Independent puts out a political challenge for regional communities
CATHY McGowan (MHR, Indi) has challenged the Federal Government to devise and fund a national vision that distinguishes a long-term development strategy for rural Australia and to measure the outcomes.
The Independent used the first full sitting week of the new parliament last month for a landmark speech about defining a strategic approach and providing a budget to enable country communities to realise their aspirations.
Ms McGowan also dared the Nationals – the coalition’s junior partner – to spell out a development plan for rural and regional Australia, argued for a standard regional Australia impact test as part of the Budget process, and spurred the government to commit to “actually do for rural and regional Australia what needs to be done”.
Ms McGowan – supporting a Budget Appropriation Bill – said she was elected to speak up for country Australia.
“As taxpayers in rural and regional Australia we want to see our dollars coming back to us – not just as trickle-down or by-the-way,” she said.
“We want to see services come to our community that address our needs, that are specifically designed for the group of people who live in the country, because we all know… that it is different to the city.”
Ms McGowan said she had not seen any vision for rural Australia in the coalition’s Budget papers or in the Nationals’ federal election documents or website, describing the campaign publicity as revealing “zilch, nada, nothing”.
“I think there is an assumption that one size will fit everything,” she said.
“There is an assumption that trickle-down might work.
“There is maybe even an assumption that a rising tide lifts all boats.
“If we know anything about rural and regional Australia, we know it just does not happen.”
Ms McGowan said the government had shown with its northern Australia plan that it could devise “whole-of-region, integrated, strategic, long-term, sustainable development” in a sectoral way, just as it did with defence planning.
“But what about the rest of us?” she asked.
“What about North- East Victoria, or southern New South Wales?
“What about a strategic approach to how our community is going to reach its potential?”
Ms McGowan said her hope five decades from now would be that Australia maintained an agenda that balanced country Australia’s development interests with that of nation’s cities.
“We need to turn around the idea that all Australia is an urban fringe and that the jobs and growth plan is for the urbanites,” she said.