OPINION: Who will step up for regional Australia?
IN HIS final speech in Parliament, former Deputy Prime Minister The Hon Warren Truss told his colleagues to remember people living in rural areas are also Australians and "have a right to expect a fair share of our nation's growth and prosperity."
This is an incredible statement from a man who held the second-highest office of our land.
The Deputy Prime Minister bowed out acknowledging career highlights but also the lower life expectancy, lower rates of Year 12 completion and high unemployment rates in his own electorate, stating, "It is unacceptable that we should have unemployment rates double that of Brisbane."
That statement must give us pause – even more so because these facts are not exclusive to the now retired Deputy Prime Minister’s electorate.
These facts are common throughout regional Australia and continue to remain despite successive Coalition and Labor governments stating they will stand up for regional Australia.
We’ve heard much talk on the campaign trail this week from both sides of politics about jobs, growth and youth unemployment in an effort to win over voters in Queensland.
Accessing jobs remains one of Queensland’s greatest challenges. Regional capital cities such as the Sunshine Coast, Mackay, Cairns and Townsville are bearing the brunt of this hurt.
So are those living in the surrounding regional towns that need jobs in the professional, hospitality, manufacturing and service sectors found in regional capital cities.
The staggering disparity of outcomes for those living in big cities and the regions means a piece meal approach to infrastructure delivery that usually increases around an election, and the economic policies that are either agriculture or big city centric will not work.
As Australia’s economy continues to transition to high-value jobs of the future, regional capital cities need support to transition so they can ensure these jobs are available.
One-third of Australians rely on a regional capital city for their everyday needs, yet these cities continue to be under represented in policy and as a consequence remain vastly underfunded.
Our political leaders need long-term and forward-thinking planning to deliver powerful and innovative regional capital cities of the future.
Who will now step up to ensure regional Australia gets a fair go? Who will change the tide and commit to real change?
Mayor Shane Van Styn,
Chair, Regional Capitals Australia.
(Regional Capitals Australia is an alliance of local government councils binding together to build a nation of strong, sustainable and well-planned regional capitals and connected communities.)