Bill Shorten meets Labor candidate for Hinkler Richard Pascoe outside the Bundaberg Hospital.
Bill Shorten meets Labor candidate for Hinkler Richard Pascoe outside the Bundaberg Hospital. Mike Knott BUN210119LAB2

Shorten backs Regional Deal as project focusses emerge

THE leader of the opposition has indicated he would not cancel the Hinkler Regional Deal if elected as the next prime minister.

Bill Shorten told the NewsMail a Federal Labor Government would honour "any of the city or regional deals the government has entered into".

It comes after members of the Local, State and Federal Government yesterday held a forum on the Regional Deal at Bundaberg Regional Council.

The workshop gave all three levels of government the opportunity to meet with different community stakeholders to identify key areas within Hinkler that funds should be allocated to.

"The joint focus has been on looking at opportunities in agri-business, tourism and defence," a council spokesperson said.

It is understood while no outcomes were reached in the meeting, talks to identify the deal's priorities are progressing.

According to the Australian Department of Infrastructure, Regional Development and Cities, these include economic development, community and resilience and liveability.

"Department officials are working ... closely with the Queensland Government and the Bundaberg and Fraser Coast Councils to progress the ... deal Hinkler Regional Deal throughout the first half of 2019," a spokesperson said.

"Specific project details, including funding commitments from all three levels of government, ... are yet to be agreed. Consultation with community and key stakeholders identified a suite of initiatives that could form part of the Deal. These initiatives will be further tested and refined through the negotiation program agreed with state and local governments, ... which includes workshops throughout February."

Federal Member for Hinkler Keith Pitt said it was "great to hear Mr Shorten supports Australia's first Regional Deal, which is being delivered ... right now by the Coalition Government".

"It is already successfully bringing all three levels of government ... - federal, state and local - together to drive our regional economy and deliver more local jobs," he said.

The Regional Deal shared between Bundaberg and Hervey Bay was announced by Acting Prime Minister Michael McCormack in November last year.

It is aimed at bringing together governments, the community and private enterprise to create place-based partnerships for large multi-million-dollar projects.

The City Deals already under way in places including Townsville and Western Sydney are focusses on delivering jobs, infrastructure and workforce training.

Yesterday Mr Shorten told the NewsMail in addition to honouring Hinkler's Regional Deal, Labor wanted local government to have a stronger voice in the process, which is an aim of the party's own City Partnerships policy.

"This will mean key projects can get off the ground quicker when we really listen to local advice," he said.

When Labor's policy was announced in July last year, infrastructure spokesman Anthony Albanese said it was a more rigorous way to help cities plan, and would replace the Coalition's City Deals program.

"Cities around the nation face a number of complex challenges ... To overcome these ... genuine collaboration ... between the three levels of government is required," he said.

"As it stands, the ... (Coalition's) City Deals program does not achieve this."

A Queensland Government spokesperson yesterday said it would always support initiatives that saw more money from Canberra invested in regional Queensland.

"We welcome the commitment that a future Labor Government would work with us and local governments to deliver key infrastructure for our regions," they said.



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