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Tuesday, 20 March 2012
Page: 3493

Regional Australia Institute

Mr CROOK (O'Connor) (14:29): My question is to the Minister for Regional Australia, Regional Development and Local Government. I refer to the Regional Australia Institute and I ask the following question without any disrespect to the institute's current board members. Given Australia's dependence on regional Western Australia and WA's leadership in regional development through the successful Royalties for Regions fund and the unique regional development opportunities it brings, why is there no Western Australian representation on the board? Is there an opportunity for a regional specialist from WA to be appointed to the board?

Mr CREAN (HothamMinister for Regional Australia, Regional Development and Local Government and Minister for the Arts) (14:29): I thank the honourable member for his question. The Regional Australia Institute is a very important commitment made to the regional Independents by the Prime Minister in the formation of this government and we have delivered on that commitment. The Regional Australia Institute is a public company limited by guarantee and the membership of its board is determined by its board. I am happy to pass on your concern about the need for WA representation.

I should say that the Ministerial Advisory Council on Regional Australia, MACRA, which I have established, has a very broad cross-section of representation, including WA representation. Collene Longmore, CEO at the Shire of Roebourne, is a member of MACRA and we are very keen to ensure all the country is represented. I might say the member for O'Connor is the only member on that side of the House to ask a question in this place on regional development. In all the time I have held this portfolio, I have not had one question from Her Majesty's loyal opposition in relation to regional development. I think the member should pay some regard to who he trusts to better look after the regions when it comes to consideration of issues we bring before the parliament and before the Australian—

The SPEAKER: The honourable member will return to the substance of the question.

Mr CREAN: This is the substance of the question, Mr Speaker. I have been asked about the significance of the Regional Australia Institute.

The SPEAKER: Minister, as Speaker, I will determine whether you are being directly relevant.

Mr CREAN: As is your right, Mr Speaker.

The SPEAKER: The minister will become directly relevant or he will resume his seat and I will call the next questioner.

Mr CREAN: So far as the Regional Australia Institute is concerned, this is a fundamental plank in enabling regions to better themselves. I have said many times in this parliament that when we look at the patchwork nature of the economy we see that the regions are the patches. We need to encourage them to diversify their economic base. They cannot do that unless there is proper research and proper foundational fact upon which decisions are taken. The reason we have established this important body is to connect with the very good work already being undertaken in regional universities around the country, to identify the gaps, to advise us and to undertake, through the money we have made available to them, how they can fill those gaps. This is a major initiative for regional Australia which has come about only because this government has implemented it.