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4 September, 2020

No longer should rural regions be considered the Cinderella of Australia

By Everald Compton WITHOUT wallowing in self-pity, and before we look for positive solutions, it will be good use of our time for us to identify the key issues of Australian history that have created a unbalanced continent.

Despite Australia having a larger land mass than the USA, we have based our economic and community life around overcrowded capital cities where three out of every four Aussies live in a small space, leaving 80 per cent of the nation underpopulated and under-developed.

This has proved to be a very dumb way to create a nation.

Such a tragedy was aided by the catastrophic construction of railways of several different gauges that led only to capital cities, except for one or two instances in Queensland.

There are no rural railways that connect bush communities with one another across State borders.

Despite Australia being the driest continent on the planet, we have never ever significantly invested in water. When droughts hit us with regularity, we just give welfare hand-outs to farmers and rural communities. The thought of supplying them with permanent water never crosses the minds of governments and, additionally, they allow financial plunderers to monopolise water rights. 

They should hang their heads in shame.

Transport costs anywhere in the Inland are exorbitant, as well as being unreliable and inefficient, no matter whether it be road, rail, air or water. Once more, governments put the issue in the too hard basket and turn a blind eye to it. 

Little importance has been placed on the environment. This has resulted in degradation of land, water, forests, beaches, air, flora, fauna, fish, etc. Fixing this will not be an exorbitant cost burden. It would create the long-term foundation for future prosperity. 

No matter where we go in the Inland, education and health are of lesser quality than in capital cities, inevitably giving people no alternative but to leave rural regions.

I could list many more reasons why the development of our continent is unbalanced and unnecessarily retarded, but it is more important to look at why these tragedies have occurred.

The fundamental reason has been purely political.

When electorates in rural Australia choose their political representatives, no matter which Party they belong to - Nationals, Liberals, or ALP - those MPs discover, when they get to State or Federal Parliament, that power lies with the many more MPs who represent cities. So, they form alliances with them in order to occupy the leather chairs that Ministers sit on. They forget that bush voters put them there for a specific purpose.

This has to change.

The indisputable fact is that if, right from the days of Federation in 1901, MPs from rural electorates had refused to form alliances with City MPs and chose to sit on cross benches, then no government, left or right, would have been able to survive without their votes. They could have demanded rural investment and got results. They have never ever been able to get that investment by seeking to be pals of the city guys.

The time to fix this is at the next election. Make sure you elect people who will sit on the cross benches and demand rights and justice and development for the Inland.

In a subsequent article that I will write on decentralisation, I will outline thoughts on how this can be achieved.

For the moment, the urgent need is for more infrastructure as this will not only fill the huge gaps that have been obviously neglected for years, it will create jobs that will be needed in the post-Covid economic recovery. 

We all know that it is possible to drought-proof Australia if voters elect governments that have the will and the guts to do it.

Especially, it is clearly possible that a modernised and expanded Bradfield Scheme is eminently achievable, as is the massive recycling and multiple usage of water and the more honest and equitable distribution of it. 

Those three things alone will enable Rural Australia to prosper mightily and play a key role in food security for the planet, which is under huge threat from overpopulation and rampant pollution. Rural Australia can become a powerhouse of production and the prime example of reliability in meeting the needs of humanity as a whole.

To achieve this, bush technology must expand mightily. Our telephone and internet services are inadequate, far behind world standards, especially in the land beyond our cities. Indeed, it is not inaccurate to say that the NBN is a massive disaster, the greatest irresponsible misuse of public funds in my lifetime. Tragically so, as we need massive investment in the technology needed to allow us to trade profitably with the world.

I will look more carefully at our disjointed transport system next month, but let me simply say here that the Tyranny of Distance still plagues the bush.

Can I recommend that you give this article personally to your local State and Federal MPs? 

Suggest that they invite me to lunch at Parliament very soon to discuss how they personally pioneer the rural revolution that Australia so obviously needs.

I will make sure that they get all the political credit rather than them forever looking like Cinderella's ugly sisters.

Rural Australia can become a powerhouse of production and the prime example of reliability in meeting the needs of humanity as a whole.

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