Skills, trans­port key fo­rum is­sues

The Weekly Advertiser Horsham - - News -

At­tract­ing skilled peo­ple to the re­gion, a lack of public trans­port and in­cen­tives for at­tract­ing busi­nesses were among key is­sues peo­ple raised and dis­cussed at a pop­u­la­tion fo­rum in Hor­sham.

Com­mu­nity and busi­ness lead­ers from across the Wim­mera and south­ern Mallee gath­ered to dis­cuss chal­lenges the Lowan elec­torate faced in grow­ing its pop­u­la­tion and how gov­ern­ment pol­icy could help.

Mem­ber for Lowan Emma Kealy hosted the fo­rum with Vic­to­rian Pop­u­la­tion Task­force deputy chair­man Danny O’brien.

The fo­rum was de­signed to gain in­put from res­i­dents for a Lib­eral and Na­tion­als’ pop­u­la­tion pol­icy in the lead-up to the 2018 state election.

Mem­ber for Ripon Louise Sta­ley will lead a sim­i­lar fo­rum in Ararat to­mor­row.

The Na­tion­als and Lib­er­als es­tab­lished their Pop­u­la­tion Pol­icy Task­force to en­cour­age eco­nomic growth in re­gional Vic­to­ria.

Ms Kealy, who also led a fo­rum in Hamil­ton, said the Hor­sham gather­ing iden­ti­fied that at­tract­ing skilled and qual­i­fied peo­ple was para­mount to pop­u­la­tion growth.

She added that at­ten­dees also spoke of de­cen­tral­i­sa­tion of gov­ern­ment agen­cies and their se­nior man­age­ment, how a for­mer Re­gional Liv­ing Expo in Mel­bourne was a great op­por­tu­nity to pro­mote the ben­e­fits of liv­ing and work­ing in re­gional Vic­to­ria and how the de­vel­op­ment of re­new­able en­ergy pro­vided a way of en­sur­ing busi­nesses had se­cure en­ergy op­tions and in sup­port­ing the re­duc­tion of en­ergy prices.

“Busi­nesses are ex­tremely con­cerned about sky­rock­et­ing en­ergy costs caused by La­bor’s pol­icy to close the Hazel­wood Power Sta­tion. Lack of en­ergy se­cu­rity is putting lo­cal busi­ness and jobs at risk,” Ms Kealy said.

She said an­other key is­sue was a West­ern Rail project and the need to im­prove pas­sen­ger rail ser­vices and public trans­port op­tions, not only within the re­gion but also to Mel­bourne.

“I re­cently took a del­e­ga­tion of key re­gional coun­cil rep­re­sen­ta­tives to meet with Vic­to­rian Op­po­si­tion leader Matthew Guy and re­ceived in-prin­ci­ple sup­port for a fea­si­bil­ity study into the re­turn of pas­sen­ger rail ser­vices to West­ern Vic­to­ria, if elected to gov­ern­ment,” Ms Kealy said.

She said in­cen­tives, tax-re­lief op­tions and sim­pli­fy­ing plan­ning re­quire­ments to help grow ex­ist­ing and at­tract new busi­nesses to the re­gion were also top­ics of dis­cus­sion.

“The Hor­sham fo­rum raised many won­der­ful ex­ist­ing po­ten­tial tourism op­por­tu­ni­ties and the need for ad­di­tional in­fra­struc­ture to sup­port more vis­i­tors and busi­ness growth to our great part of the state,” Ms Kealy said.

“I thank every­one who gave up their time to dis­cuss this crit­i­cal is­sue for re­gional Vic­to­ria. It was ex­tremely use­ful and I en­cour­age any­one with an idea about how we can grow coun­try Vic­to­ria in a sus­tain­able way to con­tact me through my web­site emma kealy.com,” she said.

The Hor­sham, Ararat and Hamil­ton events are part of a re­gional se­ries of fo­rums.

The Coal­tion re­leased its Vic­to­rian Pop­u­la­tion Pol­icy Task­force’s In­terim Re­port in July. It is avail­able on­line at vicpop­u­la­tion.com.au/doc­u­ments.

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