This ministerial statement, released alongside the 1999 Budget, summarised the then Government's approach to working with regional communities, business and other levels of government to ensure regional, rural and remote Australia has access to economic and social opportunities and services comparable to those available in metropolitan areas.
Australia’s future as a cohesive and prosperous nation is critically dependent on the economic, social and environmental well being of Australia’s regions.
The approaching millennium has brought with it many new challenges such as rapid globalisation and changes in technology. The impacts of this pace of change are felt particularly in areas outside our capital cities. Some regional communities are struggling to adequately meet these challenges.
The Government recognises the urgent need to address a growing sense of alienation in many parts of regional Australia and to bridge the increasing gulf between metropolitan areas and the bush. It is intent on working with communities to help them deal effectively with the pace of change and seek and exploit opportunities brought about by these changes.
This Statement demonstrates that the Government does not take this aim lightly. It outlines the practical steps the Government is taking to work with regional communities, business and other levels of government to ensure regional, rural and remote Australia has access to economic and social opportunities and services comparable to those available in metropolitan areas.
In the past three years, the Federal Government’s primary focus in assisting Australia’s regions to realise their enormous potential has been to deliver sound macro and micro-economic management of the Australian economy. To illustrate the importance of these reforms, one need only ask where Australia would be today if, as so often happened in the past, an external shock like the Asian downturn had produced rising inflation, industrial action as unions sought pay increases, rapidly increasing interest rates and an artificially raised Australian dollar.
These strong economic foundations have provided the launching pad for strong and sustainable economic and employment growth, bringing benefits to regional Australia, such as substantial reductions in interest rates. There is also a renewed focus on service delivery providing communities in most need with greater access to a range of health, telecommunications, education and financial services. Particular attention has been paid to ensuring the rural industry assistance measures are targeted effectively and appropriately to the needs of producers operating in highly competitive international markets.
Through its Regional Australia Strategy, the Government is intent on understanding and addressing the needs of regional Australia. Taking a comprehensive ‘whole of government’ approach, it is working together with communities to plan viable futures and deliver results. The Strategy is aimed at coordinating Federal Government activity in, and communication with, regional Australia. Ensuring coordination of the Government’s efforts for regional Australia is a crucial first step in delivering what communities need.
The impact of this coordinated approach will not be felt by communities overnight. But the Government has a key role in encouraging effective solutions for regional Australia and is determined to keep working with regional communities, business and other levels of government until solutions are found. This Statement provides details of these initiatives and outlines strong and tangible indicators of the commitment across the Federal Government to securing a rewarding, satisfying and prosperous future for regional Australians.