THE MAJOR parties have got themselves into a war over regional Australia, with each claiming the better policies for helping local communities.
The Coalition has unveiled its $1 billion National Stronger Regions Fund, which would go towards infrastructure in regions with high unemployment.
But Labor has said the Coalition would cut local projects that have been supported under Labor’s Regional Development Australia Fund.
Ballarat MP and Minister for Regional Australia Catherine King said government funding for the Daylesford Victoria Park multi-purpose centre and Bacchus Marsh swimming pool was at risk.
Ms King said the opposition was showing it had “no understanding” of how the regional Australia portfolio worked.
She said there were 750 projects worth $2 billion nationally that could go if the Coalition scrapped projects not contracted.
“Under Mr Abbott and Mr Truss, every last cent of this funding will be on the chopping block,” she said.
When asked recently what the Coalition’s policy would mean for projects already funded, Nationals leader Warren Truss said only signed contracts would be honoured.
He said the program was long overdue recognition that regions were important for a strong country.
Councils and local community groups will be able to apply for grants between $20,000 and $10 million, with local government contributing 50 per cent.
The plan would see $200 million a year over five years for projects in regional communities, with disadvantaged areas given highest priority.
Mr Truss said some communities across the country are going backwards “at a rate of knots”.
“More has to be done for those communities,” he said.