May 6, 2015  |  Second reading

Regional Development Victoria Amendment (Jobs and Infrastructure) Bill 2015

Mr HOWARD (Buninyong) — As the member for Buninyong, a significant part of regional Victoria, I am very pleased to speak on the Regional Development Victoria Amendment (Jobs and Infrastructure) Bill 2015, which, as we have heard from previous speakers, sees the establishment of the $500 million Regional Jobs and Infrastructure Fund as promised by the Andrews Labor team ahead of the election. Again, this is an example of something the government has moved on quickly to bring it to fruition. The bill builds on legislation that the former Labor government introduced in the Regional Development Victoria Act 2002. When the Bracks Labor government took office in 1999, it clearly indicated that regional Victoria had missed out seriously under the former Kennett Liberal government. The people of my electorate did not take much convincing, as others did across regional Victoria, to know that Labor was the party that was going to represent them. In being elected in 1999 to the state’s most marginal seat at the time, previously held by the Liberal Party, and then at the four elections since then, voters in my electorate, which has changed slightly over that time, have continued to elect a Labor MP. While I would love to claim that it was because they were represented by a great local member, that was only a part of the reason. Clearly people saw that under Labor, across not only Ballarat but also other rural towns in my electorate, they were being well represented and well supported by a Labor government, both with the establishment of the Regional Infrastructure Development Fund soon after the election of the Bracks Labor government, and also with so many other projects that demonstrated that Labor was serious about supporting the regions and the rural areas of Victoria.

We do not need to think about it much before we think of the regional fast rail project, which saw us turn the tide on closing regional railway lines, as had been the case previously under the Liberal-Nationals government. We were also rebuilding our regional railway lines to put quality railway stock such as the V/Locity trains on those services, upgrading the rail services so that they were a pleasure to travel on and we have seen patronage increasing. It was Labor that reopened the lines to Maryborough and Ararat in my region and people in those areas can now travel by train between their home towns and Melbourne. That includes the country towns on the way, like Ballan in my electorate. That is one example, but we saw so many other examples where schools and hospitals in our regions got great support. That is why I continue to be here and speak to members and it is why the people of my electorate see that and know that Labor continues to support them.

I am particularly pleased to speak on a bill which re-establishes our support for regional and rural Victoria with the establishment, as I said, of this $500 million fund. We know it is going to be delivered through Regional Development Victoria as the lead agency, and across our region there will be so many projects funded out of the $250 million Regional Infrastructure Development Fund, as will be established under this umbrella; the $200 million Regional Jobs Fund; and the $50 million Stronger Regional Communities plan. Those are all funding pools that will see regional Victoria benefit. Within the bill we see that this funding is going to not only provide better infrastructure, facilities and services to people in our regions, but also it is clearly going to strengthen the economic opportunities, social opportunities and even environmental opportunities in those areas. The key reason we want to do that is that we want to see jobs created in our regions, not only in the Melbourne metropolitan area. We want to see the jobs flowing right out into our regions, improving opportunities, improving quality of life for the people of our regions and supporting locally instigated projects and making sure that we can ensure that our local regional and rural communities feel supported in their aspirations for development in the future.

I note in terms of Regional Development Victoria that we are reviewing the way it works with the community and we have appointed a highly appropriate person to lead that review in the person of former Premier John Brumby, who is now travelling around Victoria, talking with a lot of rural communities and people who interact with Regional Development Victoria to see how it is operating at the moment and to make recommendations as to how it can better operate to service those communities. That is also a great initiative of our government.

As the member for Buninyong I want to talk about some of the projects that will be coming forward through this fund to support the communities in my area. I have to mention the $31.5 million redevelopment of the Eureka Stadium sporting precinct in Ballarat. It was great to see Peter Eddy from the Ballarat Basketball Association in today’s Ballarat Courier expressing his excitement over the budget announcement yesterday, because as a result of that announcement our basketball facilities in the Eureka precinct area will be significantly upgraded. We know that excitement is not just about the main Eureka Stadium, which in future will be used for a broad range of activities and hopefully attract AFL boutique games and other activities; it is about having a better facility for the people of Ballarat, which means we will be able to attract more events and more people. That will bring economic opportunities which will flow on to a whole range of businesses and increase employment opportunities in Ballarat.

Through the Regional Infrastructure Development Fund we will see $25 million going to the Ballarat station precinct redevelopment. This is another exciting project that the government, recognising the need for an upgrade of the precinct around the Ballarat station, has clearly got behind. We are putting in $25 million to work with the private sector to further enhance that region around the station, building new economic opportunities and ensuring that there is a great flow of people wanting to come to that precinct to seek accommodation and other commercial opportunities. It will really build opportunities there.

In our region there is also $19 million going toward the Grampians Peaks Trail. Sovereign Hill, which is a leading tourist attraction in Ballarat and a living museum which attracts so many people into our area, will gain $8 million to support the development of an upgrade to its sound and light show, Blood on the Southern Cross, which tells the story of the Eureka rebellion.

So many projects across regional Victoria will be supported through this fund. The people of Victoria will clearly see over the next four years that not only is the Andrews Labor government committed to delivering on its promises, but it is also committed to continuing to work with our regional communities to deliver on their aspirations for great projects that will build opportunities for those communities, build jobs for people in regional Victoria, ensure that our communities across the state have a great future and ensure that people know that Labor is the party that continues to support regional and rural communities.

The other parties can crow, but people have seen that the coalition did not deliver in office — and that is why we are on this side of the house. That is why at the last election Victorians chose to elect the Andrews Labor government. I am sure they will be very pleased with the outcome and will see a better result in 2015 because of Labor’s commitments.