Melton MP Steve McGhie has just completed his first year in state parliament. He sat down with Ewen McRae to reflect on a busy year, and some big future projects for the region.

What have been the highlights of your first year in office?

Getting to know the local community groups and seeing the work that they do and the volunteering that they do has been a real highlight. Without that there’s many, many people within our community who would really struggle even more so then they are without the work of those groups.
There are many, many achievements that have happened over the year in terms of infrastructure builds, and funding for things like schools, the duplication of the Ballarat Rail Line, the new station at Cobblebank and improvements to other stations. Yes, it’s still disappointing that we haven’t got Melton Station done yet, but I’m hopeful that will be coming, in particular if we get the electrification of the line.

Has there been any word on Melton Station or any progress made?

I’ve raised it several times, and there hasn’t been anything new to say that something will be happening shortly, but my view of it would be that the government has put money up for planning for the electrification to Melton, (and) it’s my understanding that that work will start early in the new year, and I would think that part of that would be about planning for the Melton Railway Station. So that’s what I’m hopeful for. There’s no question that the station itself needs a complete overhaul, and if we’re being realistic, we’ve got all these new facilities along the line and poor old Melton Station stands out. So I’ll continue to pursue the matter until we get it upgraded.

Early in your term we heard the announcement of funding for a business case for the Melton Hospital. Any update on where that is at?

The great thing about that is that the treasurer allocated $2.4 million for the planning of the hospital, and that process is well underway in regards to the consultancy group that’s been put together to commence that planning, and my understanding is that this time next year we will have an outcome. The council has earmarked some land down south of Cobblebank, and I will be putting in a budget bid to try and get some money in the state budget to purchase that land. We’re all very hopeful that things will then start to fall into place. If that does come to fruition next year… then clearly we need to go and seek the money to build the hospital, and those discussions will be had next year.

The Western Highway is always a big talking point for locals. What’s your read on what needs to be done and any update on improvements to that stretch of road?

It’s a constant issue for people, and we’ve certainly been made aware that it’s one of the biggest frustrations for our constituents. It is a federal road, so obviously there is some federal government responsibility there, and obviously there will be a request for some federal government money. I’ve raised it internally, and with VicRoads, so we all know it’s a major issue, and I will be making a budget bid for a business case to be funded in regards to the western highway. We were seeking it for from Bulmans Road through to Caroline Springs, and then of course it would need to take in additional overpasses because of the new estates being built along the highway. So it’s a massive project, and I’m continuing to raise that issue constantly and I’m hopeful that we can get some cooperation between all levels of government on this.

What do you see as the biggest challenge for your electorate?

Population growth probably, and the expansion of the electorate and keeping up with infrastructure. That’s always going to be a battle. So I think with those sorts of things it’s trying to balance it all. This electorate is growing by in excess of 7000 people per annum, which is a massive figure. So we’ve got to stay on top of that and stay a step ahead of that rather than trying to play catch up all the time.

Do you feel like the electorate gets its fair share of funding?

People in Melton would probably complain that they think they’re being left behind, and to some degree I can understand that. I don’t know that they’re being left behind, but I think they’re unaware of some of the funding that comes into this electorate. I can rattle off millions and millions of dollars across a whole range of different items or infrastructure builds, like schools or roads or the hospital, that have come into the area. Melton City Council have been the most successful interface council in all of Victoria in regards to getting money out of the Growing Suburbs Fund, I think collectively they’ve had about $24 million to improve things around Melton. There’s been a lot of money spent in this electorate, but that’s not to say that there doesn’t need to be a lot more, there does. With the population growth and the need to stay on top of providing facilities, we do need more.

What are the big goals for 2020?

I think just continuing on with what we’re doing. Making sure we listen to our constituents and the groups that are raising ideas, concerns, and even criticisms about things, and at least giving them the chance to have their say. I’m happy to meet with anyone in the electorate and try and follow up on whatever their issues are. We may not always get the answers that they want , but we’ll certainly follow up for them