ADJOURNMENT DEBATE ON REGIONAL DEVELOPMENT

My adjournment matter is for the Minister for Regional Development, and it concerns the government’s division of this state into essentially two Victorias. This year’s state budget is entitled 'Delivering for all Victorians’.

However, over the past four and a half years the government has seemingly forgotten a significant sector of the state.

There has been no shortage of funding, policies or attention paid to certain areas of our state—metropolitan Melbourne and the major regional cities.

The other half—the smaller, more rural towns and country communities that already sit disadvantaged infrastructure-wise and economically—are neglected due to their apparent government electoral insignificance.

There is perhaps no better demonstration of this attitude than the $15 billion being spent to remove the 75 level crossings in Melbourne compared with just $425 million committed over the next four years for regional road maintenance.

Rural Victorians may ask the minister and the government where this $15 billion has come from to fund the removal of level crossings at $200 million each.

Did the funds come from the tax revenue from the $15 billion agricultural industry that rural Victoria contributes each year or the $10 billion in revenue generated from the sale of the 50-year lease of the port of Melbourne, which was built on the back of rural exports?

Rural Victorians have also been left behind in education, with year 9 regional students lagging an average of 12 months behind their city peers in mathematics and 10 months behind in reading.

Whether in education, in infrastructure or in regard to the future of our fire services, this government continues to ignore the interests of rural Victoria. As a consequence of this neglect, rural communities continue to decline in population while Melbourne grows.

This year’s regional population growth report from the ABS reveals that 12 rural municipalities have suffered a decline in population. The Labor government’s city-centrism has strangled growth in rural Victoria.

Regional development does not mean just Geelong, Ballarat and Bendigo development only.

It must entail ensuring that our rural communities are provided with the necessary infrastructure to nullify their geographical disadvantage and to prosper the agricultural and agribusiness industries.

The action I seek from the minister is to outline how the Andrews Labor government intends to bridge the clear divide between rural Victoria and the state’s big city spheres.

13 August 2019