The news on Tuesday of the formation of the new regional ministerial taskforce is to be welcomed but we need to see the details of how it will operate and what it is expected to achieve.
The taskforce is aimed at boosting long-term, strategic policy development and investments and comprises senior government cabinet ministers, chaired by Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull.
The concept has been championed by Nationals Deputy Leader and Minister for Regional Development, Local Government and Territories and Regional Communications Fiona Nash who will be Deputy Chair.
Other Nationals’ members include leader and Agriculture Minister Barnaby Joyce and Transport and Infrastructure Minister Darren Chester while the Liberals are respresented by Mr Turnbull, Education and Training Minister Simon Birmingham, Trade, Industry, Innovation and Science Minister Arthur Sinodinos, Health and Sports Minister Greg Hunt; and Employment Minister Michaelia Cash.
According to Fairfax Media the taskforce will look to sharpen the cabinet’s focus on ways to better connect with regional voters
Senator Nash said the taskforce would look at issues affecting rural, regional and remote Australians across portfolios.
“It’s not just about regional development – it’s going to take in health, education, transport and infrastructure, employment and jobs and agriculture,” she said.
“It will allow us to have a cross-portfolio taskforce that can focus on the best way to continue and expand our investment in the regions, from across government and not just the regional development portfolio.”
That is all laudable but it is crucial it focuses on policy and does not simply become a political tool for the Coalition which has suffered recent losses with voters in regional areas, to independent or minor party candidates.
It was good to hear Mr Turnbull address the taskforce’s first meeting saying some regions were doing it tough as the construction phase of the mining boom in particular has wound down.
It is a pity he didn’t come to see the effects of that in Mount Isa on his recent trips to Western Queensland instead of just staying in the comfort zone of the LNP’s rural seat of Maranoa. DB