25 March 2022
This is no regional deal, it’s just more election promises: Haines
Independent Federal Member for Indi Helen Haines has labelled the Federal Government’s Regional Deal announcement as last minute election promises designed to save face after three years of inaction and delay.
The Federal Government announced on Friday it would fund Regional Deal projects with the Albury and Wodonga councils, moving ahead with neither the Victorian or NSW state governments.
“The Regional Deal was announced by the Federal Government as an election promise ahead of the 2019 election, where they pledged to bring together all levels of Government, reduce regulatory barriers for the cross-border community and to maximise the potential for Albury Wodonga,” Dr Haines said.
“Today we have seen that pledge collapse under the weight of party-political bickering. They have failed to deliver on the aspirations of the Regional Deal. And they have failed to bring everyone to the table and failed to show leadership. Instead in the dying days of this term of Parliament, in the lead up to another election, the Government has rushed out an announcement to save face.
“A transformational project like a Regional Deal was supposed to be above party politics, but the major parties have failed to reach across the divide to get the best deal for people living on the Border. I know people in the North East are smart enough to see this for what it really is – a bid to win votes at the next election.”
Dr Haines said that while any investment in Albury Wodonga was welcome, the failed Regional Deal was a drop in the ocean compared to other deals the Federal Government has struck:
“The Hinkler Regional Deal received $173 million, and the Geelong City Deal received $502 million. When the twin cities are in desperate need of critical infrastructure like a new hospital, to wait three years only for this process to fall so short is a major failure of the Morrison Government.”
“When they announced this in 2019, the Government said the Regional Deal was a ‘unique opportunity to get all three levels of government on the same page’ and that we would be ‘working together towards the common goal of ensuring a region can reach its maximum potential’. They have delivered none of those things. A broken deal. Critical infrastructure projects left unfunded. And infighting across the levels of government. What a crying shame for our region.”
Despite falling short of the stated aim of the Regional Deal, Dr Haines welcomed the funding of projects for which she has fought for, including for Albury Wodonga Health and Wodonga TAFE’s heavy vehicle technology program.
“The projects being funded today are deserving and greatly needed on the border,” Dr Haines said.
“I welcome funding for Albury Wodonga Health and funding for housing and accommodation for workers in the health sector. But this must be only the start of investment in health facilities and workforce on the border,” Dr Haines said.
“We know that $20 million is only a fraction of what is needed when it comes to building a world-class hospital on the border. I will not stop fighting for our community to get the game-changing investment we deserve.”
Dr Haines celebrated the $22 million for Wodonga TAFE’s heavy vehicle technology program, after it had been included in her submission to Treasurer Josh Frydenberg for funding projects for the upcoming budget.
“I visited Wodonga TAFE last year to learn about this impressive project, which will make our region a hub for advanced heavy vehicle technology and provide more than 100 jobs. The project will deepen Wodonga TAFE’s involvement with the Australian Defence Force, increase the options for local training in STEM and open the door for many more opportunities.
“I am pleased the Government has listened to me and to the community about the importance of this project for our region.”
Dr Haines committed to holding the Government to account on $8 million worth of funding committed to three projects, pending the outcomes of the business cases for the projects.
“I won’t let the Federal Government walk away from those commitments,” Dr Haines said.