Queensland and Australia need to actively pursue policies which encourage decentralisation and ensure equity for people living in major regional centres.
Queensland is the most decentralised of all the mainland states, with 49 per cent of people living in the capital city, compared with 68 per cent in other states.
In 2001 it was 45 per cent, not including the Moreton statistical area.
The non-metropolitan share of the total national population progressively declined in the half century after 1921 from 57 to 36 percent, so that by 1971 nearly two-thirds of all Australians lived in the large capital cities.
This trend has been continuing for 100 years and needs to be arrested.
In Queensland we have a unique opportunity to avoid concentrating people in the broader metropolitan sprawl.
We have well-established regional cities that are attractive and serviced with public infrastructure.
It’s in the national interest for Australia’s population to be dispersed, from a defence perspective and to ensure diversity of production.
Although Australia’s population has flat-lined during the pandemic, people have been flocking from the southern states to Queensland and housing is in short supply. The quickest way to deal with the housing crisis is to incentivise growth in regional cities where infrastructure already exists, and land is plentiful.
Factories, manufacturing and defence should also be relocated from historical inner city and dockside locations to regional cities.
This will free up land for high-density housing in capitals and create growth in the regions.
It doesn’t make sense to have naval bases in Sydney and Brisbane, for example, when Bundaberg offers a more strategically significant location and has room to expand.
State and Federal Governments have policy levers to promote decentralisation.
These include tax incentives, land discounts, housing subsidies and immigration programs.
They also need to ensure that infrastructure keeps pace with growth. Regional cities have the building blocks to expand but essential services such as roads, schools and hospitals need ongoing investment.
My vision for Bundaberg is to build Australia’s best regional community.
Many businesses have proved that places like Bundaberg offer benefits that can’t be derived from capital cities including cheaper land and willing labour.
Governments need to incentivise others to make the switch to free up land in crowded capitals and ensure balanced growth across the Nation.