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Federal budget breakdown

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By Colin MacGillivray

MEMBER for McEwen Rob Mitchell has hailed last week’s federal budget as a fiscally responsible document that delivers on local election promises, while Member for Nicholls Sam Birrell said it would leave residents in his electorate worse off.

Treasurer Jim Chalmers last week delivered the first budget since Labor formed government at the federal election in May.

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Among funding allocated in the budget is $150 million for a Hume Freeway interchange at Camerons Lane in Beveridge; $15 million for stage two of the Macedon Ranges Regional Sports Precinct; $11 million for Mitchell and Macedon Ranges Shire road projects; $515,000 for Greenhill Recreation Reserve upgrades in Wallan; $1.5 million for a splash park and barbecue area in Laurimar; $250,000 for a feasibility study on a Wollert rail extension; and $20,000 for the Mitchell Shire Multicultural Festival.

More broadly the budget was viewed as safe, if unspectacular, with accounting body CPA Australia deeming the government to have taken a ‘steady as she goes approach’, and Committee for Economic Development of Australia chief economist Jason Ball calling it ‘a prudent budget that sensibly avoids stoking inflation’.

Mr Mitchell agreed the budget was not ‘a grab-bag full of goodies’ but said he was confident it would arrest rising inflation without stalling the Australian economy.

“We went through some very tough decisions. Sure, people would like more handouts, but we have to do things that are for the national good, not just for a political good,” he said.

“We had inflation that was running rampant and wages going backwards, so it had to be a pretty solid, steady budget, and I think that’s what’s been delivered.

“It’s delivering cost-of-living relief that doesn’t add to inflation and it’s investing in people and their capacity to build the economy.”

Mr Mitchell said a $4.7 billion investment in childcare during the next four years – a centrepiece of Labor’s federal election campaign – would help grow the national economy in sustainably.

“We had people come up to us during the election campaign telling us they’re spending up to $3000 a month in childcare costs alone. If you decrease that, you’re suddenly putting more money into people’s pockets, but you also give families the ability to earn more,” he said.

“It’s predominantly women who have this problem, which is why women over the age of 55 are the cohort that are most financially insecure in the country.

“If women can’t work we lose their abilities, skills and knowledge that we should be utilising, but it also means they end up with lower retirement savings, lower incomes and more insecure work. Cheaper childcare is not just a social benefit, it’s an economic benefit to the country.”

Responding to criticism from some political commentators that the budget failed to offer enough help for people struggling with the cost of living amid slow wage growth and rising power bills, Mr Mitchell took aim at the former government for concealing energy price increases until after the federal election.

“Energy prices have been increasing for some time. When we got into government, we found out the Liberal Party lied to the Australian people and deliberately hid price increases,” he said.

“[Former Energy Minister] Angus Taylor … signed an instrument to stop the publication of massive price increases to electricity until after the election. That’s a low act.

“We’re investing more in renewable energy, which is cheap once we’ve got the infrastructure in place.

“We’ve got difficult times ahead, and Jim Chalmers has been more upfront than anyone about it.”

Mr Mitchell said the budget had ‘delivered on [Labor’s] promises’ within McEwen after making the Camerons Lane project a centrepiece of his campaign for re-election.

But Nationals Member for Nicholls Sam Birrell said the story of the budget in his electorate was one of broken promises.

Mr Birrell said people living in regional and rural areas, including Nicholls, were ‘left behind’ in areas including cost of living, childcare and infrastructure.

He said despite the government’s $4.7 billion childcare splash, few of his constituents would see any benefit, with no additional childcare places created in Nicholls.

Mr Birrell said grocery and power bills were also a concern for voters locally.

“Groceries are eight per cent higher, not just because of natural disasters, but also by a Labor-made disaster in scrapping the ag visa. Supply has been slashed because farmers and processors are only working at around 60 per cent capacity,” he said.

“Retail electricity prices are predicted to go up by 50 per cent, while the $275 promised by Labor to reduce electricity bills is now gone.

“Interest rates have already gone up and are predicted go up further under Labor, which is ripping hundreds of dollars out of households each month.

“Every time Australians get their grocery docket, their power bill or mortgage statement, they should see Anthony Albanese’s face on it, because he’s the one who is costing them more.”

Mitchell Shire Council leaders were thrilled at the money committed for the Camerons Lane interchange, which they previously labelled the biggest infrastructure priority for the shire’s south.

But Mayor Bill Chisholm said he was disappointed to see no money allocated to the Beveridge Interstate Freight Terminal, BIFT, project.

The Liberal-Nationals Coalition pledged $1.6 billion for the BIFT in the lead-up to the election, but Labor did not commit to the project.

“Camerons Lane Interchange will help transform Beveridge as the centre of the next chapter of population growth in Victoria,” Cr Chisholm said.

“It’s incredibly disappointing to see funding for the Beveridge Intermodal Freight Terminal cut from the budget. We will continue to work with the federal and state governments to secure funding for this vital project.

“We welcome the Federal Government’s investment in affordable housing as local housing means local jobs. The funding across health and wellbeing is a good step forward.”

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