A lack of funding to improve court safety in Wednesday’s state budget has been described by a senior Bendigo lawyer as “disappointing”.
Bendigo Law Association president Jennifer Digby said the cash void left lawyers, magistrates and the public vulnerable while attending the court complex.
“My clients don't feel safe being there and I've not felt safe myself at times,” she said.
“It really is the most extraordinary situation here in Bendigo.
“We’re in a terrible state with our facilities.”
Ms Digby said the court environment was especially unfit for intervention order applications, or cases involving family violence. She estimated the Bendigo courts heard between 35 and 40 cases of this type each week.
Member for Bendigo East Jacinta Allan said she had raised the issue of court facilities with Attorney-General Martin Pakula, and acknowledged improving regional law courts was a recommendation from the Royal Commission into Family Violence.
“This is something we need to do more planning about,” she said.
Funding for rail upgrades, cultural events and international investment have been met with praise by Bendigo Business Council chief executive officer Leah Sertori, who has called the state budget “sensational for Bendigo”.
Ms Sertori said the state government’s plan, outlined in parliament yesterday afternoon, would boost business confidence in the city and deliver record infrastructure investment.
“The projects announced in the budget today show the Andrew’s government has listened to business and introduced measures that will deliver growth and new jobs,” the CEO said.
Five of the six priorities proposed by the council were funded while the final recommendation – the lifting of the payroll tax threshold – was partially achieved.
The budget announced an increase in the tax threshold from $550,000 to $650,000, falling short of Ms Sertori’s request it become $850,000.
The new figure does not come into affect until the 2019-20 financial year.
While Ms Sertori said the change was “underwhelming”, she still considered the move a step in the right direction.
But it was the only lowlight for the business leader who otherwise lavished praise on its investment measures and commitment to growing tourism.
The budget also gives scope for Bendigo proprietors to make moves into international markets, and leverage consumer insights from places like to Asia to guide their businesses.