The Regional Australia Institute (RAI) has welcomed the Government’s 2022/23 Budget as delivering significant outcomes in several key areas for the regions.
In this Budget, RAI was seeking a suite of policies and measures to ensure regional communities are desirable places to live, work and invest, are an attractive proposition for city dwellers to move to and ultimately well positioned to accommodate growth.
RAI CEO Liz Ritchie said regional population growth leaped again in 2020-21 and the first time on record the population of our capital cities actually declined.
“According to the latest ABS data, in the 12 months to June 2021, the combined capital cities population declined for the first time on record — falling -0.1 per cent from an average of 1.8 per cent per year over the decade prior to the pandemic,” Ms Ritchie said.
“As a nation, we must address these growing pains facing the regions to accommodate the surge in popularity and growth. The Budget is a step in the right direction to support regional communities,” Ms Ritchie said.
As the nation’s leading thought-leader on regional issues, the RAI’s work focuses on guiding the future direction of regional Australia.
Liz Ritchie said the Institute has worked closely with the Government to ensure regional communities are getting the policy support they need to prosper into the future.
“RAI is focussed on rebalancing the nation where we see a more equitable, balanced, sustainable and prosperous nation,” Liz Ritchie said.
Covid has seen a once in a generation shift in people leaving the capital cities to call the regions home, and it’s critical that regional people have access to the services they need to be able to live and work outside capital cities.
RAI research shows one in five residents in the major cities are considering a move to the country, but they are looking for affordable and adequate housing, well paid jobs, and the appropriate liveability standards.
Liz Ritchie said the Budget has a clear theme of providing the support to ensure people who wish to live and work in the regions can do so effectively, particularly in the key areas of housing, skills and cost of living pressures.
“The cost-of-living relief, particularly at the petrol bowser will be welcomed by regional Australians who have to travel large distances and often do not have the option of public transport. In addition, the extra assistance payments will certainly help the lower income earners who live in the regions.
“The RAI welcomes the $17.9 billion increased spending on infrastructure but recognise the challenges of labour shortages and the skills gap, particularly in regions. The Budget has a strong focus on boosting skills and training and this will be made easier with the additional investment for 35,000 apprentices and trainees.
“The expanded home loan guarantee scheme, with the 50,000 guarantees each year with Government backed deposits, will be a significant benefit to young people who are trying to break into the regional housing market, an extension of this policy is advocated for by the RAI in the Building the Good Life – Meeting the demand for regional housing discussion paper being released in Bendigo on today.
“The $480 million upgrade for rural and regional NBN fixed wireless services will provide access and better reliability of internet service which is crucial for rural businesses as well as people wishing to work from home who require reliable digital connectivity. The RAI also welcomes the $812 million expansion of the regional Mobile Black Spots and Regional Connectivity programs.
“RAI is delighted to see the $500 million Regionalisation Fund as a stand-alone regional fund to drive growth in the regions.
“We welcome the Regional Accelerator Program and the regions of national importance concept and believe with a broader regionalisation framework to under pin their roll-out, the concept could play a significant role in the regionalisation of Australia,” Liz Ritchie concluded.