Another City Deal pre-announcement – this time it’s Geelong

The Prime Minister’s southern tour is taking on the look of an election campaign.

One morning it’s the promise of a City Deal for Hobart (noticeably devoid of any actual projects or funding), that afternoon it’s a re-announcement of Launceston’s City Deal, the next day after a hop across the Bass Strait Geelong gets a City Deal Memorandum of Understanding (MoU).

These City Deals are quite the thing. They just keep on giving, to all levels of government. There’s the announcement that it will happen, then there’s the MoU, then there’s the City Deal itself, then there’s the announcements about what is being delivered.

Let us not be too cynical. City Deals, and idea borrowed from Britain where all levels of government cooperate on urban infrastructure, are no bad things. But it is hard to get away from the impression that they are being used as a vehicle for maximum publicity by politicians for government expenditure that would almost certainly happen anyway.

The trick is to bundle it all up, announce it all multiple times, and pat everyone on the back.

The Geelong City Deal is typical of how it works. No-one denies that Victoria’s largest regional city could use a bit of infrastructure spending – it is now Australia’s second fastest growing city, after Metropolitan Melbourne itself. It is pushing 200,000 people, and is also the gateway to Victoria’s famous Surf Coast and the Great Ocean Road.

Geelong is a true city, not an outer suburb of Melbourne, though it is close enough (just 75 km) for people to commute to the larger city. It has a famous football team (the mighty Geelong Cats), a first rate university (Deakin), and a revitalised city centre. It is an ideal candidate for a City Deal.

So, exactly what has been announced? The Federal Government has signed an MoU with the Victorian Government to exploring multiple City Deals for Victoria, which would “pave the way” for one in Geelong, the only city specifically mentioned.

“A Geelong City Deal will help to deliver new jobs and make the area an ever better place to live and work, with world class infrastructure projects and a tourism offer that is second to none for Victoria’s second city.

“It will also involve governments focusing on the strengths and opportunities in the local economy, and exploring many job creating and innovative projects”

The joint announcement by Prime Minster Turnbull and Victorian Acting Premier James Merlino said this will include:

  • Improving road, rail, air and maritime transport links in the region
  • Revitalising the Geelong CBD
  • Ensuring the Great Ocean Road reaches its full potential
  • Supporting innovation and the growth of knowledge industries
  • Positioning Geelong as a leading digital economy.

The last of these is interesting, given that Geelong has the highest proportion of slow fibre-to-the-node NBN connections in Australia.

The announcement then went on to say that the “new initiatives will complement existing joint investments by the Commonwealth and Victorian Governments,” listing a number of transport projects that have been previously announced.

The Government actually had two bites of the cherry in the Geelong region. Barely an hour before the Geelong City Deal announcement, Mr Turnbull also announced $20 million in funding under the Regional Jobs and Investment Package for Geelong and its hinterland, the Corangamite region.

It is the first such announcement, “part of the Australian Government’s commitment to stimulate jobs and drive economic growth in Australia’s regions.”

Fully 21 projects were announced, creating “600 new jobs will be generated through the construction phase and a further 600 ongoing job, with just over 200 of those ongoing jobs in advanced manufacturing.”

They include an ecotourism facility on the Great Ocean Road, an additive manufacturing and engineering centre at Geelong’s innovation precinct, and further investment in Geelong’s waterfront renewal project.

No doubt these initiatives will be mentioned again when the Geelong City Deal is announced.


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