The Independent Review of the effectiveness of the RDA Program (the Review) was commissioned by the Minister for Regional Development, Senator the Hon Fiona Nash, in September 2016, following a commitment in 2014 by the former Deputy Prime Minister, the Hon Warren Truss MP. The Hon Warwick L Smith AM was appointed as the Independent Reviewer. Mr Smith was asked to examine the effectiveness of the RDA Program in delivering the Australian Government's regional agenda and make recommendations regarding its future scope, structure and delivery model, in light of developments in the Australian Government's regional agenda. Specifically, the Review researched, considered and reported on three themes:
- The RDA Program framework;
- The governance and administration of the Program; and
- Alignment with Australian Government policy objectives now and into the future.
Mr Smith’s final report was provided to the Australian Government in December 2016 and is available in full on the Department of Infrastructure and Regional Development’s (the Department) website at www.infrastructure.gov.au. In his report, Mr Smith made 11 recommendations based on a comprehensive consultation process involving all 55 RDA committees, local and state government representatives, industry bodies, and peak organisations. The Australian Government agrees with one recommendation, agrees in principle with one recommendation; notes six recommendations and does not agree to three of the 11 recommendations.
Overall, the Review found there was broad support for the Australian Government’s involvement in regional development and strong recognition of the contributions of RDA Committees to their regions, but a different approach is required to regional development to better enable communities to harness economic opportunity. The Review suggested a range of reforms to strengthen regional economies, promote economic opportunity, attract investment, and build capacity and confidence.
The Australian Government has considered the Review recommendations, and agrees with Mr Smith’s findings that there is scope for improvement in RDA Committee activities to advance economic development in their regions and a need for stronger alignment with current Australian Government policy objectives.
The Australian Government agrees that the “the key value of the RDA Program lies in soft infrastructure – networking, facilitation, brokering and advocacy”. With this in mind, the Australian Government’s response to the Review will refocus the RDA Program so that RDA Committees move beyond their previous planning role and into a more active and facilitative role, effectively being brokers for regional investment.
Working across the three levels of government and with the private sector, future RDA Committees will attract investment for their regions to help drive economic growth and create local jobs. The changes to the RDA Program will implement four key reforms to: 1. Strengthen the focus of RDA Committees under a new Charter focused on local jobs, attracting investment and economic growth; 2. Consolidate the four Melbourne RDA Committees into one RDA Committee and expand the program to include Australia’s external territories of Christmas Island, Cocos (Keeling) Islands and Norfolk Island and the Jervis Bay Territory; 3. Enhance the capabilities of RDA Committees through a new appointment process for RDA Chairs and members, and 4. Implement a new performance framework to ensure that the outputs of RDA Committees are properly monitored and measured.
This approach achieves the overarching objectives of the Review.by refocusing and strengthening of the Program without substantive architectural changes to the RDA network.