Representatives Regional Development Inquiry Heading for the finish line
The Regional Australia Institute (RAI) was pleased to contribute to several hearings of the House of Representatives Regional Development and Decentralisation Inquiry, which is in its final stages of work. We see this inquiry as an opportunity to provide a stocktake of issues and policy approaches at the national level that can support policy development by the government and the opposition in the next 12 months.
The final hearing brought together the expert panel to discuss overall conclusions and options and included RAI CEO Jack Archer, Fellows Prof. Andrew Beer (UniSA), Prof. Fiona Haslam McKenzie (UWA), Adj. Prof. Tony Sorenson (UNE). Prof. John Cole (USQ), a good friend of the RAI and collaborator was also on the expert group convened by the Committee. The Committee was grappling with how to bring together all of the information gathered at regional hearings into a coherent final report with policy recommendations.
Building on our submission to the Inquiry, the RAI used the opportunity to suggest the Committee recommend that the Commonwealth work with the States to develop a set of national regional development priorities for each region. This would serve to focus collaborative economic development efforts across governments and within the Commonwealth by providing the high level policy framework for regional development that is missing at the national level.
A small number of priorities (1-3) should be set for each region which are linked to the biggest development options for each region (these will also collectively be the most important ways in regions can support national economic growth). The RAI’s Pathfinder projects provide an insight into what priorities are likely to come up through rigorous economic analysis that also connects to local priorities and state policy frameworks.
This approach of identifying the issues of national significance within a policy area that is primarily driven by other levels of government has been highly successful in other policy areas, including infrastructure planning and national environmental policy. If these priorities were agreed on by the States, then it would help to create a stable regional development policy environment that could better survive changes of government at the State and Federal level and support longer term investment and development strategies.
The RAI also discussed its proposal for a Commission for Regional Matters to work with regions and governments to adjust policy and service investment approaches to work well in different regions. This is an area of further work for the RAI in its Shared Inquiry Program and a significant regulatory reform agenda we will develop for regional issues in the coming months. The hearing involved a lively debate within the Committee and between the expert panel. The RAI looks forward to the final report which will be issued by the Committee in the coming months.
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