The Government's regional policy may best be remembered for its highly controversial, though vigorously defended, RPP, or for its 1999 Regional Australia Summit, which raised so many expectations. However, the Howard Government's major contribution to regional policy over eleven years was to further embed localism as the ruling regional development philosophy. The Howard Government shared this philosophy with its contemporary State and Territory Governments.
The Howard Government's adherence to this approach has pushed other, perhaps more ambitious and interventionist, philosophies to one side. Whether the faith shown in localism as a guiding principle of regional policy is justified is an important question that might well be investigated by the Labor Commonwealth Government.
This paper outlines the Howard Government's record, analyses the key developments in policies and programs against the background of shifting regional problems, unpacks the Government's core approach, and suggests areas of potential further policy development.