2. Inquiry Process

2.1
This chapter sets out how the Committee conducted its inquiry. It provides an overview of the type of evidence received, where public hearings were held, and how the final report was considered by the Committee.

Launch of inquiry

2.2
The Committee launched its inquiry into regional development and decentralisation on 27 July 2017 and said that it would hold public hearings across rural and regional Australia. It encouraged interested people and organisations to provide submissions by 15 September 2017.1

Issues paper

2.3
On 24 August 2017, the Committee tabled an Issues Paper in accordance with its resolution of appointment. A copy of this paper can be found on the Committee’s website.2
2.4
The purpose of the Issues Paper was to identify some of the issues and themes arising from the Committee’s preliminary research on the Terms of Reference. The paper was also designed to stimulate thinking and generate ideas about regional development and decentralisation in Australia.
2.5
The Issues Paper was based largely on desk-top research. It contained useful reference material including a list of Australian experts identified by the Committee, a list of major research on regional development and decentralisation, a list of parliamentary reports, and some examples of regional development projects.
2.6
The Committee notes that many people referred to the Issues Paper in written submissions or in their evidence at public hearings; highlighting the value of the publication to the inquiry process.

Interim report

2.7
On 8 December 2017, the Committee tabled an Interim Report in accordance with its resolution of appointment. A copy of this report can be found on the Committee’s website.3
2.8
The Interim Report provided an overview of the Committee’s progress, including the submissions it had received and the public hearings it had held across the country. The Interim Report also foreshadowed the Committee’s work in 2018.
2.9
Copies of the Interim Report were emailed to organisations and individuals who made a submission to the inquiry, and all witnesses who appeared at public hearings.

Media and communications

2.10
As set out in the Interim Report, the Committee developed a working plan to guide its media and communication activities in consultation with the Parliamentary Business and Information Service.
2.11
The Committee advertised and promoted its inquiry using a range of media to reach a cross section of the community. This included through the Committee’s website, press releases, and social media.
2.12
In particular, the Committee:
issued 14 media releases;
sent ten tweets on twitter;
posted four Facebook posts;
featured an article in About the House Magazine; and
produced a video with the former Chair regarding the inquiry.
2.13
In addition, Committee Members 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 and networks, and promoted the inquiry and its findings in speeches made to Parliament.

Submissions

2.14
The Committee called for written submissions when it launched its inquiry on 27 July 2017. The Committee received a total of 196 written submissions. A list of these submissions can be found at Appendix A.
2.15
Analysis of the written submissions shows that the majority were submitted by local councils (22 per cent) and individuals (16 per cent), followed by industry bodies (10 per cent).4 This breakdown is shown in Figure 2.1.

Figure 2.1:  Written submissions by type of submitter

2.16
Figure 2.2 provides a breakdown of submissions by state and territory. It shows that 64 submissions (32 per cent) came from Victoria, 46 submissions (23 per cent) from New South Wales, 26 submissions (13 per cent) from Queensland and 23 submissions (12 per cent) from the Australian Capital Territory.5 State and territory information is not available for six submissions as this information was not provided by the submitter.

Figure 2.2:  Number of submissions by state and territory

Public hearings

2.17
The Committee held public hearings in every Australian state and territory. Table 2.1 lists the dates and locations of these hearings. Transcripts for all public hearings can be found on the Committee’s website.6
Table 2.1:  Public hearing schedule
Location
Date
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
Canberra, ACT
16 February 2018
Toowoomba, Qld
13 March 2018
Canberra, ACT
28 March 2018
Source: Regional Development and Decentralisation Committee
2.18
The Committee’s public hearing program provided the Committee with an opportunity to directly discuss with witnesses, the key issues affecting regional and rural Australia. It also provided the Committee with opportunities to promote the inquiry across the country.

Witnesses

2.19
The Committee heard from 138 individual witnesses. A list of these witnesses is at Appendix B.

Exhibits

2.20
The Committee accepted one exhibit to its inquiry. This was a document, Alliance for a Smarter Bendigo: Towards our City Deal, presented by Be.Bendigo at a public hearing on 9 October 2017. It is also referenced at Appendix C.
2.21
Many other documents, reports and publications were provided to the Committee during its inquiry. As this information tended to be publically available, the Committee did not formally accept them into the Committee’s records. Rather, in keeping with parliamentary practice, these documents were noted for the Committee’s information and consideration.

Site visits

2.22
The Committee conducted two site visits while in Toowoomba – to the Pulse Data Centre, and Interlink SQ. Both represent examples of private infrastructure investment in regional Australia. Evidence provided by the Pulse Data Centre at the Toowoomba public hearing, and the submission from Interlink SQ can be found on the Committee’s website.7

Expert panel

2.23
The Committee began its series of public hearings with a round table in Canberra on 7 August 2017. At this hearing, the Committee heard from a number of Australian experts working in the field of regional development. A list of the expert panel members can be found at Appendix D.
2.24
The Committee chose to engage with an informal expert panel at the onset of the inquiry to help it identify some of the broad issues related to regional development and decentralisation, and to guide the way forward with the Committee’s evidence gathering.
2.25
A second round table was held in Canberra on 28 March 2018 to conclude the Committee’s public hearing schedule. This round table was convened to obtain the panel’s views on the evidence presented throughout the inquiry. It was also an opportunity to obtain the panel’s feedback on the Committee’s principles for regional development, and solidify some thinking about possible recommendations. A transcript of this discussion is available on the Committee’s website.8
2.26
Some of the expert panel members also appeared at public hearings in respective states and territories.
2.27
The Committee is most grateful to the expert panel for assisting the Committee with its inquiry – both through the provision of evidence at its public hearings, and with the provision of written submissions and answers to questions on notice.

Private briefings

2.28
The Committee held private briefings with three Commonwealth departments throughout the inquiry, including the:
Department of Infrastructure and Regional Development on 7 September 2017;
Australian Public Service Commission (APSC) on 26 October 2017; and
Productivity Commission on 1 March 2018.
2.29
The transcript of evidence from the APSC briefing was subsequently published by the Committee with the agency’s agreement.

Final report

2.30
In late 2017, the Committee resolved to request an extension to its final reporting date from ‘by 28 February 2018’ to ‘by 31 May 2018’. This extension was sought to allow the Committee sufficient time to complete its public hearing schedule, and to carefully consider the volume of evidence it had received to its inquiry. On 7 February 2018, the House of Representatives granted this extension.
2.31
In May 2018, the Committee resolved to ask for a further extension to its final reporting date from ‘by 31 May 2018’to ‘by 28 June 2018’ to finalise its report and recommendations. On 30 May 2018, the House of Representatives granted this extension.

Committee consideration

2.32
Over several private meetings, the Committee considered the evidence and information it had received. This included from written submissions, evidence at public hearings and round tables, questions on notice, private Committee briefings, reference material provided by witnesses, and its own desk top research.
2.33
Through this analysis, the Committee identified 12 key principles to underpin this report. These principles, which are set out in the following chapter, challenge traditional thinking about regional development, and set a new foundation for building and sustaining regional Australia.
2.34
With the presentation of the Committee’s report, the Select Committee on Regional Development and Decentralisation has discharged its responsibilities as set out in the Committee’s resolution of appointment. In doing so, the Committee no longer sits as a Committee of the Parliament.

  • 1
    Media Release, ‘Committee launches inquiry into regional development and decentralisation’, issue date 27 July 2017, <https://www.aph.gov.au/Parliamentary_Business/Committees/House/Regional_Development_and_Decentralisation/RDD/Media_Releases>, viewed 18 December 2017.
  • 2
    See: Inquiry into Regional Development and Decentralisation, <https://www.aph.gov.au/Parliamentary_Business/Committees/House/Regional_Development_and_Decentralisation/RDD>, viewed 9 April 2018.
  • 3
    See: Inquiry into Regional Development and Decentralisation, <https://www.aph.gov.au/Parliamentary_Business/Committees/House/Regional_Development_and_Decentralisation/RDD>, viewed 9 April 2018.
  • 4
    This information was not available for two submissions to the inquiry.
  • 5
    Albury City and City of Wodonga provided a joint submission. It has been counted (twice) as a submission from New South Wales and a submission from Victoria for this graph only.
  • 6
    See: Inquiry into Regional Development and Decentralisation, <https://www.aph.gov.au/Parliamentary_Business/Committees/House/Regional_Development_and_Decentralisation/RDD>, viewed 9 April 2018.
  • 7
    See: Inquiry into Regional Development and Decentralisation, <https://www.aph.gov.au/Parliamentary_Business/Committees/House/Regional_Development_and_Decentralisation/RDD>, viewed 9 April 2018.
  • 8
    See: Inquiry into Regional Development and Decentralisation, <https://www.aph.gov.au/Parliamentary_Business/Committees/House/Regional_Development_and_Decentralisation/RDD>, viewed 9 April 2018.

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