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Government backs business and bureaucrats to go bush

The Government has announced plans to send more government departments to regional Australia, and reminded big business of the benefits of a regional base.

Speaking at the National Press Club in Canberra on Wednesday, Minister for Regional Development, Senator Fiona Nash outlined the Government’s decentralisation plans.

Minister Nash said regional people deserved the benefits of government departments and the careers and flow-on benefits they bring just as much as city people do, noting Australia's departments are far more centralised than those in the US and UK.

“I'll be responsible for creating a template for government Ministers to assess which departments are suitable for decentralisation by mid-year,” Minister Nash said.

“Departments will need to either indicate that they're suitable to move to the regions or justify why all or part of their operation is unsuitable.

“Moving government departments to the regions puts more money in our towns, more customers in our shops, more students in our schools and more volunteers in our local fire brigade.

“It also creates more career opportunities for our children to enable them to stay in the communities they grew up in. Those careers will help lure some of our young guns back to the bush as well as some city people to our regions, relieving the burden on our bursting capital cities.”

“It's important for government to lead by example and invest in rural, regional and remote Australia, creating long term careers and confidence in those communities—and we're doing it.  

While people are stuck in traffic on Melbourne's Monash tollway or Sydney's M7, country people are getting to work in five minutes
Minister for Regional Development, Senator Fiona Nash

Minister Nash said companies including Mars and Macquarie Bank already had footprints in the bush and were benefiting from lower costs of operating and an easier way of life for their employees.

“It's important for government to lead by example and invest in rural, regional and remote Australia, creating long term careers and confidence in those communities—and we're doing it.

“While people are stuck in traffic on Melbourne's Monash tollway or Sydney's M7, country people are getting to work in five minutes and parking out the front of their favourite restaurants.”

The National Farmers’ Federation (NFF) described the plan as ‘refreshing’, saying it was about time more people understood and recognised the benefits of regional living.

“Regionally-based Australians, including farmers, have long enjoyed the perks of working in, raising families in, and being a part of vibrant regional communities. I think it’s overdue that we disclose this to our fellow Australians,” said NFF President, Fiona Simson.

“We've already seen the establishment of strong regional hubs such as Toowoomba, and I think there is huge potential to continue developing other hubs in regional centres as well as build on schemes such as ‘Evocities’ to change perceptions of life in a regional city and to encourage people to live, work and invest in regional Australia.”

To make this work we must have strategic investment in relevant infrastructure
Fiona Simson, NFF President

But Ms Simson noted that regional living did have its challenges, and that infrastructure would need to keep up with business demands.

“Regional people face an ongoing battle to secure services equivalent to those enjoyed by their urban counterparts. Services such as education, health, mobile phone coverage and internet connectivity, as well as social and cultural amenities.

“To make this work we must have strategic investment in relevant infrastructure, such as transport links and inland ports, value adding capacity via public-private investment partnerships – all underpinned by increased market-access opportunities.”

“Government certainly has a large role to play in facilitating this equity however the potential for corporate prosperity to contribute is also significant.”

Ms Simson said farmers had a strong vested interest in seeing that their communities remained vibrant, viable and prosperous.

“The NFF is a strong proponent of Government departments and agencies becoming unshackled from city confines – when a methodical approach is applied – which to do date, has been sorely lacking.

“Obviously we acknowledge the fact that the Parliament is located in Canberra and the respective departments do the work of government so of course there is logic to proximity and we wouldn’t support the relocation of an agency just for relocation’s sake.”

What do you make of the Government’s agenda? Would your town be a great place for a department or big business? Log in and leave us a comment below!

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