Chester takes over decentralisation inquiry

FORMER Infrastructure and Transport Minister Darren Chester has been appointed Chairman of the House of Representatives Select Committee’s inquiry on Regional Development and Decentralisation, replacing Queensland Liberal MP Dr John McVeigh.

Mr Chester was dropped from federal Cabinet in December after serving two years as the Transport and Infrastructure Minister and replaced by his National Party leader, Barnaby Joyce, while Dr McVeigh was appointed Regional Development, Territories and Local Government Minister, replacing Fiona Nash.

The Select Committee’s inquiry into decentralisation aims to facilitate the movement of Commonwealth agencies out of Canberra and into the regions – and to examine opportunities for luring private sector companies away from the big cities to the bush.

Mr Chester says he supports the concept of public sector decentralisation but predicted more jobs would flow in the future from encouraging corporate moves to regional areas.

“I think the decentralisation of public service jobs is a good initiative, but it isn’t the only answer to regional growth,” he said.

“Sustainable regional growth requires an ongoing program of regional development and infrastructure spending that would give the private sector more confidence to invest outside the major cities.

“Businesses will only make the decision to move or expand to regional areas if those locations are well connected to each other, our capital cities, and world markets,” said Mr Chester.

He also said the Committee was “particularly keen to hear more about the role of the university sector as a driver of growth and development in rural and regional Australia, as well as the experiences of the Murray-Darling Basin Authority in decentralising its workforce across different towns and cities”.

The Committee is due to deliver its final report by May 31.