Public service agency to be established in Orange, site of historic Nationals loss

The Coalition government will establish its new regional investment agency in the heart of an electorate its state counterparts suffered a historic loss to the Shooters, Fishers and Farmers Party.

Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce said the Regional Investment Corporation announced in budget papers last week would be based in Orange, where the National party lost its 69-year stranglehold in a NSW by-election last November. 

The agency's emergence in the central west NSW town, which will continue the federal government's push to decentralise the public service, has drawn fire from Labor regional spokesman Joel Fitzgibbon who accused the Coalition of pork barrelling. 

Mr Joyce said the government considered several regional cities for the RIC, including Albury-Wodonga, Bathurst, Bendigo, Lithgow, Toowoomba and Wagga Wagga.

"Locating the RIC in Orange makes sense, building on the existing base of agricultural investment institutions in the city, including the New South Wales Rural Assistance Authority and Macquarie Bank's Paraway Pastoral livestock enterprise," he said.

"Orange is an important agricultural hub in a region which generates about $1.7 billion in gross agricultural production, and is the home of the NSW Department of Primary Industries."


Mr Joyce's office did not describe the framework used to guide its decision when asked, but said priority was given to locations that could facilitate growth of "centres of excellence in a given field".

Mr Fitzgibbon said the lack of any competitive tender to host the RIC was "another example of a Barnaby Joyce pork barrel special". 

"Barnaby Joyce has no decentralisation plan, only a plan to ward off One Nation," he said.

Towns that missed out on the RIC should be told why the government selected Orange and what process it followed, he said.

The agency, designed to improve delivery of funds to farmers and consistency in farm business loan assessments, will arrive next year in the city that is part of the federal Calare electorate held by the National party's Andrew Gee.

The Nationals held the state seat of Orange by more than 20 per cent before the by-election triggered by Mr Gee's resignation to run at a federal level, but voters shook the NSW Coalition government when they abandoned the party.

The Baird Government's proposed ban on greyhound racing and council amalgamations were among issues blamed for the massive swing against the Nationals, who said they would try to reconnect with the region's voters. 

Mr Gee won Calare at the federal election four months earlier despite a 9 per cent swing against his party.

State member for Orange Philip Donato said the Nationals had never worked harder than since losing the seat.

"The focus on Orange only commenced when they lost, and it's great to finally see the Coalition realise how resourceful Orange is," he said.

The government said in budget papers it would spend $28.5 million over four years to establish the RIC.

Mr Fitzgibbon said the agency would do the work of state-based rural adjustment authorities, and that the funding should be spent on regional infrastructure projects or research and development in agriculture.


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