Premier push for regional voices

REGIONAL PUSH: Premier Daniel Andrews with local members Maree Edwards and Jacinta Allan in Bendigo last week. Picture: NONI HYETTPREMIER Daniel Andrews will strongly urge Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull this week to include regional areas in its new cities ministry, saying governments shouldn’t focus only on thenation’s capitals.

Mr Andrews will meet with Mr Turnbull at aCouncil of Australian Governments meeting in Sydney.

“I’m going to make sure that at COAG, the prime minister and his government understand that it’s not good enough to have a capital cities agenda, you’ve got to have a capital cities and regional cities agenda,” Mr Andrews said in Bendigo on Friday.

“Whether it’s Ballarat, Bendigo, Geelong or smaller regional centres like Shepparton, we need to make sure the national government is not all about Melbourne and Sydney and Canberra.”

Shortly after becoming prime minister in September, Mr Turnbull appointedJamie Briggs asthe first Minister for Cities and the Built Environment.

He also signalled he had a greater interest in urban planning projects in capital cities than Tony Abbott, whom he ousted.

Mr Andrews said his government’s position that support for regional cities must be part of the federal government’s planning was“not negotiable”.

“Whether it’s infrastructure or education or health, it’s not just a capital cities agenda, it’s got to include regional cities,” Mr Andrewssaid.

“That’s the position of the Victorian government andwe do look forward to the prime minister agreeing.”

Mr Andrews believed support for his plan would come from premiers and chief ministers right across the country.

As part of the state government’s own efforts to improve regional areas,Mr Andrews said, senior staff appointed to Regional Development Victoria positions last weekwould help drive a“proper conversation” with regional communities about development.

Amongthem is former City of Greater Bendigo department directorStan Liacos who resigned from the council to take up a position as the Loddon Mallee regional director.

It was now the federalgovernments turn to step up, the premier added.

“If you are truly committed to making sure you govern in the interests of everyone…then you can have a cities ministry,” Mr Andrewssaid.

“What you can’t have is a capital cities ministry.”

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