Real change not easy road for regional Australia

'Piecemeal approach' lets regional Australia down

Regional policy is still piecemeal, says NFF president Fiona Simson.

Regional policy is still piecemeal, says NFF president Fiona Simson.


Services still not reaching those that need it


Regional policy was still failing people at the local level as the approach to regionalisation has been "piecemeal".

So heard a webinar for Farmers for Climate Action entitled Creating Change in Regional Communities, which was told regional Australia was often just given "one-off sugar hits" that were not enough to bridge long-term inequality.

Speaking on the webinar were three farmers, former Victorian Federal Independent MP Cathy McGowan, Gunnedah NFF president Fiona Simson and Harden journalist and author Gabby Chan.

Ms Simson said changes needed to be made on the way government handled spending as regional Australia was constantly missing out on infrastructure and health and education services.

"Agriculture and regional industries are really in the prime position to help lead the country economically out of COVID-19 and establish real growth in Australia," Ms Simson said.

But she lamented that regional spending had been piecemeal.

Ms Chan, the author of Rusted Off, said the impetus for change had never been greater in rural and regional Australia.

Ms Chan said it appeared government at senior levels didn't know how regional communities worked, and that was "surprising" given how many inquiries, bodies and programs oversaw regional policy.

There was a malaise of "not wanting to rock the boat", and a climate of everyone having to agree on issues, that affected the pursuit of good policy, she said.

Ms McGowan said in areas of education, childcare and aged care, governments "don't respond to the vagaries of local communities". "Change is needed in the policy of delivery of infrastructure," she said. "Often it is based on party bias, not on a needs or a national appproach. The defence industry has a strategy and we need the same for regional Australia," she said. "Regions need to know how they can fit into the national economy."

Ms McGowan said this meant there was a greater role for independents to have a say in Government. "That would create better representation," she said.

Ms Simson lamented that many future leaders were turning away from politics and also not getting involved in community groups, partly due to the pandemic, but also due to a failure of getting young people through the pipeline into a representative life. This was affecting how good policy was being made.

On the issue of climate change, all speakers agreed that the National Party was not representing its constituency with its refusal to set a zero emissions target by 2050.

"Change will have to come from outside with the pressure coming in,'' Ms Chan said.


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