Labor to fix 'broken market' for regional infrastructure projects

Labor to fix 'broken market' for regional infrastructure projects


Federal Election National News
Labor Whitlam MP Stephen Jones at Shellharbour Hospital. Photo Adam McLean.

Labor Whitlam MP Stephen Jones at Shellharbour Hospital. Photo Adam McLean.

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Opposition announces plan to stop small scale local community projects from slipping through the cracks.

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Labor has laid out a $795 million pitch for regional development, revealing plans to improve the delivery of local scale projects which struggle to attract the necessary government and bureaucratic resources.

Opposition regional services and communications spokesman Stephen Jones said Labor's development plans were separate to its infrastructure funding budget, and targeted at the "livability and functionality" of local communities.

"This announcement of $795 million does not include our road and rail commitments," Mr Jone said.

"I'm focused on getting going what I call mezzanine-level projects."

Local project development is dwarfed in the agenda of the Commonwealth's statutory authority Infrastructure Australia, which is tasked with creating a comprehensive list of top-priority projects to attract public and private investment.

"We don't have that process for medium size projects, event though they're mostly in regional areas and would give a significant economic boost," Mr Jones said.

"There isn't the right investment pathway in place so government can invest, and they fall below the private sector's radar."

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A Labor government would create an Office for Regional Development within the Department of Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Development.

The Office would be advised by an expert panel and provide advice on plans submitted to the government by the local branches of Regional Development Australia.

RDA is a national network of 52 committees made up of local leaders who work with all levels of government, business and community groups to support the development in their regions.

Labor's regional development pledge includes $245m for regional communications, comprising $160 million for two more rounds the Mobile Black Spot Program, $60m to work with communities to identify priorities for investment in local connectivity projects, and $25m network of digital skills hubs.

The skills hubs would target groups that rank lowest on digital participation, such as the elderly, Indigenous Australians, people living with disabilities and the long-term unemployed.

The initiative would educate up to 500,000 regional residents and could be housed in existing community facilities like libraries, according to Labor.

The Opposition has also committed build $250m of previously-announced projects such as swimming pools, gymnasiums, or sports hubs when in government.

There's a further $200m in the kitty for new community projects, and $100m to match the Coalition's funding commitment to upgrade regional airports.

Mr Jones said regional development was "not all about the money".

"There's a whole bunch of programs which are designed in Sydney, Melbourne and Canberra that might make sense to the people that live there, but the bush they don't work," he said.

"We sometimes confront issues around market-based models, as well. They can work in the cities, but it's a fallacy to say there is a market for delivery of disability services, for example, in the bush."

Mr Jones said he wanted to be part of a government that closes the gap between metropolitan and regional areas.

"I love the regional areas, I like the people and the issues I get to deal with. I chose to live in a regional area. But we can't blind ourselves to the challenges we face on inequality and access to services."

The story Labor to fix 'broken market' for regional infrastructure projects first appeared on Farm Online.

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