The Nationals and Labor have gone head-to-head over regional portfolios, with the Victorian Government slamming the opposition’s decision to abolish the regional development portfolio.
Victorian Nationals leader and former Regional Development Shadow Minister Peter Walsh was appointed to lead a new decentralisation portfolio at a cabinet reshuffle last week.
Yet Acting Regional Development Minister Jacinta Allen said the decision to drop the regional development portfolio proved the Nationals were ‘‘as irrelevant as ever’’ within the Matthew Guy-led opposition.
‘‘Abolishing the regional development portfolio is not only insulting, it could see jobs lost and offices shut across the state,’’ she said.
‘‘This is a kick in the guts to the thousands of hard-working families in regional Victoria.’’
The government also labelled the move a ‘‘snub’’ and a ‘‘slap in the face’’ to regional Victoria, yet Mr Walsh has hit back, labelling Ms Allen’s comments ‘‘hysterical garbage’’.
‘‘I think the acting minister has missed the point,’’ Mr Walsh said.
‘‘The regional development portfolio is one very small part of government that effectively administers grants.
‘‘What we are going to achieve with the decentralisation portfolio will still include the regional development role but will go much wider and will go across all government portfolios.
‘‘What we want is a state of cities, not a city state where Melbourne dominates the population and economic growth.’’
Mr Walsh said more than 90 per cent of the people who moved to the state each year moved to Melbourne, and regional Victoria was missing out on the benefits of a growing population.
‘‘Country roads have been left to crumble, and skyrocketing energy costs and other cost of living pressures are making it harder to do business and causing job losses across regional Victoria,’’ he said.
‘‘In the regions you see the numbers in schools declining and communities struggling to maintain football, netball and tennis clubs because there’s not enough young people playing.
‘‘This is an opportunity for some sustained effort across a number of governments to really focus on growing these communities.’’