Regions need help

‘More action is needed to help struggling rural and remote regions innovate’ is the central message of the State of the Regions Report released at the Regional Cooperation and Development Forum in Canberra last month.

The core driver of Australia’s long-term economic growth will be innovation and rural and remote regions are being left behind, according to the report.

State of the Regions 2018-19: Trade, Jobs, Growth and Inequality, the 21st edition of the report prepared by National Economics for the Australian Local Government Association (ALGA), reveals that innovation in Australia is typically undertaken by ‘knowledge workers’ who are currently concentrated in Australia’s metropolitan capitals and inner cities.

Leading economist and co-author of the report, Dr Peter Brain, said the research found knowledge workers tended to concentrate in regions where there was a wide variety of cultural and lifestyle choices.

“Productivity and innovation happening in the inner cities are boosted by opportunities for human interaction, not only in offices and laboratories but also in cafes, shops, schools and recreational facilities.

“These interactions occur most intensively when they are within walking distance of each other.

“When these chances to connect happen, productivity increases and this benefits the region as a whole.”

The President of ALGA, Mayor David O’Loughlin, said it was clear from the report that more action is needed to help set up the right conditions to boost all of Australia’s regions.

“The three tiers of government must work together to address the infrastructure deficiencies that are making it difficult for the hinterlands to increase their productivity and grow their knowledge economies,” he said.

“Our rural and remote regions are not sharing in the success and prosperity, in relative terms, of the metropolitan capitals and we need policies, strategies and investment that will bring innovation to these regions and help them link into the prosperity of their larger counterparts.”