May 19, 2017

Should we let small country towns die?

The government is looking for a sound policy basis for its regional development policy. It might not have much luck with the Productivity Commission.

Bernard Keane — Politics editor

Bernard Keane

Politics editor

Australian regional development

In response to the first iteration of One Nation, the Howard government -- which had slashed funding for regional development when it first came to power -- was faced with the need to focus greater attention on the bush, seen as the source for the economic component of the anger that fuelled Pauline Hanson's rise.

The result was some thoughtful, often nuanced, regional policy led by former Nationals leader John Anderson, but one that didn't carry a whole lot of cash. One of the aims was to stop the erosion of services in small towns by funding the establishment of banking services in post offices; another was to try to leverage private funding into regional projects via a Foundation for Rural and Regional Renewal (still plugging away in Bendigo). Eventually, after Anderson had departed and budget discipline gave way to Howard's floodgate mentality to government spending, this degenerated into massive Nationals pork-barrelling of regional grants programs and the humiliation of the notorious "regional rorts" report.

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8 thoughts on “Should we let small country towns die?

  1. Charlie Chaplin

    When people up and leave a rural community for greener pastures, where do they go? The city! Do the cities have their stuff together? Sufficient jobs, affordable housing, infrastructure? If the answer is no, maybe it’s a good idea to try and stop the flight from rural areas into cities.

    1. Richard Vaughan

      I take it you didn’t read the article, or didn’t understand it!

  2. mike westerman

    When small towns reach a certain point, it would seem to make sense to extend assistance to the remainers to move as well, and as expeditiously as possible. If done in an orderly manner instead of around a binary of porking and starving, not only would costs be reduced and regional cities benefited, but there might arise an industry around relocating/demolishing/rehabilitating/memorializing – regional employment!

  3. Roger Clifton

    Regional towns are set to expand in a carbon-constrained future. When the current practice of “going down to the city” to buy cheaper groceries becomes prohibitively expensive, then the local shops and town life will be certain to recover.

  4. Inner Space

    It was roughly between the years 1570-1550 BCE when the ancient nation of Israel while sojourning in Egypt for 400-430 years and while living in relative economic independence, comfort, peace and harmony in the rural Egyptian province known as Goshen. But the lure of the building, trades and real estate boom in the cities of Pithom and Ramses was too much and a mass migration from the country areas to the cities ensued. Mass unemployment and food rations followed eventually leading to indentured slavery in a cheap labor market within crime ridden cities. Enough, enough already, but you get my point.

  5. [email protected]

    How comforting it must be for the PS residing in a comfortable office in a sophisticated city to decide to rationalise country towns out of existence. Before leaping of that cliff it may be worth noting a few things:
    1. climate change will create a dramatic shift of population and services away from urban centres to rural areas over the next two decades . That’s a fact not a supposition – the move inland to higher ground is already happening.
    2. the rise and rise of China did not begin in big cities but began in the 1930s in small villages and towns through a planned program of access to education and the building of hundreds of factories right across rural China for manufacturing of domestic goods – many of which we now buy. It was agreed to by both the Nationalists and the Communists at the time and retained after the 1949 revolution. Our current strategy of cramming millions of people into ever shrinking size apartments in inner cites then trying to find meaningful work for them to do – just will not work.
    3. Country towns service the people who grow our food, graze the cattle, shear the sheep, man the mines, etc, etc. They work harder than most city dwellers and face greater hardships (eg Cyclones, floods, droughts and bush-fires) than they could even understand. and
    4. Pork Barrelling is rife in urban Australia so don’t be so pompous and patronising towards the people you depend on to keep your taps running, the lights on and your table full! The Nats are not the pork barreling specialists – both the Libs and Labor excel at it.

  6. Camm

    None of these reports really mean jack without transport infrastructure (including information transport, i.e. not a gimped NBN) to drive growth along corridors. Anything short of those is pork barrelling.

  7. AR

    I assume that there was a gNat staffer with an electric cattle prod standing over BK as he typed this.
    Not mention of any of his well known neolib obsessions, nanny state, inland rail .. err railing or even a demand for more inner city roads.
    Country living would be more equable not by throwing subsidies at gNat electorates but by ceasing to lavish 10 times as many subsidies on those living in the megacities on the coast, alleviating them of the need to pay a fraction of the cost of providing water, sewage disposal, power or infrastructure for too many millions crammed into the space of an outback station.
    Unfortunately that’s when the votes are, not west of the GDR.

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