MPs differ on Ballarat's funding squeeze

Ballarat’s sitting state members have each taken a different slant on Ballarat’s funding squeeze, in the lead-up to this year’s Victorian election.

A report by The Courier on Saturday showed Ballarat had missed out on state and federal government funding compared with other regional cities, with Geelong gaining $1.1 billion and Bendigo $806 million during the past four years. Ballarat had received just $420 million over the same period. 

The two ALP state sitting members agreed the city was worse off since the Coalition took office, while Liberal Member for Western Victoria Simon Ramsay said the state government had delivered or would deliver on all its election commitments before the end of the term.

However, Geoff Howard, who is Labor’s Member for Ballarat East but will contest the new seat of Buninyong at this year’s state election following the redrawing of state boundaries, said the issue wasn’t as simple as blaming state and federal governments. 

“I think it is a fair point that Ballarat has missed out compared with Geelong and Bendigo. It wasn’t the case under the Bracks and Brumby state governments but under this government it has fallen behind,” Mr Howard said.

“But there is also a need for the City of Ballarat to have projects which are ready to go. Projects like the Ballarat West Employment Zone have stalled and they need to be kickstarted. 

“Revitalisation of the city centre has stalled because a key component is the Civic Hall debate and that has dragged on.” 

Mr Ramsay said direct comparisons between Geelong, Ballarat and Bendigo were misleading because the circumstances facing each was different.

He said investment in Geelong was high because of recent events impacting the city. 

“Geelong certainly has had quite a lot of money invested because of the loss of manufacturing, while Bendigo has a new hospital. Take those out and you have to say Ballarat has done reasonably favourably,” Mr Ramsay said. Ballarat West Member Ms Knight will contest the seat of Wendouree at the election. She said Ballarat had got the cold shoulder from the state government on funding. 

“In October 2012, I undertook an analysis of the Regional Growth Fund which showed a clear bias toward National Party seats,” she said. 

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