The Victorian government has named senior public servant Luke Wilson as the state’s first ever cross border commissioner. He’ll work to resolve some of the red tape headaches faced by residents and businesses near the state line.
Wilson is currently lead deputy secretary, corporate services at the Victorian Department of Economic Development, Jobs, Transport and Resources, and will start his new job mid-October.
The cross border commissioner will be based in Wodonga, but will operate out of a number of state government offices along the border to ensure direct engagement with local communities, including Mildura and Echuca.
The commission’s job will be wide-ranging, as its scope is defined by geography rather than portfolio.
Issues high on the agenda include trades licensing, responsible service of alcohol accreditation, heavy vehicle regulation and taxi services. People working in construction trades, education and hospitality need dual accreditation and licenses to work across states, while there are people who travel hours to access further education in their own state when the same course was offered close to home, but just across the border.
A recent incident near Swan Hill, where Victoria Police failed to help NSW residents during a home invasion, also highlighted how much of a problem the differing state systems could be.
The commissioner plans on spending plenty of time in border communities from Mallacoota to Portland.
“Over the coming months, I will be meeting with many individuals and organisations, and am really looking forward to hearing from you, and then getting things fixed. This is an exciting opportunity to address a real need,” Wilson said in a statement.
In government consultations with local councils, state government agencies, industry associations and stakeholder groups, all organisations supported the establishment of a commission, many citing examples of barriers faced by citizens and businesses in the areas of education, transport, labour mobility and access to markets.
Some of the major themes the commission will be tackling include: regional economic development, such as integrated planning of policies and processes, infrastructure development, and freight; improving service delivery across areas such as child protection, policing, education, health, and waste management, which will require better information sharing between agencies; and simplifying regulation, including improved cross-border labour mobility and the expansion of automatic mutual recognition arrangements for a greater range of occupations.
The commissioner has been appointed an EO2 and he’ll be reporting back to cabinet to seek endorsement for an MOU between NSW and Victoria and a forward work plan. Agencies will have the chance to shape priorities through the usual cabinet processes.
The state government committed $800,000 in the 2018-19 budget to fund the Victorian Cross Border Commission for its first two years.
Image: the Murray River at Boundary Bend, on Wikimedia Commons.