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Innovation statement neglects regional Australia.

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Innovation Statement Neglects Regional Australia Martin Ferguson - Shadow Minister for Regional Development

Media Statement - 29 January 2001

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The Howard Government's Innovation Statement has let regional Australia down badly, Shadow Minister for Regional Development, Martin Ferguson, said today.

"Nowhere in this statement is there a recognition that many regions are lagging in the skills and know-how that are critical to competing for new opportunities and jobs," Mr Ferguson said.

"One of the first acts of the Howard Government was to declare that there is no role for our national government in regional development, and to abolish all regional development programs. At the same time, they made massive funding cuts to regional education, training and research.

"This statement reconfirms that the Howard Government continues to regard people in regional Australia as second-class citizens."

Mr Ferguson said the contrast between Labor and the Howard Government was clear.

"John Howard is trying to imitate Labor's Knowledge Nation agenda, but only Labor understands that in a Knowledge Nation you have to do more for the people and places that have been left behind.

"While the Howard Government wants to run our regional education institutions dry, and push the research focus to the big cities, Labor is developing initiatives that can rebuild the capacity of our lagging regions.

"For example, Labor's Education Priority Zones initiative directly targets the regions and communities lagging in terms of skills development, and our online learning initiatives improve access for people affected by tyranny of distance.

"It is a pity that the Howard Government could steal so many initiatives from Labor, yet fail to pick up ones like this which directly assist regional Australia.

"The knowledge being created by our regional education institutions is critical to successful regional development, but this potential is currently being ignored.

"Rather than further fuelling the regional divide, I would have liked to see commitments that do more for the people and places missing out.

"A Beazley Labor Government will ensure that all regions and communities share in the benefits of becoming a Knowledge Nation."

Authorised by Geoff Walsh, 19 National Circuit, Barton ACT 2600.