REGIONAL Victoria is missing out on substantive policy debate, according to the state’s top farming representative.
With less than three months to go before the November election, Victorian Farmers Federation (VFF) president Peter Tuohey said there had been little in the way of “strong vision” from the state government and opposition, with only a few small policies announced in the past few months.
Mr Tuohey said many of the state’s farmers were keen to see defined agricultural policies from Labor and the Coalition, adding that debate had been relatively silent.
“It’s surprising given that we’re so close to an election, yet there hasn’t been much discussion about agricultural policy,” the VFF president said.
“We all know that there are several regional seats that need to be won in order for either Labor or the Coalition to win government. Voters in those seats would be interested to see where they stand on the big issues.”
Mr Tuohey said he has had ministerial and shadow ministerial meetings in the past few months but little concrete policies had been publicised.
“To their credit, we’ve heard a bit from the Coalition about pest control and work on the railways but almost nothing out of Labor.
“Maybe they’re keeping their powder dry until close to the election.”
The proposed sale of the Port of Melbourne has been endorsed by both the state government and opposition but the direction of the proceeds has split the two sides.
Mr Tuohey said there needed to be bipartisan acknowledgement of the importance of the port to the agricultural sector.
“It’s my understanding that Labor will fund a whole heap of level crossing upgrades in Melbourne if it manages to sell the port,” he said.
“What the Coalition is likely to do with the money is less clear.”
Regional Cities Victoria chairman Michael Neoh said both the state government and opposition had been responsive to the group’s pre-election proposals.
“We have certainly put out a number of policy statements and the response has been positive,” Cr Neoh said.
“Labor has stated in its education platform a commitment to developing the TAFE sector. There’s been discussion from the government and opposition on educational attainment in regional cities and regional areas.”
Cr Neoh said it was pleasing to have a bipartisan approach on the development of regional cities.
“The opposition designated a new shadow regional cities minister, Jacinta Allan, earlier this year and we also have the Premier who has the joint role of regional cities minister,” the Warrnambool mayor said.