The State Government is rightly under fire for letting up to 400 jobs escape Goulburn’s grasp.
Australian Ticket Masters clearly wanted to establish in the city, given its affordable land and location. Negotiations stretched back to last year when Geoff Kettle was Mayor. Bob Kirk continued these after he assumed the top job and made it his mission to convince the State Government that incentives were needed to entice companies to the region.
It should not have needed convincing. The government has made a big play of regional development by creating a specific Ministerial portfolio, to which John Barilaro was appointed. In March it appointed former Australian Army Chief Lieutenant General Ken Gillespie as the State’s first regional infrastructure coordinator. His role is to accelerate infrastructure roll-out in the region.
So how does the government explain this missed opportunity? Mr Barilaro and Ms Goward might well have been concerned about existing companies “gaming the system” in order to relocate to the regions. Granted, their reasoning might be valid. But surely the government can think outside the square on this one and put safeguards in place.
Goulburn MP Pru Goward has only just come to the realisation there “must be a better way.” It’s a little late for Ticket Masters which is already headed to Victoria. If the government is serious about regional development, as it says, it must think not only about how to stop jobs drifting interstate but how to generate employment in country areas beset by high youth unemployment.
It’s one thing to talk the talk; it’s another to walk the talk. When Ministers, including Mr Barilaro, can’t even be bothered replying to the Mayor’s letter, we know something is wrong. Infrastructure NSW has already admitted to Cr Kirk it didn’t act in a timely manner.
From what we can see, Mr Gillespie is the only person who is taking a genuine interest. He has already dropped in on Goulburn Mulwaree Council general manager Warwick Bennett to talk about the area’s needs.
Mr Gillespie is aware of the Australian Ticket Masters job loss. Cr Kirk said he was “keenly waiting” to meet with Mr Gillespie when he drops this way again.
Meantime, Mr Barilaro, Ms Goward and Infrastructure NSW should have a little chat with Australian Ticket Masters on their reasons for relocating interstate.