2. Progress of the inquiry

Launch of inquiry

The House of Representatives passed a resolution on 1 June 2017 to establish the Select Committee on Regional Development and Decentralisation (the Committee).
Prior to calling for submissions, the Committee carefully considered the Terms of Reference and how to approach the inquiry to obtain the most meaningful and relevant information about best practice for regional development and decentralisation.
The Committee launched the inquiry on 27 July 2017 with a media release from the Chair of the Committee, Dr John McVeigh MP, who stated:
The Select Committee on Regional Development and Decentralisation is calling for submissions to its inquiry. The Committee will examine best practice approaches to regional development, the decentralisation of Commonwealth entities and supporting corporate decentralisation.
…the Committee’s inquiry is wide ranging and will explore ways to increase the growth and prosperity of regional and rural Australia. While decentralisation of Commonwealth entities has been identified as a potential means to achieve this, the Committee wants to examine, more broadly, how public and private investment can assist in building and sustaining our regional communities.1
Dr McVeigh also flagged that the Committee planned to hold public hearings across regional Australia to learn more about best practice approaches to regional development, and decentralisation opportunities.2
The Committee has undertaken a range of work since the resolution was passed in June. It takes this opportunity to provide an interim report that outlines its progress to date.

Issues paper

The Terms of Reference stipulate that the Committee produce an Issues Paper by 31 August 2017. The Committee duly published its Issues Paper on 24 August 2017.3
The Issues Paper was based largely on desk-top research because the Committee had not yet received submissions or held hearings, other than a round table with a panel of experts on 7 August 2017.4
The Issues Paper addressed each of the three main areas of the Terms of Reference:
Best Practice Approaches to Regional Development;
Decentralisation of Commonwealth Entities; and
Corporate Decentralisation.
The Committee made it clear that the Issues Paper was not intended to replace the Terms of Reference or to place more importance on some issues over others. Rather, it was designed to help identify some of the issues and themes arising from the Committee’s preliminary insights and investigations.
It was also envisaged that the paper would help to stimulate thinking and generate ideas about regional development and decentralisation in Australia, and encourage interested people and organisations to make a submission to the inquiry.
The Issues Paper included useful reference material including a list of Australian experts identified by the Committee, a list of major research, a list of Parliamentary reports, and some examples of regional development projects.
It is anticipated that the resources identified in the Issues Paper will continue to assist the Committee in identifying major themes and main areas for further exploration in its final report.

Media and communications

The Committee continues to advertise and promote its inquiry using a range of media to reach a cross section of the community in regional and metropolitan areas. This includes promoting the inquiry through the Committee’s website, press releases, and social media.
Following consultation with the Parliamentary and Business Information Service, the Committee developed a working plan to guide its ongoing media and communication activities. This is set out in Table 2.1.
Table 2.1:  Guide to media and communication for inquiry
Media release, Twitter and Facebook
27 July 2017
Chair’s video, Facebook
31 July 2017
Media release, Twitter and Facebook
7 August 2017
Chair/Deputy Chair video, Facebook
Mid-August 2017
Media release, Twitter and Facebook
31 August 2017
Media release, Twitter and Facebook
Confirmation of hearing schedule
Local radio and television
Regional hearing dates
About the House Magazine, Facebook
September 2017
Media release, About the House Magazine, Twitter and Facebook
Conclusion of hearings
Media release, Twitter and Facebook
December 2017 – interim report
Media release, Chair/Deputy Chair video, Twitter and Facebook
February 2017 – final report tabled
Source: Select Committee on Regional Development and Decentralisation
As at 1 December 2017, the Committee has:
Issued nine press releases;
Sent seven tweets on twitter;
Posted four Facebook posts;
Featured an article in About the House Magazine; and
Produced a video with the Chair regarding the inquiry.
In addition, Committee Members have engaged with local radio, print, and television media at public hearings across the country, and connected with interested people through their own social media accounts.


The Committee called for written submissions on 27 July 2017. To date, the Committee has received and published a total of 187 written submissions to the inquiry. These can be found on the Committee’s website.5
It is the intention of the Committee to consider these submissions more fully in coming months, including conducting a thorough analysis to identify any themes or trends, and noting examples of best practice for regional development. A fulsome analysis of the submissions will be contained in the Committee’s final report.
An initial consideration of the submissions shows the following types of submitters (top five percentages):
27 per cent - local councils or groupings of local councils;
16 per cent - individual submitters;
10 per cent - industry bodies;
9 per cent - Regional Development Authorities; and
8 per cent - community groups and non-government organisations.
Figure A.1 at Appendix A shows all the submissions made to the inquiry grouped by type of submitter.
Analysis of submissions by state and territory shows that 63 submissions (34 per cent) have come from Victoria, 45 submissions (24 per cent) have come from New South Wales and 21 submissions (11 per cent) each have come from Queensland and the Australian Capital Territory. This breakdown is shown in Figure 2.1

Figure 2.1

Five submissions were not able to be attributed to a particular state or territory as this information was not provided by the submitter.
Submissions to the inquiry have come from 91 towns and cities across all Australian states and territories. The most significant number from a town or city is a total of 21 submissions from Canberra. This is far more than the next highest total of nine submissions from a single place.
A full list of submissions by town/city can be found at Table A.1 at Appendix A.
The Committee notes that two distinct groups are particularly well represented in the submissions:
Local governments (councils) – 27 per cent; and
Regional Development Australia (RDA) committees – 9 per cent.
The RDA is a national network of 55 committees made up of local leaders who work with all levels of government, business and community groups to support the development of the regions. The RDA committees also work with each other to identify issues that cross regions.6
This being the case, the Committee anticipates that common themes will emerge from submissions and evidence provided by RDA committees at public hearings. More on the work of RDAs and the issues raised by them during this inquiry will be contained in the Committee’s final report.


The Committee undertook to hold hearings in every Australian state and territory. As at 1 December 2017, it has held hearings as follows:
Canberra ACT- 7 August 2017
Orange NSW- 18 September 2017
Bendigo Vic- 9 October 2017
Launceston Tas- 10 October 2017
Burnie Tas- 11 October 2017
Wodonga Vic- 12 October 2017
Geraldton WA- 30 October 2017
Kalgoorlie WA- 31 October 2017
Newcastle NSW- 2 November 2017
Murray Bridge SA- 6 November 2017
Darwin NT- 9 November 2017
Transcripts for all public hearings held to date can be found on the Committee’s website.7
The Committee began its series of hearings with a public round table in Canberra at which it heard from a number of Australian experts.8 A list of expert panel members can be found at Appendix B.
As explained in the Issues Paper, an informal expert panel was convened to discuss the broad issues related to regional development and decentralisation.9 The Committee plans to hold another round table in early 2018, where it will engage with the expert panel again.
The Committee has heard from 115 individual witnesses representing 77 different organisations. A list of witnesses for each public hearing can be found at Appendix C.
It is the Committee’s goal to invite a diverse range of witnesses to its public hearings to ensure that it hears evidence that covers a full spectrum of views and approaches to regional development and decentralisation.
The witnesses who have appeared at public hearings represent a broad cross section of stakeholders with an interest in the issues of the inquiry, including local government, community groups and non-government organisations, private businesses, RDAs, state government representatives, chambers of commerce and industry, health providers and education providers.
The Committee has also aimed to ensure a degree of consistency by inviting the local government in each hearing location, as well as some from the surrounding region.
For example, at the hearing in Wodonga, both Albury and Wodonga Councils were invited to give evidence, and did so together. In addition, the Committee invited Wangaratta Council to give evidence.
The Committee has also invited local RDAs to present evidence at each of the public hearings.
It is hoped that when considering the evidence from these two main groups – after all hearings are finished – the Committee will be able to identify trends in best practice for regional development, and note any recurring themes or arguments in relation to decentralisation.
The Committee takes this opportunity to again thank all of the witnesses who have appeared at public hearings to date, and who have provided invaluable information.
In coming months, the Committee will analyse the evidence provided by witnesses, alongside the written evidence contained in submissions. Its findings will be contained in the final report.
The Committee anticipates that in early 2018, it will hold further hearings in Townsville, Toowoomba, Armidale and Canberra. The Committee may hold additional hearings in regional locations that are identified during a closer analysis of the evidence.

Other information

During the inquiry, the Committee has periodically requested and received other information. This information includes responses to questions on notice, an exhibit, and information gathered during private briefings.
The Committee has held private briefings with:
The Department of Infrastructure and Regional Development on 7 September 2017; and
The Australian Public Service Commission on 26 October 2017.
The Committee may hold additional private briefings in future.

Final report

The Committee has resolved to request an extension to produce its final report by 31 May 2018. The Committee considers it appropriate to request an extension because of the sheer quantity of evidence received to date which requires a thorough and considered treatment, and so that it can conduct additional hearings.
The Committee also wishes to take sufficient time to craft recommendations for best practice approaches to regional development, so that these can meaningfully inform future policy.
Dr John McVeigh MP

  • 1
    Media Release: ‘Committee launches inquiry into regional development and decentralisation’, dated 27 July 2017, <https://www.aph.gov.au/Parliamentary_Business/Committees/House/Regional_Development_and_Decentralisation/RDD/Media_Releases>, accessed 24 October 2017.
  • 2
    Media Release: ‘Committee launches inquiry into regional development and decentralisation’, dated 27 July 2017, <https://www.aph.gov.au/Parliamentary_Business/Committees/House/Regional_Development_and_Decentralisation/RDD/Media_Releases>, accessed 24 October 2017.
  • 3
    The House Select Committee on Regional Development and Decentralisation, Issues Paper, <https://www.aph.gov.au/Parliamentary_Business/Committees/House/Regional_Development_and_Decentralisation/RDD/Issues_Paper>, accessed 24 October 2017.
  • 4
    Transcript can be found at: <http://parlinfo.aph.gov.au/parlInfo/search/display/display.w3p;query%3DId%3A%22committees%2Fcommrep%2F4b7bf32e-98eb-459d-af64-891f9bb69158%2F0000%22>, accessed 24 October 2017.
  • 5
    House Select Committee on Regional Development and Decentralisation, Submissions, <https://www.aph.gov.au/Parliamentary_Business/Committees/House/Regional_Development_and_Decentralisation/RDD/Submissions>, accessed 1 December 2017.
  • 6
    Regional Development Australia, <https://rda.gov.au/>, accessed 24 October 2017.
  • 7
    House Select Committee on Regional Development and Decentralisation, <https://www.aph.gov.au/Parliamentary_Business/Committees/House/Regional_Development_and_Decentralisation>, accessed 24 October 2017.
  • 8
    The transcript for this round table can be found at: <http://parlinfo.aph.gov.au/parlInfo/search/display/display.w3p;query%3DId%3A%22committees%2Fcommrep%2F4b7bf32e-98eb-459d-af64-891f9bb69158%2F0000%22>, accessed 24 October 2017.
  • 9
    The House Select Committee on Regional Development and Decentralisation, Issues Paper, p. viii, <https://www.aph.gov.au/Parliamentary_Business/Committees/House/Regional_Development_and_Decentralisation/RDD/Issues_Paper>, accessed 24 October 2017.

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