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New approach to regional investment and focus on regional skills gaps welcomed

9 May 2023

The Regional Australia Institute (RAI) CEO Liz Ritchie has welcomed the establishment of a Regional Investment Framework in tonight’s Federal Budget, answering a call from the RAI for a more holistic and strategic approach to regional growth.

Under the leadership of Regional Development Minister, Catherine King, the Framework identifies four priority areas for regional investment: People; Places; Services and Industry.

“We are delighted the proposed Regional Investment Framework closely reflects the RAI’s objective to ‘rebalance the nation’ and many of the targets within the RAI’s own 10-year plan for regional Australia: The Regionalisation Ambition 2032,” Ms Ritchie said.

The Government has also committed to a restoration of the ‘State of the Regions’ report, a pulse check of progress towards addressing the inequities experienced in regional Australia and on seizing the significant opportunities.

Ms Ritchie said a significant highlight of tonight’s Budget were measures to address the current regional skills gaps and to develop the skills of the future.

“Through progressing the National Skills Agreement, Skills and Training Minister Brendan O’Connor has ended a decade-long stalemate between the Federal Government and States and Territories and started the process for a more fit-for-purpose, more accessible vocational education system.

“We welcome the additional $3.7 million invested in the National Skills Agreement which includes a focus on bolstering training pathways for careers in the care sector - aged and early childhood care - skills so badly needed in regional Australia. The RAI recognises the much-needed wage increase in aged care workers.

“Regional and remote students are over-represented in the non-completion of apprenticeships and other vocational education. The National Skills Agreement’s prioritisation of assisting students with barriers to completion, is highly positive.”

“We also welcome the prioritisation of the national centre of excellence focussed on renewable energy, which logically should be based in regional Australia. Other positive Budget measures for regional Australia include:

  • Health: Changes to prescription medicine dispensing rules, a $220 million grant program for GPs to expand access and improve their services and a $2.2bn package to reform Medicare and take pressure off the hospital system.
  • Housing: The extension of the Regional First Home Buyers Grant and incentives for buy-to-rent investors.
  • Sustainability: The establishment of the National Net Zero Authority to support regional communities, businesses and workforces to transition to renewable energy and $2 billion to establish the ‘Hydrogen Headstart’ to help underwrite large-scale renewable hydrogen projects through competitive hydrogen production contracts.
  • Grants: $600 million Growing Regions Program for community and economic infrastructure projects in regional and rural Australia.

“Like all Australians doing it tough, regional Australians will benefit from the Government’s signature cost of living budget measures including assistance with energy costs and an increase in the jobseeker payment,” Ms Ritchie said.

“We will continue to work with the Government to ensure regional Australia is front and centre of the most pressing national challenges: housing affordability and availability; workforce shortages and cost of living.”

For media enquiries contact:
Alexandra Macaulay
Regional Australia Institute
Ph: 0409 652 465
E: [email protected]