Australia’s regions are brimming with potential to drive a fresh wave of innovation but only businesses investing can unleash that capacity, Business Council chief executive Jennifer Westacott said.
“As Australia’s political leaders meet in Cairns for COAG tomorrow they will have the opportunity to hear the same message from the region’s workers and employers that we have heard: communities want to lock in new investment, growth and jobs.
“Business leaders have travelled across Australia – and were in Cairns a fortnight ago – to listen to what regional communities want and need.
This is a collective responsibility and there are a range of things we can do right now to drive a fresh wave of prosperity such as improving planning, invigorating vocational education and the skills system, fixing the unnecessary burdens created by red tape and rolling out critical infrastructure that will create really strong communities.
“The best way to ensure Australians in regional areas can get the new jobs they want is by boosting innovation, investment and improving the skills system and infrastructure planning.
“Employers are committed to working with regional communities and federal and state leaders to invest in new projects, new jobs and higher wages.
“Employers are also committed to working with federal and state leaders to take a comprehensive approach to regional planning and delivering a better skills system for all Australians.
“We need to look at the whole economy in a region and say, ‘what are the strengths of that community, what are its natural advantages, what are its competitive advantages, and what is it that's going to make that community and region prosper even more.
“Whenever we travel through regional Australia we see big and small businesses working together to create opportunities for their communities.
“These are the types of relationships that are going to make our regions even stronger, create jobs and higher living standards for all Australians.
“We want to give regional Australia a much louder voice – if we could prioritise infrastructure, a skills agenda, and put a series of investments into regional Australia – it will add to our national prosperity.”
The Business Council has developed a to do list to make regional Australia even stronger.
The to do list:
- � Audit the strengths and weaknesses of key regional areas.
- � Target infrastructure dollars to regional centres with the best potential to grow.
- � Consider incentives such as fast-tracking planning approvals to encourage businesses to set up shop and invest in regional Australia.
- � Make sure regional centres are connected to other cities with good transport links for people and freight.
- � Make sure regional Australia has fast and reliable digital connections, including the National Broadband Network.
- � Urgently reform the post-secondary education and skills system. Remove the cultural and funding bias against vocational education and training by moving to a single funding model for both VET and higher education.
- � Set up a single information platform so students and workers have a one-stop-shop to find out about jobs in demand, potential earnings, what to study, how long it will take, and what it will cost.
- � Give every Australian a Lifelong Skills Account to pay for their training and education needs through their working lives, allowing them to choose where, what and when they study.
- � Create a national apprenticeship system that encourages employers to take on young workers.