Decentralisation plan to increase regional growth

Projected Victorian population in 2051: From DELWP Victoria in Future 2015: Population and household projections to 2051

From DELWP Victoria in Future 2015: Population and household projections to 2051

Mr PURCELL (Western Victoria) — The matter I raise tonight is for the Minister for Regional Development. The matter is in regard to urging the minister to create and implement a focused decentralisation plan. Country Victoria is being left behind with the rural divide becoming larger and larger. Recent Australian Bureau of Statistics figures have shown that people in Melbourne are earning on average over $72 000 per annum while in Warrnambool the average is just over $43 000. The Pyrenees, also in my electorate, is the lowest paid Victorian region. There are over 3300 wage earners there making an average of just over $36 000 per annum. You are also more likely to die a lot younger if you live in the country, and you are much less likely to have access to health care services available in metropolitan areas.

On the flip side of this, Melbourne is choking itself with a huge population growth, transport and public transport issues, waiting lists for services and more. It has certainly raised the question of decentralisation and how it can be achieved. The Department of State Development, Decentralisation and Tourism existed until 1981, and it was the last government department which explicitly included a decentralisation portfolio in its title. That was some 35 years ago. Most of the functions of the department were transferred to the Minister for Economic Development in 1981.

While RDV, Regional Development Victoria, does a great job and is certainly the lead agency in developing rural and regional Victoria, this is not decentralisation, and I question whether enough is being done to fix the problem. In New Zealand, for instance, which has a very similar population and industry base to Victoria, the largest city, which is Auckland, has something in the order of 1 million people and certainly not the traffic or other issues that we have in Victoria and in Melbourne. I therefore ask the minister to create and implement a focused decentralisation plan that is designed to increase our regional growth and reduce the population choke of Melbourne.