As a person who has recently made the move from the big smoke to the bush (Sydney to Tamworth) I’ve been thinking about how regional towns need some help to thrive going forward. I can see no easy solutions to keep kids from wanting to move to the cities, or for enticing more city people to move to the bush. Rather I think it will take efforts on many levels and some outside the box thinking to make it happen.
What I am certain of though is that it’s something we need to do as a nation if we want to ease the congestion that is taking hold in our major cities, especially along the east coast. The changes I saw in Sydney over recent years is a major part of our decision to move our family to Tamworth, in the hopes of a better life for our 6yo son. I have no doubt already that he’ll have better opportunities in some areas of life, as we are already seeing some changes, but much more has to be done for our regional centers. I’m hoping that this topic may start a conversation for people that will result in a better Australia for all, as we all have seen some of the problems that are happening in our fast growing cities like Melbourne and Sydney. Don’t be afraid to throw an idea out there no matter how silly you think it may be - I’m pretty sure when the first dinner fork was invented there would have been some giggles but now they are everywhere .
Let me start with something that has to be at the forefront if regional areas are to be attractive and thrive, and that is jobs. Larger businesses are not going to relocate to towns like Tamworth, Dubbo, Ballarat, etc. unless it’s attractive for them to do so. Like anything big today that means there would have to be investment, and that takes real money and some outside the box thinking. Business needs fast, reliable internet and communication infrastructure to successfully operate in these times, and whilst the NBN as it’s being rolled out currently is a basket case, it could actually be fixed and done well. You will not have medium to large corporations setting up shop in regional towns until fast, reliable internet in those areas is the norm. To do that we need people in government who will stop looking at it as an expense, but rather as an investment that will pay dividends in the long term. See I’ll be the first to throw a silly idea out there, thinking we can once again have politicians who think in decades rather than election cycles lol.
But let’s talk real out of the box policy for all levels of government. A huge cost for a business to relocate will be the setup costs, so what can we do there to make it more enticing. How about waiving/discounting the land taxes and rates for a certain number of years that can be related to the number of jobs created. That could tempt some companies that were thinking about a move, especially when you point out that for the rental costs they pay in one year in a city like Sydney, they could have a bricks and mortar asset that they own in a regional center.
Another impost to business that economists and owners often talk about is payroll tax, and you could make a change there. For any business that relocates from a major city to a regional town you could give them a payroll tax credit for each employee, credited to the company at the end of each year’s service for that employee. That would encourage companies to keep on more permanent employees, as those that leave before the year is up do not provide the company with a tax credit.
But a company has to have employees as well and as proved by Barnaby Joyce’s pork barrel attempt with the APVMA, you can’t force people to move to the country lol. A major factor in many people’s reticence to live in a regional town is services. You only have to look at the job ads for towns like Tamworth to see that they struggle to get health professionals to move there, but there are tweaks you can make there too.
We currently import many health professionals into Australia from overseas, from those on working visas to those seeking permanent residency/citizenship. For years now the government has attempted to ‘force’ those medicos to work for a period of time in a country town or regional center. Seems perfectly fine on paper but does not work and will never work. Having someone set up practice in a regional area only because it’s a requirement of their visa is a recipe for resentment - they don’t want to be there and it shows, so their patients don’t want them there either. In fact the numbers say we don’t really need to import doctors at all, we train more than enough here as it is.
A better solution could be enticing those we we train here to move to the bush, as well as making it easier/more affordable for kids from the bush to study medicine in the city. It’s not cheap to get a medical degree and the price is only going to go up in the future, so there’s a possibility there for a credit of their tuition costs perhaps on a pro rata basis pertaining to how many years they practice in the bush. I think you’d find many regional kids would be encouraged by that to go to town, study medicine and return home to practice. It’s much better for all concerned when a doctor is somewhere because he wants to be, not because he’s forced to be there in some way.
As I said at the start none of it will be easy, and it needs people having ideas for anything to work so exercise those brain cells lol. Even if you have the basics of an idea but don’t know how to work it out, throw it out there. Someone might be thinking along the same lines but from a different direction. I don’t hold much faith in those mannequins we have in parliament but I know we have some big thinkers hanging around Choice .