On its own, the release this week of encouraging economic data for Warrnambool is reason for positivity and confidence.
The numbers are compelling and the envy of regional centres across the country. We have the lowest unemployment rate (4.1 per cent) of any regional city in Victoria. More jobs are being created. Visitor data is booming with nearly 1.4 million visitor nights in 2017. Nearly one person per day relocated to the city last year. Building approvals are up and business confidence is rising.
More broadly, The Standard has reported multiple good news stories on economic indicators, not least of which data that shows the south-west is the biggest earning farming area in Victoria, with a farm gate value of close to $2.2 billion.
So how then is it that Warrnambool and the region’s heavy economic lifting has not attracted more investment in the recent record spending federal and state budgets? How is it that vital funding was not allocated to projects of the utmost importance including (but not limited to) the hospital redevelopment, road improvements, the Shipwreck Coast Masterplan and sporting infrastructure such as Reid Oval?
Surely it is not as if the region is lacking political “muscle”?
The Federal Member for Wannon Dan Tehan is a Cabinet Minister and therefore part of and party to the Liberal Federal Government’s internal budget decision-making process. Western District MP James Purcell is perceived to be influential in the Labor State Government funding deliberations in ways that the Liberal Member for South-West Coast Roma Britnell cannot.
Both the federal and state governments have sought to deflect blame for failing to fund the hospital redevelopment and the Shipwreck Coast Masterplan by pointing to delays in finalising submissions that “missed” their budget process timelines.
Both processes are decided by Ministers bringing funding bids to the Cabinet table, these bids either do or do not get up depending on a number of factors, but they are all built around spreadsheets that detail the political benefit of various bids per electorate, particularly marginal electorates.
Neither our federal or state electorates are marginal. They are not the squeaky wheels that get the political “oil”.
Which is why there is only one saying about politics that really matters: when it comes to voting, you get exactly what you pay for.