Regional Australia Institute (RAI) CEO Liz Ritchie said tonight’s Federal Budget directly advanced the RAI’s recently released Regionalisation Ambition 2032 – a decadal framework to ‘rebalance the nation’ with critical investments in housing; skills; regional health, innovation and productivity.
“Treasurer Jim Chalmers has tonight performed a necessary balancing act in addressing the nation’s current and significant fiscal challenges while positioning regional Australia to capture the opportunities before it,” Ms Ritchie said.
The RAI’s Regionalisation Ambition 2032, charts 20 targets across five pillars including Population, Jobs and Skills, Liveability; Productivity and Innovation; Sustainability and Resilience.
“The RAI welcomes the Government’s signature Budget commitment to build 1 million new homes over five years. The Institute has been the leading voice calling for action on bolstered public and private sector investment in regional housing,” Liz Ritchie said.
“Unprecedented regional market tightness is frustrating the attraction of new people to the regions and contributing to an unprecedented 93,000 job regional vacancies, almost one third of the nation’s entire internet-advertised jobs on offer.
“The collaboration by all levels of government and the residential development, building and construction sectors, through a new Housing Accord is welcomed. As is the Regional First Home Buyers Guarantee, an initiative recommended by the RAI, in its Building the Good Life, regional housing discussion paper released in March.”
Ms Ritchie said the RAI expected that at least one third of the investment in the Government’s touted ‘well located new homes’ including, affordable and social housing would be directed to regional areas with acute housing shortages.
To address the regions jobs and skills challenges, the RAI welcomed a $1 billion investment in fee-free VET places plus 20,000 new university places with a focus on rural, remote and Indigenous Australians.
Regional Australians continue to experience reduced access to general practitioners, specialists and allied health professionals, when compared to their capital-city counterparts.
Ms Ritchie congratulated the Government’s $146 million investment over four years to build the rural health workforce, including with a focus on obstetrics, anaesthetics, surgery, mental health and paediatrics and the training of junior doctors in place in regions.
“It makes good sense to restore bulk billed video telehealth psychiatry consultations for rural and regional Australians,” Liz Ritchie said.
The Budget also includes an additional $656 million for the Better Connectivity Plan for Regional and Rural Australia, which will advance the RAI’s goal to improve the digital inclusion score of regional Australians to 73 or above, equal to metropolitan Australia.
“Importantly the Government is delivering on its election commitment to spearhead a renaissance in regional manufacturing with an investment of $111.3 million in targeted stimulatory grants,” Ms Ritchie said.
“The RAI is also encouraged by the Government’s plan to direct $15 billion to a National Reconstruction Fund to diversify Australian industry with a focus on key areas including agriculture, fisheries and forestry, resources and renewable and low emissions technology.
“Critically and appropriately the Government has directed $3 billion to help communities and industries impacted by the past and current flood emergency and to mitigate potential disaster loss and damage.
The RAI acknowledged the recasting of the previous Government’s Building Better Regions Fund to two new regional programs: the Growing Regions Program and the Regional Precincts and Partnerships Program, with an investment of $1 billion over three years.
“We’re pleased to see, under the leadership of Regional Development Minister, Catherine King, the provision of programs to allow local governments and regional communities to invest in bespoke local projects,” Liz Ritchie said.
As Australia’s only independent regional think-tank, the RAI is also the recipient of funding to bolster the Institute’s research and policy capacity, extend activation and local impact initiatives to support regional areas, and to build new regionally-focussed education programs.
Ms Ritchie said both the complex challenges and immense opportunities before regional Australia could not be entirely addressed by one government or in any one Budget cycle.
“It requires a holistic, long-term approach from all tiers of government as well as local communities, industry and businesses, all working together collaboratively,” Ms Ritchie said.
“At the RAI, our 11 years of research has told us that we need to see a rebalancing of the nation, and this is central to the RAI’s Regionalisation Ambition 2032. Tonight’s Budget is a positive step on the journey to rebalancing the nation,” Liz Ritchie concluded.
For more details regarding the Regionalisation Ambition 2032, go to www.rebalancethenation.com.au
For media enquiries contact:
Regional Australia Institute
0429 142 232