The northern and western suburbs of Melbourne are the fastest-growing parts of Australia's fastest-growing city, but their infrastructure needs have been sadly and sorely neglected under the Abbott-Turnbull-Morrison governments. So it was with a sense of optimism that we heard the prospect of a City Deal for the north and west suburbs announced quite sometime ago. But it has not been progressed. It is simply an idea in search of its expression—very much in tribute to the broader conduct of the Prime Minister, who is much more interested in the slogan than the outcome.
The communities of Melbourne have taken a very different tack. Last week the North and West Melbourne City Deal Plan was proposed by local governments, universities, business and community organisations to unlock the economic potential and social needs of these communities—communities deeply affected by the pandemic, including in my electorate of Scullin. Even before COVID-19, the north and west metro-local government areas had lower job availability, greater socioeconomic disadvantage and the least infrastructure funding on a population growth basis within the greater Melbourne area. The recession we are now in will only increase and exacerbate social inequality and accelerate the growing divide that is unfortunately characterising Melbourne. The proposal before us here seeks to create new opportunities to attract investment and stimulate employment by integrating public transport to key industrial, health and education precincts and employment hubs.
What is remarkable in this exercise is the collaboration of 13 local governments, two universities and a large number of community organisations working together, grounded in local understanding, for a shared vision for our areas—as a City Deal should be; a genuine partnership. I take this opportunity to thank all those groups in my community that have contributed to this body of work—the City of Whittlesea, NORTH Link, the Northern Councils Alliance and La Trobe University.
Telling the story of an area helps focus community engagement at the strategic level and canvas options to enable the community to contribute to. It's not just supporting individual projects. To meet the challenge of reconstruction we need real partnerships where all levels of government work with and listen to the communities and to private sector. This deal plan warrants serious consideration by the government and the minister as a major contribution to the debate about Melbourne's future and our wider economic recovery, because it has come from the bottom up—from the grassroots and from the communities worst affected by COVID. Deals can't continue to neglect our suburbs, especially our fastest-growing ones. It's fine for Minister Tudge to announce a north-west Melbourne City Deal, but it's time for him to make it a reality by listening to the voices of the community, including the voices of the private sector.