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Farm sector supports move to attract big business to the bush

19 April 2017

‘Refreshing’ is how the National Farmers’ Federation (NFF) has described plans to attract more big business to regional Australia.

Speaking at the National Press Club in Canberra today Minister for Regional Development, Senator Fiona Nash outlined her intention to lure more top tier corporate entities to regional cities and towns.

Minister Nash said companies including Mars and Macquarie Bank already had footprints in the bush and were benefiting from lower costs of operating and an easier way of life for their employees.

NFF President Fiona Simson said it was about time more people understood and recognised the benefits of regional living.

“Regionally-based Australians, including farmers, have long enjoyed the perks of working in, raising families in, and being a part of vibrant regional communities. I think it’s overdue that we disclose this to our fellow Australians.

“We've already seen the establishment of strong regional hubs such as Toowoomba, and I think there is huge potential to continue developing other hubs in regional centres as well as build on schemes such as ‘Evocities’ to change perceptions of life in a regional city and to encourage people to live, work and invest in regional Australia.

“To make this work we must have strategic investment in relevant infrastructure, such as transport links and inland ports, value adding capacity via public-private investment partnerships – all underpinned by increased market-access opportunities.”

However, Ms Simson said that for all the advantages of living outside city bounds, there were also challenges.

“Regional people face an ongoing battle to secure services equivalent to those enjoyed by their urban counterparts. Services such as education, health, mobile phone coverage and internet connectivity, as well as social and cultural amenities.

“Government certainly has a large role to play in facilitating this equity however the potential for corporate prosperity to contribute is also significant.”

Ms Simson said Minister Nash’s template for decentralisation to help attract large corporate entities to the regions was supported by the farm sector.

Minister Nash also unveiled the beginning of a new, structured approach to the decentralisation of Government agencies, which is intended to come to fruition in the next six months.

“The NFF is a strong proponent of Government departments and agencies becoming unshackled from city confines – when a methodical approach is applied – which to do date, has been sorely lacking.

“We welcome Minister Nash’s plan for the completion of business cases to help determine a government department’s suitability to move to the regions, and we look forward to learning more about what will deem an agency suitable for decentralisation.

“Obviously we acknowledge the fact that the Parliament is located in Canberra and the respective departments do the work of government so of course there is logic to proximity and we wouldn’t support the relocation of an agency just for relocation’s sake.

“Farmers will want to make sure there is a strong business case, and the effectiveness of the bureaucratic process is not going to suffer as a result of any proposed move.”

Ms Simson said farmers had a strong vested interest in seeing that their communities remained vibrant, viable and prosperous.

“Overall the plans outlined by Minister Nash today are refreshing and something we actively support.

“They appear to have the potential to help revitalise our regional towns and cities, to attract new skills, and to increase opportunities and incentives for young people, born and raised in the bush, to return to their home towns.”

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