THE Regional Investment Corporation (RIC) which was pledged to Orange will open by July after legislation approving it passed through the senate.
The RIC was a commitment made by Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce at the 2016 federal election as the centrepiece of the Coalition’s farm policy promise, with the Nationals leader proclaiming it would be based in Orange.
But legislation for the ‘Barnaby Bank’ stalled in the senate towards the end of 2017 and its passage through parliament remained a challenge for new Agriculture and Water Resources Minister David Littleproud.
Mr Littleproud issued a statement saying the agency – which will administer loans directly to farmers under the $2 billion farm business concessional loans program – would launch from July 30, bringing with it around 25 jobs for the region.
The legislation passed through the senate provides for the establishment of the RIC, its functions and governance arrangements.
Mr Littleproud said the RIC would help to “spur” investment and growth in regional Australia and “help fast-track the construction of priority water infrastructure projects”.
Member for Calare Andrew Gee took to Facebook on Tuesday evening to laud the “really good news”.
“There was a fair bit of argy-bargy about it in the senate but we got there in the end,” Mr Gee said.
VIDEO: Member for Orange Andrew Gee on the RIC announcement ...
“It’s going to be around 25 to 30 jobs in the short term, but longer-term I reckon it could grow into something much bigger.
“Everyone in our region will get a crack at these jobs. They’re calling it ‘Barnaby’s Bank’ – I’m calling it a terrific win for the Central West.”
Shadow Agriculture Minister Joel Fitzgibbon said the RIC was “a poor piece of public policy … driven by National Party raw politics rather than the interests of our farmers”.
“How else would you explain the decision to locate the Corporation in Orange, the place where the National Party lost a local parliamentary seat for the first time in 69 years?” he said.
“The case for the expenditure on tens of millions of dollars on this new entity has not been established and Labor continues to reject what we believe to be a political stunt and a shocking pork barrel.
“But we are pleased that although the Bill has now passed the Senate, we can at least be more confident about its improved governance arrangements and that new safeguards, provided by Labor’s amendments, will protect against further political abuse of the new entity.”
Mr Fitzgibbon said the Turnbull government had accepted Labor amendments in the Senate which would help prevent “further political exploitation” of the proposed RIC.