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$1 billion Regional Growth Fund supports Kelpie centre study

Friday, June 06, 2014

  • Deputy Premier announces $15,000 for $20,000 Kelpie centre study 
  • Interpretive centre would further cement Casterton as the home of the Kelpie 
  • Victorian Coalition Government supporting local communities to develop local initiatives

Casterton’s status as the home of the Kelpie will be further cemented if the development of the Casterton Kelpie Interpretive Centre proves viable.

Deputy Premier and Minister for Regional and Rural Development Peter Ryan visited Casterton today to announce the Victorian Coalition Government would invest $15,000 in the $20,000 Casterton Kelpie Interpretive Centre Feasibility Study.

Mr Ryan, who was joined in Casterton by Member for Lowan Hugh Delahunty and The Nationals candidate for Lowan Emma Kealy, said the study would identify the benefits of developing the Casterton Kelpie Interpretive Centre.

“Casterton is the birthplace of the Kelpie, and each year hosts the annual Kelpie Muster Festival over the Queen’s Birthday long weekend in June, attracting visitors from right across Australia,” Mr Ryan said.

“A statue of a Kelpie was also commissioned and placed outside the Casterton Town Hall in celebration of the Kelpie’s history, and the town is home to the Kelpie Walking Trail which takes in five unique Kelpie sculptures with interpretive signage.

“The local community is keen to further develop its links with the iconic Kelpie to help attract even more visitors to Casterton all-year-round.

“To achieve this aim, the community asked the Coalition Government to support a feasibility study to look at the benefits of developing the Casterton Kelpie Interpretive Centre, which could potentially be incorporated into a larger Glenelg Visitor Information Centre development.

“The Coalition Government is keen to help local communities capitalise on their strengths and I am proud to be here today, alongside Hugh Delahunty and Emma Kealy, to announce our government’s support for this exciting initiative.”

Mr Delahunty, who last week called on the Deputy Premier to support the initiative, said the feasibility study was an important first step towards developing the Casterton Kelpie Interpretive Centre.

“Community consultation has already indicated there is strong local support for this project,” Mr Delahunty said.

“A consultant will now be appointed to undertake the feasibility study, which will identify community and business needs, as well as develop a project business plan.

“The community, particularly the Casterton Kelpie Association, should be applauded for the work it has done in developing Casterton’s reputation as the home of the Kelpie and I am proud that we as a government can assist the community to progress this initiative further.”

Ms Kealy welcomed the Coalition Government’s funding support, which was provided through the $1 billion Regional Growth Fund, and also thanked the Glenelg Shire Council for its $5000 contribution towards the feasibility study.

“This project is yet another example of the strong work The Nationals, as part of a Coalition Government, are doing in regional communities, particularly in Western Victoria,” Ms Kealy said.

“Through the Regional Growth Fund, the Coalition Government is investing in community-led projects that help our local communities be their best.

“Here in the Glenelg Shire, the Regional Growth Fund has invested almost $4 million in support of 40 projects, leveraging almost $6 million in total investment.”

The Casterton Kelpie Interpretive Centre Feasibility Study will be finalised by February 2015.

Media contact: Ben Bulmer 0437 547 731

Labor and Jacinta Allan’s half a billion dollar blunder

Friday, June 06, 2014

  • Labor’s Jacinta Allan wrongly claims no money is allocated for the next four years of the Regional Growth Fund
  • Another serious error from Labor’s regional spokesperson
  • $500 million gaffe again shows Labor can’t be trusted to manage the economy

Labor and Jacinta Allan have humiliated themselves yet again, with a half a billion dollar blunder in their reading of the 2014-15 state budget, Deputy Premier Peter Ryan said today.

Following wannabe Treasurer Tim Pallas’ inept billion dollar blunder, Ms Allan wrongly claimed there was no money allocated in the budget for the Regional Growth Fund.

On May 8, Ms Allan spoke in parliament claiming the $1 billion Regional Growth Fund was a “hoax”.

“The budget papers do not reveal one cent of the forward allocation for this $1 billion growth fund…We keep being told how it is $1 billion and how it is locked into the budget. This budget shows what a betrayal that is, because nowhere in the budget papers is it articulated that the forward estimates show a funding allocation of the next $500 million.” (Hansard, 8 May 2014.)

The money is in fact allocated under the departmental budget; Ms Allan had simply failed to correctly identify it.

“This shows us once again that Labor cannot manage money and cannot be trusted to manage Victoria’s finances,” Mr Ryan said.

“This is the MP who recently criticised the Coalition Government’s plan for free Melbourne CBD transport to the people of Bendigo, when leader Daniel Andrews had already said Labor supported the plan – Ms Allan seeming to think the people of Bendigo wouldn’t read Melbourne papers and notice the contradiction.

“One would think Ms Allan would have bothered to make sure she had her facts right before making public statements based on pure fiction. This is another serious error from Labor’s regional spokesperson.

“In addition to displaying an economic incompetence that borders on innumeracy, these matters also raise questions about honesty and judgement. I call on Ms Allan to admit her mistake and apologise for misleading the people of Victoria in State Parliament.”

This is not Ms Allan’s first embarrassing financial blunder this year.

On February 19, Ms Allan issued a media release claiming the Victorian Coalition Government blew “a quarter of a million dollars designing a stall” to promote Regional Living at the Royal Melbourne show – but once again had the facts and figures wrong; Regional Development Victoria had actually paid $165,836 for numerous initiatives promoting rural and regional Victoria.

Taxpayers should also be reminded that the Victorian Auditor General’s report into Ms Allan’s provincial spending program when Labor was last in government found there was “little supporting evidence to substantiate” where $21.64 million went.

Coalition delivers new $7.5 million learning centre for students at Mirboo North

Friday, June 06, 2014
  • $7.5 million investment delivers flexible learning centre for Mirboo North Secondary College students
  • Project provides new art, science, IT, food tech and classroom areas
  • Victorian Coalition Government is building a better education system

The Victorian Liberal Nationals Coalition Government has delivered on its election commitment to rebuild the Mirboo North Secondary College, with the $7.5 million redevelopment now complete.

Deputy Premier and Member for Gippsland South Peter Ryan was in Mirboo North on Friday to officially open the new school which provides students with a modern and flexible learning space.

Mr Ryan said the Coalition Government had invested $7.5 million in the 2012/13 State Budget to enable the school to complete the long-awaited redevelopment.

He said the investment enabled the development of a modern flexible learning centre, that replaced buildings from the 1950s, and included new classrooms for general learning, art, IT, food technology, science, LOTE, woodwork, multimedia and metalwork.

“These new facilities ensure Mirboo North Secondary College can continue to deliver a high-quality curriculum and learning opportunities for its 350 students both now and into the future,” Mr Ryan said.

“A key feature of this new centre is the ability for classrooms to be opened up in a number of ways to create lecture rooms, small study spaces and meeting areas to best suit the activity taking place.”

Mr Ryan said Mirboo North Secondary College had an excellent reputation for high academic achievement in VCE and this redevelopment would ensure that continues.

“This investment means that students wanting to go on to university will have the learning facilities they need to achieve their required ATAR score,” Mr Ryan said.

“It also means that for students wanting to pursue a trade, such as carpentry or metalwork, those wanting to prepare for a career in hospitality, on farm, or in the arts, that they will have the facilities they need to best prepare for the career that awaits them.

“As the Leader of The Nationals and as the local Member of Parliament, I am proud to be here today to open this wonderful facility.”

Mirboo North Secondary College Principal Karen Lanyon said the school community was thrilled with the new facilities.

“When we began designing the project, we wanted to create a high quality flexible learning space that met the needs of the whole school community and this centre has definitely met the brief,” Ms Lanyon said.

“An important part of that brief was to ensure that rural students had facilities that were equal to if not better than their city counterparts, and that is what this space offers.”

Ms Lanyon said the new centre had allowed staff to better connect teaching programs with hands on projects.

“The new food technology area is at the standard it can be certified as a café, which allows students to get the feel of an actual restaurant, while the VCAL students are currently building a market garden to grow produce that will be used in the food tech area,” Ms Lanyon said.

“Students undertaking the VCAL program will also learn about and then build a pizza oven to complement their learning.”

Media contact: Steph Nicholls 0437 108 870

Regional Growth Funds helps Burra Foods grow exports to Asia

Friday, June 06, 2014

  • Deputy Premier launches production of infant formula at Burra Foods
  • First commercial production follows a $20 million expansion project 
  • Victorian Coalition Government invested $1.5 million in the project enabling Burra foods to capitalise on the lucrative Asian export market 

Korumburra’s Burra Foods can now take full-advantage of the high Asian demand for nutritional milk powder, with the first batches of the company’s new infant formula rolling off the production line last Friday.

Deputy Premier and Minister for Regional and Rural Development Peter Ryan was at Burra Foods Dairy Processing Plant in Korumburra to launch the first commercial production of the new infant formula, which followed a $22 million expansion.

Mr Ryan, who was joined by Member for Eastern Victoria Region Danny O’Brien, congratulated Burra Foods on completing the expansion, which was made possible by a $1.5 million investment from the Victorian Coalition Government’s $1 billion Regional Growth Fund.

Mr Ryan said the expansion had enabled Burra Foods to produce nutritional milk powders as well as a new range of products for infants, toddlers and the elderly, principally for the export market – products it had previously been unable to produce.

“This is great news for the company, great news for Korumburra and the region, and great news for the Victorian economy,” Mr Ryan said.

“This substantial investment created 60 construction jobs, 26 new full time jobs across the business and secured more than 100 existing jobs at the plant.

“It will provide strong support to the local dairy farmers who supply the factory, and create even more new jobs on local farms and in supply chain businesses across the region.

“The expansion will enable Burra Foods to boost its export sales, particularly to the lucrative export markets in Asia, and closely aligns with our Food to Asia Action Plan.”

Mr O’Brien said that development included the construction of a state-of-the-art water treatment plant that allows Burra Foods to produce batches of infant formula using the highest quality of ultra-purified water possible.

Mr O’Brien said the expansion also included significant water saving initiatives including recycling and wastewater treatment infrastructure, to be completed by the end of the year.

“Without the ultra-purified water in the manufacturing process and the ability to dispose of trade waste, Burra Foods did not have the capacity to produce infant formula locally,” Mr O’Brien said.

“This significant Coalition Government investment has enabled this important water saving work to be carried out and the development of this new product to occur.

“Once complete, the water recycling and wastewater treatment initiatives will deliver significant benefits to the company and community through water savings and reduced trade waste discharges.

“This will reduce pressure on the town’s water supply by at least 165 megalitres a year or 62 per cent.”

Media contact: Ben Bulmer 0437 547 731

Wandong-Heathcote Junction takes another step towards natural gas

Friday, June 06, 2014

  • Victorian Coalition Government’s $1 billion Regional Growth Fund bringing natural gas to Wandong-Heathcote Junction 
  • Piped natural gas costs about one-third the price of bottled gas 
  • Victorian Coalition Government reducing cost of living for regional Victorians

Wandong-Heathcote Junction is a step closer to receiving piped natural gas following the completion of a Front End Engineering and Design (FEED) study to finalise the project design and costs.

Speaking in Wandong-Heathcote Junction today, Deputy Premier and Minister for Regional and Rural Development Peter Ryan said that following conclusion of the FEED study, energy company Envestra had begun obtaining planning and environmental approvals.

Mr Ryan said the Victorian Coalition Government reached an agreement with Envestra to supply natural gas to Wandong-Heathcote Junction by investing $4.94 million from the Energy for the Regions Program, a component of the $1 billion Regional Growth Fund, to enable the connection.

“This project will see construction of 1.1 kilometres of high pressure supply pipeline from Envestra’s existing network and at least 11.8 kilometres of reticulation mains within the town, providing more than 500 households and businesses with the option to switch to natural gas,” Mr Ryan said.

Member for Seymour Cindy McLeish, who joined Mr Ryan at today’s event, said residents and businesses covered by the distribution plan could enjoy cleaner and cheaper energy, with piped natural gas costing them only about a third of what they pay for bottled gas.

“With the completion of the FEED study, Envestra is aiming to have Wandong-Heathcote Junction connected to natural gas by 2017,” Ms McLeish said.

The Nationals Candidate for Euroa Steph Ryan, who was also present at today’s event, said there were many potential economic benefits from natural gas that could flow to residents and businesses in Wandong-Heathcote Junction.

“The potential for lower energy bills will not only help local families overcome cost of living pressures, it will also boost the local economy by attracting investment, creating opportunities for new businesses and enabling existing businesses to expand,” Ms Ryan said.

Mr Ryan said the Coalition Government, through the Energy for the Regions Program, was delivering reticulated natural gas to regional communities where the former Labor Government and current Labor opposition said it couldn’t be done.

“When in government, Labor promised to deliver piped natural gas to communities in regional and rural Victoria , like Wandong-Heathcote Junction, but failed to deliver,” Mr Ryan said.

“Over the past three and a half years, Labor’s shadow regional spokesperson Jacinta Allan, along with Labor member for Northern Victoria Candy Broad, have said again and again that reticulated natural gas could not be delivered to communities such as Wandong-Heathcote Junction.

“It is about time the Labor Party admitted their failure to the people of regional and rural Victoria and acknowledged that through hard work the Coalition Government is delivering what they couldn’t.”

Media contact: Les White 0409 805 122

Victorian Coalition Government delivers natural gas to Warburton

Friday, June 06, 2014

  • $7.88 million from Regional Growth Fund brings natural gas to Warburton 
  • Reticulated gas to cost one-third the price of bottled gas 
  • Victorian Coalition Government reducing cost of living for regional Victorians

The Victorian Coalition Government has reached an agreement with Multinet Gas to supply natural gas to Warburton with $7.88 million in support from the Victorian Coalition Government’s $1 billion Regional Growth Fund.

Speaking at Warburton, Deputy Premier and Minister for Regional and Rural Development Peter Ryan said the long-awaited arrival of natural gas to Warburton would reduce the cost of gas for residents and businesses.

“Natural gas is around one third the price of bottled gas, and this means that households will now be able to save on their energy bills,” Mr Ryan said.

“Towns like Warburton have been caught in a bind where they are told they do not have enough residents to justify an energy company building infrastructure to supply them, but are handicapped in attracting new residents because they do not have reticulated natural gas.

“The Coalition Government has fixed this problem for Warburton. We promised and we delivered.”

Local State Government Member Cindy McLeish said bringing cheap energy to the town meant Warburton had more opportunity to grow and attract new businesses and residents.

“Lower energy costs makes life easier for local businesses and the local economy,” Ms McLeish said.

“The important thing today is that we have delivered for Warburton, for local businesses and residents.

“Let’s not forget that Labor openly said during the 2010 election that it would not connect any more towns to natural gas, so it was only the Coalition Government that would ever deliver this for Warburton.”

Member for Gembrook Brad Battin said Multinet expected to begin construction next year, with gas to start flowing in the second half of 2017.

“Regardless of which party wins the election this year, Warburton will receive cheaper, natural gas courtesy of the Coalition Government,” Mr Battin said.

“Some 5,600m of supply main and a minimum of 23,300m of reticulation main will be laid, supplying natural gas to at least 500 homes and businesses in Warburton.

“It’s a great day for the town.”

Mr Ryan said the $7.88 million in funding was provided through the Regional Growth Fund’s Energy for the Regions program, which provides $100 million over a four year period to deliver natural gas to towns in regional and rural Victoria.

“Energy for the Regions helps to create new investment in regional Victoria, ease cost-of-living pressures, help to grow jobs and businesses and build a better life for regional Victorians,” Mr Ryan said.

Media contact: Les White 0409 805 122

Coalition Government building a better Gippsland

Friday, June 06, 2014

This week’s Victorian Coalition Government 2014-15 State Budget delivers in the key areas of education, roads, tourism, business, emergency services and health, Deputy Premier and The Nationals Member for Gippsland South Peter Ryan said today.

Mr Ryan said the Coalition’s State Budget delivers improved infrastructure and services for residents and businesses throughout Gippsland to build a better, more connected Victoria.

“This Budget is investing hundreds of millions of dollars into Gippsland and other regional cities and rural communities,” Mr Ryan said.

The Liberal Nationals Coalition Government outlined significant expenditure in the 2014-15 Budget that benefits residents in the Gippsland South electorate. Highlights include:

  • $5.6 million to upgrade Korumburra Secondary College;
  • $4 million for planning and stage One works at the Sale Specialist School; 
  • $5.12 million for the Leongatha heavy vehicle alternate route;
  • $14 million for regional tourism marketing to increase visitors to regional Victoria;
  • $14 million to provide small business owners with practical financial management, marketing and human resources strategies;
  • $4.7 million to upgrade the online energy price comparison tool, My Power Planner;
  • $65 million to fund bushfire management measures;
  • $29 million for the CFA to acquire 78 additional vehicles
  • $20.5 million to replace Respiratory Protection Equipment for CFA and MFB firefighters;
  • 5.5 million for practical on-ground partnership with Landcare groups;
  • An additional $3 million a year for the Boating Safety and Facilities Program, bringing total funding to $8 million annually; and
  • $1.2 billion commitment per year to Vocational Education and Training.

Mr Ryan said these investments build upon the Coalition Government’s recently announced budget initiatives. Highlights in the Gippsland South region include: 

  • An extra $130 million pumped into road maintenance, meaning that more than $500 million will be delivered in the coming year for maintaining roads - up from $384 million under Labor;
  • $73 million for a major redevelopment of Latrobe Regional Hospital, including a new emergency department with double the capacity of the current facility, a new 30-bed ward and a cardiac catheterisation laboratory;
  • $13.5 million for the rollout of new tasers to all 24 hour police stations across regional Victoria, including Sale; 
  • $34 million to expand drug and alcohol treatment services and tackle the use of illicit drugs including ice throughout the state, including Gippsland;
  • $2 million to improve wild dog control; and
  • $3 million to provide support for regional councils to assess infrastructure demand, develop business cases and manage projects.

“By rebuilding Victoria’s finances and keeping the economy strong, the Coalition Government has been able to advance key projects, including those under the $1 billion Regional Growth Fund,” Mr Ryan said.

“The Nationals are exceptionally proud of the Regional Growth Fund, which has contributed to more than 70 projects in the Wellington and South Gippsland shires, leveraging almost $60 million in total investment.”

Mr Ryan said the local projects announced in the 2014-15 State Budget built on the Coalition Government’s significant investment in Gippsland over past Budgets.

Mr Ryan said the Liberal Nationals Coalition Government is building a better Victoria by delivering a strong budget with a record $27 billion investment in roads, rail, health and education, ensuring growth, jobs and opportunities across the state.

“This is in stark contrast to the risk that Daniel Andrews and Labor pose to Victoria’s economy and prosperity. Victorians cannot afford a return to Labor, which is more interested in kowtowing to its union mates than addressing the needs of regional Victorians,” he said.

“Only a Liberal Nationals Coalition Government can be trusted to deliver these important projects on time and within budget.”

Media contact: Steph Nicholls 0437 108 870

Victorian Coalition Government is building a better regional Victoria

Friday, June 06, 2014

The Victorian Coalition Government's 2014-15 Victorian State Budget delivers record funding to build a better Victoria by investing in the future infrastructure and services to unlock the potential and drive growth across regional and rural communities.

Deputy Premier and Minister for Regional and Rural Development Peter Ryan said the Coalition Government was investing in new job-creating infrastructure projects that would deliver more efficient roads and rail, better hospitals and schools and safer communities.

"The Coalition Government is building a better regional and rural Victoria by delivering infrastructure and services that unlock the growth potential of the regions," Mr Ryan said.

"Responsible financial management means we have delivered a healthy $1.3 billion surplus and maintain our AAA credit rating, enabling us to invest more in rural and regional Victoria."

Rail Infrastructure

Mr Ryan said the Coalition Government's investment in regional and rural Victoria was spearheaded by a commitment of up to $220 million to build the Mildura to Geelong rail standardisation link as part of the Murray Basin Rail Project.

"The Coalition Government's Murray Basin Rail Project will transform the movement of freight across the state and unlock economic potential by delivering key country freight rail line upgrades and building the Mildura to Geelong rail standardisation link," Mr Ryan said.

"An additional $209.5 million is also delivered for the maintenance of new stations, bridge, other infrastructure and the delivery of new train and bus services along the $4.1 billion new Regional Rail Link, which will transform regional passenger rail services.

"Other rail investment includes $5.8 million to improve disability access at the Geelong Station and to upgrade the bus interchanges at Moorabool Street and North Shore in Geelong, $14.3 million for a new crossing loop at Rowsley to improve rail operations on the Ballarat line and $1.3 million for planning for the Avalon Airport Rail Link transport corridor," Mr Ryan said.

Road Infrastructure

Mr Ryan said the Coalition Government was strongly investing in building and upgrading roads across Victoria with an extra $130 million for roads maintenance and restoration, increasing our roads maintenance investment to more than $500 million for the coming year.

The State Budget delivers key regional and rural road projects in partnership with the Commonwealth including:

  • $362.2 million to duplicate the Princes Highway from Winchelsea to Colac;
  • $86 million for the Calder Highway interchange at Ravenswood;
  • $31.8 million for the Princes Highway East interchange at Sand Road;
  • $11 million for Princes Highway East overtaking lanes; and
  • $56.2 million for the Transport Solutions initiative which delivers targeted improvement projects to reduce bottlenecks and improve transport flows in key regional areas.

The Coalition Government will also invest $12.9 million to deliver the Pioneer Road duplication.

"In stark contrast, Labor's transport plan says it will set aside just $1 billion over eight years, or $125 million a year, for regional roads – slashing regional roads spending by two-thirds," Mr Ryan said.

"The money Labor cuts from country roads will be used to pay for Melbourne level crossing removals, where 32 of the 40 promised level crossing removals are in Labor held seats."

Hospitals and healthcare

Mr Ryan said that country hospitals would share in an extra $287 million to hospital bottom-line funding over the next year alone, to treat more patients and assist more people in emergency departments.

"The Coalition Government is investing in building better hospitals and delivering more efficient services so that regional Victorians can access the best healthcare," Mr Ryan said.

The State Budget's key regional and rural health investments include:

  • $73 million for Stage 2a of the Latrobe Regional Hospital redevelopment;
  • $28million to build the new Barwon Health-North facility;
  • $14 million for the Boort Hospital redevelopment; and
  • $8.6 million for two new Prevention & Recovery Care (PARC) mental health services, at Mildura and Warrnambool.

"This new spending builds on what we have already delivered including the biggest regional hospital in Australia's history – the $630 million Bendigo Hospital; the $46.4 million expansion of the Ballarat Hospital, the $65.6 million Echuca Hospital redevelopment and the $10 million Castlemaine Hospital upgrade, and hospital redevelopments at Mildura, Swan Hill, Kerang, Charlton, Numurkah, Geelong and Kilmore," Mr Ryan said.

"The regions will also share in $34.1 million to expand drug and alcohol treatment services and tackle the use of illicit drugs including ice.

"This funding boost will provide support services for over 2,000 extra people a year in rural and metro areas to respond to the growth in the use of ice," Mr Ryan said.

Education and training

Mr Ryan said regional and rural schools would share in a massive $500 million school capital investment package in the 2014-15 State Budget.

"The Coalition Government is building new schools, including $10 million Horsham College for modernisation and regeneration, $8.5 million for Geelong High School as part of $20 million commitment for a modernisation, and $7.8 for the Ballarat High School modernisation," Mr Ryan said.

"Additional to general budget spending, we're also investing $5 million over four years from the Regional Growth Fund into Year 12 retention in the regions.

"The regions will also share in $272.8 million in funding for increased support for students with moderate to severe disabilities in mainstream and specialist government schools.

"For skilling Victorians, the Coalition Government is investing $1.2 billion per year in vocational education and training. The Victorian Coalition Government is also investing $30 million in training for automotive workers," Mr Ryan said.

Food and fibre production

Mr Ryan said the Coalition Government will continue to build a stronger food and fibre sector with $41 million of new initiatives in the 2014-15 Budget.

"This year's budget includes $35.4 million over four years, plus a further $6 million thereafter, for the Government's Food into Asia Action Plan to increase the volume and value of food exports into Asia, as we aim to double Victorian agricultural production by 2030," Mr Ryan said.

"The 2014-15 Budget will assist farmers in the war against wild dogs with an additional $1.8 million allocated for aerial baiting and ground baiting in North East Victoria and Gippsland.

"There is also $2.3 million to help establish a poppy industry in Victoria, and $1.6 million to deliver the Goulburn Valley fruit growing industry concessional loans package.

"The Coalition Government will also invest a further $40 million in water management initiatives which will help protect more communities from floods, tackle salinity and support the Murray Darling Basin Authority," Mr Ryan said.

Public Safety

Mr Ryan said the State Budget continues to invest in the CFA and the three highest CFA budgets in Victoria's history have all been delivered by the current Victorian Coalition Government.

"The 2014-15 CFA Budget is $457 million, $58 million more than Labor provided in its last year of office. This record investment shows Labor's 'CFA budget cuts' mantra is an outright lie," Mr Ryan said.

"The CFA investment will now include a bonus $17.2 million to purchase 49 additional medium tankers for CFA brigades on top of the 29 vehicles already coming out of the CFA's usual budget, and $20.5 million to replace all existing respiratory protection equipment for Victoria's fire services.

"The State Budget delivers $13.5 million to roll out Tasers to all regional 24-hour police stations as well as $14.4 million for the new Echuca Police Station and $8.4 million to establish an emergency service precinct at Ballarat West," Mr Ryan said.

Funding announced in the 2014-15 State Budget was in addition to the $1 billion Regional Growth Fund, which has so far invested almost $400 million in more than 1,400 projects, generating more than $1.6 billion of total investment and expected to create thousands of jobs.

Media contact: Les White 0409 805 122

Coalition Government divests Rural Finance Corporation and invests in regional Victoria

Friday, June 06, 2014

  • Rural Finance Corporation divested as part of the 2014-15 State Budget 
  • $400 million return to be invested in infrastructure to build a better regional Victoria

The Victorian Coalition Government has signed a heads of agreement for the sale of Rural Finance Corporation (RFC) business to Bendigo and Adelaide Bank (Bendigo) for a net return of approximately $400 million.

Treasurer Michael O’Brien and Deputy Premier Peter Ryan said the Victorian Coalition Government was satisfied that the conditions of the agreement, combined with Bendigo’s extensive experience and positive reputation for rural finance, meant that this was the right opportunity for this divestment.

“RFC has a proud history as a government-owned agribusiness specialist lender in Victoria and together with Bendigo and Adelaide Bank, have a wonderful cultural fit in terms of community banking that serves rural and regional Victoria,” Mr O’Brien said.

“Following a comprehensive review and a market process, the Coalition Government has determined that RFC customers, and broader regional communities, will benefit from these two organisations joining forces.

“RFC customers will now have access to not only existing products and services, but the broader banking service of one of the country’s most respected, community-based banks.

“In the conditions of this sale we have also ensured that non-commercial programs such as Young Farmers Finance Scheme, Natural Disaster Relief and Recovery Arrangement programs will all be maintained on the same terms,” Mr O’Brien said.

Mr Ryan said that the announcement was a win for Victoria’s diverse rural and agribusiness sector which would get better and more convenient access to RFC products and services, as well as regional Victoria generally as the proceeds were invested back into regional communities.

“The Coalition Government has made sure customers and staff will be looked after in this change of ownership,” Mr Ryan said.

“RFC staff will be employed by Bendigo on the same or better conditions, and there will be no forced redundancies.

“Customers will also benefit from this decision. RFC currently has 11 shop fronts and when the transition is complete, RFC customers will have access to 276 Bendigo Bank branches right across the state.

“Combining the business’s current products with those of a private bank will create a one-stop shop so regional customers can access more banking products and services.

“Today’s announcement also means that the Coalition Government can boost our investment in job creating infrastructure projects in regional Victoria, such as the historic Murray Basin Rail Project,” Mr Ryan said.

Net proceeds of the RFC divestment will be earmarked for investment in new productive infrastructure in rural and regional Victoria.

Mr O’Brien said the sale is expected to be bolstered by the Commonwealth Government’s asset recycling initiative.

“The Commonwealth’s financial incentives for the recycling of state assets into productive new infrastructure will further support our record infrastructure investment program,” Mr O’Brien said.

“We are about to embark on a significant infrastructure program and the proceeds of this divestment, together with the Commonwealth’s contribution, will be invested directly back into new job-creating infrastructure.

“We welcome the Commonwealth Government’s asset recycling initiative, which has been an influential factor in the decision of the Victorian Coalition Government to divest RFC.

“The most productive use of these funds is not sitting in the State’s books, but to have it invested into productivity enhancing infrastructure in rural Victoria, that will create jobs and boost our regional transport and export capacity.

“The value attributed to RFC by Bendigo and Adelaide Bank reflects the high quality of the RFC business. I wish to thank and pay tribute to the RFC board, led by Chairperson Sonia Petering, and its staff, led by Chief Executive Officer Rob Goudswaard, for their outstanding work which has helped to build the RFC business into what it is today,” said Mr O’Brien.

Key conditions placed on the sale include: there will be no forced redundancies of employees and employees will be offered employment with the new owner for a minimum of three years and on no less favourable terms and conditions; RFC products and brand are to be maintained for a minimum of three years; and offices or branches in the current 11 locations operated by RFC are to be maintained for a minimum of three years, including its head office in Bendigo.

RFC ownership will transition to the Bendigo and Adelaide Bank from early to mid-July 2014, pending APRA approval.

Media contact: Les White 0409 805 122 (Deputy Premier)

Coalition to build transformational Mildura to Geelong rail standardisation link

Friday, June 06, 2014

  • Deputy Premier unveils transformational Mildura to Geelong rail link 
  • Up to $220 million project will revolutionise freight movement across the state 
  • Victorian Coalition Government is investing in vital infrastructure across the state, creating new jobs and investment

The Victorian Coalition Government will invest up to $220 million to deliver key country freight rail line upgrades and build the transformational Mildura to Geelong rail standardisation link.

Deputy Premier and Leader of The Nationals Peter Ryan today unveiled the Coalition Government‟s Murray Basin Rail Project that will revolutionise the movement of freight across the state and unlock the economic potential of regional and rural Victoria.

In the keynote address to The Nationals State Conference in Benalla, Mr Ryan said the Coalition Government‟s State Budget would deliver funding for the Mildura to Geelong standardised rail link with construction expected to be completed by 2018.

“This landmark project is more than a century in the waiting and the Victorian Liberal and Nationals Coalition has delivered funding to build it in our first term of government,” Mr Ryan said.

“The Murray Basin is one of the nation‟s leading food production regions, exporting in excess of $3 billion worth of food products and mineral resources per year.

“By converting the existing broad gauge tracks to standard gauge, the Murray Basin Rail Project will deliver modern rail infrastructure and transform Victoria‟s freight network to meet the increasing demand for freight services.

“The project involves building and upgrading freight lines to 21 tonne axle loading, providing an immediate 15% productivity improvement that will increase train loads by 300 to 400 tonnes.

“It will improve transport efficiency and enhance access to the ports of Portland, Geelong and Melbourne for Victorian exports.

“A modern and efficient rail freight network is critical to Victoria‟s economic productivity and this Project marks the first phase in the Coalition Government‟s vision to standardise regional and rural Victoria‟s freight-only lines to drive future growth and prosperity.”

Mr Ryan said the first stage of the Murray Basin Rail Project would deliver urgent upgrades on the Mildura to Maryborough and Hopetoun to Murtoa rail lines, while the business case for the full Mildura to Geelong standardisation was finalised.

“The first stage of the Project will include an initial $41 million to upgrade the Hopetoun and Mildura rail lines to ensure quick benefits from more efficient freight movement,” Mr Ryan said.

“The final cost and alignment of the full Mildura to Geelong rail standardisation will be guided by the final business case to be delivered by the end of the year.

“The standardisation is also a crucial first step in the return of passenger rail to Mildura.”

Mr Ryan said the Project would assist in moving freight off road and onto rail and pave the way for the potential future creation of a new „transcontinental link‟ near Broken Hill, connecting to the Sydney- Perth rail line.

“The project will enable further logistical flexibility and ease of use of the Victorian rail network. It will result in a mode shift to rail and thereby improve road safety, reduce road congestion and lower road maintenance costs,” Mr Ryan said.

“Ultimately, the project will enable a Transcontinental Rail Link between Mildura and Menindee, near Broken Hill, NSW, connecting to the Perth interstate rail line.”

Mr Ryan said this historic investment formed a central part of the Coalition Government‟s plan to build a better Victoria by delivering new job-creating infrastructure projects that unlock economic potential and drive growth across the state.

Media contact: Les White 0409 805 122