Walsh wants regional guarantees

By Kyabram Free Press

MEMBER for Murray Plains Peter Walsh has slammed the Victorian Government for refusing to guarantee the future of the regional development fund.

Established by the previous Liberal Nationals government, he said the fund had invested $1 billion over eight years into regional Victorian communities.

Funding for the program expires June 30 this year, but Mr Walsh said Regional Development Minister Jaclyn Symes ‘‘clammed up’’ about the program’s future when questioned by The Nationals in Parliament this week.

“The Nationals set up the Regional Growth Fund as a priority program when we were in government and it has gone on to support local jobs, businesses, councils, community improvements and more,” Mr Walsh said.

“Before the 2018 election, The Nationals pledged a fresh $1 billion injection for the program if we were elected to government, but Labor failed to commit.

“Minister Jaclyn Symes had the chance to allay fears but instead she’s set alarm bells ringing across rural and regional communities with her weasel words.’’

Ms Symes said her party wouldn’t take lectures from the opposition.

‘‘The last Liberal Nationals government visited the greatest con job regional Victoria had ever seen – claiming to have a $1 billion fund that barely ever held half that amount,’’ she said.

‘‘In contrast, the Victorian Labor Government has more than doubled investment in regional Victoria. We are committed to delivering for all Victorians and will have more to say on the next state budget soon.

‘‘All talk, no action.

‘‘There’s a good slogan for the Nats.

‘‘Labor nearly more than doubled investment in regional Vic, compared to the so called ‘voice of the bush’ party.

‘‘In our first four budgets, we allocated $13.6 billion towards regional Victoria compared to just $7.2 billion under the former Coalition Government.’’

The fund was established as the Regional Growth Fund by the Liberal Nationals Government in 2011 and was set up to invest $1 billion into regional Victoria over eight years.

Labor renamed it the Regional Jobs and Infrastructure Fund after 2015 and continued to invest the program’s funds into projects that supported rural and regional economies.

Mr Walsh said The Nationals will keep the pressure on the Victorian Government to continue the program.