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Labor's commitment to our regions.

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Kim Beazley, Martin Ferguson - Labor's Commitment To Our Regions Monday, 22 October 2001

ALP News Statements

Labor's Commitment To Our Regions Kim Beazley, Leader of the Opposition, and Martin Ferguson, Shadow Minister for Regional Development

Media Statement - 20 October 2001

A Beazley Labor Government will rebuild and revitalise regional Australia as a core objective of our national government. We will make regional development a priority of government, with a commitment to giving our regions the infrastructure, services and investment they need to grow and move forward.

Strong and successful regions are crucial to the future of Australia. It is not in our national interest for regional inequalities to increase or opportunities in regional communities to continue to decline.

People in regional Australia want a fair share of economic opportunities and jobs, access to decent services, and a stronger voice in the decisions that affect their future. They do not want more of the same in regional policy.

For five and a half years, the Howard-Costello Government has put profits and corporate interests ahead of people and communities. Labor believes it is time to restore the balance and offers a fundamentally different approach to rebuilding and developing our regions.

Labor's five-point plan for our regions involves:

A National Regional Development Strategy, involving a new partnership between the three levels of government, the research sector, industry and local communities. ●

The creation of a new Office for the Regions, giving regional Australia a powerful voice. ● The establishment of Enterprise Zones, involving specific job creation strategies for those struggling regions that have missed out on a fair share of economic opportunities and jobs. ●

A commitment to clean up the mess of National Competition Policy, by strengthening the voice of local communities. ●

A commitment to protect the core public institutions that service regional communities, including Telstra, Australia Post, the ABC, public schools and public hospitals, against the ideological vandalism of the Howard-Costello Government.


National Regional Development Strategy

Labor's National Regional Development Strategy will be based on a new partnership between the three levels of government, the research sector, regional development organisations, industry and local communities.

This will be developed under the auspices of the Council of Australian Governments (COAG), and will involve the three levels of government working together.

Labor will undertake a detailed analysis of the economic, social and environmental challenges facing the diversity of Australia's regions and communities as a matter of priority.

Labor will also undertake a detailed study of a range of proposed models for financing regional and local development. This will examine options to attract and retain capital in regional Australia, including interest-free loans, infrastructure bonds, superannuation options and local government bonds.

These analyses will be completed in the first six months of government, and will underpin the National Regional Development Strategy.

The National Regional Development Strategy will be overseen by a Regional Development Task Force, involving a range of stakeholders.

Office for the Regions

Labor will establish a new Office for the Regions, to provide a national focus for regional policy. This will consolidate key government resources for the benefit of regional communities and provide additional resources.

The Office for the Regions will oversee the National Regional Development Strategy, and will be responsible for ensuring that all government decisions are assessed in terms of their regional impacts.

A key feature of the Office for the Regions will be a stronger government presence on the ground, in regional communities.

Through a network of Regional Field Officers, Labor will make it easier for regional communities to access the information, ideas, resources and services they need to move forward.

Labor will hold regular Regional Cabinets in regional Australia in its first three years in government -compared to just two in three years under the Howard Government.

Enterprise Zones

Labor will address the jobs crisis facing many regions as a matter of national priority.

Labor will designate a number of economically and socially disadvantaged regions as Enterprise Zones, as the central element in a national effort to reduce regional inequalities and improve national cohesion.

Eligibility for Enterprise Zone status will be determined by objective criteria such as gross regional product and high unemployment, and funding will be available for one to three years.

Funding will be assigned on a regional basis, and will be linked to a community-driven regional strategy.

These regional strategies will be developed by the most appropriate local mechanism, as determined by the region itself. Regional strategies will draw on a combination of infrastructure and economic development support, and will focus on sustainable job creation.

The Regional Infrastructure Kickstart scheme will provide concessional loans to support infrastructure projects of regional significance.

$350 million in loans will be made available for projects that contribute significantly to regional economic development in dedicated Enterprise Zones.

Reforming National Competition Policy

Labor has a comprehensive plan to clean up the mess of National Competition Policy (NCP). Labor will revitalise the Council of Australian Governments (COAG), ensuring that elected governments oversee NCP.

Labor will strengthen the public interest test and ensure that its application reflects community concerns. Every application of NCP will be tested properly against the full set of public interest criteria. Foremost among these criteria are economic and regional development (including employment and investment growth), social welfare and equity issues.

Labor will also work to restructure the National Competition Council, to make it more representative of the needs of regional communities.

Secure Public Institutions, Secure Services for our Regions

For the past five and a half years, regional services have been threatened by a government that has undermined the core public institutions that regional communities rely on.

The Howard Government has withdrawn jobs and services that it regards as 'uneconomic', and stood by while the banks have closed almost 500 branches across regional Australia.

Labor believes that all Australians, whether they live in the city or the country, deserve access to the services that most of us take for granted.

Labor's commitment to regional services includes:

Keeping Telstra in majority public ownership; ● Strengthening Australia Post, and using it to provide regional services under Labor's comprehensive Access Australia strategy; ●

Recognising the role of the ABC in providing regional news and current affairs services, meeting the challenge of digital TV, and providing additional transmission capacity; ●

Supporting schools in need, TAFE colleges and universities, rather than wasting taxpayers' money on elite Category 1 schools; and ●

Investing in our public hospitals, rather than stand by as facilities are run down and waiting times lengthen. ●

A genuine commitment - and a shared commitment - is required to strengthen the economic and social foundations of our regions.

Labor's commitment to our regions cuts across all portfolios.

It focuses on long-term partnerships and stronger networks, not short-term fixes or handouts.

And it will forge a new partnership between our national government and the people and communities of regional Australia.

Kim Beazley's Plan for Our Regions

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