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Regional Development Australia ACT Media Release

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There has been much chatter in recent weeks about the Federal Government’s Senate Inquiry into the potential to relocate public service jobs into regional centres, with a call for submissions into the Inquiry generating 199 responses [1], the vast majority of which declare a preference for such relocations, into their regions.

The rural and remote regions of Australia, including the CBRJO representing the south east NSW regional area around Canberra, are understandably excited at the prospect of all the economic development potential inherent in the new jobs and infrastructure that would result from such a move to take federal government departments out of Canberra, Sydney and Melbourne, and into their regions.

Minister for Regional Development Senator Fiona Nash, speaking at the National Press Club last week (19/4) [2], outlined new Government approaches to investing in ‘regional, remote and rural Australia’, further igniting the debate with an unflattering comparison between the congestion and high house prices of metropolitan cities - where most Australians live, with the joy of the community-based lifestyle experienced by residents of rural and remote regions.

It needs to be noted that the Senator’s definition of 'a region' does not align with current Government regional development policy which divides the whole of Australia into 55 regions, inclusive of metropolitan, rural and remote regions. This suggests that the longevity of the metropolitan Regional Development Australia organisations based in metro areas could be under threat when the results of the national review into RDA are finally released – having been presented to the Minister in December 2016.

All Departmental Secretaries are being 'asked' to look across their departments and nominate agencies that can be moved out to the regions, and more, they will need to justify why they consider others are best kept in Canberra. This must mean a huge hit to the Canberra economy, and this doesn’t seem to have been recognised by federal politicians; rather, Senator Nash quotes a report suggesting that public servants only 'view the world through a prism of statistics', sic – are not of the real world.

Finding the Good

Canberra has long been fighting a historical misconception that it is a dull city, and the federal politicians’ misconception that Canberra only exists to service the Federal Parliament. Ironically, this contentious debate over the perception and role of Canberra is bringing its community closer together, to share the real message – that Canberra is a vibrant and dynamic city with a progressive culture that embraces great coffee, gourmet produce, open roads, and a beautiful bush setting, with Lake.

It needs to be said … Canberra is a city in its own right, a city of some 398,000 people who love to live, work and play here. Canberra also embraces its important role as the hub of its surrounding south east NSW region – sharing its employment opportunities, high-level health and education services, international airport, and entertainment and cultural facilities with its surrounding region residents.

Chief Minister Andrew Barr has recently been speaking with Senator Nash with a view to negotiating a City Deal that includes a Federal Government commitment to Canberra being the acknowledged home of the Australian Public Service, and to have Federal Government investment into Canberra’s national institutions such as the National Gallery and Museum and extensions of the Canberra Light Rail. A great City Deal to have signed off!

But for now we wait to hear about our future – that of Canberra, and its Regional Development Australia organisation. The Senate Inquiry reporting date is 9 May, the Federal Budget will be revealed on 10 May. And in the meantime, we have the privilege of living in the OECD-rated Best city in the world.

 

[1] Senate Inquiry Submissions Portal 

[2] Senator Fiona Nash National Press Club Address

 

For further information –

Liz Veitch

Executive Director, Regional Development Australia ACT

0428 223350

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