RADIO INTERVIEW - Radio 2CC Canberra Breakfast
Friday, 26 February, 2021
STEPHEN CENATIEMPO, HOST: A lot of talk about regionalisation recently and a lot of that, I think has been driven by the fact that people are moving out of the cities into the regions. It's nothing to do with political leadership.
That's not a criticism by any stretch of the imagination. But it's being driven by us and Eden-Monaro MP Kristy McBain has added her voice to the regionalization push. And she joins us now. Kristy, good morning.
KRISTY MCBAIN, MEMBER FOR EDEN-MONARO: Good morning.
CENATATIEMPO: As the Member for Eden-Monaro you have a vested interest in regionalisation. But I mean you come from a part of the world where it's no surprise that people want to move to.
MCBAIN: We are seeing people leaving the city - Coronavirus, has kind of showed us that we can live and work anywhere. But there are still some hurdles, I think for real regionalisation to occur.
And I think what needs to happen is it needs to be a coming together of the three levels of government within their respective responsibilities. So that any real push to regionalisation is done strategically, and not just ad hoc.
CENATIEMPO: Yeah, and I think the problem is I agree with you and but it comes down to a bit of a chicken and egg thing sometimes too, doesn't it? Where we need the infrastructure in place in order for people to effectively move to the regions on a more organised level, but then, do you run the risk of putting the infrastructure into the wrong regions and end up with a bunch of white elephants? So I mean, it has to be a balancing act, doesn't it?
MCBAIN: Yeah, that's right. And what we're seeing is infrastructure, you know, be delivered for election purposes, and not be done on a strategic basis, where we're actually targeting a region for its advantages and saying people want to move here, because, you know, the centre for, you know, agriculture, it's the centre for innovation, it's the centre for new innovative products.
What I think is disappointing is that, you know, we still use this old business case model where you have to deliver a return on investment, which is usually population based.
And if it doesn't deliver that return on investment, it doesn't go ahead. And that always disadvantages the regions.
CENATIEMPO: And more of the point is, it flies in the face of what you're actually trying to achieve, rather than what exists now. I mean, if you're looking for a business case to stack up, today, it might not necessarily happen, whereas, you know, 10 years down the track, which is what you're trying to achieve by this, the business case would probably come in in favour.
MCBAIN: Exactly right. And that's where we actually have to start some sort of strategic planning at the federal level, to make sure that the state and local government are working together to target investment in the regions we want to see grow, and make sure that they have, you know, the infrastructure needed.
I mean, NBN, and telecommunications is a key one in the regions if we want business to invest in our regions then we need to make it easy for them to do that - with good NBN and making sure we get rid of some of these black spots.
CENATIEMPO: I've always been a critic of the NBN. Particularly because we have all those mobile phone black spots still existing around Australia. And that's something that desperately needs to be addressed. But from a mechanical perspective, how do you see the federal leadership on this on what needs to be what needs to happen from a structural level?
MCBAIN: I guess, structurally, we actually need to come together in a bipartisan approach, and actually look at what are the natural advantages of some of our region's Why do we want them to grow? And how can we assist that with our planning, and that needs to work in with the state government and with local government, because we all know, there's a housing shortage right across this country. It's no different in any regional area, you can speak to any local real estate agents. And they’ll tell you that I have very, very little stock on the market. And it's very hard to get a rental.
So, we actually need to start working together. I am on the Regional Australia Committee, since joining parliament, and that committee will be going out into some of these regions to talk about what structural change is needed. And our report will be handed to the Parliament at the end of this year.
CENATIEMPO: I think that's a that's a good start. Now you've highlighted. Merimbula is one of the towns in your electorate that could benefit from a new approach to regional development. Talk us through the arguments in favour of Merimbula.
MCBAIN: So, Merimbula Chamber of Commerce put on a planning day and a half, talking to business items, property owners, government agencies, three different levels of government, community groups, about what we actually want to see, what the town wants to be. Obviously right now we know it is a tourist destination, but it also has unique advantages - it's right next to Eden with its deep-water port, we have an airport available.
You know, eco-tourism is going through the roof right across the country. And we are seeing so many people looking at - for the first-time holidaying internally rather than going overseas. So how can a town like Merimbula capture that market and then look at what business might want to move to the area because of the advantages it has there, you know, halfway between Sydney and Melbourne, and just down the hill from Canberra.
So, they've put together a 10 point plan on the things that they want to see structurally change within the town, and that's being presented to the three levels of government through their representatives.
CENATIEMPO: Kristy, I think you're on the money good to speak to you this morning.
MCBAIN: Thanks, Stephen.
CENATIEMPO: Kristy McBain the Member for Eden-Monaro. I'll tell you what, for a new MP she's switched on and she makes a lot of sense there. And it'll be good to see what the recommendations of this committee that she's on are when they hand it down.
But look, the push to regionalization is happening whether government likes it or not. And I think it's time for them to get on board. And I don't make any criticism of any side of politics here - I think it's just been a general malaise, for years that we've ignored the regions.
Media contact: Ian Campbell, phone: 0417 482 171