Coalition begins decentralisation process
The future of our regions is exciting. Our cities, in fact the whole of our nation, exists because of our regions. Regional Australia is responsible for 67% of our exports and 45% of our domestic tourism.
These are stories that don’t appear on the covers of the major metropolitan newspapers. Regional Australia is vibrant. Regional Australia is community driven. And regional Australia is where I myself, call home.
It’s the government’s job to serve all Australians, not just those in our capital cities. Despite this, Australian Government departments are far more centralised than those in the US or the UK. This is a great opportunity for our government and our regions. From Kooroowatha to Kalgoorlie, regional people deserve the benefits of government departments and the careers and flow-on benefits they bring just as much as city people do.
This is why at my National Press Club address last Wednesday I announced an ambitious decentralisation agenda across the Commonwealth bureaucracy. All Ministers will be required to assess which public service entities are suitable for decentralisation by mid-year. This is not a voluntary process; it will be opt-out, not opt-in. If an agency is deemed unsuitable for decentralisation, Ministers will have to actively justify why they are unsuitable and provide clear evidence to demonstrate their case.
All Ministers will need to report back to Cabinet by August on which of their departments are suitable to be moved outside of the major capitals, and relevant Ministers will need to report to Cabinet on business cases for decentralisation by December.
Moving government departments to the regions brings more money in our towns, more customers in our shops, more students in our schools and more volunteers in our local fire brigades.
Decentralisation will also bring government closer to the people and ensure that public servants stay in touch with the concerns and aspirations of all Australians – not just those in the capital cities.
It's important for the government to lead by example and invest in rural, regional and remote Australia, creating long-term careers and confidence in those communities—and we're doing it.
While people are stuck in traffic on Melbourne's Monash tollway or Sydney's M7, country people are getting to work in five minutes and parking out the front of their favourite restaurants.
Shifting to the country makes sense both for government departments and capital city residents.
I was also excited to announce the telehealth boost for rural psychological services. A major barrier to rural residents accessing vital mental health treatment will be removed with the introduction of a new Medicare rebate for online video conferencing consultations with psychologists.
This means getting the mental health services that people need regardless of where they live and many rural people who were likely going untreated will now receive appropriate care as a result.
Working with the outstanding leadership of Barnaby Joyce, the National Party is focussed on delivering for regional Australia.
I’m very proud of what we’ve been able to achieve so far, but there's more to be done.