AS part of the Coalition’s ambitious new regional policy development process, Michal McCormack wants to gather fresh feedback on a truer definition of regional Australia and where regional coastal cities like Newcastle or Wollongong fit in, in terms of eligibility for various funding programs.
The NSW Riverina MP’s ministerial portfolio responsibilities currently include administration and delivery of regional programs like the $1 billion National Stronger Regions Fund; Stronger Communities Program and Community Development Grants.
“At the moment regional towns and cities cannot tap into the Cities and the Built Environment portfolio space and gain money from programs under that particular portfolio,” he said.
“But with the National Stronger Regions Fund there’s no clear delineation as to what is and what is not, regional Australia.
“What we find however, is that each and every electorate in Australia is eligible for those programs.”
Mr McCormack said to him, regional Australia was “a place outside the bright city lights…where the next place is 100kms or so from it”.
“It’s a place where you can see the stars at night and you don’t have all of the trappings of metropolitan living,” he said.
“I think we need to clearly differentiate between regional Australia and metropolitan Australia so that we get a fairer deal out in regional and country areas and a fairer deal from the funding sources available.”
Mr McCormack said he wanted to hear from Regional Development Australia boards, other regionally-related government bodies, academic institutions and other stakeholders on “where we draw the line” to define regional Australia.
He said the process would develop a map – showing where the lines would be drawn to guide future discussions on finalising that definition – which would also ignite further debate.