How 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.
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