We are heading into a federal election season. There will be a lot of noise. Who wants to be leader; which candidate says something inappropriate; who posted a nasty photo to Facebook in 2008.
As a regional Australian, your challenge is to look past this noise and focus on the policy. Policy is simply what governments choose to do (or not do) and how they make things work properly. Government policy matters because it shapes your life.
How fast you can drive, the tax you must pay and whether there is a local doctor in your town. It decides whether a bridge gets built, how our kids are educated and who we welcome from overseas.
The Regional Australia Institute is focused squarely on how we can influence better policy for regions. Regional policy is the combination of decisions governments make for the places you live in.
Good regional policy brings together a lot of areas.
Health, education, infrastructure, employment, planning, immigration and business regulation need to work together and respond to local opportunities.
With regional Australia entering another complex period of growth and change, good regional policy is going to be very important.Be assured, there should be good times ahead for many regions.
In other places, things will be tougher and we will need to support communities through challenges.
There are a number of signs in regional policy that you should look for. First is a bit of humility and openness.
It would be great if government knew everything and could just fix the problems, but they don’t, particularly when the policy doers are mostly based in the capitals.
Our work shows that governments that recognise this and open their policy to ideas from regional people will do better and build trust.
Finally, a commitment to spend existing government money wisely for real local benefits rather than adding more cash to a struggling system is essential.
We are an independent, apolitical organisation, but we also work closely with government through our Shared Inquiry Program for Regional Policy. We are encouraging governments to change to a new way of doing business that can do better for every region.
Jack Archer is chief executive of the Regional Institute of Australia.