On Tuesday 5 May, Victorian treasurer Tim Pallas MP handed down the 2015-2016 State Budget. The budget has been labelled “Victorian Budget 2015-2016: For Families”, and that’s very much a clear focus of it. For students, the key areas of interest are education funding, transport infrastructure and a focus on decreasing unemployment rates.
In terms of education, universities are not specifically targeted. However, a dedication of $300 million to the ‘TAFE Rescue Fund’ will have relevance to the wider tertiary education sector. This money will fund the reopening of campuses across the state and expansion of classes offered to all members of the community. A further $32 million will be dedicated to the ‘Local Learning and Employment Networks’, which aims to provide advice and skills training for those looking to expand their employability. Greater subsides for training courses will hopefully follow.
For transport, the biggest item is the funding for construction of the Melbourne Metro. The government is committing $9-$11 billion to the project with construction forecasted to commence in 2018. This metro line will connect Melbourne University to the city loop via its very own station.
Fifty million is to be committed to the ‘Home Safe’ project, which will provide 24-hour public transport on weekends. This aims to allow a greater range of events to be held in and around major metro areas, as well as ensuring safer travel at night. In addition to this, $115 million is being dedicated to improving and expanding bus services to cut down on commuting times for students and workers. This project will focus predominately on improving the punctuality of services, particularly in the outer suburbs.
In education, $100 million has been offered under the ‘Back to Work Scheme’. The scheme rewards companies who hire unemployed young people, aiming to create more jobs for university students in more sectors. Sixty million is being offered to entrepreneurs with start-up-ideas, which for students graduating this year ought to provide greater business opportunities. The funding of jobs and job training is predicted to reduce unemployment to 5.75 per cent by 2018-2019.
On the whole, the budget is dedicated toward families and workers, but the government is arguing that the side effects for students will mean many benefits to their quality of life. It says increases in hospital funding means better, faster healthcare access. The focus of education funding goes towards primary and high school students and their families, though the Government is arguing that it will help make all of Victoria into “the Education State”.
The opposition is continuing to condemn the withdrawal of finances originally provided for the now defunct East West Link. The opposition says that withdrawal of this funding post release of the budget could impact funding promised to other areas, with the opposition saying the government’s surplus will be impacted by the realities of these funds.
Overall, the Government is selling the budget as a big win for the average Victorian, particularly those working and studying; time will tell if these funds hold true to their promised results.