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Big-ticket Hunter items among budget winners


Labor’s first federal budget in almost a decade seems to have been well-received in the Hunter region, with some local big-ticket items among the beneficiaries.

While admitting there were “hard days to come”, Treasurer Jim Chalmers believes the government’s “responsible” financial plan, unveiled on Tuesday night, was “right for the times and readies us for the future”.

But, it did deliver on the party’s election commitments, including cheaper childcare, more paid parental leave, better access to health care, the NDIS, cheaper medicines and an improved standard of aged care.

GP Access After Hours
Back, Former Hunter MP Joel Fitzgibbon, Hunter MP Dan Repacholi, Shortland MP Pat Conroy, Dr Charles Robinson, Dr Lee Fong; and, front, Paterson MP Meryl Swanson, Dr Annette Carruthers AM and Newcastle MP Sharon Claydon with the petition containing 10,700 signatures to save the GP Access After Hours service at Toronto.

There was also money for the GP Access After Hours clinic ($28.7 million) at Toronto to have its services restored, following a massive community campaign, while The Kaden Centre ($1 million) at Warabrook is expected to re-open its doors, too.

Lake Macquarie City Council will secure $56 million for Mandalong Road upgrades, $10 million for Swansea Channel dredging infrastructure and $10 million for a mine grouting fund.

In the Paterson electorate, $7.5 million has been allocated to move and upgrade the Kurri Kurri Netball Courts, along with $5 million for a new Veterans Wellbeing Centre, $3 million for the Port Stephens Koala Hospital and $3 million to upgrade the facilities at Max McMahon Oval in Rutherford.

The MRI licence at the new Maitland Hospital will be fully-funded as well.

Further afield, the Muswellbrook Bypass, Muswellbrook Town Centre Project and Olympic Park, Singleton’s Alroy Oval Precinct, and the much-needed Urgent Care Clinic at Cessnock Hospital, to name a handful, can expect economic assistance.

The region’s peak business organisation, Business Hunter, welcomed the budget.

“Maintaining momentum on key infrastructure projects will enable state-wide growth and connectivity and help seize opportunities for diversification,” president Tony Rhodes said.

“We’ll continue to unpack the finer detail of the budget over the coming days.

“However, we’re pleased to see reconfirmed support for the New England Highway-Muswellbrook Bypass, enabling works for the clean energy precinct ($100 million) at the Port of Newcastle, upgrades at Newcastle Airport ($55 million) and corridor acquisition and planning for fast rail between Sydney and Newcastle ($500 million).

“These projects will help us realise opportunities for economic diversification, generate shared benefits for businesses right across the state and aid national growth.

Mr Rhodes said the new Housing Accord between government, investors and industry – set to deliver one million homes across the country over five years from 2024 – was also good news.

“Lack of available housing stock has greatly limited the region’s capacity to attract skilled workers to our growing jobs and industrial markets,” he explained.

“Any measures that remedy local housing shortages will be welcome relief.

“Labour and skills shortages are an urgent demand and this budget locks in some of the outcomes of the Jobs and Skills Summit that will resonate across the region, including an increase to the Migration Program from 160,000 to 195,000 for this financial year, accelerated visa processing, 180,000 fee free TAFE places, a temporary measure to support pensioners back into the workforce, and training commitments aimed at energy transition workforce planning.

“In addition, the budget supports an increased 967 places for students at the University of Newcastle, aimed specifically at increasing equity and diversity across disciplines including teaching, nursing and engineering.

“This is a pipeline that could grow our desperately needed base of skilled workers and support the future needs of the region.

“Other measures to grow our workforce such as widening eligibility for paid parental leave and more affordable childcare will be hailed by families and businesses alike.”

Mr Rhodes admitted support for small and medium-sized businesses to invest in cost-saving, energy efficient upgrades that will put downward pressure on power bills was greatly appreciated as well.

“Recent years have delivered relentlessly tough conditions for business and we’re not out of the woods yet,” he said.

“An investment in tailored small business mental health and financial counselling programs is an important measure as we continue to confront a challenging outlook for businesses already grappling with labour shortages, higher prices and global disruption.”

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese and Hunter MP Dan Repacholi at Cessnock.

Hunter MP Dan Repacholi said the budget provided targeted cost-of-living relief and invested in the region’s future.

“I was elected [in May] to be a strong voice for the Hunter and the government has certainly heard me,” he stated.

“We’ve delivered on all our election commitments right across the electorate.

“$10.5 million goes towards the Muswellbrook Town Centre Project, $5.5 million for Muswellbrook Olympic Park and $7,000 for the Muswellbrook Preschool Playgroup.

“Singleton Council will receive $3 million for the Alroy Oval Precinct and $250,000 for the Singleton Rugby Club amenities fit out and women’s change rooms.

“Cessnock City Council secured $1 million for the Cessnock Regional Skate Park, $500,000 for the MNX Facility upgrade at Carmichael Park and $373,000 for a lighting upgrade at the Cessnock Goannas’ home ground.

“Mums’ Cottage ($250,000), Urban River projects ($250,000) and the Edgeworth Eagles ($65,000) benefitted in the Lake Macquarie LGA, too.

“There is also money for the North-West Lake Macquarie Catalyst Area.”

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