What does good decentralisation look like?
SEGRA provides a meeting place for people from across regional, rural and remote Australia to discuss the top issues facing regional Australia and what might be done to further drive sustainable regional economic development.
There has been much discussion about decentralisation of government entities to boost regional growth. Some decentralisation of organisations has been a success in the long term, though understandably disruptive in the short term. Other decentralisation attempts have been less than optimal and severely disruptive. From as early as 1964 when the Premiers’ Conference set up the Commonwealth/State Officials’ Committee on Decentralisation, governments have been establishing committees to look at decentralisation to resolve basically the same problem – urban sprawl in capital cities, declining rural populations and a desire to halt these losses or at least a belief these losses were not in the national interest. This debate is then not only about whether decentralisation is desirable or not, but also as to whether decentralisation should be dispersed or selective and concentrated in particular areas.
If, however, you accept the idea that in principle it is good to have decentralisation, then you also need to have a clear idea of what good decentralisation looks like. “Too often governments conflate ‘regional economic growth and jobs with better regional services,’ said Dr Jen Cleary, a leading expert on regional economic development in rural, regional and remote economic development. “This is a regally important point because one doesn’t necessarily deliver the other.”
The House of Representatives Select Committee on Regional Development and Decentralisation report released in June 2018 stated “the decentralisation of Commonwealth entities must balance the benefits of decentralisation with the requirement for efficient government….. it must not take away from an agency ability to perform its functions and need to be a ‘good fit’ for the new location ….. for example, the presence of existing industry or business or the availability of a skilled workforce.”
This part of the debate is clearly about decentralisation of government entities. However, decentralisation can take on other forms. Another way of talking about decentralisation is “to talk about fundamentally shifting choice from central authorities to local authorities.” Using this definition the conversation shifts to scale, accountability and capacity.
Can decentralisation be disaggregated in this way and what might a functional analysis look like? Elements of decentralisation might be broken up into financing, service delivery, human resources and governance.
To read the full press release on decentralisation, please click this link: What does good decentralisation look like?
Click here to view the program for SEGRA 2018.