THE state election might be exactly seven months away, but it’s clear Ballarat is going to be a key battleground come November 24.
Just days after a State Government announcement of nearly $30 million for Ballarat schools, the entire State Liberal cabinet has rolled into town.
And there was only one policy on the lips of Opposition Leader Matthew Guy, decentralisation.
“We want to decentralise Victoria’s population and economic growth,” Mr Guy said. “Rather than have a government that focuses everything on Melbourne, we want to be a government for all of Victoria.
“It is so important we grow all of our state, our regional cities and country towns.”
In a wide ranging interview, Mr Guy said heavy rail to regional Victoria would be a feature of the Liberal and National campaign.
He said it would be his government’s intent that new trains would be built in Victoria.
Mr Guy also said it remained Liberal and National policy to “relocate VicRoads to Ballarat as a first priority” if elected and that funding for the second stage of the Link Road would be looked at as would investment in the Ballarat West Employment Zone (BWEZ).
“When you’ve got your population growing westward as Ballarat is, it’s so important to provide the infrastructure, if you want to decentralise the economy you have to provide that investment to get the projects up and going,” he said.
He also affirmed his desire for a future airport rail link to include regional communities.
“Now we’ve got the business case underway, it’s important we link the airport to country commuters, not just Melbourne commuters,” he said.
Chair of the Committee For Ballarat Janet Dore said she was encouraged by both parties commitments so far and that seeing politicians here meant they did care.
“We welcome both sides of government and while they don’t have to come baring gifts all the time, it’s important they understand the issues and the realities of life here in Ballarat,” she said.
“I am encouraged by the Liberal decentralisation policy as I am by the government’s regional development policy.
“It’s not quite bi-partisan support, but it is a recognition that Ballarat has so much to offer.
“We’ve definitely got the complete package.”