Bell and McBride on budget

NEW COP SHOP: Member for MacKillop Nick McBride is happy to have the $18m investment. Picture: FILE

Charlotte Varcoe

THE 2024-2025 state budget has been welcomed by Limestone Coast Members of Parliament.

Member for Mount Gambier Troy Bell and Member for MacKillop Nick McBride have accepted this year’s state budget which was handed down last week.

The Limestone Coast will share in almost $50 million worth of financial investment for projects such as heavy vehicle rest areas and the previously announced Generations in Jazz permanent structures.

Among the funding includes $6m for Mount Gambier High School maintenance, $3.8m over three years to construct a heavy vehicle rest area at Salt Creek, $18m over four years to construct a new purpose-built police station in Naracoorte and $13.7m over three years to deliver infrastructure at Lake Hawdon North.

Other investments include the roll-over of the $4.3m for cancer treatment subject to the radiation therapy unit feasibility study and $720,000 to construct four permanent structured pavilions in Mount Gambier/Berrin for Generations in Jazz.

Mr Bell welcomed the further investments into the region alongside other investments in an attempt to ease the cost of living.

He said a once-off additional Cost of Living Concession (COLC) payment of $243.90 would make a big difference to vulnerable community members.

“This is really the start of winter and I want to see that money go into people’s hands so they are not worried about turning on the heating,” Mr Bell said.

“That does have a correlation to a number of people who get sick and could cause an impact on our health system.”

Mr Bell said he was happy the funding was coming in a timely manner with other positives hidden in the budget.

“There are a lot of good things in the budget for first time buyers, further investment to skill up young people and the big one which is a massive expense is the preschool or three-year-olds,” he said.

“That is coming out of a royal commission so it is positive and can be very expensive as there has to be time to train the staff as well.

“This means we are going to need more trained educators in the space to provide that.”

Other highlights for Mr Bell included the doubling of the school sport’s voucher from $100 per child to $200 alongside the inclusion of music lessons.

“This is a fantastic way to support the art space and it can be said for sport that grassroots is where future champions come from,” Mr Bell said.

“The same can be said for music and dance as that is where your future stars will come from which is a very important thing.”

He said although there were a number of positives within this year’s budget there remained concerns including how the health funding takes up a third of the overall budget.

“Despite this we are still seeing massive waiting times, ramping and cancelling of elective surgery because hospitals are overflowing,” Mr Bell said.

“It really concerns me that with so much money being spent on health the system is still under such strain and shows cracks.”

Other concerns for Mr Bell include the state debt “ballooning” to $44 billion in 2027-2028.

“There are two big reasons why that is ballooning out and one of those is South Road which is $15b and the Women’s and Children’s Hospital at $3.2b,” Mr Bell said.

“They are astronomical numbers and our kids and grandkids will probably be paying back that debt.”

He said moving forward, Mount Gambier/Berrin should remain relevant to the state budget and state government as well as the opposition.

“One way of doing that is to make sure we have got a very clear plan going forward and what we are seeking and how we are looking to do it,” Mr Bell said.

“It will come as no surprise that public education is going to be a big push of mine going forward and making sure our public schools have a grade in terms of physical infrastructure and maintenance that needs to be done.”

Mr McBride said he welcomed the major investments into the MacKillop electorate including the Naracoorte Police Station and Salt Creek heavy vehicle rest area.

“This is just wonderful news for Naracoorte and the police force as it gives a great sense of worth and security for the community to know the state government values the police station in Naracoorte,” Mr McBride said.

“The heavy vehicle rest area north of Salt Creek is also welcome as I know a lot of people have struggled with the closure of the service station.

“This will go a long way to being a rest stop for that reason and I think the community which travels that road between Tailem Bend and Kingston will use it.”

Mr McBride also welcomed the $100,000 audit investment into the Country Fire Service (CFS) following a number for fire sheds in the electorate and Limestone Coast where the trucks were unable to fit into the sheds due to aging infrastructure.

“The trucks are bigger and grander and they do not fit in the old sheds,” Mr McBride said.

“That is quite unacceptable and we know a lot of sheds do not have running water, potentially some do not have toilets so it would be good to have an assessment and audit over those sheds and facilities around the region.”

He also hoped the review would look at the CFS headquarters in Naracoorte which he said may not be meeting the needs of the CFS in the region.

“I am hoping the review will also give this consideration and maybe in the future we might get a new CFS headquarters,” Mr McBride said.

“I would have liked to see extra mandates about the review of the Naracoorte hospital and surrounding areas, I know it is in progress but there was no mention of that and there were no major infrastructure upgrades.”

He said he was also disappointed there was no promise of a sterilisation unit for the Millicent and District Hospital and Health Service nor of any funds beyond the previously announced $8m Naracoorte Hospital and Community Health Service.

Mr McBride said he would have liked to have further investment into roads along the South East and expressed disappointment the recent iPAVE data would not be available until next year.

“There are no funds which address our roads but we are liking the investment into the early learning centre and three-year-old preschools which is a really positive thing,” Mr McBride said.

“Hopefully that will roll out well towards Kingston and its early learning centre and potential childcare but at the moment we do not know where that will land.”

He said the budget sat in “no mans land” and with the next budget to be before the 2026 state election he was hoping there would be more out of it.

“We are going to look forward to it and we are going to try and capture some of that,” Mr McBride said.