The first South Australian State Budget by the new Liberal Government has received mixed reactions from Member for Frome Geoff Brock MP.
Mr Brock said he had spoken to both the Premier Steven Marshall and Treasurer Rob Lucas prior to the budget announcement and was pleased that election promises were being kept in relation to Frome and in areas which would positively impact rural communities.
“We have already seen the announcements of funding for the Northern Festival Centre, Riesling Trail extension and Clare Valley Aerodrome upgrade,” Mr Brock said.
School bus services for regional areas continue to be under review to ensure equity for all students needing transport and an investment in capital works of $140m over a decade spent on country hospitals and health infrastructure has been welcomed.
“Ensuring we have qualified and ample doctors in our rural communities is of vital importance and my only concern in this area is that there is a need for succession planning, and the State Government will be spending $20m over four years to develop a workforce strategy.
“Also, in the health sector the provision of $12m over four years to deliver additional chemotherapy services in regional areas will be of great benefit, enable patients to receive treatment closer to home, while a spend of $192m on country health services over the next 10 years is also extremely welcome.”
Mr Brock has been a supporter of mental health awareness in regional and rural areas and said he was pleased with the budget item of $2.5m for the expansion of suicide prevention networks and other services state-wide.
“I have been working with local groups in Port Pirie, Clare and Balaklava to establish and sustain suicide prevention support – it is an issue of great importance in our rural communities,” he said.
Mr Brock said money for school breakfast programs, increases in sports vouchers to $100 and the abolishment of fees for volunteer screening checks were all positive initiatives which would impact rural communities.
“Funding has also been allocated to upgrade country fire stations and I will be asking all the Frome CFS stations for their views – I’ll be visiting them as well, to take a look at their conditions and then submit proposals to the Minister.”
Maintaining funding for the Regional Growth Fund and our Regional Development Boards at the same level as the past four years is a plus, according to Mr Brock, although he pointed out the funding remained at the same level without indexation.
“Although $315m has been set aside on the regional roads and infrastructure fund for the coming four years I am still talking with the Premier about the importance of upgrading the Horrocks Highway, which I believe should be included in every budget until it is fixed,” Mr Brock said.
The concerns which have arisen from this budget, said Mr Brock, were the closure of TAFE colleges Statewide, privatisation of SA Pathology and the proposed increases in rental charges for SA Housing Trust tenants which will have a detrimental effect on people living on concessions.
“Quite a few people on concessions are struggling financially already and this will have a huge impact on them and should be closely monitored.”
Mr Brock said that overall he thought the budget would have some positive impacts on his electorate and he looked forward to working with the State Government to the benefit of the residents of Frome.
“And, although not in the Frome electorate, I welcome the $88.5m set aside for improvements on the Port Wakefield Road, will have a region-wide benefit.”