THE Business Council of Australia has released a “regional to do list” as part its campaign for Australia’s next government to have a clear and comprehensive plan for the country’s future.
Chief executive Jennifer Westacott said there were huge opportunities for Geelong to keep growing.
“What’s interesting about Geelong is when things like the Ford closure happen, everyone says ‘That’s it’,” Ms Westacott said.
“They forget that people are imaginative, creative, resilient, and they’ll just get on and do great things.
“The challenge is to get things to happen fast enough to make sure that the community benefits are realised
She said there was a huge opportunity to export from Geelong and also build on the knowledge and skills that are here to create new industries.
“Investing in infrastructure supports communities like Geelong to grow,” Ms Westacott said.
“The private sector is willing and capable, and has the capital to invest in major infrastructure projects. But it needs an end to ad hoc planning and uncertainty; the private sector needs confidence to invest in big projects without major risk.”
The Business Council of Australia’s regional to-do list includes:
AUDIT the strengths and weaknesses of key regional areas;
PRIORITISE and target infrastructure spending to the regional centres that have been identified as having the best potential to grow;
PROVIDE incentives to employers, such as fast-tracking planning approvals, to encourage regional development;
ENSURE regional centres with the potential to grow have good transport links to other cities;
ENSURE regional centres have good connection to telecommunications, including the NBN; and
ENCOURAGE migrants to settle in regional growth areas by fast-tracking permanent residency.
USE population projections to better inform public infrastructure planning and investment priorities to meet demand in growing communities, instead of playing catch-up.
Maintain 15-year national and state plans, developed through independent and expert advice, for both federal and state infrastructure projects. NSW and Victoria are role model states;
STRENGTHEN the role of Infrastructure Australia so projects of national importance are prioritised.
Give the body more independence and more teeth, encouraging it to assess projects from a ground-up approach. It needs to make sure the right projects are being built in the right places at the right time;
IMPLEMENT a single application and assessment approach for major projects to speed up approval processes so they are completed within 12 months;
ASSESS carefully the cost and benefits of projects, including impacts on the environment and communities;
ASSESSMENTS of benefits and costs of a project should consider population growth, long-term pressures on existing infrastructure, wider economic benefits, and the impact of possible technological changes; and
TAKE the burden off taxpayers by encouraging the private sector to play a bigger role in financing infrastructure.
MANAGE population growth strategically, so Australia gets the skills it needs and people to live in regions that need more people;
STRENGTHEN population planning co-ordination between all levels of government;
SET the permanent migration intake to maintain Australia’s long-term population growth rate, with two-thirds of the program filled by skilled migrants; and
MAKE the Global Talent Scheme pilot a permanent program. The scheme is for filling highly skilled and specialised positions that can’t be filled by Australian workers or through other standard visa programs.