The major parties have failed to deliver a coherent national plan for regional Australia. Without a current long-term national plan for the future of our regions it is local communities, businesses and our young people that shoulder the burden of societal issues such as skills shortages, population decline and poor infrastructure planning.
This lack of long-term planning has contributed to short-sightedness in regional policy. For example, the freezing of financial assistance grants to local councils failed to account for the adverse impacts this would have on regional communities. The Municipal Association of Victoria estimated that as a result of the freeze, in one year alone, $5 million was lost to the electorate of Indi. This has contributed to the level of financial assistance grants now standing at just 0.55% of federal government tax revenue.
I will move to restore financial assistance grant funding to 1996 levels of 1% of federal tax revenue, to ensure regional local councils aren't disadvantaged in critical infrastructure funding compared to those in the city
I will continue Cathy’s advocacy for a regional Australia White Paper so that long-term regional planning is made central to future federal government policy. This is vital to ensure that policy development in our regions is coherent and can contribute to making Indi a sustainable, fair and prosperous community.
- I will push for rural and regional Australia impact assessments to be built into all government policy processes, because while they are currently required at the cabinet level these are out of public view and don’t encourage line agencies to properly consider regional priorities.
- I will introduce legislation to create an Office of Regional Australia as a statutory agency with the powers to conduct independent research and inquiries, support the Regional Development Australia committee network and monitor the impact of government policy on regional Australia.