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Regional Inequality Affects Us All
The last week of August was a very busy one for me, apart from my normal schedule, I got to appear before not one, but two Parliamentary Inquiries.
A Parliamentary Inquiry is used when our Government wants to investigate a particular issue by canvassing submissions from the public. The Inquiry Committee will often hold public hearings across the country so they can gather input from a cross-section of the community (as opposed to the cloistered community of our politicians and Public Service).
The important feature of Parliamentary Inquiries is that evidence given is ‘privileged’. That is, anyone who misleads the Inquiry, or anyone who acts against a witness, can be punished for contempt. A fine, a reprimand or even an enforced holiday in prison can result.
Parliamentary Inquiries – Two on the same day.
Making two presentations in a week is not overly taxing, but with the usual efficiency of Government, both hearings were scheduled for the same day, in different towns, three hours apart. One was an Inquiry into Regional Inequality and the other an Inquiry into how the mining industry can help regional businesses.
In this article, I will look at the Inquiry into Regional Inequality which is the Inquiry I chose to give evidence to by telephone. The Inquiry into how the mining industry can help regional businesses I chose to attend in person, and I will definitely be writing more on this topic over the coming months.
It was such a shame that the two events clashed, as the Regional Inequality hearing was in my regional hometown of Emerald, yet I couldn’t attend. As expected, there were many, many submissions on the issues of internet connectivity, health, aged care, transport, and much more besides. All these issues contribute to inequality in education, health outcomes, business opportunities and incomes between our metropolitan and regional/rural populations.
The opportunities are we are missing.
My presentation to the Inquiry concentrated on the opportunities being missed by Australia through disadvantage to regional areas, particularly regional women.
Here are some statistics:
- 31% of Australia’s women business owners live in our regions.
- Regional women in business are more likely to volunteer than their metropolitan sisters.
- The value of volunteering to the Australian economy is estimated at $290 billion (more than mining).
- Gender equality on boards would improve the productivity of the Queensland population by $87million, so the figure can only be greater for the entire nation.
I’m sure that you can join the dots between these disparate pieces of research, but allow me to summarise it for you:
What do we need to do?
So, what do we need to do to unleash this potential boost to the Australian economy?
Here are my suggestions:
- Encourage the participation of women from regional Australia on Boards. Step 1 is to recognise that, to attend a Board meeting may take three days of travel and a significant amount of out of pocket expenses (I recently paid over $700 for a one-way ticket to Brisbane to attend a Board meeting, for which I could not be reimbursed).
- Decent internet connections for business, networking and education opportunities (I could go on about this, but I won’t).
- Mentorship programs aimed at early-career women in regional areas.
- Mentorship programs aimed at young indigenous women.
I know that there is much more to be done, but my modest list above would be an impressive start.
Regional inequality is not just an issue that affects those of us who reside in regional Australia; it affects everyone’s wealth and wellbeing.
“The opinions expressed by Smallville Contributors are their own, not those of www.smallville.com.au"
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