The Nationals leader and Member for Murray Plains, Peter Walsh, says northern Victoria’s dominance of Australian agricultural production – highlighted last week by the Australian Bureau of Statistics – might be about to hit the wall of Andrews Labor government indifference.
According to the latest ABS data, Mr Walsh says Campaspe Shire and Swan Hill Rural City Council are both in Victoria’s top five agricultural producers.
With Mildura, the next local government area downstream on the Murray, not just Victoria’s leading producer at $1.13 billion – it is the highest ranked council in Australia.
He says these areas, with Moira and Shepparton the neighbouring council areas to the immediate east of Campaspe, completing five of the state’s top 10.
“Campaspe, with $778.3 million and Swan Hill with $760.1 million are punching well above their weight, and combined with Moira and Shepparton, account for adding more than $3 billion to the state’s bottom line,” Mr Walsh says.
“That they are able to achieve this on a rapidly deteriorating road network and a rail system the Andrews Labor government has bungled from go to whoa despite its big talking seven years ago, when Andrews and Jacinta Allan swore they would fix the Murray Basin rail network after admitting it was costing farmers time and money – and threatening their future – nothing has been completed,” he says.
“As I revealed last week, the Victorian Auditor-General’s report from September 2021 spells it out in black and white – the rail project is now five years overdue and $367.9 million over budget.
“It’s such a familiar story – the Andrews Labor government not just blowing another big ticket budget; but blowing up the whole project.
“If the Murray Basin rail is not completed – in full and to its original scope – it will limit agriculture’s potential to open our region to domestic markets and new and emerging markets around the world”.
He says many producers and transporters say Labor’s botched delivery of Basin Rail has left the community worse off than before the project started.
“They are telling me shoddy workmanship has slowed speed limits to 25km/h and lowered the axle loading, leaving the line less efficient and taking five hours longer to get to port than before the project started.
“And to cap it all off, this year’s May State Budget labelled the estimated completion date as “TBC”, noting “the completion date will be disclosed following completion of the procurement processes”.
Mr Walsh said he was also appalled by the “pathetically intimidated responses” from Mildura’s independent Ali Cupper.
He has accused her of “rolling over” to appease the Andrews government by constantly claiming the Murray Basin project is complete – even though “the government’s own budget admits that is a lie”.
“If that’s the best Ms Cupper can offer as the representative of this agriculturally dominant seat, it is more than high time the people of Mildura started looking around for a fair dinkum member of Parliament and put The Nationals and its candidate Jade Benham number one come November’s election,” Mr Walsh added.
“A Liberals Nationals government in November is the only way regional Victoria will get its fair share of the budget pie to ensure its multi-billion-dollar potential can grow, not go backwards because the Premier of Melbourne doesn’t give a damn.
“A Liberal Nationals government in November will introduce Australia’s first Regional Infrastructure Guarantee, which will see 25 per cent of new government infrastructure spending guaranteed for investment in regional Victoria.
“We have already laid out our plan to reinvest big money across regional Victoria to help get it and its vital industries in this era of food insecurity back on track – literally – and back in a business environment with a future.”