Election 2016: how well are the major parties meeting the needs of rural and regional Australia?

shutterstock_47332618How far do policies announced during the 2016 federal election campaign go towards addressing key policy issues for non-metropolitan Australia?

Director, The Cairns Institute, James Cook University explores the key issues of infrastructure, unemployment, diversification and new economy jobs, indigenous participation, health, education and social services, climate change, natural resource management, agriculture he says;-

Much of what we’ve heard has been packaged up in funding announcements. Most of these are followed by accusations of overspending, pork-barrelling and/or incompetence.

Still, there is a compelling simplicity to funding announcements. Dollar values take the complexity out of policy communication. Numbers in the millions say, “we’re serious about this”. Numbers in the billions say, “we’re really serious”.

Contrast this with more considered approaches to policy development. In recent years, federal governments have released white papers on agricultural competitiveness, Northern Australia, energy and the food industry. None of the major parties have promised to review or change the policy directions set out in these documents. Neither have they promised to initiate new white paper processes in other policy domains important to rural and regional Australia.

The obvious conclusion is that non-metropolitan Australia can expect little substantial policy reform regardless of who wins the election. True, planned changes may not have been announced. But there has been little to suggest over the last decade or more that the major parties have substantially different views on key areas like agriculture and trade.

What significant policy movement we did see following the last election had been clearly signalled during the 2013 campaign. We all knew the incoming Coalition government would be investing in Northern Australia, paying farmers to store carbon in soils, establishing the Green Army and rationalising Indigenous programs into one agency.

Many will be surprised at how little debate we’ve seen during the 2016 campaign about these initiatives.

Lack of policy differentiation on national issues will not necessarily be mirrored on an electorate-by-electorate basis. The importance of local projects – a road upgrade here, a boat ramp there – cannot be dismissed. Any local member capable (or seen to be capable) of getting things done will increase trust in themselves and their parties.

As the major parties blame their opponents for everything that is wrong with the world one moment and then echo each other’s policies the next, trust will be an important factor.

The wild card in all this is the independents. Katter’s Australian Party and the Glenn Lazarus Team are campaigning to restrict foreign investment in land. In the event of a hung parliament the major parties will need to start negotiating.

Who knows what they’ll be willing to trade off? to read the article in full click here.

The 3rd Australian Regional Development Conference; Participation and Progress will be held in Canberra on 5 – 6 September 2016 to register for the conference CLICK HERE.

Early bird closes on 25th July so be quick to receive a discounted rate.

The conference explores opportunities for innovation in regional Australia. With its rich resources, diversity, and value, regional Australia is the catalyst for the future.

Addressing issues such as sustainable development, environmental sustainability, land use, community development, investment, agribusiness and innovation it is an opportunity not to be missed.

Fast-track solution to put Iron Triangle back on the rails

adelaide railAfter proposing a fast passenger rail linking Adelaide with Victor Harbor,  say there is also a strong case for a service linking the state’s capital with the struggling Iron Triangle towns of Whyalla, Port Augusta and Port Pirie as discussed by Richard Blandy and Edwin Michell.

The main attraction of fast rail is not inter-city travel between megacities, but for regional and commuter travel between country towns and city CBDs. These are the rail lines where value is generated (and can be captured) to finance the rail projects.

Additionally, they would reduce pressure on the South Australian Government to expand Adelaide’s urban boundary by redistributing a portion of the state’s population to the regions. This would also reduce the capital’s imposing dominance over the rest of the state.

A fast railway to the Iron Triangle towns of South Australia’s Gulf regions, with stops at Salisbury, Port Pirie and Port Augusta, would service a combined regional population in excess of 60,000. It could also be accessed by more than 80,000 people in the northern suburbs of Adelaide near Salisbury, together with substantial mining, tourism and agricultural interests in nearby regions.

Whyalla, Port Augusta and Port Pirie are all struggling economically for a variety of reasons.

The region’s fortunes can be revived by removing non-essential business regulations and providing substantial regional tax breaks for companies and individuals. This would encourage entrepreneurs, innovators, and small – and possibly large – businesses to relocate there.

An Adelaide-Whyalla railway could be highly profitable in the short term, particularly with the co-operation of the South Australian Government to make suitable development sites available and leasing parts of the railway to expand metropolitan services. To read more click here.

The 3rd Australian Regional Development Conference; Participation and Progress will be held in Canberra on 5 – 6 September 2016 to register for the conference CLICK HERE.

The conference explores opportunities for innovation in regional Australia. With its rich resources, diversity, and value, regional Australia is the catalyst for the future.

Addressing issues such as sustainable development, environmental sustainability, land use, community development, investment, agribusiness and innovation it is an opportunity not to be missed.

NT to receive better deal from Building Better Regions Fund

fiona nash 2A Federal fund for regions that pumped millions into capital cities will now be restructured to ensure the money comes to the Territory and other regional areas.

Before the start of the election campaign, the NT News revealed nearly $50 million from the National Stronger Regions Fund (NSRF), touted as a victory for regional Australia, was going towards suburbs in major capital cities.

Projects within 3km of the CBD in Brisbane were funded by the first two rounds of the program, while $33 million was spent on Melbourne proposals, including a water park.

But Minister for Regional Development Fiona Nash will today pledge to improve the scheme she inherited, transforming it into the Building Better Regions Fund (BBRF).

“As Regional Development Minister, my vision is to help build the regional communities our children and grandchildren either want to stay in or come back to,” Ms Nash said.

“We don’t want to lose the talents of our young people to the cities, and creating regional, rural and remote communities they’d love to live in is one way to make sure that doesn’t happen.”

The new scheme will now only go towards projects outside capital cities and will target two streams, infrastructure projects and community investments.About $505 million was spent on the first two rounds of the NSRF, with the remaining cash from the $1 billion scheme to run through the rounds of the BBRF.

The program is expected to run until 2020, with the potential to be extended after that.

Proposals in regional capitals like Darwin and Hobart will still be eligible for funding, while those in major metropolitan areas such as Sydney or Melbourne will not.

Ms Nash said the new scheme would have a fairer assessment process, sorting proposals into categories based on size.

“It’s very hard for smaller and more remote community and volunteer groups or small councils to compete for funding against big capital city councils who have the ability to employ consultants to write grant applications,” she said.

“It also makes sense to assess small projects against small projects, medium-sized projects against medium-sized, and major projects against major projects. A $500,000 project should not be competing with a $20 million project for funding.” To read more click here.

The 3rd Australian Regional Development Conference; Participation and Progress will be held in Canberra on 5 – 6 September 2016 to register for the conference CLICK HERE.

The conference explores opportunities for innovation in regional Australia. With its rich resources, diversity, and value, regional Australia is the catalyst for the future.

Addressing issues such as sustainable development, environmental sustainability, land use, community development, investment, agribusiness and innovation it is an opportunity not to be missed.

State of the Regions report: Call for clearer long-term plan for regional development

regioanl development regionsThe authors of a report examining regional Australia says clearer, longer term policies are needed to grow country areas.

The State of the Regions report by National Economics, which was commissioned by the Australian Local Government Association, provides a snapshot of the economic health and make-up of the regions.

Part of the report outlines the need for a program of increased local government grants to lift national income and improve equality in the distribution of income as reported by Sarah Taillier.

National Economics’ deputy director Ian Manning said he hoped the major stakeholders were more strategic with their support.

Inequity in broadband access and internet speeds were also seen as a major hindrance for country areas trying to tap into the digital economy.

Dr Manning said the Government needed to drive more support in this area.

“Try and encourage greater amounts of investment in those kinds of things which help regional areas to compete with the cities or to get activities decentralised into them,” he said.

Meanwhile, the Australian Local Government Association said the major parties had not provided a clear plan on regional development. To read more click here.

The 3rd Australian Regional Development Conference; Participation and Progress will be held in Canberra on 5 – 6 September 2016 to register for the conference CLICK HERE.

The conference explores opportunities for innovation in regional Australia. With its rich resources, diversity, and value, regional Australia is the catalyst for the future.

Addressing issues such as sustainable development, environmental sustainability, land use, community development, investment, agribusiness and innovation it is an opportunity not to be missed.

Fair Go campaign wins back our funding

fiona nashA Federal fund for regions that pumped millions of dollars into capital cities will be restructured to target communities outside Australia’s major hubs

In a major victory for the Fair Go for Regional Australia campaign, the National Stronger Regions Fund will no longer be allowed to give money to major cities.

Just weeks ago we revealed nearly $50 million from the fund, touted as a victory for regional Australia, was being spent in suburbs in major capital cities.

Projects within 3km of the CBD in Brisbane were funded by the first two rounds of the program while $33 million was spent on Melbourne proposals, including a water park.

But Minister for Regional Development Fiona Nash will today pledge to improve the scheme she inherited, transforming it into the Building Better Regions Fund (BBRF).

“As Regional Development Minister, my vision is to help build the regional communities our children and grandchildren either want to stay in or come back to,” Ms Nash said.

“We don’t want to lose the talents of our young people to the cities, and creating regional, rural and remote communities they’d love to live in is one way to make sure that doesn’t happen.”

The new scheme will now only go towards projects outside capital cities and will target two streams, infrastructure projects and community investments.

About $505 million was spent on the first two rounds of the old fund, with the remaining cash from the $1 billion scheme to run across the new Building Better Regions Fund.

The program is expected to run until 2020, with the potential to be extended after that.

Proposals in regional capitals like Darwin and Hobart will still be eligible for funding while those in major metropolitan areas such as Sydney or Melbourne will not.

Ms Nash said the new scheme would have a fairer assessment process, sorting proposals into categories based on size.

“It’s very hard for smaller and more remote community and volunteer groups or small councils to compete for funding against big capital city councils who have the ability to employ consultants to write grant applications,” she said.

“It also makes sense to assess small projects against small projects, medium-sized projects against medium-sized, and major projects against major projects. A $500,000 project should not be competing with a $20 million project for funding.

“We will introduce three infrastructure project categories to ensure projects of a similar size will be ranked against each other and small projects will not compete with major projects for funding.”

Entries for the third round of old funding scheme closed in June, with regional projects competing with major proposals in metropolitan areas.

Applications submitted included funding for new Brisbane Broncos and Brisbane Lions facilities as well as a Melbourne Innovation Centre in the inner-city suburb of Alphington in the Victorian capital. To read more click here.

The 3rd Australian Regional Development Conference; Participation and Progress will be held in Canberra on 5 – 6 September 2016 to register for the conference CLICK HERE.

The conference explores opportunities for innovation in regional Australia. With its rich resources, diversity, and value, regional Australia is the catalyst for the future.

Addressing issues such as sustainable development, environmental sustainability, land use, community development, investment, agribusiness and innovation it is an opportunity not to be missed.