The Commonwealth should expand its regional infrastructure spending to drive economic recovery – consulting with local and state governments to avoid a one-size-fits-all approach.
This approach would help underpin economic recovery from the impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic, the Senate Economics References Committee said last week.
In the final report from its inquiry into the indicators of, and impact of, regional inequality in Australia, the committee says: “The needs of Geraldton in WA will be very different from the needs of the La Trobe Valley in Victoria, or the Iron Triangle in South Australia.
“And they will be different again to what support and development is needed in northern Tasmania or western NSW.
“It will not be the job of the Commonwealth to advise them, but rather listen to [local governments, regional associations and community organisations on the ground right throughout the country] and coordinate responses based on their advice.”
For the regions to prosper, the infrastructure investment needs to be matched by policies that build a sustainable population base, the report adds.
“For people to stay in the regions, or indeed, move into them from the major cities, then those people must be confident that they will have all the services and amenities that are expected in modern life.
“Not only schools for the children and hospitals for the old and sick, but also galleries, cafes, restaurants, cinemas, sporting complexes and the like must be at hand so that people can be confident that they will have a pleasant and fulfilled life wherever they choose to live.
“These amenities too must be facilitated through investment into the regions.”
The report’s two recommendations are for the Federal Government to:
- fundamentally re-examine its regional infrastructure spending plan and make an expanded infrastructure program the basis for its stimulus plan for Australia’s economic recovery from the impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic; and
- undertake a series of round table consultations with Commonwealth departments and agencies; state, and local Governments; regional associations; and community organisations.