NO DICE: The big-ticket $450 million Basin Rail Project has one again been left out of the federal budget.
AN ONCOLOGY unit will be established at Mildura Base Public Hospital in a major win for Sunraysia in this week’s Federal Budget.
Mildura and La Trobe Valley will be added to state-wide oncology unit trials under the Regional Victoria Trials Alliance (with the $18.6 million boost to funding.
The Budget speech by Treasurer Josh Frydenberg detailed tax cuts for employees, new tax writes-offs for businesses, job creation incentives and increased spending for training in key industries, including agriculture.
And Mildura Rural City Council will pick up an extra $3.2 million for roads, footpaths and other infrastructure under an expansion of support for councils across Australia in the COVID-recovery Budget.
But the big-ticket $450 million Murray Basin Rail Project has again been left waiting for funds.
Mildura hospital CEO Terry Welch said the hospital’s inclusion in oncology trials was “an important step forward for MBPH and is the first year we have been able to apply to participate because of our return to public management.
“As a new site we may not see a lot of the $18.6 million but it will help us set up a trial unit locally. These trials are so important in bridging the gap between metro areas and rural and regional Australia.
“Overall, regional and rural patients have poorer cancer outcomes compared with metro patients, so these trials play such an important role in bridging this gap,” Mr Welch said.
Member for Mallee Anne Webster said: “Improving health outcomes for our regional community has been high on my radar and so I am extremely pleased because it will mean patients in Sunraysia will now be able to participate in cancer clinical trials, whereas previously it hasn’t been practical for them to travel to Melbourne or Adelaide.
“It will also incentivise highly qualified researchers and doctors to work in the region because they can engage in research in a regional setting.”
Pre-Budget hopes the Murray Basin Rail Project would receive funding were dashed Tuesday night.
Rail Freight Alliance CEO Reid Mather said that while the Budget had contributed towards some worthwhile rail projects in Victoria, the failure to complete the Basin Rail Project made matters worse for rail infrastructure in the state.
“This project is only half done and was supposed to be completed almost three years ago. The Federal Government had contributed on a 50/50 basis, expecting to see at least four of the five stages complete by now,” Mr Mather said.
“The fact is, the Federal Government doesn’t have a history of funding state rail projects as a rule, and so it was good that they funded this the first time and I expect that like us, they are disappointed that it hasn’t been finished.”
Mr Mather said that in 2013, when in opposition, Premier Danial Andrews and now senior ministers visited Yelta to announce support for the Basin Rail Project, saying the business case put forward by the then Coalition Government was poor and they wouldn’t be funding things without a sound business case.
“Consequently that was done, and we look back now and we see that we haven’t completed Stage Two of a project. This is an exceptionally poor outcome for Victoria as a whole,” Mr Mather said.
Victorian Farmers Federation president David Jochinke said: “For the Murray Basin Rail Project to miss out on funding is incredibly disappointing.”
“However, at a time of great uncertainty and instability … agriculture continues to be an industry for growth as demonstrated by this commitment in the Budget,” he said.