This chapter lists 12 principles of regional development. These principles were formulated by the Committee after careful consideration of the evidence presented to the inquiry. The principles underpin the Committee’s report and provide the foundation for building and sustaining regional Australia.
Principles for building and sustaining regional Australia
Regional Australia requires a long term, flexible strategy and commitment to meet the needs of a modern, globally connected and changing environment.
The rate of social, economic and technological change has accelerated in recent decades. Any regional plan or policy framework must be flexible enough to accommodate and even pre-empt such changes.
The key to regional development across Australia is to facilitate and secure sustainable economic development.
Regional development facilitates economic development not only in the regions, but Australia as a whole. The whole nation will benefit from unlocking the potential of regional areas by growing regional economies.
All Australians should have access to reasonable services including health, education, transport and connectivity.
All Australians have a universal right to basic services. Ensuring that regional Australia enjoys equitable access to services and amenities will encourage both regional growth and increased mobility to regional centres.
Public sector decentralisation needs to be part of a broader regional development strategy.
Shifting agencies or parts of agencies to regional Australia will be most effective if it is part of an integrated strategy for regional development. Decentralisation must include decentralised policy and decision making as well as decentralised Commonwealth functions and services.
Local education and training that is engaged with its community is pivotal to regional development and decentralisation.
Local education and training both attracts and retains a capable workforce in regional areas. Engaged regional education and training – which includes school, university and TAFE sectors – can respond to local needs and build human capital.
The Commonwealth Government has an obligation to create conditions for the private sector to thrive and to invest in regional Australia, including the provision of enabling infrastructure.
The Commonwealth should provide the basic infrastructure and services needed to support private sector investment and development in the regions. This particularly applies to transport infrastructure and digital connectivity which is essential for connecting regional areas to national and global markets.
The Commonwealth Government has a leadership role to identify national regional development priorities.
Knowing the priorities and commitments of government will assist corporate Australia to make investment decisions. Providing such information will attract further investment, associated business, and infrastructure development, which creates increased opportunities for growth.
Regional Australia has to be an integral part of a national population strategy.
There is no overarching national approach to address Australia’s population issues. This includes urbanisation, ageing, depleting populations in smaller towns, and migration. Regional Australia’s population needs must be considered in this broader national context.
Collaboration between all levels of government, the private sector and community is fundamental to regional development.
Collaboration is an essential precondition of successful regional development. The principle of subsidiarity must also underpin regional development. Subsidiarity requires that any program, policy or project is the responsibility of the best level of government possible. That level of government must also be adequately funded and resourced to perform that function.
Regional development includes the liveability and amenity of regions. It includes the cultivation of social, cultural and community capital.
For regions to attract people and fulfil their potential, they require a significant population base. This will only be achieved if those regions can provide a good quality of life. Rural and regional towns must offer an environment that makes them attractive places to live and work.
Regions that can lead their own development will do better. Regions have an obligation to develop the leaders of the future.
Regions must take responsibility for their own development and growth. This includes developing leadership capabilities, and a population that can innovate, adapt and change.
It is more effective and efficient to maintain existing services and infrastructure in regional areas than allow significant deterioration that requires further investment.
Well-maintained infrastructure and services assists in retaining populations and improving the liveability of a regional area. This compares favourably to rebuilding deteriorated infrastructure that generally needs large investments over short timeframes.