Transcript - Move To More Press Conference

7:23AM

LIZ RITCHIE

Well, good morning, ladies and gentlemen. My name is Liz Ritchie and I have the pleasure of being the CEO of the Regional Australia Institute. This morning I’m joined by our Deputy Prime Minister, the Honourable Michael McCormack, who needs no introduction. To my right I am joined by Rob Clayton, who’s the Managing Director of Nutrien Ag Solutions and to my left I’m joined by Gavin Williams, who’s the Chief Development Officer of NBN Co.

So today the Regional Australia Institute is proud to unveil our new national awareness campaign called Move to More. This campaign aims to see city dwellers live, work and invest in regional Australia. The purpose of the campaign is to raise the level of awareness about the opportunities that currently exist across regional Australia. We are very grateful to the Federal Government for underpinning and funding this campaign that will be rolled out over the next two years.

You’ll see this multimillion dollar campaign across multi-media platforms, across TV advertisements, radio advertisements, digital platforms and billboards right across some of our major capital cities. You’ll also see a new website called movetomore.com.au, which is essentially the call to action. The website is a decisioning tool that enables city dwellers to jump on line and explore what’s on offer out there in regional Australia. Our research is telling us right now that one in five city dwellers are considering a move to regional Australia. And the regions are ready and waiting. It’s time to rethink regional. Thank you, Michael.

MICHAEL McCORMACK

Thanks Liz and thanks colleagues for joining us. I know how important this is for Nutrien Ag Solutions and for NBN as well. But Move to More, what’s it all about? We all want more. We want more out of life. We want our life to produce more. We want to have more quality time to do the things we enjoy doing. And if COVID-19 has taught us one thing, it is the fact that regional Australia, those wonderful vibrant, go-ahead regional areas, are the best place in all the world in which to live because they’ve got connectivity. You could be sitting in your lounge room, in your kitchen, wherever the case might be, in your home in regional Australia and you might as well be in a boardroom in Sydney, Melbourne or Brisbane, but you’re tuning in. You’re participating. You’re taking part in all of those important decisions that are being made around the big boardroom tables, but you’re in regional Australia and you haven’t had to fight the traffic to get there. You’ve been able to connect in through the NBN and through other means, to make that important meeting and you’ve got quality time with your family. And you haven’t then got to fight the traffic and look at the brake lights all the way home. You’re right there where you want to be, spending quality time in your own home, in your own business, in regional Australia.

I always say that regional communities are big enough to get a good cup of coffee and they’re small enough to still care. And that is the case wherever you go right across Australia. There are six states and the Northern Territory just waiting to have you come and live in those regions. And we’re here in Canberra. You might say, “Well, why are we doing this regional announcement in the capital city of Australia?” Well, Canberra is the best decentralisation project of all. It is absolutely. And since Government moved here in 1927 it has become the decentralisation success story of Australia. We’ve moved out hundreds of Government employees into the regions, but I also encourage businesses to do just that, to make that investment. There’s power, there’s water, there’s liveability options and your employees will have the best lifestyle that they could ever dream of – big backyards, plus you’re virtually in some of these regional communities 10 minutes from anywhere, and that’s on a bad day with two sets of traffic lights.

It’s a great place to live, regional Australia and as I say, it’s been COVID-safe. They’ve kept themselves relatively COVID-free because they’ve done all the right things that the health experts have asked. But they are good communities. And they’ve got the connectivity. They’ve got the transport. They’ve got the infrastructure we’re rolling out as part of our $110 billion infrastructure roll-out across the nation. These regional communities are getting their fair share – around a third of that spend, which also means 30,000 jobs are going into the regions, making that infrastructure, building that better community capacity. This is an exciting time and there’s never been a more exciting time to move to regional Australia, move to more.

JOURNALIST

What’s the Government’s expectations of migration to the regional areas?

MICHAEL McCORMACK

Well, 7,782 people moved out of Sydney into the regions in the September quarter. And so the Government’s expectations are that that trend will no doubt continue as people look to find those regional options. And those 7,782 were part of more than 11,000 who moved out of capital cities and sought a regional option. And of the studies done, one in five people, as Liz Ritchie has just said, contemplated and said they were serious about potentially moving to a regional centre. And I’m going to meet later on today Albury Mayor, Kevin Mack. And he’s been very strident in promoting regional living through Evocities and other things to ensure that people know that the best possible lifestyle can be had in a regional centre.

JOURNALIST

Is decentralisation still on the agenda for the Government – for government departments?

MICHAEL McCORMACK

Absolutely and Andrew Gee is driving that agenda. He is the Decentralisation Minister, amongst other things. $41 million budgeted in October to do just that, to look at how best we can have decentralisation going forward. And there’s been hundreds of jobs already moved out of the cities. But it’s not just about Government departments and it’s not just about parts of Government departments, it’s also actually about businesses taking those options and looking to the regions in which to set up, whether it’s industry and moving it out of potentially the suburbs of capital cities and move it into a regional area where they’ve got space, where they haven’t got the near neighbours complaining about noise and other things – pollution, etc. – and they’ve got the ability to move into a regional centre where they won’t have those grievances and they will have the ability to have power and water and their employees living in a great community.

JOURNALIST

Liz, this sounds very similar to Evocities, which the Deputy Prime Minister just mentioned. There are a lot of questions around its effectiveness and its success and also its value. How are you going to measure this success?

LIZ RITCHIE

So, it’s a great question and it’s really important to consider why we started this campaign in the first place. Two years ago here in Canberra at the Old Parliament House we brought together over 250 regional stakeholders for the first Regions Rising Summit. And they told us very clearly that they wanted a new narrative for regional Australia and that they wanted the regions to grow and they wanted our help. So, that is why we have set to design Move to More.

What’s also important is the Regional Australia Institute is the think tank. So we’re based in evidence and in 2019 we launched a report called Regional Population Growth – Are We Ready, and it tells us very clearly if we look out 30 years we will be a nation of megacities and we will have underutilised, under invested regions. So, we called for an intervention and that intervention is this campaign. So the campaign is actually measured on raising the level of awareness about the opportunities that exist across regional Australia and creating a new brand for regional that is powerful and positive, which is what Move to More is.

JOURNALIST

And I’ve heard economists say that this migration to the regions could be a bit of a sugar hit, you know, people that were already planning to go have moved up their time schedule by a couple of years just because of COVID. Do you think this is a sugar hit? Do you think in a few years this could trickle off, or are you hoping to avoid that with this campaign?

LIZ RITCHIE

Absolutely, we’re hoping to avoid it. It’s our ambition to rebalance the population across the nation and to see our regions thrive. It’s such a diverse array of regional towns and cities across our nation that are willing and wanting people to come and live in their regional centre. So we see this as a long-term plan and we’d like to see the campaign run for much longer than beyond its initial two-year term.

JOURNALIST

And what sort of cities are you promoting. Is it towns or are we talking regional centres like Tamworth, Wagga or are we going smaller like Gunnedah, Halls Creek? What sort of size towns?

LIZ RITCHIE

It’s a great question and we knew we’d get it. So there’s over 1,700 towns and cities across regional Australia. We do not get into the game of picking winners and promoting particular areas. That’s not the game we’re in. It’s our role to advocate and be the voice for all of regional Australia. I think what’s important is that when movers and considerers are thinking about the destinations that they would like to live that there is lot on offer. But it’s up to them. They have more choices than I’m sure they know what to do with.

JOURNALIST

Rob, regional-based business, how are you finding it out in the regions filling jobs at the moment?

ROB CLAYTON

Yes, so we’re an agricultural company, we service farmers across Australia. So it’s intrinsic for us to be supportive of the move to regional Australia. Agriculture has changed a lot, so what people thought of agriculture 20 years ago is very different now. It’s a lot of jobs that used to be city based – IT jobs, data jobs, analysts jobs – that can very much be filled in regional and rural Australia today. And farming is moving forward with technology. We need those people. We’ve got 66 open jobs across Australia today that will all be based in rural and regional Australia. So I think that people that live in the city today and probably thought 20 years ago couldn’t operate those jobs in rural and regional Australia can very much do so now. As connection gets better – and it’s continuing to get better all the time – those jobs are going to be a real big part of regional Australia.

JOURNALIST

Deputy Prime Minister, there’d be many Australians that would love to live in a regional area but might see employment as a barrier. To what extent is employment opportunities presenting a barrier to people actually going out to the bush?

MICHAEL McCORMACK

Regional Australia Institute has identified 54,000 jobs in regional Australia right now. Right now. So I would suggest that people look to the movetomore.com.au website, have a look at the RAI website. But also come out and experience it. Spend a week out in regional Australia and just look around you. And they’re not just jobs in agriculture, although jobs in agriculture are encouraged. There’s jobs in law firms, there’s jobs in accountancy practices, there’s jobs in hospitality and health and all other areas of endeavour just waiting for people to come and fill them.

JOURNALIST

And just on your decentralisation agenda, going forward do you see – is it just Sydney and Melbourne public service jobs that are going to be targeted, or do Canberra jobs figure in this as well?

MICHAEL McCORMACK

Look, what the $41 million will identify, what this blueprint will identify and the studies will look at, we’ve done a lot of so far, what we will do in the future. Where might we go with this and what public servants, indeed, in various departments would want to have a regional lifestyle change, to get out of the hustle and bustle of the city and come to a regional area. Because once you go there you may never want to go back. I would almost say that if you tried to extract those workers who are in the taxation office in Albury, you’d never, ever get them back. And that was very much a great thing for Albury Wodonga and at the time it was probably considered those workers in the ATO were probably wanting to be ensconced in the capital city. But now they love Albury Wodonga. There’s so many cities. I mentioned Wagga Wagga and Tamworth before, but there’s also little communities – Narromine and Narrandera. I’m mentioning just a couple in New South Wales. But wherever you go in regional Australia there’s a community with open arms wanting to welcome you.

JOURNALIST

Deputy Prime Minister, can I just ask, does this campaign come with some warning or a bit of a disclosure that when you do move to regional areas perhaps you shouldn’t expect to have access to childcare close to home or access to suitable internet service or that you might, in fact, have to wait some time to get a medical appointment?

MICHAEL McCORMACK

I’m more positive than that. I’m much more positive than that. And I know that we’re actually as far as medical, well, we’re building and constructing right now the buildings that are going to house the Murray Darling Rural Medical students of the future, who are already in those communities, already in Wagga Wagga, already in Orange. And we’re going to be creating – Bendigo as well – the doctors of the future who will do their full training from start to finish in the regions. And I fought hard to make sure – that was one of the things I went into Parliament to try to achieve and have done it. I wanted to see doctors being able to be in the bush and be generated from those country areas. And as far as the other services that you mentioned, well, we’re getting on and we’re building a better regional Australia, whether it’s childcare. And certainly the investment that we’ve made in telecommunications has been second to none by a Federal Government. I know that our Ministers are working hard to ensure that we get even more rounds of the Black Spot Program, investment – I know Paul Fletcher has done a lot as well to make sure that NBN has the resources it needs as we roll it out across the country.

JOURNALIST

And for you personally, what is the best thing about living in regional Australia – just one thing.

MICHAEL McCORMACK

Big enough in which to get a good cup of coffee, small enough to still care.

JOURNALIST

Historically when you look at decentralisation and you know, for example, with the APVMA in Armidale, there were so many people that just didn’t want to go there they didn’t want to leave the Canberra life. I mean, how is this going to be different for people?

MICHAEL McCORMACK

You mentioned the APVMA, but there’s also the AgriFutures which has moved to Wagga Wagga and now expanded because those people who moved out of Barton – I drove through there this morning, I don’t actually see much wheat being growing in Kingston or Barton but I do see a lot across the Riverina – those people love the community. We’ve had the Grains Research Development Corporation, we’ve had other, indeed, Government department employees moving to the regions. They love the lifestyle experience. They love the fact that they’ve got open air, big backyards, communities which care. There’s so much, so much to be positive about regional Australia. I don’t want people to ever think negative about regional Australia because it is the best place in all of the world in which to live.

LIZ RITCHIE

Just to add to that question, thank you. Look, you’ll notice that I’m flanked by two incredible corporate organisations who actually form part of what we call the Regional Australia Council 2031. This is made up of 15 influential brands from across the country who’ve joined our institute to make regions a priority. And so the issues that you’re talking about really focus on, I guess, the decentralisation of the past. What we talk about today is regionalisation. We like to talk about humans rather than headquarters. And if technology has done anything, especially through COVID, we’ve been able to fast track ourselves into the future of work. We’re talking at length about the opportunities to have a genuine national employment market that enables all employees to start to take the opportunities that exist in regional Australia to shape their best life, to move to more.

JOURNALIST

Gavin, has the NBN seeing a significant uptick in regional areas?

GAVIN WILLIAMS

Absolutely, I mean, through COVID it’s been NBN’s biggest test and we’ve come out the other side having done – I think passed that test. It’s been, I think, a pleasant surprise for so many people to realise that there’s so many businesses right across the economy that have been disrupted through COVID, but people have been able to participate in ostensibly capital city jobs. So we’ve got an opportunity to, as Liz said, move forward to a new normal that enables, you know, people who might be able to avail themselves of a decentralised Government job, but what about the family? What about the arts scene to support an uptick in the vibrancy of the community? NBN is available with fast and reliable broadband through the length and breadth of the country and its unlocking possibilities that previously I just a pipe dream.

MICHAEL McCORMACK

Thank you very much, Move to More.

LIZ RITCHIE

Thank you for joining us, Move to More.

ENDS 7:40AM

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