It's time to address the bleeding bloody obvious!
There are at least 4500 reasons why Victoria should decentralise and that's only counting the spiralling numbers of COVID cases.
Melbourne is sick, sorry and suffering claustrophobia from its growing pains.
It now has a population of five million, projected to soar to between 8.6 to 12.2 million by 2026.
At that rate of acceleration the billions of dollars being splurged on major works by a city-centric government is like sticking a band-aid over a severed artery.
"We need a bipartisan decade of decentralisation to move people out of our over-crowded cities," former Premier Denis Napthine trumpeted recently on the ABC programme The Drum.
"We now know through the COVID lessons that people can work remotely from home, which enables them to move into more affordable housing in regional and rural areas and enjoy a better quality of life."
Napthine's Liberals had orchestrated the shifting of Worksafe and NDIS to Geelong during his term as premier and has long advocated that VicRoads Headquarters be relocated to Ballarat.
- Visual artist to paint nature murals for Where Art Meets Nature site, Grampians
- More than 300 new cases in Victoria for the first time
- Viterra's annual harvest recruitment drive to see up to 1800 join company
- The number of people using illicit drugs in western Victoria has increased 50 per cent over the past three year
Victorian Governments, however, must look beyond the primary regional centres of Geelong, Ballarat and Bendigo which have a combined population of 464,000 and have congestion problems of their own.
More business there, in effect, would only result in Melbourne's boundaries expanding further.
The easiest escape route from "the Big Choke" is from the west which, long before now, should have placed Warrnambool, Horsham, Ararat and Stawell on the decentralisation map.
With a total population of around 66,000, these four friendly towns offer breathing space, easy access to tourist spots and are aching for opportunity ... and they'd have had it, if governments had the foresight to duplicate the Western Highway in the last century.
This, the second biggest national highway in Australia in terms of freight movements, has claimed 11 lives in the past five years in the stretch between Ballarat and Stawell, lives that could have been saved had the highway not been cursed by delay.
When I retired to Stawell in 2008 my first public meeting detailed plans for the Great Western Bypass and yet not a sod has been turned.
The on and off ramps on the proposed route are still in dispute, if overshadowed by the bitter wrangle over the 12 kilometre section between Buangor and Ararat, which remains unresolved.
And to think we were just a rubber stamp away from a freight and travel alternative as far back as 1991.
Had the Very Fast Train project, linking Sydney, Canberra and Melbourne, conceived in 1984 and shown to be both technically and financially viable, not been derailed by lack of Federal support, a Melbourne to Adelaide VFT connection (pitched by Ted Baillieu in 2010) might now be a reality.
The benefits to our region of a VFT are clear: job creation, reduced travel time, economic stimulus, tourism and development.
But what's the use of "what if?" in the current climate of uncertainty?
It might be expecting too much to see either a highway duplication, a VFT or the Socceroos win a World Cup in my lifetime, but I'll settle for one.
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