Opposition promises decentralisation policy

Western Victoria MP Josh Morris.
Western Victoria MP Josh Morris.

The state opposition has reaffirmed its commitment to Ballarat and promised a swag of new policies for decentralisation by the year’s end.

The state Liberals’ decentralisation taskforce released an interim report on its population policy on Monday.

The relocation of VicRoads remains a central plank of its pitch to Ballarat, along with a sub-hour train ride from Ballarat to Melbourne.

Statewide proposals include geographically targeted visas and the removal of land tax on all residential and commercial properties outside of Greater Melbourne. 

“We have heard overwhelming feedback, not just in Ballarat but in Geelong and other centres of Victoria, that in order to decentralise our population, one way to do it is improve the reliability and speed of rail services,” population taskforce chair and Kew MP Tim Smith said. 

Asked whether the opposition would lobby its federal counterparts for regional rail funding, Mr Smith said the report was only a “first step” to policy. 

“Now is not the time to be discussing what our policy responses to this report will be. This is a synthesis of everything that we’ve heard around Victoria,” he said.

“It’s very rare for oppositions to have documents of this breadth and size this early on in a parliamentary term.”

The report outlines a “pull not push” policy focused on selling the benefits of regional living to city dwellers.

Mr Smith said the opposition supported the state government’s housing affordability package for first home buyers. 

“I don’t think first home buyers of Melbourne have enough understanding of the huge opportunities, particularly in a place like Ballarat.”

Western Victoria MP Josh Morris maintained the Liberals’ job boost would do more for Ballarat than the government’s promised 600 public service jobs. The former Napthine government pre-election promise has been reaffirmed by opposition leader Matthew Guy.

Mr Morris said the Andrews government’s plan to bring public sector jobs from multiple departments was “hotch potch”.

“What we know is Melbourne is growing at an unsustainable rate and regional Victoria has the capacity to fuel that growth that we’re seeing,” he said.

Both government and opposition have sort to position themselves as champions of decentralisation. 

The state government last year launched a series of eight regional assemblies which presented its findings to cabinet late last year. 

The Central Highlands Regional Assembly, held in November last year, saw a sub-hour train ride and train station at Eureka Stadium emerge as top priorities for the region. 

POPULATION TASKFORCE:

  • A sub-hour train ride from Ballarat to Melbourne
  • Financial incentives, including the removal of land taxes on all residential and commercial properties outside of Greater Melbourne
  • VicRoads relocated to Ballarat
  • A dedicated minister for decentralisation
  • Geographically targeted visas to attract migrants