Victoria’s State Budget contained some good measures and while no one would deny the mental heath sector additional funding, the Government’s levy on businesses with a payroll tax surcharge on wages paid in Victoria by businesses with national payrolls of more than $10 million a year to pay for this, has been greeted with hostility.

A rate of 0.5 per cent will apply for businesses with national payrolls above $10 million, and businesses with national payrolls above $100 million will pay an additional 0.5 per cent.

The budget, brought down last week, raises taxes across a number of fronts as the Andrews Government grapples with its burgeoning net debt level which is expected to reach $87 billion this financial year, on its way to $155 billion by 2024!

Mildura Base Public Hospital (MBPH) is smiling, with the announcement that they will receive $2 million to enable them to develop a ‘masterplan’ and business case for a new hospital (see page 3 for details).

The Irymple CFA also received more than $2 million in funding for a new fire station.

While the Government is investing heavily in transport in this year’s budget, no mention was made of the stalled Murray Basin Rail Project, which is still in disarray and incomplete, much to the distain of stakeholders.

Speaking at the Country Liberal’ State Budget Media Dinner attended by the ‘Weekly, Opposition Leader Michael O’Brien said that under the Andrews Government rural and regional Victorians are missing out because of their mismanagement of projects which constantly see costs blowouts.

“When a project runs into trouble in regional Victoria, the money tap turns off pretty quickly,” he said. “When you get the Murray Basin Rail Project, which was initiated by us, and money from regional Victoria was set aside by us to build that project and Labor took it over and have run the thing off the rail.”

“Unlike what happens in their city based projects , Labor says “oh, we’ve run out of money – we can’t complete it”. Leaving us with a situation where there are now rail sections which re worse than before they were before they started the basin rail project.”

Mr O’Brien said that when the government ran out of money on the Metro Rail Project they shovelled more money at it.

“And when they ran out of money on the Westgate Tunnel Project the,y shovelled more money at it – the same with the level crossings,” he said.

“Why is it only regional Victoria that misses out? We know how bad the state’s roads are in regional Victoria. I was down in the Warrnambool area, and about 20 minutes out of town, the state of the road actually shocked me. As a local said to me “in Melbourne you drive on the left, in country Victoria, you drive on what’s left!” and it’s true.
“Where is the money in this budget to fix country roads? Their answer to problem roads is to decrease speed limits. This government treats country Victorians appallingly.”

The government also plans to introduce a new windfall gains tax of up to 50 per cent to be applied to planning decisions to re-zone land from July 1, 2022, something Mr O’Brien said will impact regional Victoria and the Coalition will oppose this in the parliament.

“All of a sudden regional will be hit with this new 50 per cent tax,” he said. This tax puts a penalty on regional Victoria.
“As we begin to emerge from this pandemic, the time has come to make policy decisions and commitments that will turn this state around and to take it to where it needs to be. I want the next election to be a contest of ideas and vision and a contest of who can govern for all Victorians.”

Shadow Treasurer Louise Staley who also spoke at the media dinner said that the Government has put up taxes by $5.8 billion and the state is also receiving an additional $6 billion in increased gst.

That is a huge increase in the revenue line of the government. If you have an extra $12 billion, you would expect to see some of that in projects and services for regional Victoria, but that isn’t what we are seeing in this budget. Regional Victoria has been badly short changed.

Ms Staley was also scathing in her assessment of the re-zoning tax which she said would add an estimated $20,000 to a house and land package in regional Victoria.

“Anywhere that has significant housing development going on will be impacted by this at a time when the market is running hot and people are moving to the regions in the wake of COVID.”

On top of that impost, a premium stamp duty will also be introduced, with property transactions above $2 million attracting a $110,000 duty plus 6.5 per cent of the dutiable value in excess of $2 million.

Michael O’Brien has said that a Coalition Government would scrap the tax-hike.

“The hike in stamp duty will make it harder for more Victorian families to afford to buy a home,” Mr O’Brien said.
 “Labor wants to jack up its stamp duty tax to make up for the record budget black hole including billions of dollars of waste on botched infrastructure projects.
“While the Federal Liberal Government is putting more money into the economy by cutting taxes, Victorian Labor is putting our economic recovery at risk by raising taxes.
 This is the worst possible outcome at the worst possible time.”