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Regional development to suffer as Labor builds bureaucracy.



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Warren Truss Leader of The Nationals Shadow Minister for Trade, Transport, Regional Development and Local Government Federal Member for Wide Bay

M E D I A R E L E A S E

W o r k i n g h a r d , g e t t i n g r e s u l t s

Media contact: Paul Chamberlin 0419 233989 / 02 6277 4482 paul.chamberlin@aph.gov.au www.nationals.org.au

5 November 2008

Regional development to suffer as Labor builds bureaucracy

Local community groups and businesses will be disadvantaged if recommendations made by the Parliamentary Committee into the Government’s proposed regional development program are adopted, Leader of The Nationals and Shadow Minister for Regional Development, Warren Truss, said today.

The House Standing Committee on Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Local Government has released an interim report which makes recommendations about the structure for the Government’s Regional and Local Community Infrastructure Program.

“The recommendations made in the report are likely to lead to a less efficient and ineffective program that will favour large population centres and do little to stimulate community growth,” Mr Truss said.

“The key regional development role of the Area Consultative Committee (ACC) network would be greatly diminished if departmental officers become solely responsible for providing assistance with the development of applications, as recommended by the Parliamentary Committee.

“An army of Canberra-trained field officers telling people ‘I’m from the Government and I’m here to help’ would be laughed out of town in Alpha, Ouyen and Tumbarumba.”

Application assessments would be relegated to a new level of bureaucracy, comprising delegates of Ministers as well as State and Local Governments.

“The future of ACCs must now be in doubt. The long established role of ACCs undertaking their own local assessment and making preliminary recommendations based on local conditions is to be overtaken by an assessment team of Government representatives. Local circumstances would not be considered when assessing applications.”

Mr Truss said that small community organisations are the backbone of rural and remote communities and the recommendations in the report would make it difficult for them to apply for funding without the support of their local Council.

“With forced amalgamations we have seen Local Government become more and more remote from rural communities. Small organisations would find it very difficult to be successful in a grants program competing against applications drafted by city consultants.”

“Struggling country communities need this program the most, but they are the least likely to receive funding if the proposed changes are made.”

The exclusion of private sector applications from the program demonstrated that the Committee’s majority does not understand the role of local business in sustaining and growing local communities.

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“Business and industry are the key drivers of regional communities and they should be able to access assistance if they have a project worthy of support. Indeed, the preface to the report highlights the impact of the current global financial crisis and the role that regional and local communities can play in boosting economic growth. Yet one of the key recommendations of the report is the specific exclusion of applications from the private sector for funding under the new program.

“Wayne Swan in his mid-year budget review revealed today that unemployment is on the way up, yet his Government controlled Regional Development Committee has rejected the opportunity to provide assistance to business to grow and create job.

“This report is more about beefing up bureaucracy than growing local communities.

“It is clear that the Labor Party has no interest in regional development and is happy to delegate as many functions as possible to departmental officers in air-conditioned buildings in capital cities, rather than taking a genuine interest in projects that can increase social and economic opportunities in local communities,” Mr Truss said.

“Where was this report when the Labor Party was dishing out $176 million for projects in Labor targeted electorates, some of which didn’t even have so much as an application form or expression of interest attached to them?”