Budget 2023-2024

22 June 2023

It is with great pleasure that I rise to speak on the take-note motion on the 2023–24 budget papers. I am very proud to be a regional MP in this place representing the Bellarine. That role does come with a great privilege and a great responsibility, and it is a role that I take very seriously. We do not want to waste a moment in government. I as a member do not want to waste a moment in delivering for our community, because I am someone who likes to get on with things. I do like to consult with our community but then also to deliver for our community.

It is a great pleasure that the Treasurer this year was able to send a really important message to the Bellarine and to Victorians that we are being responsible, we are planning for our future and we are doing what matters, but more importantly, we are going to do what we said we were going to do and deliver on the things that we said we would do. Last year we took a really positive plan to the Victorian people, and I was very proud to let the community and voters of the Bellarine know what was on offer at that election in terms of not just the local commitments that we were making but statewide initiatives that are going to transform this state – bringing back the SEC; the Best Start, Best Life reform for our littlest Victorians across the state; free TAFE; cost-of-living measures, including making V/Line fares fairer for regional Victorians; apprenticeship support; free nursing degrees; and so much more. The list is long. I thank the Treasurer for his hard work. Budgets are not easy. This was the first budget for me as the member for Bellarine in this place, but it was the ninth budget for this Treasurer. I thank him for his commitment and the work that he has done. It is not easy, but he has managed to deliver a budget that is committing to the things that we said we would do at the last election.

I would like to speak a little bit about the Bellarine commitments that we made and about how important they are for the Bellarine community. I have been really pleased to be able to go out into the community since the budget and celebrate those commitments with our community, and I am really looking forward to seeing these projects develop and continue.

MARCHANT (Bellarine) (14:50): It is great to rise again. Just before the break I was speaking about how proud I am to be the member for Bellarine and what a privilege it is to represent that community but indicating that we want to get on with delivering. The last member was a wonderful member for that community and delivered so much for the Bellarine, and we want to continue to build on that legacy – and this budget certainly does that. I was going to talk about some of those commitments that we made and that were fully delivered in this last budget, and I would like to talk a little bit about what they will mean for the Bellarine community and what difference that will make for our communities.

Sport and wellbeing and keeping our families and kids active is really important across the Bellarine. It is a wonderful place to raise a family, and we are really fortunate to have wonderful facilities. But there was always more to do, and I am really pleased to be able to commit some funding to provide some further investments and upgrades.

The Barwon Heads Football and Netball Club will receive an upgrade of $2.4 million to help redevelop their clubrooms. This will be a new facility that the community will really be proud of, but I remember being at the announcement during the campaign, when female players were saying that these would make a huge difference to their ability play at that club when changing for feeling safe at that club. It will make a huge difference when they have seen a really considerable amount of growth in women playing sport and in their junior sides as well.

The Collendina Reserve will also receive an investment of $1 million. At the moment their club is just booming. It is actually the biggest sporting club, or biggest footy club, on the Bellarine, and they do an incredible job. They have got so many volunteers, and they are really community-driven. But their ground is quite unsafe in terms of how the traffic flows around the ground and where their clubrooms are, so I am really pleased that we will be able to make an investment on that ground and at that reserve to improve the safety. I will just say: go Cobras.

One of the big commitments too that we made in this election was to make sure that the north Bellarine have the aquatics facility that they need and rightly deserve, particularly for some of the more senior people or people that were doing rehabilitation, who were having to travel quite a bit to go to other facilities. This was a $20 million commitment that we said we would put into the northern Bellarine to build a facility that would cater for those people and for children to be able to learn to swim as well. There is an outdoor pool being built there now. It is outdoors; the community did not want an outdoor pool. I will not go into the politics of that commitment – it was at a federal level. But the community have said to me that they will not use that facility. They need an indoor pool that caters for their growing communities. I said at the time it should have been built once and built properly. We have had to now step in as a state. I am really proud that we have been able to do that, and stage 2 will now be delivered and an indoor facility will be there for the community. I am really proud of that.

The Portarlington Recreation Reserve will also have an upgrade to make sure that they have got some safe accessibility and an upgrade of their change rooms as well. It is a wonderful reserve that is used by quite a number of users – the agricultural society is there as well – and so this will be a wonderful upgrade to start with. Unfortunately, we have come to a situation where the Geelong city council have frozen their support for this project and frozen the part of the funding they had committed. They have come to the state to say, ‘Oh, do you think you could keep going with the project?’ It is unbelievably disappointing, but we do want to get on with it. I want to make sure that that community get the commitment that we promised and the upgrades that they deserve, so I am working really hard with that community to make sure that that progresses and does not stall.

In my inaugural speech I said – and I have said this consistently in the electorate and here in this place – that community would be at the heart of any decision-making that we make, and I am really proud to support some of the smaller communities that are on the Bellarine. The SpringDale Neighbourhood Centre are going to receive a $50,000 grant just to help them with their continued service to their community, such as with technology; they help the seniors with public transport information, training sessions, cooking and that general social connectedness that they offer. Anne Brackley and the team there do an absolutely amazing job, and I am really pleased to support the neighbourhood house. They have also been wonderful in supporting the power saving bonus – residents can go there to have help with accessing that bonus.

The St Leonards Progress Association also will receive some upgrades to their hall, enabling them to deliver services and programs to the community. It is one of those beautiful old country town halls. This upgrade will make sure that their flooring is improved, and it is a wonderful community hub there for the St Leonards community.

St Leonards also is going to receive some money for some boat ramp upgrades and also the St Leonards Pier – $2.8 million for the St Leonards boat ramp, including wave protection to make sure we are reducing the impact of waves during the boat launching and retrieval process. Safety is a big issue at that ramp, so I am really pleased that we are able to make that commitment for upgrades for the boaters there. Boating is absolutely huge on the Bellarine. On the weekends or even during the week when I am driving around the Bellarine, the car parks will be full of trailers and boats. They really love their fishing, and it is good fishing off our coastline.

They are spoilt for choice though, our boaters. We have the Clifton Springs boat ramp, Point Richards, Indented Head, St Leonards, Swan Bay, Queenscliff, Ocean Grove and Barwon Heads. As you go around the whole coast, we are very spoilt for choice, and many of these have seen upgrades, with the previous member advocating for investment in those.

I just want to point out that I have been really pleased to engage with the St Leonards boaters. They have been really terrific advocates for the upgrades and have been involved in consultation, and I thank them very much for doing that consultation with me and Better Boating Victoria. The St Leonards Pier also will have a major upgrade and some rebuilding work, making sure that it continues to be an iconic pier. As you drive down the main street, Murradoc Road, into St Leonards, you then drive basically to the pier. It is very much loved. Lots of fishermen, fisherwomen and children fish off there, which is just wonderful. It is much loved, and a rebuild will be incredible.

I have spoken about this in this place before, but the Queenscliff neighbourhood battery will be an absolutely wonderful addition in the Queenscliff area. We have committed to 100 of these across Victoria, and I am really pleased that one will be in my electorate.

The Wallington Primary School will see an upgrade to their main school buildings. Having visited there, they have a wonderful country-school feel about them. They will have some upgrades to some of their classrooms and the main building, which will be much loved. The staff and the principal there just have a wonderful commitment to their children, but now they will also receive some funding to make sure they have got world-class facilities as well.

The Queenscliff marine search and rescue vessel investment means that the Queenscliff coastguard will be able to have a new boat to make sure that they can continue the work that they do to keep our community safe. Just as we may call the SES, the CFA or the police, boaters who find themselves in trouble, either in the bay or in very dangerous waters out near the rip out of Port Phillip Bay, will be able to call on the coastguard if they need it. The coastguard’s new boat will ensure that they will be able to endure the treacherous waters off Queenscliff. So I am really pleased to be able to commit to a new vessel for the Queenscliff coastguard. It will give boaters that peace of mind.

In addition, the Portarlington region – the statistical area of Portarlington, which does include the St Leonards area as well – will receive one of the 50 government owned and run childcare centres, which is really important for families in the Bellarine. We have seen a real growth in that region. The St Leonards community does not have a childcare facility at the moment. We are looking at where this may be located, but I am really pleased that one will be located in that statistical Portarlington level 2 region. Having affordable child care for families in the Bellarine is so important, giving parents, and particularly mothers, that option of returning to work and giving their children that best possible start in life in a childcare centre.

Regional Victoria has seen a lot of investment. I am really proud to be a regional MP, and I absolutely love living on the Bellarine. So many who have come from Melbourne particularly to live in our region have come for that quieter lifestyle, but it is still easily accessible to Melbourne and Geelong. I am proud that we have invested in the regions, such as with fairer V/Line fares, free kinder and upgrades to the Geelong hospital – there will be a new children’s emergency ward at the Geelong hospital. One of the women’s health clinics will be in Geelong, in our region. We have a new mental health hub being built. Youth mental health services and beds are coming to Geelong as well. In the construction phase right now is a new early parenting centre to support new families. We are supporting thousands of jobs by bringing back the SEC. There is a duplication of the Barwon Heads Road, free TAFE and free rego for apprentices, which will benefit our region. The list is actually quite long, and I have not got time to list them all. I cannot wait to see all of these projects get underway and to deliver on those commitments that we promised.

I am so proud of the Bellarine communities. They look after each other, they support one another and they get involved in their communities. We have so many who volunteer and give back to our communities, and I know that these investments that we have made are there to support their efforts. That is what we do: we support our communities, and this investment will continue to build on that community wellbeing and continue to improve the area in which we live.