Almost $2 billion will be spent tackling Victoria’s family violence scourge but big public service savings will have to be found to pay for it.
The funding to implement all 227 recommendations of the Royal Commission into Family Violence is at the heart of Treasurer Tim Pallas’ third budget released on Tuesday.
The record $1.9 billion over four years will help create 17 support and safety hubs across the state, five specialist family violence courts and a family violence prevention agency.
“It is more money directed in this budget to family violence than all the budgets of all the states and territories and Commonwealth combined,” Mr Pallas told reporters.
“There is more money directed to family violence in this budget, than the state of Victoria has ever committed to family violence in all preceding budgets combined.”
But the crusade comes at the cost of the public sector, which will have to find $1.3 billion in savings and redirect efforts to pay for the measures, Mr Pallas says.
Despite the efficiency measures, the public service will still grow overall.
About 450 new child protection workers will be hired as part of the fight on top of recruitment drives for police, paramedics and other sectors.
Employee expenses cost $22 billion in the 2016/17 financial year and will grow $1 billion a year for the next two financial years.
The budget is titled “Getting on with the job” and continues the government’s infrastructure, education and health investment agenda.
There’s $1.3 billion going to schools, including $685 million to build new ones and upgrade others.
An extra $2.9 billion will also be spent on hospital upgrades – including planning for a new Footscray Hospital – improved ambulance services, a mental health overhaul and tackling family violence.
And billions continues to be spent on rail and roads.
Getting the job done comes at a cost. While a $1.2 billion surplus is forecast for 2017/18, with another $7 billion in the forward estimates, net debt has gone up too.
Debt is jumping from $18.1 billion in the 2016/17 financial year to $23.8 billion for 2017/18, and will continue to grow according to the forward estimates to almost $29 billion by 2021.
But Mr Pallas says state revenue will remain healthy and above debt, with the budget showing $63.4 billion in revenue in 2017/18.
He said the government would continue to look at selling off public assets after the successful $9.7 billion port lease sale.
The social justice sector has applauded the family violence overhaul and business is excited by payroll tax reforms which chop the rate for regional business and lift the threshold for small operations.
But the government was slammed for not investing enough in mental health, not improving peak-hour public transport in Melbourne and relying heavily on property taxation.
Public safety measures announced before the budget were reaffirmed on Tuesday and opposition leader Matthew Guy says those programs were not enough.
He says closed police stations should be re-opened, bail reform is being ignored and it was a “budget of missed opportunity to make our state safer.”
National domestic violence helpline: 1800 737 732 or 1800RESPECT. In an emergency call triple-zero.
This piece was originally published on ‘Nine News’ May 2, 2017.