JOHN McVEIGH says Toowoomba’s emergence as a major regional centre is a strong advertisement for decentralisation.
The Federal Minister for Regional Development, Territories and Local Government – who hosted Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s visit to Toowoomba this week – told local media that while the city had its challenges, it was “well and truly punching above its weight”.
“People look to Groom’s example [the federal electorate taking in Toowoomba], whether it be the bypass (or) the preliminary work being done on the Inland Rail,” he said.
Mr Turnbull, in an address at the Empire theatre, also talked up decentralisation, saying "With all the benefits of broadband, better telecommunications technology, your geography, where you're actually sitting, is less important than it used to be".
"Normally [goverenment levels] are like ships in the night, broadly going in the same direction," he said. "Toowoomba is a great exception."
On a more cautious note, Dr McVeigh admitted that retaining skilled workers in Toowoomba and curbing the “brain drain” was a concern, as it was for most regional centres.
“The challenge of retaining skilled people in any regional area is ongoing,” he said. “The brain drain is a challenge anywhere.”
However, the Darling Downs’ strong infrastructure investment schedule, education portfolio and industry growth made it a model for federal decentralisation.
“All the growth for Australia can't happen in Brisbane, Melbourne or the capital cities, it has got to ride on the shoulders of the regional centres,” he said.