High time governments stopped behaving stupidly

OPINION: I am sure you have noticed there is an election coming up.

Hopefully, we will get the stable government in Canberra that is so important for economic development.

The reason businesses are not investing enough at present, and the reason so many are going bust, is partly the result of political uncertainty.

Getting regional development policy right is important, too. Regional policies and regional strategies don't create jobs and investment. Businesses do. Yet governments can so easily foul things up.

Whoever is in charge in Canberra this time next month should do three things.

First, reduce business costs across the board through lower business taxes and less regulation, and encourage state governments to do the same.

Second, stop wasting taxpayer dollars on business welfare, as we have seen through electorally driven subsidies to car makers and so on who will pack up and leave later anyway.

Third, don't behave stupidly in government, thinking up hare-brained schemes.

There is a fourth thing they can do for regional development.

To start with, fix regional development bodies. And let regions self identify.

We have these Regional Development Australia Committees. The government took about three years of negotiations with the states and territories to set them up as representing all three level of government.

Since then, they have mainly acted as glorified filters for competitive infrastructure grants. There are 55 of them.

We live in a networked world, a mobile world where regional boundaries are of little consequence.

We don't even necessarily work where we live any more.

Where does "the region" fit into this new world? Not very comfortably, to be blunt.

The big problems that beset regional development in Australia are as follows - too many plans and strategies, not enough action.

One of the first things I will do after September 7 is to write to the new minister and invite him or her to come to our Regional Science Association conference in Hervey Bay in December.

I hope, unlike most ministers who attend conferences, he or she will not simply make a quick speech then "zip".

Paul Collits is an Associate Professor at the University of Southern Queensland's Fraser Coast campus and research director of the Economic Development and Enterprise Collaboration.

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