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Leadership and regional priorities: keynote speech to the Regional Leaders Forum hosted by RDA Ipswich and West Moreton, Gatton

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Keynote Speech at Gatton, Queensland to the Regional Leaders Forum hosted by RDA Ipswich and West Moreton: "Leadership and Regional Priorities"

18 May 2011 CS15/2011

I'd like to begin by acknowledging the traditional owners of the land on which we stand - the Juggera and Juggerapule People - and pay my respect to their Elders, past and present. Can I also thank Aunty Therese Webster for her Welcome to Country.

It is a pleasure to join you in Gatton for today's Regional Leaders Forum.

I can't commend RDA Ipswich and West Moreton enough for hosting this important event.

It not only demonstrates your strong commitment to getting the very best results for your region - it also demonstrates that this community is ready to take that journey with you.

The last time I was here, this region, along with so many other parts of Queensland, was coming to terms with the devastation and loss caused by the tragic events over summer.

I was here twice, with community leaders including Shayne Neumann and Steve Jones: who are both here today.

I was in the Lockyer Valley in early January touring flood-affected regions.

I returned to Ipswich after the deluge that followed - again seeing the devastation first-hand and visiting the evacuation centre at Ipswich Showground.

Everyone was pitching in.

I heard stories about people checking in twice a day with neighbours, residents going on horseback all day to reach nearby towns to get food for their community, and isolated property owners using two-ways radios to stay in touch.

I was deeply affected by what I saw and heard in January.

But as I talked to people on the ground, I was struck two things: your strong sense of community and your determination to rebuild in a way that was stronger and more resilient than before.


Our Government understands that the clean-up and reconstruction efforts is a massive, ongoing task.

We also understand the importance of providing quick, upfront funding - when and where it's needed.

That's why, under the longstanding Natural Disaster Relief and Recovery Arrangements, we've committed $6.6 billion to help communities like yours rebuild.

Of that, $4.7 billion will help flood-affected communities across Queensland; and over $950 million to help communities affected by Tropical Cyclone Yasi.

Over $760 million has now reached over 606,000 individuals affected by Queensland's natural disasters through the Australian Government Disaster Recovery Payment.

And for the first time, advance payments of over $2 billion will be fast-tracked to rebuild damaged infrastructure across Queensland.

So what does this mean?

It means that $411 million in fast-tracked payments have already been made available to 53 disaster-affected Queensland local councils: including $72.3 million to Ipswich, Scenic Rim, Lockyer Valley and Somerset councils.

But I know there's more to do, and that's we will keep working with the State Government to provide your communities with the resources you need.

I have to say, Queenslanders are not standing still, you're taking charge of your future and the Lockyer Valley Community Recovery Plan is an excellent good example of your community's heavy involvement on the ground.

It's an outstanding document - underpinning the need to rebuild physical infrastructure with a commitment to placing 'people' as your top priority.

In the plan's Foreword, Cr Steve Jones said no one could have been unaffected by what happened over summer.

But he also said: "It's a long road ahead and we will walk it together."

Rebuilding after a disaster of this magnitude will take time, but today I want to reiterate that we are in it for the long haul, and we will never forget those who died and suffered so much.


Today's Forum is about Leadership and Regional Priorities.

It's about asking yourselves where you want your communities to be in 20 years - and what you need to do to get there.

I have confidence you can do this.

You have a clear vision. You have a strong leadership team. And looking around today, you have a community which shares your values and goals.


Our Government strengthened and renewed the nation's network of 55 RDA Committees because we wanted to get better results on the ground.

We asked the RDAs to look carefully at the priorities and projects that would help them become more sustainable and liveable in the years ahead.

We did this because we firmly believe that strong local economies underpin a strong national economy.

But with Australia's national economy in transition - partly as a result of the devastating events that happened here in Queensland - we want to ensure each region - each part of our patchwork economy - can reach its full potential.

The question is: how do we do that?

How do we help your region deal with an economy in transition?

The answer lies with you, because it's your regions that are the patches and it's by tapping into your input that we can make the patches work better.

This will not only help you diversify your economic base, it will also lift productivity - and that's good for your region and good for the nation.

The key is to look at each region through your eyes, the local lens, and that's why RDA committees and the people here today are so important.


This is a wonderful part of Australia.

It is diverse, it's home to world-heritage-listed National Parks and Australia's largest Air Force base and it's a great place to live.

I've also been told it's the perfect place for an RDA.

I agree.

You have strong, local councils who work well together.

You have a vibrant, motivated community.

And you have a clear set of clear goals ahead of you.

I often asked RDAs not to think in silos.

I urge them to engage broadly across their region: with all three levels of government, health and education providers, industry and the private sector.

I call it joining the dots.

And RDA Ipswich and West Moreton is setting a new benchmark in how to do that.

The key is to think collectively.

Don't just think about constructing a hospital wing, think about the new skills that might be required by the staff who work there, the apprentices who might be employed to build it, and the possibilities in e-health and e-learning that our rollout of the National Broadband Network will open up.

I know RDA Ipswich and West Moreton understands this, because your overarching priorities clear:

• Build socially sustainable communities • Develop information technology and communication infrastructure • Develop transport infrastructure • Support the growth of aerospace and aviation

industries; • Grow your primary industries • Provide access to reliable water supply • Care for your natural environment.

The RDA in your region clearly has close ties to the community - so the task now is to strengthen those connections so you can progress these priorities and maximise the opportunities ahead.

That's why today's Forum is important, and that's why last week's Federal Budget is important.


Our Budget put regional Australia front and centre.

In headline terms, it contained over $4.3 billion in new investments for regions across the country, as well as the programs you need to find local solutions to local issues.

The highlights included:

• $1.8 billion for critical infrastructure upgrades to regional hospitals and health services. • $500 million for regional higher education and vocational education and training institutions - and

$109.9 million over four years for universities with regional campuses through an increase in regional loading payments. • A $558 million National Workforce Development Fund - which will ensure training investment is industry-led and addresses the needs of regional areas. • $916 million for the first projects under the Regional Infrastructure Fund. • Extending the highly successful Priority Employment Area Strategy - allowing Local Employment Coordinators to continue their work in areas doing it tough. • And an extra $20.3 million for RDAs to make sure you have the resources need.

The OECD recently noted that instead of simply reacting to existing problems, regional policies around the world have become more proactive and forward looking.

That's what goes to the heart of the investments and reach of the Budget.

In skills for example, it laid the foundation for regions in Queensland to tackle the skills shortage by combining a number of initiatives to get a strategic, integrated solution.

• You can work closely with the Education, Skills and Jobs Coordinators; • Consult with Infrastructure Australia to build nationally significant infrastructure; • Focus on regional skilled migration - so employers

know which programs can fill vacancies; • You can also continue your work on well-researched projects through our $1 billion Regional Development

Australia Fund.


So where to from here?

Over the past few months, RDAs across Queensland and the rest of Australia have been preparing regional plans that set out long-term, strategic priorities.

From those plans, long-term, strategic projects are being developed for submission to the Regional Development Australia Fund.

Up to $100 million is available for Round One applications, which closed on Friday - and we were pleased with the strong response: 300 submissions for projects worth $1 billion.

Round Two will open later this year and today I'm urging you to think carefully about your next steps and the projects you develop.

Think and act collectively. Look at what your region needs as a whole: look at the pieces together, not separately.

Think about how to make new connections and leverage new funding.

I've been told there are some young leaders from local secondary schools here today: can you raise your hands?

I want to thank you for coming today, and also to thank you schools for encouraging you to be here.

Because we're not just looking at what your region needs today, or next week, or next year. We're looking at what you'll need over the next decade and beyond.

It will take all sections of the community to pool your knowledge for the best result.

Having raised two teenagers, I know that younger Australians are not only switched on when it comes to technology and the possibility it holds, you also come to the table with a fresh perspective.

Together with the more - I won't say older - but more experienced members of the community I think today's Forum has the potential to come up with fresh thinking and fresh ideas.


Last month, I was in Brisbane for a joint Forum of all of Queensland's RDAs.

That day, my state counterpart - Minister Tim Mulherin - and I were united in our message.

We believe a place-based approach: one that taps into your expertise and will get the best results for Queensland.

The resources might come from Canberra, but the solutions be local and today I was to again stress what a valuable contribution you're not only making right now - but also the difference you can make in the years ahead.


I would like to conclude by thanking David Hamill and the team at the RDA Ipswich and West Moreton for hosting today's Forum.

Can I also thank the people in this room for your enthusiasm and participation.

You are all passionate local champions and advocates for your regions.

You give up your time and energy to work tirelessly for your regions and we greatly value the important, strategic role you play.

The priorities you have set yourself are robust.

Today is about putting them into action: combining your experience and expertise, your different outlooks and connections and your love of this region to build stronger, more sustainable, and more resilient communities.

As I said at the outset, today is about leadership and clear priorities for the future and if what I have seen so far is any indication, you have both, and I look forward to hearing about your progress from here.