State of the Regions - the gap widens

The General Assembly began with a full day Regional Cooperation and Development Forum on Sunday 3 December. Some 250 delegates looked at the issues rising from ALGA's 'State of the Regions' report which was released at the Forum.

"The report is a lengthy document but its messages are clear," said President, Councillor John Ross.

"Australia's wealth and opportunity is inequitably distributed and our whole nation suffers from duplicative policy and ill preparedness for the challenges of the coming decade, let alone the 21st century."

The 'State of the Regions' report was prepared for the ALGA by National Economics, a private economic and research consulting group.

Craig Shepherd from National Economics said that the report clearly points to increasing inequity. He added that the unemployment rate is no longer a reliable indicator of the situation in the regions.

"There are huge differences in output from region to region," he said.

"Apart from a few mining towns, Sydney is now producing 50 percent more per person than the rest of Australia.

"Moreover, growth is being concentrated in the areas that are already doing well."

He said the remedy is to build on the skills base in local areas, to ensure the supply chain and customers stay in the region. The regions must also be able to tap into finance sources. The Regional Development Trust, established from Local Government Super funds in New South Wales, is a good example of positive action.

A number of best practice examples were showcased during the Forum.

The concept of promoting learning communities and R&D to build community capital plus Tasmania's Beacon Foundation youth job creation initiative were also part of the Forum's full and informative program.