By Kate Lardner*
LAST week, we saw a Labor government deliver its first federal budget in almost a decade. While there were certainly some worthwhile inclusions in the budget – targeting issues like housing supply, affordable childcare and women’s safety – it remains clear that those of us on the Mornington Peninsula are likely to have drawn the short straw of government funding yet again.
For decades, we’ve seen our districts fall victim to the gridlock of the two-party system. Budgets from both state and federal governments have failed to provide adequate funding to our region, leaving many of us wondering why we don’t get the attention we deserve.
Research commissioned by the Committee for Greater Frankston has highlighted this issue. Despite having a larger population than Geelong and the Bellarine Peninsula, the Mornington Peninsula will see a mere one tenth of state government infrastructure funding, by comparison. As a result, much of our funding pressures fall on our local council, leading to an erosion in the quality of services, a lack of infrastructure, and an increased burden on ratepayers.
Many of us have questioned why we face recurrent budgetary neglect. Perhaps it’s the narrative that the Mornington Peninsula is merely a playground for the rich and famous. Or perhaps – as I firmly believe – it’s because the major parties are unable to work with representatives from the other side of the political aisle.
In Mornington, where I am running as an Independent candidate, Liberal representation stretches back to 1947. For the past 12 years, we have had Liberal representation under a Labor state government – resulting in a political gridlock that has had severe impacts on our local communities. Needless to say, we haven’t been great beneficiaries of grants, infrastructure and investments over the past decade.
This latest federal budget indicates that the trend of distributing funding towards marginal seats and away from safe ones is likely to continue.
The Building Better Regions Fund, which provided more than $1 billion for infrastructure and community development, has been shut down, leaving more than 815 community organisations around the country (including some on the Mornington Peninsula) struggling for funds.
The National Centre for Coasts, Environment and Climate – a research and education field centre in Point Nepean National Park – was also hit with funding cuts, delivering a blow to attempts at stemming local coastal erosion and marine research efforts.
And the Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development, Communications and the Arts has been stripped of $939 million.
That’s not to say there are no positive elements of the budget: $250 million has been committed to expanding the Local Roads and Community Infrastructure Program. Labor’s plan to build one million homes will go a long way towards alleviating the stresses on the housing sector. And expanded paid parental leave will no doubt leave many in our community better off.
But it remains to be seen how much of the cash splashed around in the budget will flow to our region.
If history is anything to go by, I don’t hold out much hope. The inability of the two-party system to provide for our communities has been hurting us for decades – leaving us underfunded, under-resourced and left to fend for ourselves.
The issue is not about how much money is in the budget, nor which programs are funded. The issue is about neglect; and our community not getting its fair share.
My solution? Elect a representative who can work with both sides of politics to secure funding for our communities – regardless of which government is in power.
• Dr Kate Lardner is standing as an independent for thew state seat of Mornington.