Big moves need big spends

October 05, 2017

Committee for Greater Shepparton chief executive Sam Birrell.

Forget about moving big government departments to Shepparton unless it is backed by big infrastructure spending.

That is the message from Committee for Greater Shepparton chief executive Sam Birrell to the Federal Government’s regional development and decentralisation committee.

As other regional councils put their hand up for government jobs, Mr Birrell said moving departments to the regions was not the answer to decentralising Australia.

‘‘Just moving departments is counterproductive unless it is backed up by proper infrastructure,’’ Mr Birrell said.

‘‘If we really want to create a state of cities in Victoria, we really need to look at our infrastructure spend and really connect these places.’’

In his submission to the committee, he referred to Germany as an ideal blueprint for how the population could be spread out across the country without a big focus large, centralised cities.

The capital and largest city in Germany, Berlin, has a population of 3.47million people, less than Melbourne’s 3.8million and Sydney’s four million.

The rest of its 82million people are spread out across the country and into relatively small cities and towns, with 39 German cities having populations between 100000 and 200000.

‘‘Their population is dispersed, it is not centralised into mega cities,’’ Mr Birrell said.

Other submissions to the inquiry have made a more direct plea for Federal Government jobs to increase decentralisation.

If the Wangaratta council has its way, the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Health or Infrastructure would move to its city limits.

In the Rural City of Wangaratta’s submission, it wanted more employment options to bring young, and keep young people in town.

Mr Birrell said the call to move Canberra jobs was nothing new and, in itself, was not successful.

He pointed to a Whitlam Government push in the 1970s to boost public service jobs in Albury.

‘‘But it wasn’t backed up by improved rail connectivity,’’ he said.

‘‘Without improving those amenities, I don’t think it is going to achieve all that much.’’

Federal Member for Murray Damian Drum has also pushed for a bringing the Murray Darling Basin Authority from Canberra to Shepparton to boost employment locally.

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