Bell lambasts government for 'worst state budget'

Friday June 25, 2021

By Raquel Mastillo


INDEPENDENT MP Troy Bell has slammed the State Government for failing to deliver for the Limestone Coat in the 2021-22 State Budget, labelling it as the "worst budget for our region that I've seen in seven years".

Despite a number of big ticket health and infrastructure items touted for Adelaide in the recently released document, no new funds have been allocated for any projects within the Mount Gambier and MacKillop electorates.

The Member for Mount Gambier said the final budget before the 2022 polls was a "Labor-like budget" which provided nothing for critical infrastructure in the Limestone Coast.

"This is a city-centric budget which we see billions of dollars being spent in Adelaide's central business district and regions within a one hour radius of the CBD and very little for the Limestone Coast," he said.

"The two announcements for my seat are actually renouncements which were put out in March and May this year.

"This budget does nothing for critical infrastructure in the Limestone Coast, there is no commitment to roads, power, sewerage, fibre optic to attract businesses to our region."

Mr Bell said he was disappointed the government's $165.5m spend on mental health - which includes the construction of a new 16-bed Crisis Stabilisation Centre in the Adelaide - did not include any targeted funding for the Limestone Coast.

He said two drug and alcohol counsellors - including a youth-specific counsellor - was required for the city of Mount Gambier to complement existing services, as well as two dedicated detox beds located within the Mount Gambier Hospital to provide medical supervision for alcohol detoxification.

"I would have liked to have seen projects with a real focus on mental health with clear projects, targets and spend for our region," Mr Bell said. Mr Bell said funding to position Mount Gambier and the broader region as a desirable place to live and work was also notably absent from the budget, saying a business attraction and retention strategy was required. He also said funding to support the region's agricultural and forestry sector was missing, with budget papers showing a $2m decrease to forestry next financial year. "We have a skilled workforce shortage and there needs to be a clear focus on attracting a skilled workforce," Mr Bell said.

"There's no industry-specific funding for forestry or anything about water initiatives for the retention of water to grow all the sectors that use that resource and would benefit their growth. "Having a real target on specific industries and what it would take to grow those industries is important because that grows the revenue and the jobs for State Government.

"There's plenty of initiatives the government is aware of - at the moment we have got a shortage of structural timber - and there could have been a targeted fund for those mills that can increase their capacity and increase the structural timber output that would service our nation going forward."