March 16, 2022

Haines calls out Federal Government for lack of ambition for regional Australia

Independent Federal Member for Indi Helen Haines has called out the Federal Government for its lack of long-term ambition for regional Australians during this term of Parliament.

The comments come after the government-controlled Select Committee on Regional Australia, of which Dr Haines is also a member, released its final report after a three-year inquiry into the state of current government policies and initiatives in the regions.

“After a three-year inquiry, with dozens of submissions and public hearings across the country, producing a 200-page report, we are no closer to seeing what the Government’s vision for regional Australia is,” said Dr Haines.

“A person reading this report would still be left wondering what the Government will do to improve regional health care, telecommunications, education, aged care, and countless other social and infrastructure opportunities and needs.”

Dr Haines did not oppose the majority report of the committee, but made additional comments calling out the Government for its failure to drive detailed reform for regional Australia.

“Only four pages are spent on regional energy security and environmental issues with no specific recommendations for reform.

“It is an alarming omission, especially given the devastating Black Summer bushfires that ripped through many regional electorates just two years ago and the unfolding flood crisis in northern New South Wales.”

Dr Haines said the report celebrated the Regional Deals program, despite a lack of progress on the Regional Deal for Albury Wodonga.

“If Regional Deals are the Federal Government’s answer for investment in the regions, they have a lot of work to do,” Dr Haines said.

Dr Haines’ additional comments included a suite of policies for regional Australia that would boost the economy, kickstart renewables and provide proper funding for health care.

“As a community Independent, I came to Parliament in good faith and stand ready to work with all sides of politics to design and advance policies to harness the enormous economic opportunities we have here in regional Australia.”

“I’ve put forward detailed policies co-designed with regional communities that would ensure regional Australians benefit from and own a share in the renewables boom, for example.”

“I’ve also called on the government to ramp up its investment in critical health infrastructure in the regions, like a new world-class hospital in Albury Wodonga and permanent funding for smaller rural hospitals, so we can access the care we need close to home.”

“The government has failed to act on these calls, and many others.”

“Three years is a long time to hold an inquiry. We’ve had Royal Commissions go for shorter periods of time and produce better results. These recommendations tinker around the edges, and will not lead to real, meaningful progress for most regional Australians.”

In July 2020, Dr Haines revealed the Federal Government had buried an expert report that implored the Government to establish a White Paper process to identify specific, long-term policies the Government should adopt to build, invigorate, and strengthen regional Australia.

“We need clear benchmarks, year on year, that show in quantitative terms how federal investment in regional Australia is improving social, environmental, and economic conditions. Right now, we’ve just got to rely on the government’s word.”

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