Thursday, September 28, 2006

MEDIA RELEASE: "Empower Local Communities"

Peter Kavanagh, the DLP Candidate for Western Victoria has called for a comprehensive, long term decentralisation policy based on the empowerment of local communities.

"Devolving power to the lowest level of government that can efficiently decide an issue is essential if people are to decide issues that affect them most directly. This is a long held, fundamental principle of the Democratic Labor Party," Mr Kavanagh said.

"Victoria currently lacks a comprehensive strategy for decentralisation. The ALP government's idea of encouraging industry and services around the state is merely hauled out whenever it wants to shore up support in marginal seats outside Melbourne," Mr Kavanagh said.

"At the same time, decisions are being taken at a State level that should be made by the people who are actually affected by the decision - locals."

"In Victoria at present the opposite is happening. The State government is vetoing developments against the wishes of local communities and allowing developments which are opposed by a majority of local people. Two examples happened in Geelong recently. Less than a year ago, sexually explicit entertainment at the 'Alley Cat Gentlemen's Club', a strip club, was approved by VCAT against the objections of the Geelong Council and large numbers of Geelong residents who were concerned, among other things, about the effects of this venue on local school children. Similar developments have been allowed in other parts of Victoria despite the objections of local people."

"In the middle of this year the State government vetoed the development of a Direct Factory Outlet in Greater Geelong, 'surprising the Town Hall'. This disappointed many Geelong people. Whether or not the development should have gone ahead is not the point. The point is that this is properly a matter for the people of Geelong, not the State government," Mr Kavanagh said.

"Moving the TAC to Geelong shows that the present State government's idea of decentralisation is to spend huge amounts of taxpayer's money in marginal seats with no improvement to services. This is not real decentralisation. The DLP was a prime mover behind the effective decentralisation plans of previous decades. A return of the DLP to Parliament, which is possible with the introduction of proportional representation this year, would see genuine decentralisation policy back on state and national agendas."

"Australia needs long term, coherent decentralisation strategies based on efficiently directing the future growth of government departments outside capital cities, providing government services to regional areas together with tax incentives and the recreation of a government sponsored development bank to encourage population and economic growth outside our large cities. Just as important, we also need to empower local communities to decide local issues for themselves," Mr Kavanagh said.