Ms TIERNEY (Western Victoria) — I rise to make a contribution in respect of regional development in this state. On the eve of the Baillieu government’s second anniversary it is appropriate to examine what is the lifeblood of Victoria, and that is the health of its rural and regional cities and its townships.
In 1999 rural and regional Victoria was on its knees after the Kennett government systematically tore it apart. Over the next 11 years the Brumby and Bracks governments assisted in building strong rural and regional communities, investing in infrastructure and creating jobs. The Baillieu government was left with a strong and effective Regional Development Victoria (RDV) organisation which was responsible for enormous numbers of job creation schemes and infrastructure projects.
In reading the 2011-12 annual report of Regional Development Victoria, coupled with many statistics indicating that the health of regional Victoria is very poor, I am saddened to say that I believe rural and regional Victoria is going backwards under the Baillieu government. The detrimental decisions and the funding cuts that this government has made to myriad areas have cut to the heart of many rural and regional townships. These decisions and funding cuts are making it increasingly difficult for regional cities and townships to remain healthy and vibrant communities.
Page 6 of the report states that RDV’s responsibility is to facilitate economic, infrastructure and community development, and the effectiveness of RDV has been severely diminished under this government because essentially that has not been occurring.
That comment is backed up by the Surf Coast Shire Council, which in a recent submission to the parliamentary inquiry into local economic development initiatives in Victoria made a number of comments that are quite concerning, and some of them were reflected by other local government instrumentalities in my region. I will quote directly from the Surf Coast Shire Council’s submission. It states:
“Rural Development Victoria was an outstanding department that had direct links with local government working closely with local government in generating economic development initiatives. The functions now with another department has severely stifled economic development initiatives as the new department is not equipped with experience or knowledge of local economic development initiatives.
Its lack of capacity has been a major blow to effective generation of local economic development initiatives.
… Rural Development Victoria played a vital role in coordinating various government departments and agencies to be brought to the table in any economic development initiative. This proved to be outstandingly successful and reduced the times for approvals considerably.”
It is clear from the Surf Coast Shire Council’s submission that the Baillieu government’s changes to the structure of RDV have been severely detrimental to the economy of rural and regional Victoria.
Page 38 of the report focuses on the Baillieu government’s push to attract people and skills to rural and regional Victoria through the Good Move campaign. The previous Labor government had much success in this area, relocating the Transport Accident Commission to Geelong and creating further employment in Ballarat with the State Revenue Office relocation, to name just two initiatives. The report focuses on advertising campaigns designed to attract people to rural and regional Victoria as unemployment in rural and regional Victoria goes through the roof.
A big part of attracting people to our regions is providing first-class essential services, building infrastructure, creating employment opportunities and investing in education and training, and this government has been a spectacular failure on all those fronts. In the month of August alone 12 000 jobs were lost in rural and regional Victoria. TAFE funding has been slashed, with huge impacts for regional TAFEs and their communities. Regional departments have been gutted, most notably Department of Primary Industries staff and services.
The impacts of these decisions are being felt right across regional Victoria.
Returning to the Surf Coast Shire Council’s submission to the parliamentary inquiry, it says:
“The reduction in training through TAFE is considered a major blow to small business growth and reduces the opportunity for business to train employees …”
The ACTING PRESIDENT (Mr Finn) — Order! The member’s time has expired.