Ryan defends natural gas roll-out process as Terang caught in crossfire

THE  opposition has accused the state government of “burying” vital information about the roll out of natural gas to regional towns, including Terang.

But rural and regional development minister Peter Ryan said Labor had embarked on another “pathetic headline-hunting stunt” which was full of errors. 

Opposition spokeswoman for regional and rural development Jacinta Allan has threatened legal action unless documents she claimed to be “secret” and “reveal the truth about the troubled program” were released.

Before the 2010 state election the Coalition promised to connect 15 regional towns, including Terang. So far seven of the original towns have been connected and improvements have been made to gas supply in the Mildura region. 

Ms Allan said Labor had lodged papers with the Victorian Civil Administrative Tribunal (VCAT) after the state government failed to respond to a previous Freedom of Information (FOI) request before the deadline. 

“Thousands of people across regional Victoria are being left out in the cold by the Napthine government and they deserve to know why,” she said.  “While many towns are still without natural gas connections, Peter Ryan is burying vital information about the future for the troubled program. 

“If Peter Ryan doesn’t immediately release the secret documents, the communities across regional Victoria should wonder what he is hiding.” 

But a spokesman from Mr Ryan’s office said Ms Allan had made a serious error in another headline-hunting media release.  He said the claim Mr Ryan was facing legal action was wrong. 

“In reality, Ms Allan has filed an application in VCAT over a FOI request to the department of state development and business innovation, which has run overtime,” the spokesman said.  “The minister has nothing to do with FOI applications or the headline-hunting VCAT application, as Ms Allan should know from her time as a minster. 

“The department has kept Ms Allan’s office advised of the progress of the FOI application and this week told her the release of the documents was imminent.” 

Last week the state government announced the tender process to connect the remaining towns was down to the final two applications.  Member for Polwarth Terry Mulder said in Terang last week he was keen to see the town connected to natural gas as soon as possible. 

“It’s the only one of my election commitments that hasn’t been ticked off yet,” he said. 

 “I’ve been having regular conversations with Minister Ryan and he tells me... an announcement is expected soon.” 

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