority is to provide the jobs, support and economic opportunities for Victorians to recover and rebuild from the impacts of COVID-19.

“This is a budget built on jobs and focused on people — supporting them to recover as we rebuild our state,” he said in a statement.

“We’re following the blueprint of jurisdictions around Australia and the world, who are using their own budgets to protect household and business budgets. You can’t address the economic crisis until you address the health crisis — and that’s what we’ve done. Our success in fighting the virus means we’re well placed to recover and grow.”

Here are some of the highlights of the Victorian budget.

Hospitals — $9 billion will be committed over the next four years to ensure hospitals and local health services “come out of the pandemic stronger than ever”. Of this, $2 billion will go towards building new hospitals and upgrading existing ones, including $384.2 million to redevelop Warrnambool Hospital and $75 million to buy land and to commence early works for the new Melton Hospital. The Metropolitan Health Infrastructure Fund will receive $200 million to pay for upgrades across suburban health services, while $120 million will go to the Regional Health Infrastructure Fund.

Rail — $2.2 billion for the Suburban Rail Loop, $2 billion for Geelong Fast Rail, with millions of additional funds pumped into various rail lines, including $660 million to deliver the next stages of the Shepparton and Warrnambool Line upgrades.

Schools — more than $3 billion in school upgrades, including $1.1 billion as part of the previously announced Building Works Package, with a further $1.9 billion to roll out the next phase of the school building boom.

Read more: No major public service cuts in Victorian budget, Pallas says

Disability support — $1.9 billion to ensure Victorians with disability are supported, including nearly $1.6 billion to “transform” support for students with disability in state government schools. An additional $223.3 million will be allocated over the next four years to support Victorians with a disability who are not eligible for the NDIS.

Skills — $1 billion to support the skills sector, including an extra 80,000 Free TAFE and training places with courses linked to jobs in demand.

Breakthrough Victoria Fund — $2 billion will go towards a new fund that will “cement” Victoria’s position as an international leader in innovation, and is expected to create more than 15,700 jobs over 10 years. The fund will drive investment in research, innovation and growth in key industry sectors, including health and life‑sciences, agri‑food, advanced manufacturing, clean energy, and digital technologies.

Energy — $1.6 billion investment in clean energy and energy efficiency, including the establishment of six new Renewable Energy Zones. This investments includes the $797 commitment to help Victorians cover the cost of their power bills and make homes more energy efficient.

Tax relief — $1.5 billion in new tax relief for Victorian businesses and families, building on existing support. The government will commit a total of more than $3.5 billion in tax and fees relief to Victorian workers, businesses and households to help them through the pandemic and recovery.

Kinder — $773.8 million for early childhood education, including $169.6 million to help cover the cost of kinder for up to 100,000 Victorian families.

The Arts — $1.46 billion to transform Melbourne’s Arts Precinct.

Jobs for Victoria — $619 million for an initiative that aims to help those most impacted by the pandemic, including women, young people and Victorians who don’t have a formal qualification. The investment includes $250 million to partner with employers to subsidise the wages of at least 10,000 new workers. At least $150 million of that wage subsidy support will go towards employing women, and $50 million of that for women over the age of 45.

Digital Future Now package — $626 million to radically improve mobile coverage and broadband access in regional communities. This includes $250 million to co-fund business‑grade broadband connectivity for suburbs and regional towns, $300 million to eradicate mobile black spots in populated areas, and $64 million for the Digital Skills and Jobs Program.

Student devices — More than $24.5 million for students to keep the more than 71,000 mobile devices loaned to them during COVID-19.

Mental health — Nearly $870 million to extend mental health services to more Victorians, to implement the mental health royal commission’s interim recommendations, and to pay for new beds, more staff and one-on-one support for those most in need.

Social housing — $5.3 billion will go towards building 12,000 new social and affordable homes, with 25% of investment dedicated to regional Victoria.

Read more: Victoria to build 12,000 homes under $5.3b public housing blitz


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