On 1 June 2017, the House of Representatives passed a resolution to establish the Select Committee on Regional Development and Decentralisation. The Committee is to inquire into and report on best practice approaches to regional development, the decentralisation of Commonwealth entities, and supporting corporate decentralisation. The Terms of Reference for the Committee’s inquiry are at page xi.
The purpose of this issues paper is two-fold. First, it aims to provide more information on some of the matters set out in the Terms of Reference. Second, it provides an overview of some recent research and inquiries undertaken on regional development and decentralisation, and highlights gaps or areas that may warrant closer examination by the Committee.
This paper is not intended to replace the Terms of Reference. Nor is it intended to place more importance on some issues over others. Rather, this paper is designed to help identify some of the issues and themes arising from the Committee’s preliminary insights and investigations to date. It is also envisaged the paper will help to stimulate thinking and generate ideas about regional development and decentralisation in Australia, and encourage interested people and organisations to make a submission to the inquiry.
Information contained in this paper is largely drawn from desktop research of publically available resources. It also includes evidence provided to the Committee at its public hearing on 7 August 2017, and references major research and reports on regional development and decentralisation identified by the Parliamentary Library.
This paper is structured into three parts:
The first section provides an overview of best practice approaches to regional development, with reference to three best practice guides and frameworks from Regional Development Australia, the European Union, and Canada.
The second section discusses the policy of decentralisation. It includes a short history of decentralisation policy in Australia, and identifies some examples of decentralisation at the Commonwealth and State Government level. This section also begins to unpack the characteristics that might lend an agency to decentralisation, and asks how this policy can be measured.
The third section focuses on corporate decentralisation. It discusses the potential of the private sector to help grow regional and rural Australia, and looks at the role of the Commonwealth in facilitating and supporting the private sector to set up in non-metropolitan areas. It also identifies some examples of businesses that have successfully relocated to a regional town, as well as those that have withdrawn from these areas.
Four appendices accompany this issues paper. They include:
- a list of Australian experts who will be available to the Committee as an informal panel to discuss broad issues related to regional development and decentralisation;
- a chronological list of research papers that might serve as useful background material for interested people;
- a list of recent reports and inquiries that will help shape the Committee’s work; and
- some examples of regional development projects identified by the Committee to date.