Coalition to focus on decentralisation in state election lead-up

Nationals leader Peter Walsh would be the Minister for Decentralisation under an elected Coalition government.
Nationals leader Peter Walsh would be the Minister for Decentralisation under an elected Coalition government.

State Nationals leader Peter Walsh would head up a new Ministry for Decentralisation under a future Coalition government following a shadow cabinet reshuffle announced by Opposition Leader Matthew Guy.

The weekend announcement forms part of an opposition push to encourage more people to live and work in regional Victoria.

The ministry would replace the current regional development portfolio, but Mr Walsh moved to squash government suggestions the shake-up would result in the abolition of the department, known as Regional Development Victoria.

Member for Bendigo East and acting Regional Development Minister, Jacinta Allan, claimed the Opposition would close the doors of RDV and sack its staff if elected.

But Mr Walsh rubbished that suggestion on Monday, describing the current portfolio as “a very narrow silo within the whole system of government”.

“There will be a department that does decentralisation, which obviously includes the regional development people, but gives them a wider remit across government to drive the things that are needed to get more people living and working in regional Victoria,” he said.

“It’s about public transport, it’s about making sure there are the education and health services for people when they move out.”

Ms Allan said the reshuffle showed the opposition lacked interest in regional Victoria but Mr Walsh said the change would increase focus on the regions if the coalition were to form government.

“You’ll see a greater focus, right across all government departments which will be obviously led by the decentralisation portfolio to improve services and amenity to attract people to live and work out in regional Victoria,” he said.

Mr Guy, who will take on the new shadow ministry for population, said the new line up would “sharpen our focus on the things that matter most to Victorians”.

“The Liberals and Nationals are focused on easing the population squeeze and becoming a state of cities and not a city state,” he said.

“Over the next 14 months, my team with this new allocation of portfolios and responsibilities will build on the policies already released that will give Victorians a real choice at the next election between more of the same or a better future.”

Meanwhile, deputy Liberal leader David Hodgett will take on the roads portfolio while David Davis will assume responsibility for public transport, two issues Mr Guy said would be “central to the vision for Victoria that we take to the election”.

Deputy Nationals leader Steph Ryan also added the water portfolio to her current responsibilities.