Member for Nicholls Damian Drum, left, with Treasurer Josh Frydenberg at the release of the federal budget last week.

By Colin MacGillivray

MITCHELL Shire and Whittlesea councils have welcomed Federal Government funding for projects across the region in last week’s budget, but opposition members have criticised the announcements as lacking substance.

Among the key budget announcements are a one-year extension of tax cuts for low and middle-income earners, $17.7 billion to reform the country’s aged-care system, a $1.7 billion childcare subsidy scheme $2.3 billion for mental health and suicide prevention.

Member for Nicholls Damian Drum said the budget amounted to a Federal Government plan to secure Australia’s economic recovery from the COVID-19-induced recession.

“This budget will continue the rebuild of our economy and create more jobs to ensure we come back stronger than ever,” he said.

“Australia entered the COVID-19 crisis from a position of economic strength, providing us with the fiscal firepower to support communities across Nicholls when they need it most.”

Mr Drum said the tax cut for middle and low-income earners, as well as the continuation of an instant asset write-off scheme to help businesses, would boost local and national economies.

“This is more money for people to spend locally, providing the confidence for Nicholls businesses to take on an extra worker, offer an extra shift, or buy a new piece of equipment,” he said.

But Member for McEwen Rob Mitchell said the budget offered little in the way of tangible support for the region’s residents.

“When the question was put to [Deputy Primer Minister Michael McCormack] about where the money was for the Hume Freeway, there was a big silence,” he said.

“Effectively we’ve got a budget that is building on $1 trillion of debt, so anyone under the age of 30 is going to be paying for this for the rest of their working life.

“The government has said ‘we want to lower taxes, but we’re going to increase spending’ – it doesn’t work that way. It’s got to be properly targeted tax cuts.”

Mr Mitchell described the announced tax cuts as deceptive.

“They’re extending the lower-middle income tax cut for one year, and surprise surprise, in the next financial year there’s going to be an election,” he said.

“But they’re making sure high-income earners get a legislated permanent tax cut.

“Someone on $200,000 is going to get an extra $10,000 in their pocket forever and a day, and someone earning $45,000 is going to get $880 for 12 months and that’s it. That’s not fair and it’s not right.”

Mitchell Shire Council Mayor Rhonda Sanderson welcomed the government’s investment in mental health, and family, domestic and sexual violence services and support.

City of Whittlesea chair administrator Lydia Wilson said a pledged $24.2 million for the O’Herns Road-Hume Freeway interchange and $10 million for a detailed business case into the E6 Freeway would benefit the municipality.

She said other important announcements included: $2 billion for ongoing funding for four-year-old kindergarten; $278.6 million over four years to expand and enhance headspace and youth mental health services; $112 million over four years for psychosocial support services; $28.2 million over two years for a Stronger Communities Program that provides funding of up to $20,000 for small projects that deliver social benefits for local communities; and $1 billion of additional funding to extend the Local Roads and Community Infrastructure Program.

State Member for Yan Yean Danielle Green said the Federal Government had failed to spend enough money on major arterial roads in the region.

“None of their road funding was for the north, which was disappointing,” she said.

“With the O’Herns Road intersection, it took six or seven years to squeeze the money out of them for that. We shouldn’t have to go through that every time our community needs and interchange onto a road of national importance.”