Using the Victorian Budget to plan your government approach

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Mia’s annual highlights of the Victorian Budget 2019/20, and tips of where the key opportunities lie for businesses large and small.

In late May the Victorian Government released the 2019/20 State Budget. There were no real surprises, as government continues to deliver against its combined agendas of transport infrastructure, new and refurbished schools and hospitals, social housing and other building programs. The Victorian Budget also continues to fund regional development initiatives, expansion of early learning, and ongoing investment of our health economy.

With the start of the new financial year, businesses focusing on government engagement can use the Victorian Budget to identify business opportunities and plan their approach to government.

This post summarises the budget outcomes we believe present the greatest opportunities for industry – excluding the government’s extensive infrastructure and building program. (Although, for a breakdown of funding allocated for education infrastructure, see our post earlier this week.)

But first, as always, we recommend heeding the following tips:

  • Any business serious about winning government work must be familiar with both the Victorian Budget and Federal Budget – as both governments work to fulfil current and past year’s budget commitments.
  • Review each budget initiative critically, not just at the headline level, but also the description provided in the Victorian budget papers – in particular Budget Papers #3 Service Delivery and #4 State Capital Program which describe each budget initiative in quite some detail.
  • Question the related services supporting each asset or service to identify unstated opportunities. Don’t dismiss a high-value project because of your size, or because you may not operate in that space. Large projects may require input from multiple sectors, not just the obvious ones.
  • Review Budget Paper #4 to understand budget items across the government sector, not just the main departments. The Victorian Government alone comprises hundreds of agencies, and their planned expenditure items greater than $1M are all listed in this budget paper. Some are also listed in this blog.

Government efficiency dividends

To support the funding of programs outlined in recent budgets (especially the ongoing and ambitious infrastructure programs), the government has highlighted a range of efficiency measures that will total about $1.8B over four years. As quoted in the budget papers: “The government will deliver a range of further efficiency measures from 2019-20 supported by a comprehensive program of expenditure reviews undertaken across all portfolios.”

While this will almost certainly result in redundancies, I imagine it will also impact the number of contractors and consultants engaged by the government. This is also supported by government’s ongoing program to uplift capability within the public sector, building self-sufficiency.

However, where there is change, there will also be opportunity. For example, well-designed and implemented systems can generate efficiencies. As can process and organisational reviews. These types of programs are already underway across government.

Major budget expenditure groups

Technology

Over the last few Victorian state budgets, technology has been a poor cousin to infrastructure projects, and this is certainly so within the inner budget sector of government, that comprises the eight departments and key government agencies. Despite this, government organisations continue to spend money on technology programs, particularly as technology enables the delivery of a large number of government initiatives.

There is planned and ongoing technology spend in the outer budget sector, including water authorities, ports, and agencies such as the Greater Melbourne Cemeteries Trust.

Selected budgeted technology programs include:

  • Onsite school technical support and digital connectivity to maintain frontline IT service delivery for government schools ($4.1M)
  • Educational software provided to secondary schools, including teacher training to best leverage the educational opportunities provided by the software ($19.2M)
  • Consistent with the requirements of the Child Legislation Amendment (Information Sharing) Act 2018, the government will commence planning and progressively establish the Child Link register. The register will be a digital platform that will enable the systematic sharing of certain factual information to improve child wellbeing and safety outcomes ($18.5M).
  • Expansion of the pilot of active case management at the County Court ($9.8M)

Other programs involving technology include:

  • Enabling the Commission for Children and Young People and the Royal Commission into Mental Health
  • Building capacity in the Office of the Chief Parliamentary Counsel
  • Case management of Aboriginal children in care to Aboriginal Community Controlled Organisations
  • A new road asset management transformation plan for regional and metropolitan roads to achieve a more effective road maintenance program, and
  • Ongoing funding for Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) reform.

Health

While most health-related expenditure is on hospital builds and refurbishments, such as the new Frankston Hospital or expansion of the Royal Children’s Hospital, some of the other health-related initiatives in this Victorian Budget include:

  • Refresh of the technical infrastructure required to support and deliver patient-related services such as diagnostic imaging, patient management systems and electronic medical records. This will improve operational stability of the delivery of information related to patient diagnostics and other clinical services to the point-of-care and enhance cyber security. ($13.4M)
  • Funding will be provided to establish a Royal Commission into Mental Health, which will be a wide-ranging inquiry to look at our current system and what needs to improve to make sure Victorians get the support and treatment they need, when they need it. ($13.6M)
  • Initiatives relating to ambulance services, delivering on a government election commitment. These include ‘backing our paramedics to keep saving lives’ and ‘supporting ambulance services’ ($67M).

Miscellaneous

Other opportunities for industry arise from budget aligned to the delivery of government’s programs centred on mental health, family violence and child protection, fire and emergency management, sustainability and a number of school-based programs. These include:

  • Funding to the State Revenue Office to continue and expand the administration of its compliance programs, including the implementation of new technologies to enhance compliance. ($55.2M)
  • More than $300M to fund the school dental care program. While much of this will be spent on dental vans and professional services, there is also approximately $20M flagged for a patient administration system.
  • Funding to increase the number of sources and improve the quality of Victorian Government information through social media engagement and monitoring. The design of policy and services will also be enhanced through data analytics and user experience design. This will assist in understanding and responding to the needs of citizens through improved policy, programs and services. ($3.6M)
  • Funding for further development of technical specifications for a new Tram Automatic Vehicle Monitoring system to manage and monitor metropolitan tram service operations. The new system will provide real-time information on tram services and improve operational reliability and passenger information. ($3.5M)
  • A raft of security upgrades of government buildings, the Shrine of Remembrance and Victorian Courts, including a security industry licensing review. ($13.3M)
  • An NDIS worker screening unit will be established to check that existing or prospective NDIS workers do not pose a risk to people with disability. Funding will also support the Working with Children Check unit. ($10.8M)
  • A continuation and expansion of the Solar Homes Program. ($130M pa over the next four years)

Victorian Jobs and Investment Fund

As a new State Government initiative, $150M will be provided over two financial years to establish the Victorian Jobs and Investment Fund. This will:

  • Support opportunities of state significance to create jobs and promote economic development
  • Attract strategic and footloose private sector investment to the state
  • Attract innovation and jobs projects that enhance productivity growth and support the transition of the Victorian economy to high-growth sectors, and
  • Support the continued operations of LaunchVic.

$8.8M will also be provided to expand Jobs Victoria, including the Jobs Victoria Employment Network. These programs provide training and job search support to disadvantaged jobseekers to help these cohorts enter into sustained employment. The government will also partner with businesses to help overcome impediments to employment for disadvantaged jobseekers.

Any business wishing to engage with government first needs to do its homework, and the annual Victorian Budget is an important part of this. Also, don’t forget government will continue to work on and deliver programs that were budgeted in the 2018/19 budget. To refresh your memory, see our budget post from last year.

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