Our Say: Regional voters will want purse to stay open

Loosen the purse strings for the regions seemed to be a strong message in Tuesday’s 2017-18 NSW Budget.

Certainly, heavy emphasis was given to any funding or initiatives heading to the regions.

Over $130 million will be spent in the Dubbo electorate in the next financial year, according to local MP Troy Grant.

That covers items like $43 million for on-going redevelopment of the Dubbo Hospital, $38 million for roads and $25 million to complete Wellington’s rapid-build prison, $7.5 million for the Taronga Western Plains Zoo and $3.5 million to reduce the maintenance backlog at public schools.

Some of those funds had to be handed out … the projects were on-going and could not be halted.

The new bridge to span the Macquarie River at Dubbo was not included … that is a project for the next year.

So, there were few suprises.

But, Dubbo and the regions will share in a wide range of state-wide programs – some of them new – which featured in the Budget.

Treasurer Dominic Perrottet handed down a plan, which included a surplus from 2016-17 and almost $73 billion for infrastructure projects over the next four years.

As Budgets go it was predictable, safe and had an almost “don’t frighten the horses” approach. It will not outrage or offend.

Certainly not with an election looming early in 2019 and the still massive hangover from the Coalition’s loss of the safe Nationals seat in Orange late last year.

Many in the regions have not been happy with the government. And Government Ministers have frequently criss-crossed the Central West with “good news” for the people. 

That may go part of the way to explaining the shift in focus from big spending on metropolitan and transport infrastructure to dealing with grassroots items closer to voter-land such as hospitals and building and upgrading schools.

Mr Grant said there had been a concerted effort by the government to increase infrastructure spending in rural and regional NSW and Dubbo would reap the benefits.

He also says the regions get a “locked in 30 per cent of normal spending” but are getting an extra $1.3 billion for projects.

The government is clearly trying to re-engage with communities where its support has weakened.

The voters will welcome the spending in their areas. They will expect more next year.