For too long, regional development policy in Australia has been fragmented, contentious and subject to short-term commitments based on limited data and information. ALGA has welcomed the Government's announcement this week of its policy for regional, rural and remote Australia – Regions 2030: Unlocking Opportunity.
ALGA also welcomed the announcement a few weeks ago of the release of the Productivity Commission’s initial report on Transitioning Regional Economies. The Productivity Commission has produced an impressive report in the limited time it has had to investigate this complex matter. I am hopeful this a positive sign that the strategic context for developing future policy and programs might be based on adaptable resilience frameworks and guided by insightful metrics.
From a national local government perspective, ALGA has argued that nurturing effective local government participation is vital to the success of regional development initiatives. The cooperation between all levels of governments is essential to prevent duplication of programs as well as address the widening disparities between regions. This has been an underlying theme in successive State of the Regions Reports, including the 2011-12 report that examined specifically the implications of the mining boom and bust.
In my meetings with Minister Nash, I have made it clear that the local government sector looks forward to working with the Government to help develop a new national regional policy initiative, something the Government flagged as a commitment in last year’s budget announcement. I am pleased that Minister Nash has agreed to speak at this year’s Regional Cooperation and Development Forum to be held in Canberra on Sunday 18 June. Hopefully the Minister will take this opportunity to update us on its progress and how the Government intends to incorporate the work of the Productivity Commission.
I am equally pleased that the Productivity Commissioner Paul Lindwall and some of his team have accepted ALGA’s invitation to share their initial study findings with the forum delegates. This is yet another incentive for councils to register to attend this year’s forum and help shape the direction of regional policy, as well as demonstrate the valuable roles played by local government when it comes to both providing leadership and facilitating tangible local and regional economic development activity.
The closing date for submissions to the Productivity Commission’s study is 31 July. I would strongly recommend that every council – be they urban, regional, rural or remote – takes the time to consider the initial findings and provide appropriate feedback in order to reinforce the critical role played by us serving at the local and regional levels.
Mayor David O’Loughlin