A motion for Shepparton to host a sitting of regional parliament was unsuccessful in the Victorian upper house last week, but prompted a fierce debate around the city’s representation in parliament.
There was name-calling, political broadsides and no shortage of interjections or one-liners, on Wednesday.
Ultimately, State Member for Northern Victoria Wendy Lovell’s push for Shepparton to see an upper house sitting next June was unsuccessful.
The contest for the seat of Shepparton was front and centre as parties took turns to throw barbs on which party, or independent, best represented the region.
Local representatives from both sides of the house spoke at length about each party’s commitments to regional Victoria, arguing different ways to engage with the regions, amid interruptions.
In February, it was announced regional parliament would return to Victoria, with a sitting week to be in Shepparton, if the Coalition was elected in November.
Opposition leader Matthew Guy at the time had said having regional parliament in Shepparton would offer an opportunity for people to witness first hand the workings of the state’s decisions makers.
But State Member for Shepparton Suzanna Sheed and State Member for Northern Victoria Jaclyn Symes had questioned the logistics and value of the proposal at the time, the latter arguing existing consultation was working.
In parliament on Wednesday, Ms Lovell argued the sitting, proposed to be on June 11 next year, would allow locals to watch the cogs of parliament turn first hand.
She questioned why the proposal would be opposed by the independent member and the government, and ‘‘deny this opportunity to Shepparton’’?
One by one, she listed issues the people of Shepparton would ‘‘love to be able to engage’’ with parliamentarians on, but suggested they might not have this chance if a regional sitting of parliament was not endorsed.
She characterised the government’s regional assemblies as having post-it notes, sticky dots and no action.
In a lengthy speech, Labor Member for Northern Victoria Mark Gepp questioned Ms Lovell’s advocacy and the opposition’s commitment to regional Victoria.
He said the government’s regional assemblies and partnerships brought communities into a room with cabinet to talk priorities.
‘‘We get thousands of people through the door. We get a plethora of ideas. We understand what the needs of the community are. They interact directly with ministers,’’ Mr Gepp said.
State Member for Northern Victoria Luke O’Sullivan was critical of Mr Gepp’s contribution and argued it was disappointing the government would not support the push.
The length of time any regional sitting in Shepparton would last for was questioned by MPs and the effort involved for the benefits gained.