Suzanna Sheed seeks answers over regional investment

By Thomas Moir

Suzanna Sheed has quizzed the Victorian premier on how regional Victoria will continue to be funded once a jobs and investment stream expires.

Daniel Andrews pointed to his government’s record of investment in Shepparton, arguing many other initiatives such as rail, education and health had not been funded from a particular program.

Speaking during parliament’s first week back for this year, Ms Sheed said it was her understanding that Victoria’s $500million Regional Jobs and Infrastructure Fund was due to expire on June 30 this year.

‘‘And so I ask: what steps will you take to ensure that regional Victoria continues to be funded from a dedicated funding stream?’’

Ms Sheed highlighted three projects in the Shepparton electorate benefiting from the fund, including the state’s $10million contribution towards the new Shepparton Art Museum.

Ms Sheed also pointed to a Coalition decentralisation and regional development program pledge, arguing it was ‘‘disappointing to see no such commitment come from your government’’.

‘‘I just wonder what plans you have in relation to a dedicated fund.’’

Mr Andrews said cash and initiatives the city had benefited from had not all come from a ‘‘dedicated fund’’ but were decisions based on advocacy.

‘‘If you look at the record of investment in the Shepparton electorate — the hospital, the rail upgrade, four brand-new schools under construction, the biggest regeneration of secondary education in Shepparton and the Goulburn Valley’s history — I would respectfully point out to the Member for Shepparton that I do not think any of those investments were funded from a dedicated fund,’’ he said.

‘‘They were part of proactive decisions that we made based, in the main, on representations from the Member for Shepparton and her passionate and effective advocacy on behalf of her local community.’’

The premier pointed to the state’s coming budget, hinting Ms Sheed would see ‘‘a continued effort in delivering on our commitments and supporting regional Victoria’’.

Mr Andrews said it would be a continuation of investment in education, health and infrastructure.

‘‘So some of our investments may well be attributable to a dedicated fund.

‘‘Others may simply be attributed to the fact that we keep our promises, we live our values and we get things done.’’