One Happy Treasurer
The look on Victorian Treasurer Tim Pallas’ face when handing down the state budget will likely serve as a stark contrast to Scott Morrison on Tuesday. With a healthy budgetary buffer delivered by the housing construction boom and steady if not superlative business conditions, the Victorian Treasurer has been able to tick off many of the long-term investments promised by the Premier that have been received as sensible, sustainable spending decisions. So far, so good.
Locally, the lack of funding for the long-proposed Geelong convention centre was the subject of more than a few comments after Daniel Andrews had said his government was committed to the project.
While I’m all for holding our governments to account, I couldn’t bring myself to mind that this project was not delivered as a package that would have failed to be formed with community consultation or on the basis of what we might really need in the decades to come.
I don’t want my surgeon rushing a surgery because they had promised a deadline. I don’t want my house builder rushing that job because he’d promised to deliver it on a certain date. And I really don’t, after 15 years or more of hearing about a Geelong conference, end up with a centrepiece development on the waterfront that’s okay, even nice, but isn’t as good as it could have been.
Does the region need a 3000 rather than 1000 capacity conference facility? I don’t know. It depends on what we want to use it for and how closely it link in with the Melbourne Convention & Exhibition Centre. What is known, however, is that quality accommodation options connected with the facility will be essential and the city just doesn’t have enough of them - ones that will allow for families as well as individual delegates, is a no-brainer and must be done.
The funding for regional rail had me mirroring Tim Pallas’ grin, it felt like we, as regional Victorians, had been listened and responded to. The devil will be in the detail and what the engineering and system solutions around the upgrade will look like will tell us everything we need to know about this government’s ability to truly plan for the future.
Education spending was, as expected, boosted and this too was a win for common sense. Getting it right on education is one of the most important things we will – or won’t – do across the next decade in Australia. It is a process that will move through successive Labour and Coalition state and federal governments (presuming the Coalition holds, or Labour doesn’t form a Coalition with the Greens – after the Trump election and Brexit, you can’t rule out anything as a political impossibility).
That a measly $4.7 million couldn’t be found for the truly inspired Geelong Secondary Schools and Digital Learning Hub was a serious disappointment.
But the really big announcement that offers hope of fundamental change was the $1.9 billion package to fully fund suite of recommendations coming out of the Family Violence Royal Commission.
Speaking of comprehensive independent review process being fully funded, or otherwise, I also liked that the Turnbull Government is moving towards Gonski 2.0 (or, as we’ve been calling it in the office, ‘Get Another Gonski’). Again, we want more detail, but we must get it right on education, our future economy and all of our communities depends on it.