Cathy McGowan calls for return of funds

FEDERAL member for Indi Cathy McGowan is calling on the government to reinstate a “desperately needed” regional funding program.

The axing of the Regional Development Australia fund late last year meant more than $7 million in funding for several infrastructure projects in Indi was withdrawn.

This week, Ms McGowan addressed Parliament’s Federation Chamber to request those funds be reinstated “as a matter of urgency”, backing an earlier call to action from Lalor MP Joanne Ryan.

“This funding is important for the future development of rural and regional areas, in particular — including Indi,” she said in her speech.

“I believe that the abolishment of this funding will cause us to miss infrastructure opportunities.

“It will cause the loss of economic activity and job-creation opportunities that our rural and regional areas desperately need.”

During last year’s federal election campaign, Labor promised Indi RDA round five funding for several projects including: $5.86 million for the Wodonga city centre redevelopment, the Wodonga Tennis Centre court redevelopment at $343,000, Rutherglen Main Street rejuvenation at $284,000 and the Wangaratta saleyards upgrade at $410,000.

At the time, former regional development minister Catherine King said there was a budget for the projects and they would be delivered, regardless of the election outcome.

But the Coalition scrapped the $2.4 billion fund and replaced it with a $200 million a year National Stronger Regions Fund.

That fund won’t start until next year.

Regional Development Minister Warren Truss said any projects promised by Labor under round five of the fund without signed contracts would not be built.

“However, a critical first step is to build on what works and to avoid the temptation to dismantle well-established and respected processes just for the sake of change,” Ms McGowan said.

A spokesperson for Ms McGowan said she had not spoken directly to Mr Truss on the matter but “had spoken to the government with some good debate”.