Victorian budget aimed at pandemic recovery
The Victorian state budget has unleashed a significant raft of spending aimed at generating the economic growth needed to restore the state’s post pandemic finances.
The budget includes a massive $12 billion spend on healthcare, 1.8 billion for education and $19 billion on infrastructure projects – much of which has already been announced.
The health funding included money to expand hospitals and in-home care, train or hire up to 7000 workers, including nurses, paramedics and triple-zero call staff, as well as funding an extra 40,000 elective surgeries.
The education spend will see 13 new schools built in Melbourne’s outer suburbs and funding to hire 1900 new teachers.
The budget papers show expected growth of 5.5 per cent this financial year and 3.25 per cent next year taking the budget back from a cavernous deficit to a modest $652 million surplus by 2025-26 without the need for spending cuts or new taxes.
But net debt is forecast to rise from $101.9 billion this financial year to $167.5 billion by 2026, equivalent to 26.5 per cent of the state’s economy and a record in recent history.
The state budget has earmarked $23 million for multicultural programs.
Some of this funding will go to “develop high quality professional and sustainable interpreting and translating sector”, the budget papers reveal.
Diverse community organisations will be able to apply for some $6.4 million to build and upgrade community facilities through the ‘Multicultural Community Infrastructure Fund’.
More than $1.1 million will go towards multicultural festivals and events, helping communities celebrate and preserve traditions.
There is $6.7 million to support newly arrived migrants and refugees who are not eligible for federal services. The money will provide “essential support services for migrant refugee communities and people seeking asylum”, the budget papers say.
There is also $4.4 million in the budget for the next phase of Victoria’s ‘African Communities Action Plan’, including support for Homework Clubs and School Community Liaison Officers.
Almost $1.3 million is earmarked to deliver the ‘Empower Youth Program’, connecting young people in areas of high socioeconomic disadvantage with work or education and nurturing their health and wellbeing.
Multicultural Affairs Minister Ros Spence told a briefing that there would also be an upgrade of multicultural community facilities and the delivery of festivals.
Also, the communities task force developed during the pandemic by the government will receive $3.7 million.
“It will continue the important work to support communities to respond to the impacts of COVID and will support the continuation of place-based local partnerships and communications to our CALD communities, to ensure that they’ve got access to health and other key information in audio-visual formats,” Minister Spence said.
Ms Spence said that the funding was there to ensure that “no one gets left behind in our recovery from the pandemic.”
“We recognise the importance of making sure that all Victorians can access in language information services, and we will streamline and improve our government purchases interpreting and translation services,” she said.
Training and skills
The budget includes $103.1 million for training and skills, including $66.6 million for TAFE, 4.1 million to add an Auslan diploma to TAFE offerings and $2.8 million for indigenous language studies.
A new funding model will boost TAFE funding by 25 per cent over the next year. This funding will also increase the number of practical placement officers at Victorian TAFEs, who will work closely with students to ensure that by the time they graduate, they have the industry-relevant skills they need to hit the ground running in their new careers.
The budget papers say 100,000 people have taken up Victoria’s free TAFE places since 2019, 54,965 in 2021.
The papers reveal $3.2 billion in TAFE and training funding since 2015, including $457 million on TAFE, $85.9 million on the Victorian Skills Authority and $167 million on Adult and Community Education.
Assistant Treasurer Danny Pearson revealed that 20,000 new foreign students had arrived in Victoria since the end of pandemic travel restrictions.
He said the Victorian Government will continue to promote migration, tourism, and foreign student numbers while the state’s overseas business offices would working to find new markets for Victorian services like education.
The budget predicts Victoria’s population will grow to more than six million by 2025.
The budget papers predict employment will grow strongly in the next few years, with a record 3.5 million Victorians in work by June and record job vacancies.
The budget includes $1 million for eight employment brokers embedded in community organisations to improve job readiness and pathways to employment.
There is a $65 million budget package to attract global companies to the Victoria and help existing Victorian businesses expand, aimed at creating thousands of jobs. There is also a $40 million boost to an existing program helping to attract new businesses to the state.
The state budget includes $240 million to continue an agenda to combat family violence and improve equity for women.
Critical refuge and crisis accommodation for victim survivors will be expanded with a $69.1 million boost for two refuges, six new crisis accommodation properties and support for three organisations to bolster crisis accommodation options.
There is also $43 million for family violence services providing support for families affected by family violence – including crisis assistance, specialised therapeutic support and support for women on temporary visas.
$30 million has been earmarked to expand the Central Information Point which collects information about perpetrators of family violence and there is $33.4 million to support sexual assault victims.
Almost $19 million will go to preventing family violence through funding for prevention agency Respect Victoria along with funding for new community-based consent education to prevent sexual violence.