GIVING regional businesses a better chance at major projects and finding a government department to fill the proposed Bendigo Gov Hub were top of the agenda at a business lunch in Bendigo on Thursday.
Victorian Nationals leader Peter Walsh answered questions from local business leaders, with many wanting greater support for apprentices and for training to focus on filling skill shortages, as well as improved procurement rules for regional businesses.
Under current laws, businesses are unable to bid for projects greater than the turnover of their business.
Mr Walsh said making changes to procurement was “one of the things we’re looking at”.
“That means that a major Melbourne builder gets the project, but then they come and use local subbies but they take the cream out of the work,” he said.
“A local business, with a turnover of $10 million, and they’re capped at $10 million for a build, they can build three $10 millions but they can’t bid for on a $30 million project.
“One of the things we’re looking at is how you can actually change that government procurement, government build, so regional builders and regional businesses can get a greater opportunity to tender for projects.”
Bendigo business leaders were also keen to hear more about the renewed push to decentralise government agencies, which could result in more public sector jobs sent to cities like Bendigo.
Mr Walsh said having a body like Regional Development Victoria based in the regions could improve the way it functions.
“Actually having decision makers out in the regions, I think, would be better for the regions,” he said.
“Why would you have Regional Development in 121 Exhibition Street?
“You’ve seen the TAC and WorkCover go to Geelong, we’ve committed to VicRoads going to Ballarat, and we’ll have more to say about departments or parts of departments that will go to particular places in regional Victoria.”
The luncheon was hosted by the Victorian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, which earlier this year released its priorities list for regional Victoria.
They include increasing the payroll tax threshold to $850,000, a 25 per cent stamp duty discount for regional commercial and industrial properties and encourage TAFE to work more closely with local industries.
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