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Coalition regional development policy a farce: Howe

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BH044/9Q 8 February 1996


The Coalition's Regional Development Policy paper l6 a farce, Federal Minister for Housing and Regional Development, Brian Howe said today.

"What the Coalition has done Is part-paraphrased the Government's Regional Development Program. In addition, they are claiming that they have given a commitment to $150 million funding over four years. This Is already the Government's commitment to its existing Regional Development Program.

"However two Important components of the Government's Regional Strategy have been omitted - the Regional Strategic Infrastructure Fund and the Partnerships element.

"Senator Macdonald claimed In a Shadow. Cabinet document leaked last year, that 'φβ policy Indicates that prior to the election we would be announcing a list of long t^rm visionary projects which would need to be investigated and prioritised by an Infrastructure Planning and Priority Council. This gives us the flexibility of

announcing a lot of major long term visionary matters without committing ourselves to actually proceeding with them'. He Is now saying nothing about infrastructure development in regions.

"Senator Macdonald has obviously been gagged by John Howard who said in November in a speech to the National Farmers' Federation; 'Public funds for infrastructure will be severely limited.,.' "

"This means that projects supported under the Infrastructure component of the Government's Regional Development Program such as the Oilseeds Research and Development Facility in Horsham, the Lincoln Marine Science Centre in Port Lincoln, the Hunter Equine Centre in Scone, would not get off the ground under the Coalition's policy.

"The paper Is also silent on the partnerships the Regional Development Program is building with the non-government and private sectors, for example, the Victorian Farmers' Federation, the Australian Chamber of Manufactures, the Council of Small Business Organisations, to name but a few.

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"There Is also no commitment to the Importance of regional development organisations In metropolitan regions such as Eastern Melbourne and North Western Sydney. What the Coalition Is saying is that they're not interested in whether these regions contribute to national growth and whether the government

hag a role in facilitating this.

"It Is an old-fashioned view of regional development; It really sees regional as moaning rural. It doesn't see how the farm gate Is increasingly moving closer and closer to the shop, the office and the factory.

"This is not a sophisticated piece of work", Mr Howe Bald.

"It Is an inward looking policy that focuees on attracting footloose Industry to rural Australia, Vet the research done by McKinsey and Company shows that less than 30% of growth In regions comes from such Industries. The growth comes from partnerships, from existing Industries taking an outward looking approach and from

regions understanding their competitive advantages and building on these".

"It shows that the Coalition, despite its tour around the country talking about regional development, does not understand the strategy behind the Government's Regional Development Program and the way that strategy is working with regional communities to help them shape the future of their region".

"Part of this document was released at Shadow Cabinet meeting in September last year. Senator Macdonald is now claiming that Labor made up that document. I suggest that Senator Macdonald check the-Indexes of the September document and the document he released yesterday - they are practically Identical".

Mr Howe said that Regional Development Organisations working with the Government to promote the international competitiveness of regions throughout Australia would probably view the Coalition's paper as a backward step.


Andrew Casey, Brian Howe's office, phone: 018 487 581