Horror budget looms, warns Smith

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Horror budget looms, warns Smith

Still going: Bass MLA Ken Smith, with new electorate officer Shelley Applebee in Graham Street, Wonthaggi, has no plans to retire.

VICTORIA will face a “horror budget” this financial year, Bass MLA Ken Smith revealed recently.
The State Government will be forced to further restrain spending to “try and get the budget under control”, after discovering hidden expenses Mr Smith blamed directly on the previous Labor government.
“They put us in a difficult financial position so the Treasurer is working hard to try to get some of that solved. After that, things will improve a bit,” he said.
The Wonthaggi desalination plant, the troubled myki public transport ticketing system, school improvements and the new Royal Children’s Hospital were pledged but not fully funded under Labor, Mr Smith said.
Despite the gloom prognosis for the state in May when the budget is released, this year Mr Smith remains committed to lobbying for the Wonthaggi Hospital to be upgraded to a sub-regional status. He wants more acute beds, more surgeons and more doctors to save South Gippslanders travelling to Melbourne or the Latrobe Valley for medical treatment.
The MP wants more specialist services at Wonthaggi and a medical clinic on Phillip Island with ample medical services to cater for the island’s growing population, in addition to an upgraded ambulance station at Cowes.
A V/Line ticket agency is needed in Wonthaggi to help people access a bus service Mr Smith believed most people were satisfied with.
The duplication of the Bass Highway from Bass to Anderson is progressing well, and Mr Smith said an overpass north of the Anderson roundabout will guarantee smooth flow of traffic to and from Phillip Island, without hindering traffic bound for Wonthaggi.
Plans for the Koo Wee Rup bypass are now being prepared. The “difficult” project will entail passing over five drains and the staged construction of pylons. Costs are escalating from the initial $50 million to $90 million, but Mr Smith said the project will still proceed and be funded over two budgets.
The bypass will link Rossiter and Manks roads, with a roundabout to be constructed on Rossiter Road.
“We hope that construction will start this financial year. We have to purchase land and talk to farmers too,” Mr Smith said.
Ideally, he would like to see the Cape Paterson-Inverloch Road upgraded to improve safety for drivers and motorcyclists, as well as the many cyclists who now travel the scenic route.
“It’s not easy to form another road because you do have to go on the reserve on the beach side or on private land,” he said.
While Mr Smith believed the construction of the Wonthaggi desalination plant is too expensive, he believes Victorians may one day embrace it.
“At the end of the day, if we have a drought in the future, we will have a piece of equipment that will be useful if we need it,” he said.
The government does not have a specific plan for managing the impact on Wonthaggi of losing 3000 desal workers, but Mr Smith said the effects will be lessened by the number of workers being scaled back over the next six months.
“Our town will return to normal. A lot of rental accommodation will come on to the market again but I can’t imagine they will be pulling the same rent as they were with the desal workers,” he said.
“Naturally there will still be a lot of tourists in the area and they will be of benefit to the retail community.”
Mr Smith said the government will monitor any issues that arise in relation to the withdrawal of workers.
“The change in this town is that it’s becoming a retail service area. We have all of the speciality shops that people have been asking for. We have Bunnings coming. There is still recognition that this town has a big future,” he said.
“We have gone from the building up of this town from being a mining town to the town becoming a retail capital, and the desal plant will put the town on the map.”
Despite the challenges of being Speaker of the Legislative Assembly, Mr Smith said his priorities lay firmly with his constituents and he has no plans to retire.
“I love what I do. I’m taking it as I find it,” he said.
“We will see how we go in the lead up to the next election. I love dealing with the public. I love solving people’s problems. I love working with the staff I have here because they care about their communities.”

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Posted by on Feb 1 2012. Filed under Featured, News. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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