Hunter hopes from budget

IT wouldn’t take much for the Gillard government to make the Hunter Region happy in tonight’s budget.

For a fraction of the dollars allocated to marginal seats and to the electorates of influential independents like Rob Oakeshott and Tony Windsor, the government could make Hunter voters feel that sticking with Labor made some kind of sense.

If equity played a role in the allocation of funding then the 2012 budget papers would disclose a fair share of the mining boom money promised by the government to Australia’s resource regions flowing to the Hunter. After all, NSW produces 40 per cent of the nation’s coal, and the Hunter produces most of that volume.

The government wouldn’t have far to look for long-overdue tasks in the region.

Newcastle’s federal court facilities – acknowledged as among the nation’s worst – have languished for years ‘‘at the top of the priority list’’, never managing to get the funds they need because politics always finds a squeakier wheel to grease.

Scone – cut in half by coal trains – needs a traffic solution and not just another ‘‘planning allocation’’ fob-off.

The Glendale interchange is a piece of critical regional infrastructure that the state government seems unlikely to ever address without federal backing.

Williamtown air base needs a sewerage upgrade now, and the Hunter can’t afford to have that job stymied by the deferral of the purchase of new fighter planes.

Newcastle University’s proposed shift to the city needs federal money to become more than a dream and politicking between state and federal politicians can’t be an excuse to slow down the upgrade of the Pacific Highway.

Regional wish-lists aside, prime minister Gillard and treasurer Swan see tonight’s budget as a vital chance to preserve some shreds of Labor credibility. In the past week the government has frantically flagged some of the spending cuts and project deferrals by which it plans to announce a projected surplus for the coming financial year.

In the past few days it has thrown sweeteners to families and businesses. Perhaps designed to deflect criticism of its carbon tax, these measures have included cash payments for school pupils and taxation changes for some businesses – both carefully designed to have minimal impact on the bottom line in 2012-2013.

Indeed, for Labor this budget is less about equity than pure electoral survival.

Cessnock shock

POLICE should leave no stone unturned in their hunt for those responsible for cowardly acts of intimidation against some Cessnock councillors, including mayor Alison Davey.

The council has recently been riven by conflict involving elected councillors and staff, with bitterly divided factions jostling in interlocking disputes whose details remain unclear and confusing to outsiders.

Identifying whoever is behind the latest outrages is important, not merely to prevent further attacks by the perpetrator, but in the hope that appropriate punishment will discourage others from performing similar gutless acts.

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