In its final report tabled this week, the Select Committee on Regional Development and Decentralisation made 13 recommendations to support and promote regional communities as sustainable, vibrant and enjoyable places to live and work.
The report Regions at the Ready: Investing in Australia's Future follows a 12-month inquiry which examined best practice approaches to regional development, the decentralisation of Commonwealth entities and supporting corporate decentralisation.
The Committee Chair, the Hon Damian Drum MP, said: “Our capital cities are struggling under the pressures of population growth, congestion and high cost of living expenses. Alleviating these problems does not necessarily lie in building more roads, providing more services, and extending the urban sprawl. It rests in the potential and capacity of Australia’s regions.
“This support must build on the talent and energy that already exists in regional areas. There is a need for appropriate levels of investment; investment in physical and digital connectivity, investment in human capital, and investment in regional amenity.”
The Committee’s recommendations call for greater public and private investment in regional infrastructure, a considered and strategic Commonwealth decentralisation policy, and the introduction of Regional City Deals for rural and regional Australia.
The Committee also recommends the establishment of an ongoing parliamentary Committee dedicated to examining and progressing the issues affecting rural and regional Australia, and a consolidated government policy on regional Australia, prepared through a white and green paper process.
Minister for Regional Development, Territories and Local Government, Dr John McVeigh, welcomed the report.
“Strengthening rural, regional and remote communities, creating jobs and delivering a stronger economy for the long term is a key focus of the Coalition’s plan for regional Australia,” Dr McVeigh said.
“The Government will consider the report’s recommendations and respond in due course.”
Independent Member for Indi Cathy McGowan urged all regional MPs to act on the recommendations in a parliamentary report to promote growth and prosperity in their regions.
“Having completed the inquiry, the work’s not over,” Ms McGowan, who is a member of the committee, said.
“If we are going to have regional Australia reach its potential, it’s going to need significant leadership. I encourage the Government to respond to these recommendations with the same level of commitment it had in setting up the inquiry.”
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