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Speeches

House Select Committee on Regional Development and Decentralisation

I rise today to speak on the issues paper presented to the House by my friend Dr McVeigh on behalf of the House of Representatives Select Committee on Regional Development and Decentralisation, of which I am a proud member.

The resources and hard work of our regional towns and cities are fundamental to the nation's economy.  I think my electorate of Durack epitomises that statement given it is the home of iron ore and has significant gas projects, significant agricultural projects and much more.

The select committee has been asked to inquire into and report on best-practice approaches to regional development, the decentralisation of Commonwealth entities and processes by which corporate decentralisation can be supported as well. People wanting to contribute to this inquiry have only 10 days left in which to lodge their submission. Please tell us what is good about regional development, what is bad and what is happening in your area that we need to know about.  We would also like to hear from those areas that think they have a good case to be home to a decentralised government department.

The purpose of this issues paper is twofold: it aims to provide more information about matters outlined in the terms of reference of the inquiry and to provide a summary of recent research and inquiries into decentralisation. From this, the committee can better focus its attention on areas not covered by previous research.

Decentralisation of both the public and private sector is something I am particularly passionate about as I can see that the relocation of a government department could provide enormous benefit to a regional centre as well as enhancing the lives of those being relocated.

With the recent election of a Labor state government in Western Australia, we have seen the Royalties for Regions program canned to pay for their city-centric spending promises.

Let us hope that their federal counterparts have a higher regard for regional Western Australia—but given their comments during the matter of public importance today I doubt that is the case.

Ministers are being tasked to report on the suitability of departments or functions under their jurisdiction for decentralisation.  We expect substantial business cases from them by December 2017, and I look forward to assessing these as part of the committee.  Obviously, not all rural and regional areas are suitable to host a relocated government department. The destination should appeal to public servants and their families in order to retain those employees. The appropriate infrastructure must be in place to receive both the personnel and the equipment. That includes office space, housing, transport and day-to-day services. Labour availability should also be taken into account. 

It would be remiss of me not to mention Geraldton, in my electorate, as being a suitable place for a decentralised government department to park itself in. It has close proximity to Perth.  It has a fabulous beach lifestyle, which suits families. And it is also a regional centre that services an area of approximately 300,000 square kilometres.

It also has plenty of office space and a variety of other industries. It is a perfect case that should be considered. I'm quite sure the committee will take its place. Thank you for the opportunity to speak on this issues paper. 

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