Victoria’s north eastern business community had the opportunity to discuss issues important to their future growth with State Member for Euroa Steph Ryan last Wednesday.
The Victorian Chamber of Commerce and Industry held the lunch in Benalla with chief executive officer Mark Stone updating the local business network about the key priorities in the chamber’s election campaign ‘‘Stronger Business Stronger Victoria’’.
‘‘It’s important that we get out into regional Victoria and speak to our members to help them understand what we’re promoting as part of the pre-election campaign,’’ Mr Stone said.
‘‘Leading up to the last six months of 2017 we had 12 meetings around regional Victoria to find out what regional businesses were seeing as important policy issues.
‘‘We were able to compile that list. Now we’re back to reiterate that we were listening, to show how important those priorities are, and what we’re doing now is in terms of prosecuting the list to both the government and opposition.
‘‘We have a strong focus on jobs, particularly jobs for young people.
‘‘Job (creation) is a critical issue in regional Victoria.
‘‘So we’re looking for movement in the payroll tax threshold, which will reduce the amount of payroll tax regional businesses have to pay in the future, which will allow them to employ more people.’’
A strong focus on apprenticeships and traineeships is just one element of ‘‘Stronger Business Stronger Victoria’’ as well as a number of other priorities including:
●Delivering key road and rail transport infrastructure projects to improve travel for regional businesses.
●Increasing the payroll tax threshold to $850000.
●Strengthening the Victorian Industry Participation Policy to maximise regional content in government procurement.
●Growing regional exports and supply chains.
●Lifting the moratorium on onshore conventional gas exploration to help reduce regional energy costs.
●Providing $200 million to advance Victoria’s high value, globally competitive industries.
●Providing a safe and secure regional business environment.
Mr Stone said one of the major focusses for regional Victoria was to increase exports.
‘‘A lot of Victorian businesses have the capacity to produce more goods,’’ he said.
‘‘They are just not familiar with the export markets.
‘‘We run free trade agreement programs and encourage more businesses to produce more products and services and then we’ll help get those into export markets, which in turn creates jobs.
‘‘Steph Ryan has been able to give a good overview about what the coalition will be doing if they were to successfully be in government after the elections at the luncheon today.
‘‘She was able to identify some of the wins that have occurred through her representation to date and is clearly a very passionate local member.
‘‘It is important that our members get a chance to hear from their local member and that’s what’s occurred here today.’’
Ms Ryan said it was great to have the opportunity to outline to some of the business and community leaders in Benalla what her vision was leading into the next election.
‘‘So I discussed our plans around decentralisation and our plans to replace all of the rolling stock and buy new trains for the north-east line,’’ Ms Ryan said.
‘‘I discussed our promise to bring back the country roads and bridges program and to reinstate the rural planning flying squad.
‘‘All of those issues really affect the growth of our region.’’
With the issues on the north-east rail line well known, plans to improve the service is one area that voters will be paying great attention to in the lead up to November’s election.
‘‘The state of rail in our region is really holding us back, the government has had three and a half years to put money aside for rolling stock and we’ve seen after four budgets that no money has been allocated,’’ Ms Ryan said.
‘‘I don’t think the excuse of planning really continues to wash with people, we know that from the time of placing an order for new trains it takes about three years for them to be delivered.
‘‘So even if we are elected and we place an order in our first budget it will be about 2021 before we get new trains, and that is why it is important that we place an order as soon as possible.
‘‘I think to simply say we need to wait until the Federal Government spends their money it doesn’t serve our region well because it means it will be the better part of a decade before we see any real improvement in rail.
‘‘I’m increasingly getting stories from people who are telling me of the consequences of our train services, that it is unreliable, that it is antiquated, that it’s like playing Russian roulette, in that you never know whether you are going to get to where you need to go or not.
‘‘If we want to grow and we want to develop and want to thrive as a community we need key infrastructure like an adequate train service.’’
Ms Ryan said the lunch was hugely beneficial as it allowed business leaders in the Euroa electorate the opportunity to directly share their concerns and priorities.
‘‘It’s incredibly important that business has a strong voice as they are ultimately the employers in our community, so it was a great opportunity for me to hear from them,’’ Ms Ryan said.
●For more information on the Chamber of Commerce’s ‘‘Stronger Business Stronger Victoria’’ campaign you can download the policy document at victorianchamber.com.au/sites/default/files/page/documents/pol—2018—state—election—regional—priorities—-—medium—v2.pdf