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'Changing regions: the road to success': opening address to SEGRA 2007



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SEGRA 2007

KS04/2007 17 September 2007

SEGRA 2007 'CHANGING REGIONS: THE ROAD TO SUCCESS' 17 SEPTEMBER 2007 OPENING ADDRESS

OPENING

• Thank you Councillor Zanotto for your kind introduction. • I am delighted to be here at SEGRA 2007, 'Changing Regions: the road to success'. • The Australian Government is pleased to be a sponsor of this conference and to contribute to the important discussion on what makes regions successful.

INTRODUCTION AND BACKGROUND

• Regional Australia is incredibly diverse, in terms of its landscape, its industries, and its people. As I travel around I am constantly impressed with the variety of responses to change occurring, and I am equally impressed with the determination being shown by regional Australians in the face of this deep drought. • There is no one pathway to success, and through our various regional programmes

the Australian Government is catering to this diversity. • The Australian Government announced on 12 September 2007 the Growing Regions plan. • The plan includes $200million over four years through the Growing Regions

programme to support projects that help communities deal with the impacts of growth. • The objectives of this programme are to assist regions in addressing: o The effects of rapid growth; o Structural change;

o Population migration; and o Population ageing. • The Australian Government also announced the continuation of the Sustainable Regions programme as part of this plan, with up to $20million in funding available for selected regions dealing with the impact of economic, social or environmental change. • Geographically, Australia's mainland covers 7.5 million square kilometres. Distributing the nation's products and services over this vast land is no mean feat. • And yet regional Australia is at the heart of Australia's economic and social prosperity and diversity, from the great Murray Darling basin that feeds Australia, to the rich minerals sector in Western Australia, regional Australia accounts for one third of Australia's workforce and generates about a half of Australia's export revenue. • I believe this is an incredible mark of success.

LOCAL LEADERSHIP

• Behind every strong region is a strong group of leaders committed to the future of the region.

• The Australian Government's contribution to the success of regional Australia includes investing in local leaders. In order to ensure regional Australia continues to prosper, we encourage and nurture good leadership.

• One of the important initiatives announced in this year's Federal Budget is $4.5million to increase women's representation on rural and regional bodies of influence. • Diversity has shown to improve decision-making in the private sector, and regional communities should also receive the benefits of diversity on boards. • New and diverse board members encourage fresh thinking. The Regional Women on

Boards initiative will work with regional and rural boards, and potential board members, to ensure the pathways to board appointments are not blocked.

AREA CONSULTATIVE COMMITTEES

• Local leaders are the lynchpin of communities and this is why the Government funds the Australia wide network of over fifty Area Consultative Committees. • I am pleased to see so many of the Area Consultative Committees represented here today. • This network of grass roots individuals supports a locally-led and inspired approach to

regional development. The Committees are the only nation-wide network of community based organisations created and supported by the Australian Government that focus purely on regional development. • The Committees allow local leaders to do what they are good at: they provide a voice for their communities and can link directly to the Australian Government. • The responsibilities of the Committees are threefold.

o To facilitate change and development; o To be the link between government, business and the community; and o To facilitate "whole of government" responses to opportunities in their communities. • This role has created a strong partnership between the Committees and the

Australian Government, making the role of the Committees critical in implementing the Australian Government's "whole of government" approach through Regional Partnerships.

REGIONAL PARTNERSHIPS PROGRAMME

• Turning now to the Australian Government's regional programmes, to reduce bureaucracy for regional communities, we consolidated a number of existing regional programmes into one consolidated regional funding package, 'Regional Partnerships'. • The objectives of this programme are to:

o Strengthen growth and opportunities; o Improve access to services; o Support planning; and o To assist with structural adjustment. • Area Consultative Committees are key to the partnership aspect of the programme. • Regional Partnerships now provides funding for specific individual projects that are

not the responsibility of other funding programmes or levels of government. • As of 31 August 2007, a total of 2,700 new applications for funding had been received. Of these, 1,415 projects totalling $325 million had been approved for funding since the programme commenced in 2003. • The Government is making available a total of $262 million is under Regional

Partnerships from 2007-08 to 2010-11. About $70 million is available for the remainder of this financial year. • Under this programme, the Australian Government works in partnership with communities, state and local government, and the private sector to help develop self-

reliant communities. • The success of the partnership approach is demonstrated in partner funding. • Partnerships with other private and public sector organisations for approved Regional Partnerships projects have attracted over $1billion in cash and $107 million of in kind

contributions. • That is over one billion dollars of additional funding going straight to regional communities.

• This funding has produced a wide variety of project outcomes, including improved access to community services, investment in infrastructure, and promotion of business opportunities.

• Under Regional Partnerships we are providing more than $900,000 for the Central Queensland Helicopter Service to build a new Operations Centre in Mackay. • Those of you who live in remote Australia know how important flying medical services are - they save countless lives each year in some of the toughest environments

imaginable. • This new Operations Centre will improve the delivery of medical services to people in central Queensland, and reduce transfer times to the Royal Flying Doctor Service or Queensland Ambulance Service. • You all would have heard of Mackay, but not many of you would have heard of

Dookie. Dookie is a small town of about 600 people in north eastern Victoria. We are helping Dookie build a new Community Centre in their town, which will include a large meeting and activity area, community resource office and sporting and clubroom area. Like all other community groups in regional Australia, this new building will act as a hub of the community, bringing people of all ages together, from the local footy team to the town's elderly citizens' club. • A little closer to home is Illawarra's Regional Airport. This airport has received

$330,000 in funding from Regional Partnerships, to improve and expand the services it provides to this community. • The Shellharbour City Council's commitment to developing the airport included maximising the airport's long term sustainable revenue and working with regional

stakeholders to ensure the airport became an integral part of the Illawarra region's infrastructure and economy in conjunction with environmental, safety and security standards. • The project involved the construction of four new workshops to strengthen the

business operations of existing businesses and to encourage new businesses and training opportunities. This has resulted in a new aircraft hub for the region. • This in turn created 25 new project specific jobs, which is expected to grow as the businesses become established. • Indirect benefits from this project and the airport redevelopment include the

stimulation of ongoing economic growth for the whole airport, with benefits to the town itself and also for the wider Illawarra and Southern Highlands. • The Illawarra community now has local options when flying with QANTAS Link offering flights to Melbourne and employing 5 staff members. • The Historical Aircraft Restoration Society also through Regional Partnerships

funding are extending their services in the airport. This helps to preserve our rich history by constructing a museum to house and display their collection. • The projects we are funding under Regional Partnerships are proof of the benefits that can occur when government and regional communities work in partnership to

build a stronger Australia.

TACKLING INFRASTRUCTURE CHANGES

• The Australian Government is committed to regional Australia not only through regional specific programmes such as Regional Partnerships, but also by supporting local government, building better roads, funding faster telecommunications, and managing our most precious resource - water. We have invested record amounts in these areas.

LOCAL GOVERNMENT FUNDING

• In the May 2007 Federal Budget, the Australian Government announced more than $2 billion in direct funding to local governments. • Of this, local governments will receive nearly $2 billion in Financial Assistance Grants, comprising over $1 billion in general purpose grants and $542 million in local

road grants. • This is an increase of 4.5 per cent from the previous year. • Financial Assistance Grants often make up more than half the revenue of some council's, which makes them a very important lifeline.

• Provided as untied grants, these funds allow local Councils to spend the money on local community priorities.

AUSLINK 2

• One of the cornerstone's of Australia's booming economy is our incredible transport network. • The Australian Government will invest $22.3 billion in Australia's land transport system from 2009-10 to 2013-14 under AusLink 2, the second stage of the

Government's national transport plan. • This is a 41 per cent increase on the current AusLink programme and is the biggest investment in land transport infrastructure that has ever been made by an Australian

Government. • AusLink 2 continues the massive investment in Australia's major roads and railways and will help build the strategic road links needed to create new industries and more

jobs in regional areas. • Construction projects are being developed in consultation with state and territory governments and will address the strategic priorities identified by AusLink. • Auslink2 will also enable us to continue funding innovative new technologies, traffic

management systems and rail signal upgrades to get more out of our existing infrastructure.

WATER MANAGEMENT

• Another critical issue for many regional communities is water. • Water is now a national issue, and from 1990, a number of Council of Australian Government agreements have been made to sustainably use and manage Australia's water resources. • I appreciate that all levels of government are currently engaged in a significant

number of water conservation initiatives including improving water efficiency, water pricing, recycling and reuse. • Given this prolonged period of drought, water sustainability is increasingly important not only for local community use, but also for the national economy. • The Australian Government is providing $2 billion to assist with the funding of

practical on the ground water solutions. • The Australian Government Water Fund will benefit all Australians, including those in rural and regional areas, through Water Smart Australia, Raising Water Standards,

and the Community Water Grants. • Within this, the Community Water Grants Programme is particularly popular with local government as it funds the core local government issues of: o water savings and efficiency;

o water reuse and recycling; and o surface and ground water health.

Even small projects at the local level can make a difference.

TELECOMMUNICATIONS

• A modern economy requires modern telecommunications, and the Australian Government is investing record amounts on telecommunications in regional Australia through Australia Connected. • The centrepiece of Australia Connected is the immediate rollout of a new,

independent, competitive and state-of-the-art national broadband network that will extend high speed services out to 99 per cent of the population and provide speeds of 12 megabits per second by mid 2009. • Beyond 2009, this new scaleable national network will have the capacity to provide

vastly increased speeds as Australia's demand for bandwidth grows, with funding already assured from the ongoing income stream provided by the Government's $2 billion Communications Fund.

• This ongoing income stream is a critical 'insurance policy' for regional and rural Australians to ensure they are not left behind as telecommunications technology travels into the Twenty-First Century.

CONCLUSION

• I know I've touched on a number of areas this morning, but its indicative of the wide range of support the Australian Government provides regional Australia. • Through the Australian Government, regional Australia will remain connected to the national agenda and remain at the heart of Australia's industry and economy. • In conclusion, ladies and gentlemen, I would like to acknowledge the strength that lies

within regional Australia. • Growing up in Far North Queensland, I have seen first hand the struggles that have to be faced in regional Australia, from devastating bushfires, failing crops or the loss

of our youth to the call of the cities. • There are many challenges that face this great nation, especially in regional Australia, but I am confident that we will continue to grow in strength and meet any challenges head on. • I am pleased to have been able to share with you some of the work being undertaken

by the Australian Government to support and encourage regional Australia as well as providing information about the various forms of Australian Government funding available to regional Australia. • I would like to thank you all again for inviting me here to address you all and I look forward to seeing the results of what I am sure will be a fruitful few days of collaboration and discussion.

THANK YOU.