Regional Australia can increase its contribution to national innovation and growth and provide improved quality of life for its 8.8 million residents. But we must stop seeing our regions as victims of change and we must stop misunderstanding this part of our economy.
Regional success is built on a balance of local ingenuity and proactivity, and informed, consultative state and federal leadership. We need to lift expectations; about what our economy can do what government can do and what regional people can and are already doing. It’s time for a period of change on our own terms.
2017 Policy Priorities
Details of projects to come in 2017 are coming soon.
For far too long we have steadfastly focussed on responding to failure in regional policy and we’ve actively talked down the prospects of regional success.
To turn that around, a focus on identifying and supporting high growth small and medium enterprises (SMEs) in regions is needed.
This small percentage of businesses creates half the new jobs in our economy and are the successful innovators in our regions.
In 2016 the RAI will outline how support for high growth SMEs can be a key part of the national innovation and growth agendas.
Australia already has great big cities, but it also has the opportunity to build even greater small cities. At the Regional Australia Institute, we see three key areas of focus to harness this opportunity
1. We must incentivise collaboration between all levels of government and local institutions to guide smart development.
2. We must offer competitive funding to support the development of globally connected innovation districts in our regional cities.
3. We must focus on future planning to foster strong CBD economies, which will produce dynamic, liveable and productive small cities.
In early 2016, we will release a paper defining the regional city opportunity and a policy approach that could help us grab it.
Check out the Great Small Cities agenda page for more about this opportunity.
Regions, like our economy as a whole, need investment and partnerships with international markets.
One of the biggest risks to growth in many regions is that we don’t grasp this opportunity and we’re driven to make poor decisions by those who seek to create fear around this issue.
A dedicated international investment and engagement program focussed on regionally led effort coupled with the better trade arrangements coming through the Free Trade Agreements, with Japan, Korea and China can deliver new growth opportunities in many regions.
Better approaches to international migration could also provide the population growth and diversity that many regions need to reach their potential.
In 2016 the RAI will release analysis showing how we can drive stronger engagement with the world.
Check out the results from the Pathfinder Namoi project to understand how stronger engagement with the world could help that region secure $900m in additional growth and outperform the national economy.
Regional Australia traditionally fares poorly in access to quality services.
The real-life result is lower educational achievement, lower incomes, higher rates of unemployment in some regions, proportionately less innovation, poorer health and lower levels of overall wellbeing.
Australia’s predominantly centralised system of government concentrates both power and public sector finances in metropolitan centres.
We consistently take the most important decisions affecting regions, both geographically and politically, out of local hands, cutting off the opportunity for local input and local innovation.
We can do two things to change this.
Firstly, on the back of the National Broadband Network, we should accelerate rollout of online services so that small communities can have better service access. This will challenge established structures, particularly in health services but it must be done.
The second thing we can do to encourage local leadership is to create the opportunity for local people to develop solutions to their own problems.
Applying some of the approaches taken to innovation in government to small isolated communities could fundamentally change things.
In 2016 the RAI will outline how we can move from a situation where services are imposed on them to one where local people have the opportunity to create something better.
Discussion paper – The future of regional Australia: change on our terms
Discussion paper – Delivering better government for the regions
Senate inquiry submission – Australia’s hidden metropolis: The future role and contribution of regional capitals to Australia
Commission of audit submission – Optimising regional investment
Northern Development white paper submission – The future of Northern Australia
Policy briefing – RDA Reform
PC inquiry submission – Regional infrastructure
PC inquiry submission – Labour mobility
Policy briefing – Reducing Australia’s local infrastructure deficit
PC inquiry submission – Natural disaster recovery
Policy briefing – Australia’s regions and the Asian century
Policy briefing – Regional communities and the mining boom
Policy briefing – Tapping regional growth
Productivity Commission’s Inquiry Submission –Telecommunications Universal Service Obligation