THE confusion over just what has happened to the federal government's Regional Development Infrastructure Fund will be of significant concern to residents and leaders outside metropolitan areas.
While the government was at pains yesterday to confirm its commitment to rolling out the remaining two rounds of funding, worth about $600 million, there is little doubt the government must, and is, trying to find ways of funding a raft of new promises, including a new dental health program, as well as maintaining a budget surplus.
According to Regional Development Minister Simon Crean, the government is not freezing the fund but doing a "stocktake" of all the programs under the RDAF to better coordinate and prioritise funding.
The government's still tenuous hold on power remains an evolving negotiation with independent members.
Two, Rob Oakeshott and Tony Windsor, represent largely rural areas which depend on significant government investment to build a better future. The regional development fund is seen as key to the government's commitment to these independents and to a raft of other marginal seats outside the metropolitan centres.
More importantly, the investment in regional and rural Australia has come into increased scrutiny with the debate over the break-up of GST funding to the states.
Victoria, through Premier Ted Baillieu, has strongly advocated for a bigger slice of the GST pie to help invest in projects which will benefit our state and, in turn, regional centres.
The regional development fund is being funded by the minerals resource rent tax, another controversial plank of the federal government's policy agenda.
Any suggestion that the fund would be reallocated to other programs would not only draw the ire of regional cities, and citizens, but most likely the mining industry which, in many respects, has been dragged kicking and screaming into the mining tax.
Remember, most of these mines are situated in regional or rural areas.
The problem is that the government has committed so much to so many in its current term.
It has struck agreements with independents, the Greens and others to gain power.
It has promised to keep the budget in the black.
Governing is such circumstances is difficult.
But cutting regional Australians is not something that should be considered, let alone implemented.