Public Accounts and Estimates Committee: budget estimates 2015-16 (hearings alert)
Statement on report
I will speak in relation to the Public Accounts and Estimates Committee report, and in doing so I would like to refer to the regional development fund and the Regional Jobs and Infrastructure Fund.
There are a number of reports in relation to regional development that identify the funding sources that are available — for instance, there is the $100 million Back to Work scheme, the $508 million Premier's Jobs and Investment Fund, the $200 million Future Industries Fund and the $500 million Regional Jobs and Infrastructure Fund.
In particular I am interested in the fact that there has recently been a further $200 million allocated for the purposes of agricultural funding through the regional development fund, and this has been brought about by the proposals in relation to the sale of the lease of the port of Melbourne. Regional people were naturally very unhappy at the thought that this project would proceed and that all the proceeds from it would be used for Melbourne projects, in particular the level crossing removal program. After considerable discussion around this and many speeches in this Parliament, the government saw fit to allocate a proportion of the proposed proceeds to regional development and to a number of projects in regional areas. I am hoping there will be much more allocated to that particular fund as time goes on.
At this point in time we have an inquiry being conducted in the upper house in relation to the sale of the port of Melbourne. One of the things that is becoming very apparent through the inquiry's travels through regional Victoria is that people are concerned about the lack of the proposed proceeds being invested in significant regional projects, given that the port was built on the back of exports going through the port of Melbourne.
Everyone wants to see the port of Melbourne operate as a successful ongoing port for exporting produce from Victoria. The concern is that it should be done in a way that will promote our ongoing export and allow us to take advantage of many new trade agreements, including the China free trade agreement and the new Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement that has recently been signed. If these trade agreements are able to ultimately be put into effect, they will make a very big difference to productivity in regional Victoria, which will lead to a lot more export product going to the port of Melbourne. As an entity it is essential to the profitability of regional Victoria.