Chaotic scenes of commuters struggling to get onto train platforms have reignited calls for big business to move to regional areas like Wagga.
On Tuesday and Wednesday, damaged signals and absent staff caused massive delays for Sydney Trains, which resorted to putting on buses to cope with the demand.
While the state government and opposition traded blows over the debacle, retired Riverina MP Kay Hull said there was more important conversation that needed to be had.
“The businesses in Sydney may pay high rents, but at the end of the day it’s the taxpayers who fund the infrastructure required to get people to and from those workplaces,” Mrs Hull said. “It’s time to force their hand and say to corporations they need to contribute to what we’re paying out or relocate to regional areas.”
Mrs Hull, who chaired Agrifutures Australia, said governments needed to find ways to encourage businesses to move out of the capital cities, which could include tax incentives.
“We need to make companies and corporations aware that they can operate equally as effectively in regional areas as they can in the city,” she said. “You don’t need to be in Pitt Street or Collins Street, you can go to a place where people can be extremely successful with a great lifestyle, it just takes the drive from politicians to incentivise it.
“Governments need to seriously look at what they spend in cities servicing corporate needs, they could spend it here and get much better returns.”
For more than a year the National Party, under Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce, had campaigned for the “decentralisation” of government departments, with the relocation of the Rural Industries Research and Development Corporation to Wagga reportedly saving $1.2 million a year in rent alone.
Member for Riverina Michael McCormack said the time had come to make sure regional Australia was seen as a viable alternative to Sydney and Melbourne.
“These places are big enough to get a good cup of coffee and small enough to care,” Mr McCormack said. “You don’t need to live with the congestion… we need to do whatever we can to get businesses to look seriously at regional Australia.”