DARREN Chester is ignorant of regional progress, writes SIMON CREAN
With almost 23 years of experience in the federal parliament, I'm used to the National Party taking the regions for granted and failing to develop policies that drive growth and development.
After all, this is the National Party responsible for Regional Partnerships, a funding fiasco better known as Regional Rorts, where money was routinely given to projects without an application and where worthy projects were simply not considered.
But in his opinion piece last week (WT, January 23) Nationals MP Darren Chester outdid himself with shallow rhetoric and negativity.
Too lazy to read up on what the Federal Government and his state National Party colleagues are already doing, he called for a regional Australia white paper.
With the support of Mr Chester's party colleagues in the state governments of Victoria, NSW, Western Australia and Queensland, Labor is driving a new place-based regional development strategy to deliver economic reform in partnership with regional leaders. This strategy was agreed at the inaugural meeting of the Council of Australian Governments Standing Council on Regional Australia in Alice Springs last July.
In fact, it's being put into action in Mr Chester's electorate - the Latrobe Valley - where I'm working with Victorian Deputy Premier Peter Ryan and community leaders to build jobs and skills in the region as it moves towards a clean energy future.
Similar partnership agreements are in place in Tasmania, northern Queensland, Upper Spencer Gulf, the Murray Darling Basin and the Ord River in Western Australia.
I urge Mr Chester to read the COAG communique and bring himself up to speed, instead of calling for a white paper that seeks to identify what our regional development strategy is already delivering.
Mr Chester should come clean on the National Party's federal policy for regional development in Victoria.
Do they have one and don't want to release it? Or is there no policy, and the call for a white paper a desperate scramble for ideas?
- Simon Crean is the Minister for Regional Australia