By Mitchell Clarke
The State Budget must prioritise long-term support for “vulnerable” Casey residents whose employment and livelihoods have been destroyed by Covid-19, according to a local government representative body.
Interface Councils – a group which represents the 1.6 million residents living in Victoria’s 10 interface local government areas including Cardinia and Casey – said the upcoming State Budget will be more relevant to the average person than ever before.
The group’s spokesperson David Hawkins said Melbourne’s growth areas had been particularly hard hit by the pandemic.
He called for the budget to address four key areas – servicing the most vulnerable, supporting local economies, addressing infrastructure project shortfalls and getting local priorities right.
“Lending a hand to help residents who have lost their jobs due to Covid-19 should be at the forefront and residents of Melbourne’s outer areas will wait with bated breath for the Victorian Budget sometime before December,” Mr Hawkins said.
“In the upcoming State Budget we hope to see a common-sense approach to embedding positive changes to Interface areas so that the benefits of these measures can continue to be felt.
“Outer suburban areas have huge rates of rental and mortgage stress and our young people are now losing study and job opportunities because of the evolving mental health crisis.”
Liberal Gembrook MP Brad Battin said the budget must be targeted at supporting Casey and Cardinia locals in getting back to work.
“The State Government has already walked away from thousands of sole traders and small business in the growth areas of Casey and Cardinia,” he said.
“Industry will need support, and we must see grants to bring back manufacturing in the region. The best outcome for Casey and Cardinia will be innovative ways to attract private enterprise to the area to increase employment locally to ease pressure on the rail and road systems.
“The Federal Budget was about creating jobs and rebuilding the economy, and the state now needs to do some heavy lifting after enforcing restrictions on family businesses that has seen them closed for longer than any other place in the world.”
The State Government’s Growing Suburbs Fund has recently invested $25 million towards local infrastructure in fast-growing interface and peri-urban councils like Cardinia and Casey.
Labor Bass MP Jordan Crugnale said the pandemic had highlighted many things including job insecurity and the casualisation of the workforce.
“Our communities like many others have been hit hard and the rebuild and recovery both socially and economically will be an absolute focus of our government,” she said.
“The Victorian budget will be handed down soon and will demonstrate our commitment to this.”
Fellow Labor MP for Narre Warren South Gary Maas said the government was listening to the concerns of interface councils and were continuing to work productively with them.
“Social and economic reform has been at the heart of what this government does and we have good form in this respect,” Mr Maas said.
“I would expect that this year’s State Budget will address societal concerns that have been exacerbated by Covid while at the same time providing the economic stimulus needed for the the fastest growing regions in Victoria.”